Differin Gel

 Differin Gel

4.0

209 reviews

78% would repurchase

Package Quality: 4.1

Price: $$$

Package Quality: 4.1

Price: $$$

INGREDIENTS

DIFFERIN Gel contains adapalene 0.1% (1 mg) in a vehicle consisting of carbomer 940, poloxamer 182, edetate disodium, methylparaben, sodium carbomer 940, edentate disodium, methylparaben poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water and sodium hydroxide. May contain hydrochloric acid to adjust pH

Where to Buy



Start your review


on 12/31/2016 7:49:00 PM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Very Oily, Fair, Neutral

Hair: Blond, Wavy, Fine

Eyes: Green

I've been using this here and there for quite some time and realized I never wrote a review for it. I credit chemical exfoliators for being a large component of: getting rid of my acne/keeping me clear, smoothing out my skin texture, and quickly fading any marks. It's something I've posted about on MUA a lot about over the years as my skin is a major issue in general.

The FDA recently lifted the ban on Adapalene being over-the-counter in the U.S. Adapalene is the active ingredient in Differin. It's a type of retinoid, not to be confused with Retin-A. Retin-A is tretinoin (another type of retinoid). Tretinoin is a lot stronger & won't likely be approved for over the counter sales anytime soon.

There's been a ton of debates on whether or not Differin can help with anti-aging. In my opinion, it can. There's a major misconception that it's useless for that purpose. Differin is marketed to help with acne. The reason they don't intend it for anti-aging purposes is because there hasn't been enough research for collagen production like there has with Retin A. The fact of the matter is adapelene is a retinoid, and retinoids are chemical exfoliators no matter how mild. Just keep in mind Retin-A is a lot stronger (and likely more effective).

I typically use Retin-A gel in the lowest strength (.025). Differin .1% adapalene is still milder, but I find it to be a nice alternative. Especially if I'm feeling like my skin's barrier is close to being compromised.

As already mentioned, this is a chemical exfoliator. Since it exfoliates off the top layer of skin you are more photo-sensitive. I can not stress enough how important it is to wear sunscreen if using this (even at night..even a week after stopping usage..). IT DOES NOT MATTER if the only sunlight you get is through windows or in the car. We call this "incidental exposure" on the skincare board. I myself never spend time in the sun. Regardless any natural light that hits you = UVA rays. UVA rays are damaging. In terms of anti-aging, sunscreen is even more important than using chemical exfoliators. I know those of you using this for acne purposes probably won't think that's a big deal but it goes beyond anti-aging. Protecting your barrier will help acne heal better.

If you find Differin to be too strong for you there are a few suggestions I'd like to include:
-Wait an hour after washing your face to apply
-Buffer with moisturizer
-Apply every other night (with Retin-A gel I apply once every 3 nights but with Differin I can apply almost every night...it's much more mild)

Last but not least, please only wear this at night. This goes back to the photo-sensitivity issue. I'd recommend giving Differin some time to work its magic for a couple of weeks before judging on it's effectiveness. Again this is quite mild, so it may take a while to really start exfoliating.

57 of 60 people found this helpful.



Age: 19-24

Skin: Dry, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brunette, Straight, Medium

Eyes: Brown

**Updated 7/17 to account for PM routine changes**

I swear by this stuff. I'm using the OTC 0.1%.

To start out, here's my PM routine:
remove makeup and/or sunscreen (CVS brand eye makeup remover, and Kose's Softymo Speedy oil cleanser)
cleanse with Hada Labo Tokyo hydrating facial cleanser
wait about 10 minutes
apply pea size amount of Differin **EVERY OTHER DAY!** (on days that I don't use Differin, I apply the Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion)
wait at least 20 minutes
apply CeraVe's moisturizing cream AKA CeraVe in the tub, sometimes mixed with 2 drops of argan oil (I use the Trader Joe's brand)
and about once a month I use the Makeup Artist's Choice mandelic/salicylic acid peel. I do not use Differin on the day before, or after the peel. (example: no Differin Monday, do peel Tuesday, no Differin Wednesday, resume Thursday)
I also do sheet masks fairly frequently, but don't have any standout favorites. Whenever I use a sheet mask, I use it on a day I'm not using differin.

Now, for some background. I'm 23 and have dealt with acne since I was around 13, however it got much worse when I was around 17-18. I've tried what feels like everything, short of actually going to the doctor and getting a prescription. I'd say my acne is moderate, but definitely not severe. I never get deep, painful, cystic pimples. I would typically break out in fairly large pimples, sometimes clusters of pimples, that usually took about 2-3 weeks to fully go away. And of course by the time that breakout cleared up, I had another one waiting to surface. My breakouts occur mainly on my cheeks, with some here and there on my chin, and never on my forehead. Oh, and I ALWAYS scar.

I started using Differin on December 24, 2016. It's now May 11, 2017. So, I've been using it consistently for almost 5 months. I know you're supposed to build up your usage of this, however, I did not. I was using The Ordinary's advanced retinoid 2% before trying Differin, so my skin had already built up a bit of a tolerance. I was initially planning on slowly working my way into it, but when I didn't experience any redness or extreme dryness, I delved into using it every night. I have since quit using it every single night, and have switched to using it every other day, to help reduce dryness.

It's also worth noting that I'm still on my first tube, which is supposed to be a 3 month supply. Granted, I have skipped days here and there, but in total I've probably only skipped about 20.

I didn't purge with this at all, but it may be due to the fact that I was using the other retinoid beforehand. The only "side effect" I've had is flaking. When I first started using this, I was also using the corresponding cleanser and moisturizer. I didn't mind the cleanser, and used up almost the entire bottle, but it didn't foam and I prefer something that does...so I decided on the CeraVe foaming cleaser and love it. The moisturizer wasn't heavy enough for me at all. I was having tons of flaking, so decided I needed to find a different moisturizer. The CeraVe moisturizing cream cured that, but I often times still felt dry, so I added the argan oil in after 2 months.

As far as seeing progress, I noticed a difference in how my skin looked after about a month. I was breaking out less often, and my scars were fading. After almost 5 months of use, all of my pre-existing scars are almost completely gone. I know that may sound like slow progress, but it's progress that I've never had before. My pores look clearer, and my skin just looks more...radiant. As far as breaking out goes, I still get a pimple here and there (usually at the end of my period), but with the exception of one time (which is partly my fault*), I never break out in clusters of pimples anymore. Whenever I do get a pimple, it goes away quicker and does not leave as dark as a mark.

*The reasoning for why the cluster breakout is my fault, is that I picked. I had developed a pimple, and tried to pop it when it wasn't ready, which of course just irritated it even worse, and therefore caused more pimples...which I also picked at.

Another thing I've changed since starting Differin that has made a considerable difference is that I've started drinking more water. I've been drinking at least 60 oz a day, but typically around 75-80. I also quit drinking soda as often (used to drink it daily, now probably once a week), which I think has made a small difference.

One VERY IMPORTANT thing you must do while using Differin (or any retinoid or acid) is to WEAR SUNSCREEN!!! The one I'm currently using is the Missha All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++ and really like it. If you're someone who hates sunscreen because they feel heavy and greasy, I definitely recommend looking into Asian sunscreens.

The packaging is great. No frills, not messy, easy to get every last bit out. The price is good for what it does. You can get a two pack of the large size and small size at Sam's for $30, and there's also coupons on their website.

So...I think I've covered everything?
In my experience, this is a fantastic product. Of course, this isn't going to be for everyone, but if you aren't having extreme discomfort or horrible "side effects" I recommend being patient and giving it the 3 months before you give up. You aren't going to see overnight results, and it may get worse before it gets better, but it's worth it in the long run.
To end things, my skin looks clearer and more radiant after these 5 months than it has in years, and I'm having less pimples and faster healing times. I actually feel comfortable going into public with no face makeup, which is huuuuge for me! I will never be without this product

28 of 29 people found this helpful.


on 11/27/2012 3:17:00 PM

Age: 19-24

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair-Medium, Warm

Hair: Brunette, Straight, Fine

Eyes: Brown

Long review below!


Hi guys, I'm about to enter my 10th week on Differin 0.1, and it's pretty awesome. I had adult acne from hell this year and it completely shat all over my confidence and self esteem. There were days, even weeks (I work from home, thank god) where I wouldn't leave the house. I couldn't look in mirrors, my face hurt when I would take a bite of food, and my face was just the reddest, lumpiest, bumpiest thing ever. I'm not gonna lie, acne made me cry and I'm not really one for tears. Timeline below; my skin is combo/slightly dry, acne prone, sensitive.


Week 1: Only applied twice the first week. Small pea sized amount, slight dryness/stinging.


Week 2: Applied 3x this week. Face was starting to peel/feel very dry and would burn like holy hell after I applied moisturizer, but that feeling dissipated after a minute or so. I could also feel my skin getting more sensitive.


Week 3: Applied 3x this week since my face still wasn't ready to handle a dose every night. Skin is flaking, but not too bad. Still very dry (having to apply moisturizer throughout the day). Blemishes are getting smaller, and less frequent.


Week 4: Applied 5x this week and finally starting to see some improvement. I'm still breaking out but they definitely heal up quick. Skin is flaking less, and dryness is now tolerable.


Week 5 Applied every night. Despite still rockin' some pimples, the clear areas of my skin have smoothed out considerably. I've stopped following Differin with my moisturizer at night.


Week 6/7: I'm down to 2-3 pimples on my face at a time and still a few clogs. Huge improvement over the 20+ I had all over my face for the past year. (Gross, I know.) Still applying every night, but a bigger pea size. No longer need to apply my moisturizer throughout the day.


Week 8/9: The best week of 2012 for me. I'm finally CLEAR. No pimples, no bumps, not even a single clog and my pores are next to invisible. I still have a hell of a lot of acne scars to take care of but I don't care. I haven't felt or seen my face this smooth in years. At this point Differin no longer makes my skin feel dry or sensitive and I'm barely flaking.


As many others have reviewed below, the key is to start slow and then gradually increase applications whenever you think your skin is ready. I think this really decreased the amount of irritation, dryness, and flakiness I experienced. Also make sure you're still looking out for culprits! Even though my skin was improving, I was still getting clogs and I only started to see a great deal of improvement after switching up cleansers and eliminating some products.


For everyone out there suffering with acne, I feel your pain. Medication is very individual; what works for one might not work for others, but the only way to know for sure is to give it a shot. Just be patient and you'll see results! :)

Update: 5/14/2013

Hey guys, I just wanted to give a quick update now that I'm 9 months into using Differin. I thought my skin was clear before, but I have to say the results have improved a lot since then. I can confidently say I'm 100% blemish and clog free and have reduced applications to every other night. I love this stuff.

23 of 23 people found this helpful.


on 7/30/2017 10:15:00 PM

Age: 56 & Over

Skin: Sensitive, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Wavy, Medium

Eyes: Hazel

I'm 64, have struggled with mild but persistent adult acne for a long time, and can't believe I waited this long to try Differin. Okay, I did use my daughter's prescription tube a few years ago, but it was winter. I got too dry and irritated and it was a short-lived experiment. This time I started Differin in the summer, and my skin had no trouble at all adjusting to it. In fact, it's been a life saver in the summer, when I normally experience many more breakouts and clogged pores as a result of the heat and humidity. The other tip that seems to help is to wait thirty minutes after washing to apply it. I've been on it for about six weeks and am seeing big improvements. My skin tone is actually less red than it used to be.

I have written a lot of reviews over the years -- the mark of a never-satisfied customer with sensitive, acne prone skin! Differin has really helped me feel like I'm doing the right thing. I've streamlined my routine and don't feel the need to experiment with products like I used to. I'm sticking with it.

UPDATE: Another reviewer noted that this doesn't prevent acne caused by cosmetics, and that seems to be the gospel truth. For example, I seem to break out any time I try a product containing any kind of silicone -- which means all silky feeling foundations and sunscreen, etc. My hair is long, and I can't even get away with using conditioners containing silicone. I just went through an awful round of cosmetic-induced acne, and no, Differin is not magic enough to keep me clear under those conditions.

20 of 21 people found this helpful.


Age: 19-24

Skin: Acne-prone, Medium, Neutral

Hair: Black, Kinky, Coarse

Eyes: Hazel

This is what I spent literally a decade waiting for.
My skin history: severe and constant pustular acne since age 14. Extreme blackheads that would not respond to BHA, glycolic peels, the peeling effect of persagel10, the clarisonic etc etc. Very poor cell turnover rate and hence a lot of congestion, dehydration and tons of surface oil covering a sensitised surface.
Fun right? I cracked a few months ago after undergoing 4 expensive glycolic peels at the best private dermatology clinic did more harm than anything. I'd tried every AHA, BHA and antibiotic, the only option left (according to my new derm who prescribed me the differin) was a topical retinoid or accutane. She prescribed a high-dose (600mg) of Trimethoprim to clear up the acne systematically and quickly because I was scarring badly. . . and this. Glorious, powerful Differin. She handed me the prescriptions and said if these didn't work to completely clear it up, in four months I needed to come back for roaccuntane. To quote her, ''no one should ever have to walk around with a face like that''- it should tell you the state my skin was in after a ten year failed battle.
The differin makes your skin worse initially. I already felt so ugly I couldn't have cared less. It made my blemishes much more angry and so red that layers of colorstay couldn't hope to even remotely conceal them, = but I honestly didn't notice a major purge, maybe the antibiotics prevented this. Within *three weeks*, 90%+ of my acne had disappeared. It's now been 2 months, and I haven't had a single blemish. Not a single one. My skin texture is smooth, the blackheads on my nose are gone, my tzone pores are still big but never swollen and clogged. My complexion is brighter and healthy. I actually look younger. The only evidence of my ten year acne suffering is three leftover scars, two on my forehead and one on my cheek. I am currently applying Trilogy rosehip 2x a day, but am considering buying Obagi's melamix (4% hydroquinone), to speed up the healing process.
Differin has given me confidence that I genuinely haven't had since pre-puberty. I can go out of the house with no makeup. I've even gone to parties and nights out with no base or any sort of blemish concealer. I truly recomend this to anyone with congestion and/or acne. I am also grateful as I have consequently researched retinoids and their unparalleled benefits. My intention is to progress to .3% differin in a few years, then a stronger retinol to help with ageing. I even wear SPF every day now, something I would never have attempted beforehand with my volatile skin. Ergo, the differin's also led to me taking new pride in my skincare.
Life-changing.

My routine, in case it helps someone suffering.
AM: wash with mdformulations cleanser (AHA)
follow with persagel 10 to entire face
follow with Neutrogena sheer dry touch spf 45
spot treat 3 scars with Trilogy rosehip oil

PM: wash with same cleanser
apply Differin .1% to entire face
Usually follow with patting in Trilogy rosehip oil. I love how Differin has enabled me to get away with using a face oil, it feels so nourishing and I have no greaseball face the next morning.

18 of 18 people found this helpful.


on 7/8/2013 7:50:00 PM

Age: 19-24

Skin: Combination, Olive, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

Okay to start off I have Combination Skin that is sensitive and very prone to acne! I have suffered with pimples (the red inflamed kind) for many many years. Although these stopped completely I realised I wa getting bumps that were very small and hard, under the skin and flesh coloured (non inflames type).

These are often called closed comedones/whitehads/milia. They are actually blackheads under the skin that are flesh coloured because they have not been exposed to air and so hav not oxidised like blackheads do.

I was given differin gel and within the first 3 weeks many of the bumps on my chin and forehead became unclogged and kind of just washed/rubbed/dried off. Gradually they are all going, even the deeper ones on my cheeks where the skin is thicker are going too. Before when I washed my face I could fell the bumps but every day my skin is getting smoother in TEXTURE.

I have now been usin the gel for 5 weeks and my skin has come a long way. I now only have a couple if small bumps on my cheeks left which I am sure will go with continued use.

There is some ADVICE I would like to give to anyone who is or itends to use Differin. 1. First I used the Cream version for 2 weeks but felt like it didn't really sink in so switched to Gel which is more suited for oily skin types.
2. At first I did suffer a 'purging' phase, our skin has many layers around 7, differin makes all the bacteria and sebum blocked in these layers come to te surface. It DOES NOT EXFOLIATE like AHA/BHA products, it REDUCES THE GROWTH OF SKIN CELLS instead. So your skin may get worse before it gets better. I took antibiotics (oxytetralycline) which made the purging not as bad or inflamed.
3. don't think that because of this purging phase you need to use more product or apply more often. This can easily cause irritation and raw/chapped skin similar to sunburnt skin. And people..this is the most difficult kind of skin to cover with makeup. So AVOID OVERUSE of differin
4. Differin can make skin dry and flaky, i prevente this by appying a light, non iritation, non pore clogging lotion 45 mins after applying differin. (skin care routine below)
5. To reduce and prevent any irritation and sensitivity whilst using differin use products that DONT contain alcohol fragrances, bha, aha or certain cleansers with over drying sulphtes in them. Some sulphtes are good, others are bad..look these up on paulas choice website or make sure your cleansers, lotions,spfs and foundations is suitable by seeing its review on the beautypedia webiste.
6.You must use a SPF! Even If u live in cloudy England with rubbish weather u must wear SPF! You can even burn through a window. If u do get this Raw chapped burnt skin dont apply differin in that area untill it has completely healed..la roche posay cicaplast helped ALOT when i had overuse differin and when applied 3 times a day healed in a couple of Days. but trust me You don't want to add sunburn to already existing skin problems!
7. Many prople experience more dryness around mouth and eyes even though these are places differin is never applied to. So i use a slightly thicker cream around these areas.
8. It Should never be applied more then once a day unless prescribed to by doctor. Don't get too close to eyes or lips and don't apply on any creases or corners or the nose, Dents in chin or near nostrils or upper lip!!
8. DIFFERIN SKIN CARE ROUTINEI used Paulas choice hydralight cleanser, paulas choice hydralight lotion, Paulas choice skin balancing moisturiser with spf 30 and Paulas Choice Mousture boost treatment cream around eyes and lips.

All in all it is an AMAZING PRODUCT in unclogging and unblocking congested skin but it HAS to be used correctly AND with the correct skin care routine. Hope this helps because I know a lot of these reviews helped me in preparation to using DIFFERIN.

18 of 20 people found this helpful.


on 3/7/2017 10:59:00 PM

Age: 36-43

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

Purchased both the cleanser, and gel a little over one month ago. Initially started using both daily. Had a breakout, and severe dry skin within days. Took a break from both for one week. Recovered nicely. Began using cleanser again daily, gel every other day. I moisturize every day with YES to Tomatoes ( an Acne product you can buy at Target), and have not had any reaction to the Differin since I switched my routine.
I have oily, acne prone skin. I have textural issues on my lower cheeks and chin. I'm 42, Caucasian. I get occasional acne that seems to last forever, and will sometimes leave a mark although I do not pick or touch.
Since I've been on the differin routine, I have not experienced one breakout. My acne scars are fading. My pores have gotten smaller. My oil is under control, although not gone. My scarring just seems to be less noticeable. It feels like my skin is slowly turning over. I am that person who looks in the mirror in every different light, who doesn't date because they are afraid of getting caught in that "bad" light. I feel that in the next couple of months, this product could be the slow, but sure change for me. I will update.

15 of 15 people found this helpful.


Age: 30-35

Skin: Dry, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brunette, Other, Other

Eyes: Hazel

I first heard that Differin was available OTC a few months ago. I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I'm 32 and still struggle with a bit of acne, mainly hormonal acne, and most of the time, it seemed to be cystic. I've been using Differin for over a month now and I am SO happy I decided to give it a try. Within only a few days, I could tell it was helping to clear up my skin. I noticed a change in tone right away. I did deal with the itchy, dry skin for about a week and a half, but for me, it was manageable. I have had a few small pimples pop up, but again, they were small and went away fairly quickly. Usually every month, I get those huge cystic zits that seem to take FOREVER to go away. So far, so good!
I have noticed my pores look smaller, and when I do wear makeup, it goes on nicely. Admittedly, I can be pretty lazy when it comes to skincare, but I haven't missed a day cleansing my face and applying this gel. I prefer to use it right before bed, and it's been a nice easy addition to my routine. A little goes a long way! I bought the smaller tube (about $13.00) and there' still plenty left.
I will also add that along with this, I tend to use the Cerave line, and so far, the two lines work great with one another.

UPDATE 7-1-2017: I just wanted to update and say that after almost two months of using the Differin Gel, I still love it. I am STILL using the original tube (going on almost two months of daily application with one small tube). I will definitely purchase the larger tube next, as I don't see myself quitting this product. Also wanted to add that even during my mentrual cycle, which is usually when I struggle with the worst break-outs, I only had one small pimple that went away within a day or two. I've even been dealing with a ton of stress lately (also a huge trigger for break-outs), but my skin has been in great shape. When I ran out of the Cerave SA cleanser, I ran to grab more, but since the store was out, I picked up the Cerave Foaming Cleanser and that has been working well along with the Differin.
I will say that this product has also put me in a nice skincare routine. They say if you repeat something for 21 days, the habit will stick, and now I'm obsessed with washing my face and using this product. I never go to bed without cleansing my face and applying the gel, and again, like I said before, I had been fairly lazy about my skincare. Seeing the results from the Differin has made me change my ways. :)

14 of 14 people found this helpful.


on 11/6/2016 4:50:00 PM

Age: 18 & Under

Skin: Combination, Fair-Medium, Not Sure

Hair: Other, Other, Other

Eyes: Other

People give up wayyyy too soon, with a retinoid like this you're unlikely to see any actual improvements till month 3, and the differin has likely yet finished improving your skin even then, so when I see people giving up 2 days in, or 9, I can't help but laugh, clearly this med isn't for you if that's how long you're willing to give it, unless you got actual contact dermatitis from using this there's absolutely no reason to stop or judge the med before month 4-5, you shouldn't even be leaving reviews as a few days isn't long enough to judge any skincare product ever.
An initial worsening of your acne is possible and even likely which is why it's often paired with a topical/oral antibiotic to get through the purging months until the Differin starts working, so no, it's not Differin being terrible or useless rather your lack of research and ability to commit to something.

14 of 23 people found this helpful.


Age: 18 & Under

Skin: Combination, Fair-Medium, Neutral

Hair: Brunette, Straight, Medium

Eyes: Hazel

About Me: *half Japanese, half white
*14 years old

Review: After starting my first year of high school in September, I have been breaking out chaotically on my chin and forehead. I finally got fed up with my acne and went to my general doctor. She prescribed me Differin (obviously). This was on November 25th or so. Now it's December 22nd and my skin is AMAZING. Before Differin, I had moderately mild acne. Now I only have one pimple on my chin and two small ones on my forehead and I'm on my PERIOD!! I'm so excited when I'm off my period because my skin will be totally clear! Amazing! I have been using lemon juice to help fade the hyperpigmentation (red marks left by acne) and it's working wonderfully. If I go to sleep with a few pimples, in the morning they will literally be gone. There's never been a day when I've woken up with my acne worse than what it was the day before. Give this product time, though. For some, it may take up to four months to notice any improvement. At the start of the treatment, I did have the initial breakout (just some pointy whiteheads). My biggest problem now is the scarring, but I'm sure that will clear up soon. Also, you just need a pea size amount for your WHOLE face. Don't use more, using more will actually be irritating to your skin and may break you out. Another thing: you will need a good oil-free moisturizer with this! Apply the moisturizer five minutes after you've washed your face. Wait 10 minutes. Apply Differin.

Other Products I've Been Using: Here are just some other products I've been using along with Differin (.01%) gel:
*Purpose Gentle Cleanser (I use this twice a day, GENTLY)
*Olay Complete Moisturizer (I use this twice a day)
*Revlon Colorstay Foundation (AMAZING! Covers scars very well)
*Boots Botanics Anti-Redness Concealer (Good for blemishes, too)

None of the products mentioned above have broken me out. I hope you found this review helpful!

14 of 14 people found this helpful.


Back to Top