Differin and retinol are both members of the retinoid family; however, they don’t mix. Using Differin and retinol together can only increase some of the side effects associated with each component.
And while that’s the most straightforward answer, there are several reasons why this is the case and why using Differin and retinol together won’t give you the benefits you’re looking for.
Read on to learn more about why choosing one form of retinoid is best for your skin.
Are Differin and Retinol The Same Thing?
Both Differin and retinol are a part of the retinoid family, but they aren’t the same thing.
Differin is a brand name for the retinoid adapalene, which is a synthetic form of vitamin A known for its use in acne therapy. It improves breakouts by increasing cellular turnover in the pores and pushing the cells stuck inside them toward the skin surface, where they will eventually shed.
This allows the pores to be cleared and prevents them from becoming clogged with dead skin cells that didn’t shed properly and attracted some oil and bacteria while stuck in there, which is the first step in the formation of an inflamed pimple.
So Differin, or adapalene, is basically what stops the inflammatory cascade that starts as a clogged pore and ends up becoming an angry blemish right before it even gets a chance to start.
Retinol, on the other hand, is a type of retinoid famous for its anti-aging benefits. Available in over-the-counter products, this substance slows down the aging process most effectively.
Fat-soluble retinol penetrates the outermost layer of the skin and travels into the dermis. There, the substance reaches a skin cell, enters its interior, and binds to an appropriate receptor.
By interacting with receptors inside skin cells, retinol promotes their turnover, strengthens the epidermal protective function, reduces transepidermal moisture loss, protects collagen against degradation, and inhibits the activity of enzymes that are responsible for the degradation of the extracellular matrix, which is the connective tissue that gives skin its shape, firmness, and elasticity.
Moreover, retinol has been shown to increase procollagen production, which is the precursor to collagen. So it not only protects existing collagen but also stimulates the production of new collagen.
But that’s not all. Retinol also has some antioxidant properties, which means it can help protect skin cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules found in the environment that can cause cellular damage and lead to a myriad of skin issues, such as premature skin aging, moisture loss, dryness, irritation, and even breakouts.
What’s The Difference Between Differin And Retinol?
The main difference between these two substances is that retinoids like Differin (adapalene) are mainly used to treat acne, while retinol is an anti-aging ingredient.
However, both substances are derived from vitamin A and have similar properties, such as the ability to speed up cell turnover.
However, although Differin is exclusively sold by prescription in most European countries, retinol is stronger than Differin, even though it’s available over the counter everywhere in the world.
This is because Differin has been shown to be significantly less irritating than retinol, which makes it a good choice for people with sensitive skin.
Retinol, on the other hand, comes in different strengths, so it’s always advisable to start with a lower concentration and work your way up as your skin gets used to it.
Can You Use Differin and Retinol Together?
Differin and retinol can’t be used together because they have similar benefits, such as increasing cellular turnover, preventing clogged pores, and improving inflammatory conditions such as acne.
So, while you may think that using them together will double the benefits, this is not the case, even though it does sound logical.
The truth is, because both components work by increasing cellular turnover, using them together can actually irritate and dry out the skin.
This is because when you use two products that have the same effect, you’re essentially doubling up on the ingredients, and this is going to be too much for the skin to handle because, when using an ingredient that increases cellular turnover, your skin will need time to get used to this change and accept it as the new normal.
Newer skin cells, although making the skin appear clearer, glowy, and radiant, don’t have the same ability to protect the skin against environmental aggressors as older, more mature skin cells. Mature skin cells have a thicker, harder cell wall that helps the skin retain moisture better and protect against environmental aggressors.
So, constantly shedding and renewing these skin cells is going to trigger some initial irritation, dryness, and even peeling, which are all side effects that occur when you start using retinoids and disappear when your skin gets used to the change.
Now imagine doubling up on these ingredients right off the bat. Your skin will go into overdrive trying to keep up with the cellular turnover, and it will become irritated, dry, and likely even break out.
So, while you may be eager to use these two products together to get faster results, it’s actually not a good idea, and it’s best to pick one that will address your main skin concern.
What is Differin Best For?
Differin or adapalene is best for acne-prone skin because it’s a topical retinoid that helps to unclog pores, prevent breakouts, and even reduce inflammation.
So, if acne is your main skin concern, Differin is a better choice.
However, it’s worth mentioning that although this is its primary action, adapalene has shown promising results in addressing some visible signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and even dark spots.
So even though more studies are needed to confirm its potential anti-aging benefits, this ingredient could address both acne and signs of aging simultaneously.
What is Retinol Best For?
On the other hand, retinol is best for addressing the visible signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, sunspots, and even hyperpigmented spots left from breakouts.
So, if any of these are your main skin concern, then retinol is better for you.
However, it’s worth mentioning that although this is its primary action, retinol has shown promising results in acne prevention and reducing inflammation.
So, if your goal is to address your skin aging concerns, but you also get an occasional pimple here and there, retinol will likely be able to help address both concerns.
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.
The Acne Solution: Your Ultimate Guide To Flawless Complexion
An extensive, no-nonsense course showing you how to never have acne again, from a licensed Esthetician specializing in oily/acne-prone skin.