Differin Gel Review



Differin Gel is the first FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) topical retinoid. It contains adapalene, a third generation retinoid that can help treat and prevent acne. Adapalene was approved by the FDA in 1996, but it was only available as a prescription product. Then, in 2016, the FDA approved Differin Gel (adapalene) 0.1% as an OTC product for use in people 12 years of age and older.

If you’re interested in trying this retinoid for your acne-prone skin, read our Differin Gel review to learn the science behind how adapalene can improve your skin. We’ll also share Differin Gel reviews so that you can see what customers really think of this product.

Who is Differin Gel For?

Differin Gel is approved for use in people 12 years and older with mild-to-moderate acne. It can be used by those who want to prevent and treat acne, including blackheads, whiteheads, blemishes, and clogged pores. It can also be used by those with uneven skin tone and texture. If you have severe acne, the brand recommends talking to your doctor.

Can You Use Differin Gel For Wrinkles?

While Differin Gel is approved as an acne treatment product, many people are aware that retinoids also provide anti-aging benefits. This might leave you wondering: can you use Differin Gel for wrinkles? And the short answer is yes!

According to,Differin Gel is “useful as an anti-aging product for the improvement of fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, and sallow skin”. If you’re not already using a retinol product, you could consider using Differin Gel for wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Are The Key Differin Gel Ingredients?

The active ingredient in Differin Gel is 0.1% adapalene, a third generation retinoid. Retinoids have vitamin A activity, which helps regulate cell turnover to keep the pores from clogging and target acne before it even starts.

So how does Differin Gel compare to other retinoids? One study compared the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of adapalene gel 0.1% vs. tretinoin gel 0.025%. Tretinoin is another type of retinoid, known by the brand name Retin-A. The study concluded that adapalene offers comparable efficacy to tretinoin, but is less irritating.

Even though Differin Gel is less irritating than Retin-A, it can still lead to side effects. Common side effects include dryness, scaling, redness, irritation and burning/stinging. These symptoms usually peak at the 2- to 4-week mark before subsiding. Fortunately, not everyone will experience these side effects, according to the brand.

It’s important to keep in mind that Differin Gel isn’t a spot treatment. It’s meant to be used on the entire face daily to stop new acne from forming. For best results, it’s important to continue using Differin Gel even after skin looks clearer to help prevent future breakouts. With continued use, Differin Gel will continue to clear redness and inflammations caused by acne; prevent blackheads and clogged pores, and, as a result, restore the skin’s texture and tone.

The inactive ingredients in Differin Gel include carbomer 940, edetate disodium, methylparaben, poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water, and sodium hydroxide.

You may be concerned with the presence of methylparaben in Differin Gel. The company includes methylparaben as a preservative to extend the shelf life of the product by preventing microbial contamination. The use of parabens in cosmetics and skin care products is controversial because there is conflicting research on the potential health consequences of long term exposure to parabens.

According to the EWG, parabens can act like the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility, and birth outcomes. Parabens are easily absorbed into the skin, which means that continuously using products that contain parabens could lead to elevated estrogen in the body.

How to Use Differin Gel?

Differin Gel should be used only once daily and integrated as an important step into your morning or evening skincare routine. Try to apply the product at the same time each day. For best results, first wash skin with a mild (non-irritating), non-drying cleanser; apply a thin layer of Differin Gel to clean, dry skin (full face); and follow treatment with a moisturizer.

If Differin Gel is used during the day, allow it to dry before applying sunscreen. Differin Gel should not be used more than once a day. Applying more than directed will not provide faster or better results.

Where to Buy Differin Gel?

Differin Gel is not sold on the brand’s website. You must buy Differin Gel from a third party online retailer, such as Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc.

Differin Gel is also sold in physical retail locations throughout the United States, such as Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and other drug stores. The brand has a store locator on their website so you can find a location near you that sells Differin Gel.

How Much Does Differin Gel Cost?

The price of Differin Gel will vary depending on where you buy this product from. On Amazon, Differin Gel costs $12.88 for a 15 gram tube, and on it costs $12.89 for the same size.

What is The Differin Return Policy?

Differin does not have a return policy on their website since they do not sell products on their website and, therefore, don’t accept returns.

Is Differin Cruelty Free?

Differin is not cruelty free.

Differin Gel Reviews

Differin Gel reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive, with the product receiving an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars after more than 700 customer reviews.

There are many 5-star Differin Gel reviews from customers raving about how well this product cleared their acne and left their skin clear and smooth. 

The negative Differin Gel reviews are from customers who were disappointed that this product didn’t produce the results they were hoping for.

Our Verdict

Overall, we think that Differin gel is a great option for those with mild-to-moderate acne, but we wish the company would use a different preservative so this product could be paraben-free.


  • Research supports the use of adapalene for preventing and treating acne
  • Adapalene also helps to improve skin tone and texture, and may also help to reduce signs of aging
  • Many positive Differin Gel reviews


  • Contains methylparaben



References: “FDA approves Differin Gel 0.1% for over-the-counter use to treat acne” July 1016
Health “6 Things to Know Before Adding Differin to Your Skincare Routine” July 2018
J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2001;15 Suppl 3:31-6.EWG “What Are Parabens, And Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” April 2019



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