Hands up who loves having acne in their 30’s? Anyone? No one? You make it through the teenage years of acne and you would think “Great, that’s acne all done.” Or is it?
Adult acne is real and just as annoying as having it as a teenager. It is frustrating and going to the dermatologist for a prescription for retinol is expensive. Not to mention that prescription-strength retinol is also expensive.
So when I caught wind that you can now buy Differin on amazon (of course you can) Walmart and target, well my heart skipped a beat. Then I got a little nervous.
Retinoic Acid (which is what differin is has been a prescription-only drug for years.
Why, when and how can this now be so easily available over-the-counter (OTC)?
Let’s start with what is Differin Acne Gel?
Differin is an acne treatment gel that contains prescription-strength retinol, in the form of Adapalene. Differin is available over the counter. This is good news for your wallet and great news for your skin. Caution is still advised when using Differin.
What is Differin?
Differin is a gel or cream that contains a topical retinoid called adapalene. It only contains a small amount, 0.1%. But the type of retinol is retinoic acid and it is potent stuff.
Differin is the first FDA OTC topical retinoid to hit the market. It is the most advanced acne treatment available without a prescription.
There is no denying that Differin is an acne treatment rock star because it contains Adapalene.
What is Adapalene?
Adapalene is a derivate of vitamin A, and is part of the retinoid family. Vitamin A is known in the world of science as retinol. The most potent form of vitamin A is retinoic acid.
The reason that retinoic acid is so effective is that it can be ‘taken up” and used by your skin immediately.
Retinoids come in different strenghts. The strongest being retinoic acid, the retinol, retinal, then the esters of retinal. The strength of the retinoid is based on what form it is when applied to the skin.
Retinal needs to be turned into retinoic acid first, then it can be used. Retinal get turned first into retinol and then into retinoic acid etc.
Each extra step that the retioid needs to take to become retinoic acid makes it weaker and gentlier on the skin. It also makes it slower to have an effective on our skin.
So what ever type of retinoid product you apply to your skin it does eventually become retinoic acid and this is any some people can’t tolerate even the gentleist lowest strength retinoid product.
Adapalene is already a retinoic acid, yet it is not as irritating as other retinoic acids. The reason for this is that adapalene is a synthetic retinod and has been manufactured to interact selectively with retinoid acid receptors (RAR) in your skin.
This means that you get the benefits of retinoic acid with much less of the ‘retinol purging’ that retinoic acid can cause.
Adapalene is suited for the treatment of adult skin. Adapalene unlike other retinoic acids is stable in both sunlight and oxygen. Because of this stability it is less reactive than other retinoids such as tretinoin.
How Is Differin Gel Different To Other Acne Treatments.
Differin is not a ‘spot’ treatment that you use until your active acne has cleared up. Differin works to not only heal active acne but also prevent acne breakouts. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory that makes it useful in the treatment of inflamed acne such as pustules and papules.
Differin gel has been made specifically for treating acne vulgaris (that is your common variety of acne) on the face, chest, neck, and back.
Acne Vulgaris is:
Minor and moderate acne which includes: Papules – inflamed red pimples under the skin. Pustules – inflamed red pimples with a white centre.
Comedones can either be open or closed and are commonly known as whiteheads and blackheads.
Whiteheads are raised pimples under the skin. They feel bumpy and textured and are closed – meaning they haven’t broken through the skin.
Blackheads are pimples that have broken through the skin and the material inside the comedone has oxidised causing it to turn black, hence it is called a blackhead.
The great news is that Differin treats acne vulgaris and milia and sebaceous filaments.
The other point that Differin is different is its price point. This is a product that most people who have long term or stubborn issues with acne can afford.
Differin, who is owned by Galderma – could have made this product easily 3 or 4 times the price that it currently retails for. They didn’t. We applaud them for that because so many people can’t afford to go to a Dermatologist, let alone fill a prescription.
Acne can be so much more than having bad skin. It can cause real psychological, emotional and social damage. Having an option available that retails for between $12 – $15 is life changing for millions of people.
So well done Galderma – we give you the skinskins ‘You’re awesome’ sticker. Well, we would if such a thing existed.
There are other skincare ingredients that are great for treating acne such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, but adapalene does have benefits that they don’t.
Adapalene Vs Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid
|Clears acne, prevents acne which|
helps skin texture and tone
|Balances out skin cell production||YES||NO||NO|
|Proven anti-inflammatory benefits||YES||NO||NO|
|Once a day application provides 24-hour action||YES||NO||NO|
|Saf to use around clothing and towels||YES||NO||YES|
How to Use Differin
Differin should be applied thinly and evenly over the affected area once a day and preferably at the same time. We recommend using it at night as you would with any retinoid.
There is no benefit to applying Differin or any retinoid more than once a day. It does not give faster or better results but almost certainly will cause skin irritation.
It also works to prevent acne so you should apply it to the entire area. It is not a ‘spot’ treatment.
You can use it on your face, neck, chest, arms and back.
Apply after cleansing and drying the skin. Allow it to completely absorb and dry and then apply moisturizer.
Wash your hands after using Differin to avoid getting it into your eyes, lips or mouth.
Wear a non-comedogenic, broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen every day. Avoid direct exposure to the sun, especially between 10 am and 3 pm.
Avoid products that contain salicylic acid (Beta Hydroxy Acids) and glycolic acid (Alpha Hydroxy Acids). These are also active ingredients and can cause skin irritation to be worse.
Don’t use other retinol containing products.
How Does Differin work?
Differin heals acne by targeting the clogged pores. It breaks down keratin (the protein that skin is made from) and stop pores from becoming clogged with excess sebum and dead skin. Clogged pores can lead to acne so keeping them clear helps to prevent acne.
It also stimulates new cells to be made. This rapid turn over of cell production can result in ‘purging’. Purging also known as retinol purge or the retinol uglies is simply the irritation that can occur when you use a retinoid product.
Purging can include redness, dryness, peeling and flaking skin and a burning/stinging sensation. With Differin, this should be mild, only happen for the first 2 – 4 weeks of using Differin and then settle down as your skin adjusts.
If it is severe, painful, causes swelling or intense stop using it immediately and seek medical help.
Benefits Of Differin
The addition of Adapalene to Differin give this product’s benefits beyond treating acne. Although it is marketed as an acne treatment there are some side effects to using Differin that benefit your skin in other ways. Retinoic acid is well studied for its effects as an anti-inflammatory and also its ability to boost collagen production – which reduces fine lines and wrinkles. It also protects your skin from UV damage and reduces acne scarring.
It is not often the ‘side effects of an ingredient are actually benefits!
Who Should Not Use Differin?
Differin is not suited for persons who suffer from severe acne. If you have severe acne, cystic acne, dermatitis, eczema or rosacea you should see your dermatologist before you start using Differin.
Women who are either pregnant or planning to become pregnant should steer clear of Differin.
It is not known if Differin passes into breast milk so it is best to avoid it while breastfeeding.
Don’t use it if you have an allergy to Adapalene.
Side Effects Of Differin
Because Differin contains adapalene which is a retinoic acid it may have some side effects. These include:
- Skin burning sensation
- Contact dermatitis
- Skin irritation
- Icthing of the skin
- Skin exfoliation – peeling and flaking of skin.
These should be short-lived and mild. If you are concerned stop using it immediately and see your doctor or dermatologist.
Where can you Find Differin?
In the US, it is possible to find Differin online from Amazon, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, and many online pharmacy and beauty stores. It is also available in most leading drugstores.
Differin is not available over the counter in Austalia, New Zealand or The UK – you will require a prescription from your doctor.
Final Thoughts On Differin Acne Treatment Gel
Differin Gel is the first topical retinoid known as Adapalene available over-the-counter. This is an acne management game-changer. It is also at a price point that makes this type of acne treatment available to most people.
For us, that is important. Acne can cause depression and social isolation and massive self-esteem issues and Differin can help people who can’t afford dermatologist a lifeline.
Good skin and quality ingredients shouldn’t be out of reach of the people who need them most. Differin allows people with acne from most economic levels to access potent and proven acne treatment.
It is also significantly cheaper than prescription-strength retinoids and also does not require a visit to a dermatologist.
It is generally safe and has only mild side effects that should go away after a few weeks of usage.
Differin has been awarded the acne treatment product of the year every year since it was launched in 2017 by many. It is because it is a great product and we think it deserves these awards for making this product great, but also for making it at such an inclusive price.