Adapalene gel is a topical medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as retinoids. It is used to treat acne and works by preventing the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, and other acne lesions.
It also helps to normalize the shedding of dead skin cells, which can help reduce clogged pores and inflammation.
However, as a retinoid, adapalene can also help improve mild to moderate acne scars.
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss how adapalene gel works to help reduce acne scars and whether or not it is a good option for you.
What is Adapalene Gel?
Adapalene is a topical retinoid used to treat mild to moderate acne.
Available in over-the-counter gels in 0.1% concentration and prescription-strength gels in 0.3% concentration, this gel-based treatment is most effective when applied directly to the acne-prone areas on your face.
How Does Adapalene Work?
Adapalene is a type of retinoid or a vitamin A-derivative that works by binding to receptors in the skin and “teaching” the skin cells to behave in a “younger” way.
When the cells behave this way, they tend to regenerate and turnover faster than usual, improving the complexion by reducing the buildup of dead skin cells that typically clog pores and cause acne.
Adapalene also helps reduce inflammation and effectively treats open comedones, closed comedones, and inflamed pimples.
Is Adapalene Gel Good for Acne Scars?
Adapalene gel can help fade some types of acne scarring, including discoloration, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory erythema, which are the red dots that remain on the skin after a pimple has healed.
Additionally, adapalene can help smooth out skin texture, which is why it can have some positive effect on textural scarring, such as atrophic scarring, which includes ice pick, rolling, and boxcar-type scarring, as well as hypertrophic scarring, such as keloids.
However, it is important to note that adapalene gel cannot erase or completely eliminate textural acne scarring, and professional treatments such as microneedling or lasers are often required to achieve the best results.
How Long Does it Take for Adapalene to Remove Acne Scars?
When it comes to fading discoloration and pigmented acne scarring, you should start seeing results after using adapalene for at least three months.
How quick or slow the healing process of acne scars is depends entirely on the scar itself, your skin’s ability to regenerate, and the severity of acne.
Additionally, your skincare routine will also play a huge part in your healing journey, so make sure to use nourishing products that will help improve the skin’s barrier rather than inflammatory ones that can make your skin worse and slow down healing by constantly triggering inflammation.
In some cases, it might take up to a year of consistent adapalene use to significantly improve your skin, but most people start to see results within the first three months of regular use.
Additionally, when it comes to textural acne scarring, adapalene is most effective when used along with professional treatments, such as microneedling or laser treatments, and can provide excellent results after a few months to a year, depending on the severity of the scars.
How Do You Know if Adapalene is Working?
When you start using adapalene, it will take about a week for its effects to become visible.
However, there are a few stages of adapalene treatment you will have to go through in the beginning before seeing skin improvement.
Here are a few signs that adapalene is working:
Does Adapalene Have Side Effects?
Although adapalene is efficient in healing active acne, this ingredient has some potential side effects.
The most feared side effect of adapalene 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 adapalene include:
Experiencing these side effects isn’t uncommon; however, if the discomfort becomes unbearable, it’s important to take this as a sign and adjust your adapalene usage and skincare routine.
Switching to a gentle, non-irritating cleanser as well as adding a heavy-duty moisturizer and high SPF as part of your morning routine, can help combat some of the drying and irritating effects of using this ingredient.
The Best Adapalene Gels for Acne Scars
Here are the three best adapalene gels for acne and acne scars:
Differin 0.1% Adapalene Treatment Gel, $18
The OG adapalene, this Differin 0.1% Adapalene Treatment Gel has been on the market for longest and is a very effective yet gentle treatment for acne and scars.
With a smooth gel-cream texture, this gel works well for both severe and occasional breakouts, as well as textural and discoloration scars.
Proactiv MD Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment, $36
This Proactiv MD Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment is a less-known yet efficient gel treatment for acne and acne scars.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1%, $37
Finally, the newest addition of adapalene to the skincare market is the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1%.
With a smoother consistency than Differin’s and Proactiv’s adapalene, La Roche-Posay’s treatment is considered gentler and more suitable for sensitive skin.
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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