Differin is a popular over-the-counter product for moderate to severe acne.
It’s loved by many due to its efficacy, gentleness, and availability, as it doesn’t require a prescription the way its prescription-only cousin, tretinoin does.
However, besides being an excellent acne buster, Differin can also help get rid of acne scarring, including those red and hyperpigmented spots, as well as pitted scars left on the skin as a result of severe acne.
So, continue reading if you want to learn how exactly Differin works and how it can help you get rid of acne scars.
What are Acne Scars and What Causes Them?
Acne scars form as a result of the inflammation that damages the skin and usually manifest on the skin’s surface as discolored spots or indentations due to collagen loss.
The most common types of acne scars are:
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: Brown spots that remain on the skin after the pimple has healed and are a result of abnormal melanin production triggered by inflammation.
Post-inflammatory Erythema (Redness): Red spots that remain on the skin after the pimple has healed and are a result of broken capillaries under the skin triggered by inflammation.
Rolling Scars: Wave-like indentations in the skin caused by severe inflammation that has led to collagen loss in the area.
Boxcar Scars: Sharp-edged scars characterized by steep sides and usually found on the cheeks and temples. They are also caused by severe inflammation that has led to collagen loss in the area.
Icepick Scars: Deep, narrow scars that are wider at their base than their top and are a result of severe inflammation that has led to collagen loss in the area.
Acne scars are most commonly found on the face but can also occur on the neck, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms.
Most people who have dealt with moderate to severe acne will have some scarring, although not all types of scarring heal the same, and most of them require a combination of different treatments to disappear entirely.
A few factors that can increase the risk of scarring include:
- Not addressing the skin concern in time and allowing it to become more severe.
- Picking or squeezing the pimples.
- Using clogging skincare and beauty products that lead to more acne.
- Not protecting the skin from UV rays.
Can Differin Get Rid of Acne Scars?
Differin is a brand name for Adapalene, a retinoid medication used to treat moderate and severe acne.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and work by increasing cell turnover, purging clogged pores that harbor bacteria overgrowth, and preventing the formation of new pimples.
However, Differin (or Adapalene) can also be helpful in getting rid of or at least minimizing acne scars.
For example, Differin can help get rid of acne scars by healing pimples and preventing the formation of new ones. Therefore, no pimples also means no scars.
Furthermore, by increasing cellular turnover, Differin can also help the old, pigmented cells shed from the skin’s surface and be replaced with new, healthy cells, eventually leading to an evened-out complexion.
Additionally, by minimizing acne, Differin can also reduce the inflammation that has caused the capillaries under the skin to rupture, thus helping them heal and eventually fading the post-inflammatory red spots that are often more prominent in those with lighter skin tones.
Lastly, since Differin’s active ingredient is a retinoid, this can also promote collagen production and help fill out and slightly improve atrophic acne scars such as ice-pick, boxcar, and rolling scars over time.
By all this, we can gather that Differin, although being marketed as an anti-acne medication, can also help get rid of various types of acne scarring in many different ways.
What Are The Side Effects of Using Differin for Acne Scars?
Although Differin is efficient in healing acne and improving acne scars, this medication has some potential side effects.
For the most part, Differin’s most feared side effect is purging, which is a stage of the skin’s healing process in which the active ingredient causes an increase in cellular turnover.
This can result in more breakouts that can be moderate to severe and can last anywhere between 4-12 weeks.
Other potential side effects of Differin include:
If you experience any of these side effects, it is important to contact a dermatologist as they can help you adjust your Differin usage or find an alternative treatment option.
It is also important to have a great moisturizer when first starting Differin, as this will help you combat dryness, peeling, shedding, and irritation, as well as high SPF that will protect your skin from sunburns and UV damage.
RELATED: How Long Does A Differin Purge Last?
How Long Does It Usually Take for Differin to Start Working on Acne Scars?
For one, it would take anywhere between three months to a year to see the results of the primary function of Differin, which is clearing acne.
Once your skin is free from active inflammation, continuing Differin will help maintain the results and start the process of healing the remaining scars.
So, while it does vary from person to person, as well as the severity of the scars, you should start to notice some results anywhere after six months of using Differin consistently.
When it comes to deeper scarring, such as ice-pick, boxcar, and rolling scars, you can expect to notice results after a year or two of using Differin consistently.
Looking into professional treatments is also a good idea, as this will help get rid of scars even faster.
Are There Other Treatments You Can Do Along With Differin to Improve Acne Scars?
Using Differin isn’t going to prevent you from doing professional treatments or using other actives, such as exfoliating acids, peptides, or vitamin C.
However, your dermatologist might ask you to skip Differin for a few days after a professional treatment, depending on what this treatment is and, more importantly, how well your skin is adapted to Differin.
On the other hand, when using exfoliating acids or actives such as peptides or vitamin C, try to incorporate them in separate routines and keep Differin on its own as this will help prevent potential irritation or diminishing the potency of certain actives.
With that said, here are a few treatments that can be done along with Differin to help improve acne scars:
Microdermabrasion: A treatment that involves using a tool to manually remove dead skin cells and promote new cell growth.
Chemical peels: A treatment where a solution of high-strength exfoliating acids is applied to the skin to remove layers of dead skin cells and improve the appearance of blemishes, scars, UV damage, etc.
Microneedling: A treatment that involves using a tool to create tiny punctures in the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production, which in turn helps improve the appearance of atrophic scars.
Laser resurfacing: This treatment involves the use of carbon dioxide ablative lasers to treat acne scars, including hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory redness, and atrophic scarring.
How Should You Use Differin to Get the Best Results?
As I already mentioned above, Differin’s main active ingredient is Adapalene, which is a retinoid; therefore, the right way to use it is to slowly build tolerance to it.
You can start by applying a pea-sized amount of Differin every other day on clean, dry skin.
It’s important not to leave more than 72 hours between applications as this will only prolong the retinization process, and while you may think it’s helping your skin, it will actually keep you in a loop where your skin will continue to experience the initial side effects of Differin for longer.
So, if Differin is too irritating in the beginning, you can apply it 20-30 minutes after applying your moisturizer, or you can sandwich it between two layers of moisturizer to make it more tolerable.
However, the goal is to build tolerance to daily application, which is something you can start doing after using Differin for 3-4 weeks.
It’s important to remember that not every skin is the same, so some people may get used to it sooner than that while others may need longer, which is why you should listen to your skin and make sure not to push it too hard as this will only lead to more irritation.
If your skin starts getting too irritated and starts to itch or burn, it’s best to stick to what works for you, or up your hydration through heavier moisturizer or by adding hydrating toners, essences, and serums into your skincare routine.
Lastly, Differin is a product that’s best suited as a part of an evening skincare routine, but don’t forget to use sunscreen in the morning as retinoids are notorious for making the skin more susceptible to sunburns.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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