Differin is one of the most effective and widely-used acne treatments on the market, but it can require an eight week ‘purge period' and cause other side effects.
There's a lot you need to consider before purchasing, so it's a good idea to do your research before spending your money.
You need to know how it works, what you can expect from using it, and if it's right for you. You also need to know about possible alternatives in case it doesn't work for you.
Our in-depth guide should answer all your questions. Did we leave anything out? Get in touch and we'll be happy to provide more information.
Differin is an acne medication containing the active ingredient of adapalene, which is a form of vitamin A (check out our product page to view the full range of Differin ingredients). Applied to the area affected by acne, it works to help your skin heal by unblocking your pores (allowing natural oils to escape) and boosting the exfoliation process.
Proving effective in mild to moderate cases, Differin has great reviews and is a great choice for many acne sufferers because it provides enough potency to make a difference without being strong enough to cause major harm. That said, it does have one notable issue known as the Differin purge - an initial period during which your skin seems to get worse, not better.
However, that may not be the truth of the matter. It's believed that this purging period actually results from existing clogged pores coming to the surface, giving the inaccurate impression that things have got worse. If you keep applying Differin as recommended, you should see improvement once the purging period has concluded (usually after 6-8 weeks at the latest).
Differin is produced in two formulations: a gel, and a cream. Differin gel is transparent and quite dense - when applied, it will be absorbed relatively quickly. Differin cream, though, is white and much oilier - it will take longer to be absorbed, but it also has moisturizing properties that will help if the affected area is uncomfortably dry.
In most cases, the gel formulation of Differin is easier to use because it applies clear and soaks into the skin rapidly, but it will depend on your particular case. If you're not sure, you may want to try each form to see which you prefer.
As a mid-range treatment, Differin is an excellent first option for acne sufferers - other available treatments can be weaker (for very mild cases), stronger (for particularly severe acne), or designed with broader actions (often containing antibiotics).
For a more detailed explanation of how Differin (and its active ingredient adapalene) compares to other treatments, you can view our acne treatment comparison page.
We mentioned that Differin can give rise to the ‘Differin purge’, and even though it isn't a sign that the skin is actually getting worse, it's still very unpleasant for the acne sufferer - so how long does it take to push through the purge and see positive results?
Well, when you first start applying Differin on a daily basis, there's an excellent chance that you'll see some results within a week, and possibly even a significant reduction. This is a great thing, but it's also a false dawn of sorts because of what follows, and it's important not to get too excited at this stage.
This is because the second week is likely to see the acne return, either slightly or in full force (it will depend on the severity of your case): with the blockage removed and the top layers of skin cleared, the clogged pores in lower layers will quickly reach the surface and leave the skin vulnerable once again.
The reason this purging phase is threatening is that it can lead acne sufferers to think that the Differin isn't actually going to work, causing them to stop applying it and seek alternative treatment. While Differin isn't right for everyone, you should have your symptoms inspected before you even think about discontinuing treatment.
In most cases, all that must be done to escape the purge is to endure it for a week or so. Once all the blockages lurking beneath the surface have been cleared, the skin can begin to truly get better, and Differin shines in this regard - users often continue to see improvement for many months after beginning treatment.
Because of the Differin purge causing the acne to (seemingly) return, it can be difficult for a Differin user to tell when they're suffering an actual reaction to the treatment. There are four situations in which you should have your symptoms inspected by a medical professional:
If we've prescribed you Differin and you've found yourself in such a situation, let us know. We'll take a close look at your symptoms and find a better alternative.
Whether you get Differin as a gel or a cream, it should be applied to the affected area on a daily basis as long as you continue to suffer from acne. If your acne completely clears up, you can stop the treatment, but be aware that your acne may return at some point.
To apply Differin, take a pea-sized amount and spread it thinly across the affected area until it has been fully absorbed - if you don't notice a difference a week or so, try applying a little more, but be careful. To avoid disrupting the effect, you should apply it in the evening before sleeping, and ideally after showering (or bathing) to clear your skin.
If you experience significant discomfort trying to spread the gel across the affected area, consider using the cream instead. Alternatively, apply a small amount of moisturiser to the area before applying a slightly-larger amount of the gel. Make sure, however, the moisturiser you use is non-comedogenic, so it doesn't make your acne worse and make sure it is fully absorbed into your skin before you apply the Differin gel.
Note that applying Differin will raise the affected skin's sensitivity to UV light, so take steps to avoid exposure to direct sunlight or you'll risk further skin damage. Keep the skin covered during the day (though allow it to breathe) or when around strong artificial UV light sources.
See our product page to find out how to buy Differin.
Vitamin A (a form of which constitutes Differin's active ingredient) confers various benefits to the skin, so Differin - on the advice of a dermatologist - can be used for off-label purposes:
Be mindful not to anything unusual or extreme without the advice of an expert, because things can go easily go wrong.
For instance, if you use it to reduce the appearance of wrinkles but fail to keep the skin suitably moisturized, the wrinkles will likely end up looking worse. In general, we strongly recommend that you don't deviate from the recommended practices without the advice of a dermatologist.
You can wear cosmetics or moisturisers while using this medication, but you should not Â apply them at the same time. Wash your skin thoroughly before applying Differin, wait for it to be absorbed into your skin, then use any cosmetics and moisturisers. Make sure that any makeup and moisturisers are non-comedogenic so they don't block your pores and make your acne worse.
Yes, in severe acne you can combine Differin with oral antibiotic acne treatments such as Tetralysal (Lymecycline), Minocin (Minocycline) or Oxytetracycline tablets. These combinations can be used to provide better effects than either treatment on their own, prevent antibiotic resistance, and cure acne particularly persistent cases of acne.
Differin should not be used with any similar acne creams containing a retinoid or benzoyl peroxide as it may cause excessive drying or irritation to your skin.
Topical treatments like Differin are frequently used in addition to oral treatments like Accutane (Isotretinoin), but this would need to be started by a dermatologist.
Avoid exposure to sunlight, sunlamps or sunbeds while using this medication, as it increases your skin's sensitivity to UV light. If exposure to sunlight cannot be avoided, use sunscreens or protective clothing over treated skin.
If your skin is sunburnt, you should not use this medication until your skin has fully recovered. Severe irritation may result.
This treatment speeds up the regeneration process of the skin, which may help reduce the appearance of scars. This cream/gel can also prevent future breakouts, which in turn leads to reduced numbers of scars.
Avoid popping your spots, as this can worsen the problem and create scars. Laser and dermarolling treatments are recent developments, available from cosmetic dermatologist clinics, which are designed to fade scars.
Spots and pustules are one of the main symptoms of rosacea. Differin is therefore often prescribed to treat this condition by dermatologists, however, it is not something that we are able to prescribe online.
Melasma (brown spots/hyperpigmentation on the skin) is also treated by Differin if prescribed by a dermatologist.
Retin-A and Differin work in much the same way, but they are slightly different treatments. One should not be used in replacement of the other.
Unlike many topical acne treatments, Differin does not bleach fabrics.
This treatment can be used to treat the causes of acne on all parts of the body, including (but not limited to) the face, chin, back and chest.
There are a number of cosmetic treatments that can be provided by a cosmetic dermatologist to treat acne. These can be used in addition to or instead of topical or oral medications. These treatments include microdermabrasion and laser treatment. However, you should always let the treatment provider know what medication you are on before engaging in treatment. See our acne page for more info.
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