Differin: Can It Really Cure Your Acne?


Differin helps to reduce inflammation and accelerates the growth of skin.

Differin is one of the latest tools doctors can use to help you fight acne. It is not a cure for acne. It is only a treatment. But Different is a treatment for acne that causes far fewer side effects than many other medications of comparable strength.


  • Differin is a kinder, gentler retinoid drug for mild to moderate acne.
  • Differin accelerates the growth of the skin so that skin cells die on schedule turn into skin flakes for easy removal from the skin. This helps keep pores open.
  • Differin also reduces inflammation of the skin.
  • Differin has no systemic side effects because it is insoluble in water and cannot enter the bloodstream (in amounts of more than a few nanograms).
  • Differin does a better job of getting rid of whiteheads and blackheads than tretinoin topical, although its effects are not visible as fast.
  • Using Differin is never all you need to do to get rid of acne for good.

How Topical Retinoids for Acne for Work

Differin, which is one of the trade names for a drug known as adapalene, is a member of a class of drug known as retinoids. These chemical cousins of vitamin A treat acne by normalizing or accelerating a process known as desquamation, the orderly death of the skin.

Under ordinary circumstances, new skin cells are created in the basal layer of the skin. As they go through their 21-day life cycle, they are constantly pushed upward as new skin cells are created beneath them. They reach the surface of the skin about the same time as they are genetically programmed to die and flake off the skin.

In people who have acne, sometimes skin cells don’t die on schedule. They continue to stick to the surface of the skin. They accumulate around pores, and they keep the skin thick and tight, keeping excess oil and bacteria locked tight inside the pores. Compressed skin oils form whiteheads that can be oxidized by the air to become blackheads. Attacks by the immune system on bacteria in pores can cause pimples.

Vitamin A “flips a switch” that activates genes that cause skin cells to mature and die. Differin is a form of vitamin A that activates additional genes that cause skin cells to differentiate into the mature form and complete their life cycle so the skin beneath them can push them up and out.

What’s Different About Differin?

Differin is milder than other retinoid drugs. It is less likely to stimulate skin cells so much that the upper layer of skin dies too soon. It does a better job than Retin-A or Accutane in modulating the immune system so that it does not release the chemicals that inflame the skin in pimples.

Differin is also different from other retinoid drugs in that it is almost completely insoluble in water. Because it is not soluble in water, it does not enter the bloodstream. It stays in pores where it is needed, without entering the bloodstream to cause systemic side effects.

Is Differin as Effective as Topical Tretinoin?

Two other retinoid drugs are also used in gels, creams, and lotions for the skin, Tazorac (tazarotene) and tretinoin topical. Differin causes less inflammation than either Tazorac or tretinoin topical. Differin often causes no inflammation at all. However, it is not equally effective for all acne problems:

  • Differin is significantly less irritating than tretinoin topical.
  • Differin removes more whiteheads and blackheads than tretinoin topical, but tretinoin topical removes more pimples.
  • Tretinoin topical works faster on whiteheads and blackheads than Differin during the first three weeks, but also causes more irritation.
  • Differin causes less irritation than Tazorac, but they get rid of about the same number of acne blemishes.
  • The stronger the the concentration of Differin, the more blemishes it removes. A gel that contains 0.3% Differin removes more blemishes than a gel that contains 0.1% Differin.

Differin can also be used with the antibiotic doxycycline. The antibiotic kills bacteria while Differin opens up the skin. In India, Differin is most often offered in combination with clindamycin, which Differin helps penetrate the skin.

Differin can also be used with benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria while Differin opens up the skin.

What Doctors Won’t Tell You About Differin

Differin is one of the most useful of all prescription drugs for treating acne. It does not cause the dangerous systemic side effects of Accutane, and it causes very little inflammation of the skin at all. That does not mean, however, that it has no potential side effects at all.

On Asian skin, even small amounts of inflammation can cause permanent darkening of the skin. It is much easier to prevent darkening of Asian skin that it is to treat darkening of Asian skin. If someone who has Asian skin uses Differin, they should also use vitamin E lotions on blemished skin at another time of day to prevent darkening of the skin before it even starts. Doctors often offer patients who have Asian skin whitening agents containing a chemical containing hydroquinone—but this chemical can sometimes cause permanent black and blue discoloration of the skin.

On black skin, inflammation also can cause the formation of spots that are blacker than surrounding skin. The darkening of the skin can be slowed down with products that contain a plant chemical called arbutin. Hydroquinone can also cause permanent black discoloration on black skin.

And people who have brown or fair skin tones benefit from treatment with a form of vitamin C known as ascorbyl palmitate. They are less likely to have severe darkening of the skin when acne heals, but vitamin C treatment is an added level of “insurance” against the formation of spots.

Doctors and their assistants often don’t tell their patients one important thing about the use of all of these products, not just Differin but also vitamin E, vitamin C, and arbutin. All of these products oxidize on contact with air. If you don’t put the cap back on the container after each use, the medication or skin treatment inside is quickly inactivated. And if the product comes in a jar, it is useless.

Differin Is Never a Complete Treatment for Acne

Differin can do a lot of to treat blemishes quickly. It has fewer side effects than most other treatments. But unless you do complete acne skin care, you will keep on needing Differin and antibiotics indefinitely because blemishes will keep coming back.

The best way to do basic skin care to keep acne away for good is with a treatment system that provides all the products you need from a single vendor with a money-back guarantee, such as Exposed Skin Care.

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