Differin Review- Does Adapalene Have Side Effects in 2020?

differin gel review

The Differin Adapalene Gel has been a popular prescription for many years, but does the OTC version clear skin?

Differin Gel Review

differin reviews

The Differin acne treatment prescription gel has been on the market since 1996. It was only available by prescription from a doctor such as a dermatologist only up until 2016 when the FDA approved the 0.1% strength to be sold over the counter so it is a fairly new product in that sense. The higher strength of 0.3% is still only available by prescription. 

The gel comes in different sizes such as 15 and 45 gram tubes. It is still the same strength, but one tube is larger than the other and lasts 90 days instead of 30 days.

To apply the product simply clean the affected area and pat dry. Then apply a thin layer of the gel to the affected area. It only needs to be applied once a day at the same time each day or night for blackheads, whiteheads, and small pimples.

A downside to this product is that it may take up to three months of daily use to see results. It also contains a form of paraben which may have side effects in some people like skin irritation. For this reason I did not apply this formula to my face as I already have sensitive skin and do not want any redness or dryness.

Differin can be used by people who have combination skin and excessive oil production. A skin type like one of these may benefit from the better control that Differin has on shrinking the oil glands compared to benzoyl peroxide.

Because of the drying effect it can have it may be beneifical to use a moisturizer on the certain spot where there is dry skin.

differin adapalene

Differin Reviews on Amazon

Like any product there are always going to be positive and negative reviews. Some people like it because they can finally go out without covering their face in makeup all the time.

A positive review said they were originally on the prescription Differin gel and when their severe acne cleared up they purchased the over the counter version to use as maintenance.

My dermatologist put me on prescription adapalene, which did wonders for my acne. I switched to this for maintenance after my skin cleared up, and it’s been working great. -Ashmac2112 on March 7, 2018

There are some negative reviews which are not verified and use the name "Amazon Customer" so we can not be sure if they are real reviews or planted by competing companies.

Other Differin reviews are Amazon Verified and mention more pimples, burning, and itchy skin as shown in the before and after image below.

Differin Gel Before and After Images

differin gel before and after

What are the Differin Gel Ingredients?

The active ingredient is Adapalene which is a synthetic retinoid. A retinoid is a derivative of Vitamin A which is a common ingredient within acne supplements and topical treatments.

Topical retinoids like Differin Adapalene reduce inflammation and keep pores from becoming blocked and causing pimples. Tretinoin and Tazarotene are other forms of retinoids, but Adapalene is the only one available without a prescription and may not be as harsh on the skin.

Inactive ingredients

Carbomer 940 ,edetate disodium, methylparaben, poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water and sodium hydroxide. May contain hydrochloric acid to adjust pH.

These are synthetic ingredients added to the product which gives its texture and gives it a longer shelf life. 

It is worrisome that a paraben in methylparaben is added into this product as there have been cases of skin irritation reported. It has also been shown that when methylparaben is applied topically and exposed to sunlight increase skin damage can occur. (1)

Another ingredient that may be harmful is hydrochloric acid. It is surprising to see this as it is used in household cleaners and for producing water treatment chemicals. It is recognized as safe by the FDA when used properly, but it is still something to be mindful of when using this product. (2)

In general this product may have negative effects on our health so it is recommended to read the label and follow up with your doctor when deciding to take this.

blemless uk

Differin Gel Side Effects

  • Blotchy Skin
  • Dry Skin
  • Rash
  • Increased acne
differin gel side effects


The warnings below were taken from the insert included in every order when you purchase the product.

  • Do not use if you are allergic to adapalene.
  • Do not swallow.
  • If the product gets in your eyes, mouth, or on your lips immediately flush with water.
  • Do not apply on cuts, sunburn, or on eczema.
  • Wash hands after use and don't come in contact with your eyes.
  • If pregnant or breastfeeding ask a doctor before use. Some retinoid drugs have been shown to cause birth defects.
  • Limit sun exposure because your skin may be more sensitive when using Differin Gel.

Where Can You Buy Differin?

Differin is available online and in drug stores like Target, Stop & Shop, Publix, and Rite Aid. The Differin gel price varies from store to store. It is not available on their website, but will redirect you to other online retailers including the ones below.

differin gel buy

Differin Adapalene Gel is available from these retailers.










15 gram

45 gram

45 gram

Free shipping for Prime Members






15 gram





15 gram

Free 2-day shipping for orders over $35.





15 gram

45 gram

$5.49 shipping






15 gram

45 gram

Free 2-day shipping for orders over $35.



Other Products

There is also a Differin cleanser that you can use in conjunction with the Differin clear skin gel. It does not contain fragrance, soap, or retinoids so it may not be as harsh on the skin as the gel.

Pros & Cons


Effective for many people who use it.

Can be used on people 12 years and older.

Available without a prescription.



Should not be used on sensitive skin.

Does not contain natural ingredients.

Can take up to three months to see results.

CONCLUSION: Does the Differin Gel Work?

The Differin adapalene gel is a powerful retinoid that is available over the counter and does not need to be prescribed. You can buy it for an affordable price and may work best for people with mild and moderate acne. 

Because of it's strength it may cause side effects like itching, burning, and inflamed skin. It is not a natural skin care product which may veer people off from using this topical treatment. It may also take weeks or months to experience results.

If you are looking for something strong to help your breakouts and do not have sensitive skin then Differin may be a product to help you. We always recommend consulting your physician before using any product.

Differin does seem to work for many people and it may be a good option for you to check out. It may not treat your skin condition, but may be a better topical product to use than others on the market.


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18656963

2. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.1057