What is Differin (adapalene)?

Differin (adapalene) is a topical (for the skin) retinoid medication used to treat acne vulgaris (pimples). Differin is available over-the-counter (OTC). 

Common side effects of Differin include:

  • skin irritation,
  • redness,
  • dryness,
  • itching,
  • and flares of acne.

Most of these side effects lessen with continued use.

Serious side effects of Differin include increased sensitivity of the skin to sun, which can lead to sunburn.

Drug interactions of Differin include other acne medications. Only very small amounts of Differin are absorbed through the skin and into the body. 

However, there are no adequate studies in pregnant women. It is unknown if Differin is excreted in breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding

What are the important side effects of Differin (adapalene)?

The most common side effects of adapalene are:

Most of these side effects lessen with continued use; however, if they are bothersome, decreasing the frequency with which adapalene is applied may reduce these side effects.

Adapalene may increase the sensitivity of the skin to sun and lead to sunburn. Excessive sun exposure should be avoided, and sunscreens should be used over the treated areas if exposure to the sun cannot be avoided.

Adapalene should not be applied to:

  • sunburned skin,
  • cuts,
  • eyes,
  • nose,
  • or lips.

Differin (adapalene) side effects list for healthcare professionals

In controlled clinical trials, local cutaneous irritation was monitored in 285 acne patients who used Differin® Cream once daily for 12 weeks. The frequency and severity of erythema, scaling, dryness, pruritus and burning were assessed during these studies. The incidence of local cutaneous irritation with Differin® Cream from the controlled clinical studies is provided in the following table:

Incidence of Local Cutaneous Irritation with Differin® Cream from Controlled Clinical Studies (N=285)
NoneMildModerateSevere
Erythema52% (148)38% (108)10% (28)< 1% (1)
Scaling58% (166)35% (100)6% (18)< 1% (1)
Dryness48% (136)42% (121)9% (26)< 1 % (2)
Pruritus (persistent)74% (211)21% (61)4% (12)< 1 % (1)
Burning/Stinging (persistent)71% (202)24% (69)4% (12)< 1% (2)

Other reported local cutaneous adverse events in patients who used Differin® Cream once daily included: sunburn (2%), skin discomfort-burning and stinging (1%) and skin irritation (1%). Events occurring in less than 1% of patients treated with Differin® Cream included:

What drugs interact with Differin (adapalene)?

As Differin® Cream has the potential to produce local irritation in some patients, concomitant use of other potentially irritating topical products should be approached with caution:

  • medicated or abrasive soaps and cleansers,
  • soaps and cosmetics that have a strong drying effect,
  • and products with high concentrations of alcohol, astringents, spices or lime rind.

Particular caution should be exercised in using preparations containing sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid in combination with Differin® Cream. If these preparations have been used, it is advisable not to start therapy with Differin® Cream until the effects of such preparations in the skin have subsided.

Summary

Differin (adapalene) is a topical (for the skin) retinoid medication used to treat acne vulgaris (pimples). Differin is available over-the-counter (OTC). Common side effects of Differin include skin irritation, redness, dryness, itching, and flares of acne. Most of these side effects lessen with continued use. Serious side effects of Differin include increased the sensitivity of the skin to sun which can lead to sunburn. Drug interactions of Differin include other acne medications. Consult your doctor before taking Differin if you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2020
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