Differin is one of the most popular acne treatments on the market today, but despite its well-documented benefits, many remain unsure about how to use it correctly.
Therefore, I searched the Internet for the most commonly asked questions about Differin and decided to answer the most interesting ones in this article.
Here are twenty of the most frequently asked questions about Differin:
How Does Differin Work?
Differin is the brand name for adapalene, a type of retinoid. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and work by speeding up the turnover of skin cells so that new, young cells can take the place of old ones.
This action improves the complexion by reducing the buildup of dead skin cells that typically clog pores and cause acne.
Differin also helps reduce inflammation and effectively treats open comedones, closed comedones, and inflamed pimples.
Is Differin the Same as Retinol?
Although both Differin (adapalene) and retinol belong to the retinoid family of vitamin A derivatives, these two components aren’t the same.
Differin has a slightly different chemical structure than other retinoids, making it less irritating than many other members in this family, including retinol.
Additionally, Differin is a budget-friendly option for many skin woes, while retinol serums and creams tend to be more expensive.
Finally, Differin is specifically designed to address inflammatory skin conditions like acne, while retinols are more frequently used for their anti-aging benefits.
Does Differin Unclog Pores?
Yes! As an ingredient that causes cellular turnover, Differin will purge the dead skin cells stuck inside the pores that are causing them to become clogged.
This process eliminates the acne-causing bacteria that live inside the pores and thus lowers the inflammation that comes with their overgrowth, helping the skin look clearer, smoother, and brighter.
Does Differin Work for Hormonal Acne?
Differin can help lower inflammation triggered by the overgrowth of bacteria inside the pores; however, if acne is truly triggered by hormonal imbalance, it’s likely the condition will keep coming back at some capacity until the potential internal concerns are addressed.
Therefore, if you suspect your acne is hormonal, you should consult a doctor for further testing and advice.
On the other side, Differin can make a difference in how your skin looks and feels regardless of what’s causing the flare-ups.
It will reduce inflammation, making active breakouts less severe, and help clear pores, giving your skin a better overall appearance.
Does Differin Remove Dark Spots?
By lowering inflammation and causing the skin cells to shed at an increased rate, Differin can help improve dark spots left by acne.
This happens because healthy, non-inflamed skin will produce healthy cells, meaning the dark and uneven patches will eventually shed and be replaced with new, brighter, and even-looking cells.
Does Differin Fade Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation due to UV damage or hormonal conditions like melasma can be challenging to tackle, and Differin won’t make a difference here.
In these cases, it’s best to combine a targeted melanin-inhibiting ingredient like niacinamide with Differin to help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
Can Differin be Used Under Eyes?
Differin doesn’t need to be used under the eyes because pimples rarely occur there.
Additionally, Differin won’t help reduce the appearance of lines or dark circles because it’s best for treating acne and not wrinkles or prominent blood vessels responsible for dark circles.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with syringomas, which are firm, colorless (or white) bumps that resemble pimples and are the result of sweat glands overgrowth, Differin won’t help either.
These are best treated by professional procedures like excision, laser, or electrosurgery, which is a procedure that involves using electric currents from radio or sound waves to generate heat beneath your skin and remove blemishes.
Why Do You Breakout After Using Differin Gel?
Differin causes purging, which is the period of adjustment where your skin pushes out the dead skin cells and impurities that have built up in your pores in the form of pimples to the skin’s surface so that they heal faster.
These breakouts are completely normal and should subside after the initial adjustment period, which can last anywhere from four weeks (one skin cycle) up to twelve weeks (three skin cycles.)
Therefore, chances are if you start breaking out after using Differin, your skin is going through a purge phase, and you should continue using the product as directed for it to work optimally.
How Long Does it Take Differin to Work?
Differin can show a reduction in inflamed pimples after as little as 3-4 weeks of using it.
However, many components play a part in your skin’s healing process, so having a good skincare routine that consists of products that nourish and protect the skin barrier can help speed up the process.
In any case, it can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks before you start seeing noticeable improvements in your skin’s texture and clarity, so give Differin time to work, and don’t forget to be patient with your skin.
Can You Use Differin in The Morning?
Unlike other components in the retinoid family that degrade in sunlight, Differin can be used in the morning as its chemical composition makes it stable in sunlight.
However, when using Differin in the daytime, always wear sunscreen, as Differin can still make the skin more sensitive to the sun.
Additionally, Differin is recommended to be used once a day, so avoid using it more often, as this can lead to dryness and irritation.
Can You Use Differin with Tretinoin?
Differin and its cousin tretinoin are both members of the retinoid family, and as such, they shouldn’t be used together.
Tretinoin is a stronger retinoid than Differin, so even if your skin tolerates tretinoin, you definitely shouldn’t use both products.
It’s best to opt for the one that addresses all your skin concerns, so if that’s acne and skin aging, you may very well opt for tretinoin right away.
On the other hand, if you are a teenager and your main skin concern is acne, Differin is the ideal choice for you.
Which is Better: Differin Gel or Cream?
Unlike tretinoin, which comes in gel and cream formulas, Differin only comes in a gel formula with a thicker consistency.
Can You Use Differin and Vitamin C Together?
Differin and vitamin C can be used in separate skincare routines but never together.
Both ingredients have the potential to irritate the skin, so using them together will only double the risk of adverse effects.
The best way to use both ingredients and get their benefits without compromising your skin is to use vitamin C in the morning and Differin in the evening.
Can You Use PanOxyl and Differin Together?
Using PanOxyl and Differin together might not be the best idea, as while both ingredients are efficient against inflamed acne, they can also be drying to the skin and lead to issues like redness, irritation, sensitivity, and discomfort.
Using them in separate routines is also not ideal, as the effects of the two ingredients can leave a lasting impact on the skin and cause it to become irritated over time.
Can Differin be Used with Salicylic Acid?
While salicylic acid is generally a gentle ingredient, using it with Differin still has the potential to cause irritations and damage your skin barrier.
This is due to the drying side of Differin and salicylic acid, which can make your skin dehydrated and unable to retain moisture.
Additionally, both Differin and salicylic acid increase cellular turnover, so using them together could lead to over-exfoliation and irritation.
Therefore, when addressing acne, it’s best to use Differin for a few months and allow your skin to fully adjust to the ingredient before introducing a gentle salicylic acid product that you would use in a separate routine.
Can Differin be Used with Glycolic Acid?
Similarly to salicylic acid, glycolic acid is an exfoliating component that doesn’t pair well with Differin.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that works to dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells together and help them shed off the skin’s surface quicker.
Therefore, when combined with Differin, which also increases cellular turnover and sends younger cells to the skin’s surface, your complexion can become overly sensitive and irritated.
Although looking more even and bright, young cells are not as good at retaining moisture and, therefore, can dry out quickly and cause further irritation when used with glycolic acid.
And unlike salicylic acid, which you can eventually ease into your skincare routine even if you use Differin, glycolic acid can be more aggressive as it works on the skin’s surface, so definitely stay away from this combo.
Can Differin be Used with Hyaluronic Acid?
While hyaluronic acid is generally unproblematic, using it with Differin might not be the greatest idea as this combination can lead to skin sensitivity and dryness.
Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that should be used on damp skin and followed up with a thicker moisturizer to prevent moisture loss and dehydration.
Differin, on the other hand, should be used on clean, dry skin, as this will make it less irritating to the skin.
Therefore, avoid using Differin right after your hyaluronic acid serums, and instead, use it after applying a moisturizer and sealing the hydrating benefits of hyaluronic acid into the skin.
Should You Use Moisturizer After Differin?
Differin can be drying to the skin, so it’s always a good idea to use a moisturizer after applying it.
When choosing a moisturizer that you can use with Differin, make sure to opt for something that contains soothing and hydrating benefits but also contains ingredients like ceramides that help nourish and strengthen the skin barrier.
Additionally, you should always wait at least 5-10 minutes for Differin to fully absorb into the skin before applying your moisturizers.
Applying them while your skin is still damp with Differin can move the product around and lead to uneven coverage.
Best Alternatives for Differin Gel?
As I already mentioned, Differin is the name of a product made by Galderma, a Swiss company specializing in manufacturing acne skincare products.
The active ingredient in the product Differin is adapalene which can also be found in some other products for acne.
Some popular alternatives to Differin Gel are:
- La Roche-Posay Adapalene 0.1%
- Taro Adapalene 0.1% (popular in Canada)
- Proactiv MD Adapalene Gel 0.1%
- Epiduo (prescription-only topical medication combining adapalene and benzoyl peroxide).
Can You Use Differin Forever?
Unlike benzoyl peroxide, which is recommended to be used for limited periods of time and then replaced with a gentler alternative, Differin can be used forever, provided that it works well for your skin.
Assuming the treatment is well tolerated, the only reason to discontinue temporarily would be pregnancy, as adapalene is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women due to insufficient data on the potential effects on the developing baby.
More Differin-Related Questions:
Can You Put Differin on Broken Skin?
Can You Use Differin and Retinol Together?
Is Differin Good for Closed Comedones?
Can You Use Differin And Niacinamide Together?
Can Differin be Used With Salicylic Acid?
Can Differin Get Rid of Acne Scars?
La Roche Posay Adapalene vs. Differin: Which One Is Better?
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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