Differin is a branded acne treatment available in the form of gel and developed by the pharmaceutical company Galderma. A very popular acne treatment in the UK, Differin is based on the active ingredient adapalene which is a form of vitamin A which has been proven to be exceptionally efficient in unblocking pores and facilitating skin cell renewal, thus eliminating and preventing acne.

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Acne as a medical condition

Acne is a common term denoting a condition marked by the formation of spots and pustules, mainly on the face, chest or back. As a very common condition, acne affects around 80% of people, but for majority of those, it is a condition that may manifest during puberty, but decrease in severity of symptoms later on, leading to eventual disappearing of acne symptoms altogether.

The severity of condition can significantly vary among individuals. For some, only so-called blackheads and whiteheads will appear in small numbers, while others might get affected by deep and painful pus-filled cysts. While the condition is neither contagious, nor dangerous, it can be aesthetically displeasing since pustules tend to leave noticeable scars after disappearing. As such, acne can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s self-esteem and wellbeing, leading to depression in some cases.

Acne treatment

As of now, there is no real cure for acne, meaning that the condition can be limited and controlled, but not 100% treated. For milder cases, a cleansing routine introduced two times per day can be beneficial, while more severe symptoms are usually managed with the use of prescription medicines and various treatments. This includes both hormonal treatments and topical medicines, as is the case with Differin gel.

All different types of acne have more or less the same root cause – they appear once sebaceous glands start producing excess sebum which then mixes with the dead skin cells, blocking the follicles and causing acne to form. Usually harmless bacteria that live on the surface of the skin will then get the opportunity to penetrate the skin, leading to infections and cysts.

Differin cream mitigates this by relaying on its active ingredient, adapalene, in order to limit the production of keratin skin cells which can clog up the pores. In turn, this will allow the excess sebum to exit the sebaceous cells, thus preventing the spots from forming.

How is Differin used?

In order to ensure the best results possible, you should adhere to the guidelines set by your doctors precisely. By doing so you will not only ensure optimal results, but also significantly reduce the chance of experiencing adverse side effects. Some most general guidelines can be presented as follows:

  • Use only on external sites
  • Best used before going to bed (unless indicated otherwise by a doctor)
  • Be sure to clean and dry the area before application
  • Use your fingertips to gently rub a thin layer of gel onto the skin
  • Wash hand thoroughly after use

What are Differin side effects?

As is the case with all medicines, Differin too comes with a possibility of unwanted side effects. Among the most serious ones are allergic reactions – if you notice any of the symptoms consistent with an allergic response following Differin use, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Some of the documented side effects include:

  • Swollen skin
  • Irritation of the eyelids
  • Allergic contact reaction

Aside from these, the official patient information leaflet mentions the following adverse effects:

Frequency of occurrence

Side effects

Common (1 in 10 users)

Dry, irritated or inflamed skin at the site of the application

Uncommon (1 in 100 users) 

Sunburn, itchy, peeling or sore skin, acne flare-up or contact dermatitis

Is it safe for me to use Differin?

Differin is a relatively safe medicine, however, in some cases its use won’t be recommended and can, in fact, be contraindicated. This can be the case if there is a risk of an adverse interaction between Differin and some other medicines you might be taking at the same time. Alternatively, an underlying medical condition can also be problematic if there is suspicion that Differin can exacerbate the symptoms.

When it comes to interactions, Differin can actually be used alongside many other common acne treatments including bezoyl peroxide, erythromycin or clindamycin. However, in this scenario, you should make sure that you use Differin in the evening and other treatments early in the morning.

When it comes to other medical conditions, Differin is significantly safer than the alternatives, so other health issues can be contraindication only in a very, very limited number of cases. It is best to disclose your medical history to the doctor during consultations so that he can make an informed decision regarding this.

Finally, Differin should not be used during pregnancy, but is safe for women who are currently breastfeeding provided that the gel isn’t applied to the breast area.

In addition to this, medical experts emphasise that while using this treatment you should avoid direct exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet ray (artificial ‘sun lamps’).

Differin use will not interfere with your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery, nor will it make consumption of alcohol any more dangerous.