EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT USING A RETINOID: DIFFERIN GEL REVIEW
NOTE: This post discusses skincare and health information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Did you think that once you were an adult your acne days would be over? Same here! However, once reality set in that my acne wasn’t going away. I started looking into every possible solution! Let’s just say it’s been a long journey!
A few years ago, I started using Differin Gel (a retinoid) to help manage my acne after hearing about it from a friend. Initially, I was super excited to try this product because I could buy it over the counter. I was tired of going to the dermatologist to get a similar medication since I had to pay both the doctor co-pay + the prescription cost. Switching to Differin Gel, I now only had to pay the product cost ($13.99 for 0.5 ounces, $28.99 for 1.6 ounces).
Aside from the benefit of saving money, I was excited to try a retinoid because I’d heard they also helped with fighting wrinkles. I know I’m only 28, but I’ve noticed a big difference in my skin between 25 and now. Previously, I was able to survive on moisturizer alone, but now I’ve added an eye cream into my regimen. So at this point, I’m killing two birds with one stone.
At this point you might be asking yourself what exactly is a retinoid anyways? I was wondering the same thing too before using it. Per WebMD, a retinoid is an active form of Vitamin A that’s used to treat acne and reduce wrinkles. Still lost? Let’s skip to the important part - how retinoids get rid of acne. According to Very Well Health, “They work by promoting the production of new skin cells to effectively push oils and dead skin out of blocked pores.” As a result of how they work, retinoids can help to even out your skin tone and complexion.
Now that you know what a retinoid is you might be wondering is it for me? Differin Gel is recommend for treating mild to moderate acne. The main reason I added it to my routine was because I didn’t see enough of a reduction in acne from only using drugstore products (face washes, toners, etc.) plus I wanted to avoid the costs of seeing a dermatologist. That being said, I wouldn’t call this a wonder medicine that will solve ALL your acne problems. I considered it ONE PART of my skincare system and routine. You can check out my full skin care regimen here. Additionally, at different points in time I’ve taken birth control to manage my acne since it’s hormonal. (BC pills are still a crucial factor in reducing my breakouts.)
1. Do I need a prescription from the dermatologist to get a retinoid gel or cream?
Previously, all retinoid gels and creams used to treat acne were only available with a prescription. Differin Gel is the first prescription-strength retinoid that’s now available over the counter.
2. Will it cause my acne to get worse?
One of the most common questions I get about using a retinoid is - will it make my skin inflamed or cause it to peel? Personally, I didn’t experience a large issue with this, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It depends on the person. Even if you experience this issue, Differin recommends sticking with the gel for at least 4 weeks because this is when those effects start to subside. After doing some additional research on Very Well Health, I found out that Adapalene, the active ingredient in Differin Gel, “is milder on the skin than the other retinoid products”.
3. Is it ok to use a retinoid with other acne medications?
According to Differin Gel’s website, they don’t recommend using their product with other acne medications because it can worsen skin irritation. Whoops…I haven’t been following this guideline for the last year and my skin has been fine. Now that I know this though, I’m thinking about running an experiment to see what happens if I stop using my Clean & Clear Face Wash and Neutrogena Toner, which both have salicylic acid as the active ingredient. However, it is ok to use face wash that contains benzoyl peroxide when also using Differin Gel. The reason being that Adapalene has shown to be stable when used in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide.
Stay tuned - I’ll let you know how my experiment of eliminating salicylic acid based products from my routine goes!
4. Do I need to use it every day?
The short answer is yes. Even if your skin does currently have an acne flare up, retinoids are more effective if they are used consistently.
Wear sunscreen - The biggest skincare change I had to make when I started using Diffein Gel was wearing sunscreen everyday. After my applying my moisturizer in the mornings, I then put on sunscreen. My personal fave is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen. However, if I’m in a rush I just bank on the SPF in my BB cream.
Only apply once a day - Since retinoids are great for eliminating acne, it might be tempting to want to use it as much as possible. However, it’s important to only apply once a day because it’s a strong medication and could cause skin irritation.
Do not use if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant - Thank you to a reader for calling this out! Also applies to other topical retinoids in addition to Differin Gel.