Topical Retinoid
1910 Reviews
Topical Retinoid
Based on All Available Studies
Strength of Evidence
Topical Retinoid
Side Effects
Topical Retinoid’s Real World Take
This topical retinoid medication provides partial relief at higher prescription dosages, but don’t look for complete clearing. Relatively affordable and comes with less side effects than tretinoin, the other affordable topical retinoid. As a bonus, it improves the look of skin and reduces fine lines and wrinkles a bit too.
Topical Retinoid
How to Get It
Adapalene is available in strengths up to 0.3% by prescription. Have a dermatologist? Make an appointment to get this medication. Don't have a dermatologist? See The American Academy of Dermatology Physician Database to find one. Adapalene is also available over-the-counter in 0.1% strength. Here are some places you can find it online.
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Used Adapalene? Rate It:

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May 28, 2023
Ruined skin barrier
I used Differin 0.1% (sandwich method, pea-sized amount) and it ruined my skin barrier. My skin was extremely dry and painful and it did not help my acne.
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February 14, 2023
May not help severe acne
As everyone says, you might experience purging, irritation and dryness when starting this treatment before you see any improvements. For me it took a couple months and a reduction in how much i would apply to see the results, however i would say this treatment is not greatly effective with more severe acne as although it helped with the mild texture on my forehead it wasn’t effective with the more severe acne on my cheeks rather just leaving my skin red and de-hydrated.
November 22, 2021
Use it for 3 months to work

You must use this for 3-6 months to see results, and continue to improve over 1 year. You may need to also use a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide, at least for 1 of your 2 daily cleansings. I really like CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with 4% BP. Adapalene by itself was pretty good but not 100% effective. Together these are working really well for me. I have had acne for 30 years. I used the BP Regimen for 20 years, and it really saved me. But I recently discovered Adapalene 0.1%. For moisturizer, I still love Dan's regimen moisturizer that has jojoba and licorice extract, it is an excellent product.

Main reasons I switched from The Regimen to BP cleanser plus adapalene:

  • BP bleaches fabrics, so by using as a cleanser in the shower, I can rinse it away and save my clothes.
  • Less flaking compared to leave-on BP. I have almost zero flaking with this new combo, with less moisturzer.
  • Retinoids like adapalene actually make you look younger: smoother skin texture, more even skin tone, smaller pores.

Good luck to you.

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October 5, 2020
No funcionó para mi

Durante julio comence un tratamiento contra el acné (leve a moderado), la dermatologa me recetó 100mg de doxicilina por día, y un tratamiento tópico de adapleno 0,1%, 3 veces por semanas.  Al principio sentía que si me estaba funcionando, de hecho redujo la inflamación de mis lesiones.  el primer mes me llene de granos gigantes, eran muy dolorosos y mi piel estaba muy sensible, pensé que estaba en la fase de purga, de la que la mayoría de las personas hablaban. sin importar seguí con el tratamiento y mi piel se puso aun peor. Ya en el segundo mes comence a tener dolores de estomago y se hicieron mas frecuentes, mi piel seguia igual, se supone que el tratamiento era por 3 meses, ya cumpli los tres meses pero no veo ninguna mejora, de hecho siento que me dejo peor mi piel en comparación a como estaba en el inicio. 

Es verdad que ya casi a los 3 meses mi rostro estaba mejor en comparación al mes 1 o el mes 2, pero siguen saliendome granos y tengo un montón de hiperpigmentación, de verdad solo usenlo si su acne ya es moderado a severo, porque a mi que tenía acné leve me empeoró el estado de mi piel. Ahora creo que empezaré el tratamiento con isotretionina, asi que espero que eso sea mucho mejor que este antiguo tratamiento 

September 3, 2020
Be consistent!

This medication truly takes time to work. You have probably read that before, and it is true. I started getting large breakouts during the beginning of Covid around my chin and on my cheeks. I went to a dermatologist and the doctor advised I developed hormonal acne and prescribed me a topical called Clindamycin. I was told to apply it twice a day and was recommended to also use it in conjunction with Differin. After watching videos on how to apply Differin (protecting around the eyes and mouth with a thick ointment) I started my journey. Around month one I didn't notice much of a difference in acne, but I did notice my complexion was looking much more vibrant and healthy. Around month two is when the real purging started. It would get really bad, and then okay, and then really bad again. The medication  works hard to pull up deep clogged pores to the surface of your skin, and that takes time and can look really inflamed. I started to get breakouts in areas where I didn't have any issues which was discouraging. I tried my best to think positive and remind myself that I am the same person with or without acne. I will admit I started this medication at a good time since everything was closed in my city, and there was no real need to be seen or wear foundation. Month 3 finally came and my skin is now looking clear of all active breakouts. My skin is so smooth! I do have post acne hyperpigmentation (mostly red dots on my cheeks), and I am now starting a new routine to help speed up that healing process (those marks will fade with time don't worry). I am going to continue to use Differin throughout the entire year because I know my skin is going to continue to improve with time as it is not perfect. My honest advice is to stay consistent! I haven't missed a single application in 3 months. And maybe see your dermatologist to see if you should be using something else along with Differin to help speed up the process. Also do not touch your face or pop any of your acne because it will make things 1000x worse in the end. <3


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April 7, 2020
Recommended for Infantile Acne

My daughter is going through Infantile Acne. 

For the parents who don't know what to do in that situation, maybe my experience can help:

I live in Beijing, China. I brought my daughter to many dermatologists, even the BEST child dermatologist of the WHOLE CHINA. All of them gave me this cream: Differin (Adapalene 0.1%). Coming from doctors who see tons and tons of skin problems in kids everyday (you should see the crazy queues to get an appointment), I can say that this medecine is the GO TO MEDECINE for infantile acne. 


Very very sad that I used it late on my daughter, because scars had time to form on her face. 

But Differin will help diminish scarring if used early enough, and get the acne under control. And you can use it everyday for many months. I wish I had known this earlier. I hope this will help any parent who might not know what to do.



January 13, 2020
Prefer the Epidue (Adapalene + BP) But not a cure

One of my worst IB on this product when I first tried it. I remember seeing nodules pop up not knowing about IB and was thinking what is going on. It's a really slow burner. I think you are best getting the one with benzoyl peroxide which will be more beneficial for your initial break out and if you clear then go back to the retinoid alone. Epiduo did clear my skins for around 6 months but it came back as it always does. After long use it will probably reduce acne as it keeps your skin turning over preventing blocked pores but depending on how sever your acne is it probably won't be a solution on its own. Retinoids are also great long term products to use as it promotes collagen growth and helps pigmentation etc so I would really like to re introduce but I am really scared of IB.

June 9, 2019
Takes Time

To get the main points out of the way, this product is best suited for light to moderate acne, and it takes many weeks to see improvement. This is kind of the "first defense" a derm will suggest if you're starting out seeking treatments, as it is generally well-tolerated and not too harsh (although there are some side effects). 

Time. Time is a huge factor. This is not like benzoyl peroxide as this product needs to be used consistently, preferably on a daily basis (at least for 6 weeks, then you can adjust). During that time, yes your skin MAY purge (see an increase in legions), but really it depends on your skin (my skin has always tolerated the product well enough to not go haywire when its being used but again, everybody is different) 

Another possible side effect, one that even my skin still battles with is the dryness. I think if you have thicker or non-dry skin you will probably be fine. But for those with a bit more on the sensitive brittle side you absolutely need a good sturdy moisturizer that goes on at night and during the day (in addition to hydrating from the inside). 

Ultimately, this product DOES help, and even if the acne itself doesnt go down 100% you will notice things like glowing skin and smoother skin (this product makes the dull layers shed). 

But alas, know that if youre going to give this a shot, you have to look at it in the long run, because things may get a bit worse in the beginning. And again, this is not a miracle treatment and it really is best for those with some light superficial acne types. 


December 29, 2018
Week 1 adapalene

I have clear skin during in my teens; however,  things fucked up when I reached my 20s. I have cyclic acne. When I say cyclic,  I get acne every one or 2 years and they seem to be getting stronger averytime they hit my face.  They are in the form of open and closed comodones,  but they appear in my entire face which is kinda bothering.  And I pick,  that's the main problem.  Can't help it. I'm currently hating myself right now.  After nine years of constant battle with acne,  here I am again, covered with blackheads and hyperpigmentations. I recently went to my dermatologist and she prescribed me with Klenzit-CMS.  Its .1 adapalene and 1% clindamycin.  This worked for me before; however,  I stopped using it thinking that I have finally outgrown my acne.  I was wrong. Anyway,  she also prescribed me with a toner called dermskin which is a salycilic acid toner and a soap which I prefer not to use because it contains coconut oil.  Coconut oil has a very bad reputation in clogging pores, so I'm very much afraid to use it.  

This is my routine:


 Papaya soap

Dermskin toner


Papaya Soap

Dermskin toner



Development so far:

Day 1: This is also the day after extraction so my face has a lot of scars which will eventually fade. I have a lot of blackheads and whiteheads,  and one under the skin pimple.  Hyperpigmentations due to picking are still very prominent. General feeling: very frustrated. 

Week 1: I noticed that my open and closed comodones increased,  maybe due to purging.  I popped two pimples which resulted to PIH. I know,  I hate my self for doing that.  I still have a lot of hyperpigmentation,  and there are 3 underthe skin pimples. One in my forehead and two in my left cheek.  Ican say that there is zero to little improvement but I'm optimistic because I believe that my skin is in the purging process. General feeling: still very frustrated. 


I'll be posting my weekly update. My second week will be on Jan 2. I'm hoping for the best. 

September 20, 2018
Week 8 using Differin-still purging
My skin has never been even close to as horrendous as it is currently, on week 8 of using Differin gel. Derm told me to push through a few more weeks, as it should start to improve any day now. But my current review of Differin is that it's the worst thing ever and has ruined my entire face and skin. Hopefully, that changes soon.
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Finding a Doctor

The right dermatologist can make a big difference to your patient experience and the success of your acne treatment plan. Here are the steps to find a dermatologist who is a good fit:

  1. Use the search feature on the American Academy of Dermatology website to look for board-certified dermatologists in your area, and filter the search results for doctors with a special interest in treating acne.
  2. Read online patient reviews of any dermatologists you are considering and ask people you know whether they have any experience with these dermatologists.
  3. Do your research and go to your first appointment with questions prepared.
  4. Listen to what your gut feeling tells you once you see a dermatologist in person. If you are not completely comfortable, try a different dermatologist.

Finding a Doctor

Only a select few plastic surgeons specialize in acne scar revision surgery. Be certain to find a provider who specializes in acne scar repair and who is passionate and experienced in this area.

Be sure to:

  • Look at before and after photos, the more the better, especially patients with similar scarring to your own.
  • Be realistic about results. Look for improvement, not a cure.

Questions to ask a potential scar revision specialist:

  • Are you board certified? Be certain that they are board certified.
  • How long have you been performing these procedures? Normally, the more experience the better, however, some younger surgeons may be more on top of the latest procedures.
  • Can I speak to some of your other patients? Ask for references for several patients who had similar scarring and speak to them about the process and their satisfaction with results.

Red flags:

  • Their story changes: As you discuss different treatment options, if they tend to change their mind easily, or agree with whatever you say, consider this a red flag. A confident, experienced surgeon will possess strong, unwavering opinions.
  • Your gut tells you "no": Trust your gut. If you just don't feel that the doctor is the right fit, trust that and move on. On the other hand, if you feel they are the perfect specialist for you, trust that feeling.