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Differin (Adapalene)

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About Product
This content has been written and checked for quality and accuracy by
Mohamed Imran Lakhi Content Administrator GPhC: 2060586 Updated on: 14/02/2020 Next review: 14/08/2020

What is Differin used for?

Differin (adapalene) is a topical treatment for acne which is available as a cream or gel. Both formulations contain 0.1% adapalene - a retinoid derived from vitamin A.

Differin gel is a smooth, opaque, white topical gel, while Differin cream is a glossy, white cream. Both are used in the same way and contain the same active ingredient.

You can buy Differin gel or cream in either 45g or 90g tubes from Prescription Doctor.

Where can I buy Differin?

Differin gel and cream is only available on prescription and cannot be bought over the counter. With Prescription Doctor, our online doctor can issue a prescription for Differin gel or cream, following an online consultation. Simply fill out our online medical form to get started with your order.


What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition which is characterised by spots on the skin. While it's most common during puberty, it's estimated that 3% of adults over the age of 35 suffer from acne.

The development of acne begins when a pore in the skin becomes blocked with dead skin cells and keratin - the material which hair and nails are made of.

Sebum, which is an oily substance secreted by sebaceous glands below the skin's surface, has nowhere to go and begins to build up below the blockage.

Bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. Acnes) feed on the surplus of sebum and multiply without contest. As the bacterium feed, they excrete fatty acids and other substances which irritate the skin and cause inflammation. It is this which causes the characteristic red blemishes on the skin.

How acne develops under the skin

Hormones play a major role in the development of acne, which is why acne is more likely to develop during puberty. Some women may experience acne to develop during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle or during the first few months of pregnancy, due to an increase of progesterone - though the exact mechanism of how progesterone causes acne is unknown. In men, high testosterone levels can influence acne; testosterone promotes sebum production which increases the risk of acne.

Other causes of acne include:

  • A family history of acne
  • Cosmetic products
  • Medicines
  • Smoking

There is currently no strong evident to suggest that acne is caused by poor diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity.

If your acne is moderate to severe, hasn't responded to other treatment, or is causing you distress, it's best to speak to your doctor. They will be able to determine the possible cause of your acne and discuss appropriate treatments for you.


How does Differin work?

Differin gel and cream works in two ways to treat acne.

Adapalene, the active ingredient of Differin, helps to shed the top layer of skin and unclogs blocked pores. This allows the sebum to escape and clears up the infection.

Differin (adapalene) also acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the swelling and redness in the affected areas.

Both actions work in tandem to treat acne.


How to use Differin cream or gel?

Differin should be applied once daily to the affected areas of the skin before bed.

You can apply Differin cream or gel to small patches of acne on your face, back or chest. You should not apply Differin over large areas of severe acne.

Before you apply Differin, Clean the acne-prone area with warm water and a mild soap and pat the area with a dry towel.

Apply a small amount of Differin cream or gel to the affected area and gently rub it into the skin, applying a thin layer of Differin over the acne and surrounding areas.

Avoid using Differin near broken skin (cuts and scratches) or if you have eczema.

Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth and other sensitive body parts. If contact does occur, wash the area thoroughly with warm water.

Always wash your hands after applying Differin cream or gel.

If you accidentally apply too much Differin cream or gel, simply wipe it away with a tissue and discard of the tissue safely.

Differin can be safely used with other topical acne treatments. If you are using other acne products (which may contain benzoyl peroxide, erythromycin or clindamycin), you should apply those in the morning and apply Differin at night. For advice on using Differin with other topical treatments, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.

Differin comes in a tube. To get the most out of your tube, role it up from the bottom rather than squeeze it at the sides to push the medicine out. Only use a small amount of Differin gel or cream on your skin to prevent wasting it.


Differin side effects and cautions

Before you use Differin, it's important to familiarise yourself with the patient information leaflet which comes enclosed with your medicine. This leaflet contains important information about how to use and store Differin, as well as known side effects and a complete list of ingredients.

You can view the patient information leaflet for Differin Cream here.

You can view the patient information leaflet for Differin Gel here.

Side effects

The side effects for Differin Cream and Differin Gel are the same.

Differin can cause some side effects. 

Common side effects (may affect up to 1 in 10 people):

  • Dry skin
  • Irritation of the skin
  • Burning sensation of the skin
  • Redness of the skin

Uncommon side effects (may affect up to 1 in 100 people):

  • Skin reaction
  • Skin discomfort
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
  • Itchy skin
  • Peeling of the skin
  • Flare up of acne

This is not an exhaustive list of side effects. Further information regarding the safety of Differin, including a complete list of side effects, can be found within the patient information leaflet enclosed within the packaging of your medicine.

If you experience any side effects, regardless of whether they are listed above or in the patient information leaflet, inform your doctor as soon as possible. You can also ask a pharmacist or dial the NHS 111 service for advice on how to manage your side effects.

If side effects persist for longer than 3 weeks, the doctor may lower the dose or stop your treatment.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Do not use Differin (adapalene) if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant. Speak to your doctor for further advice.

If you become pregnant while using Differin (adapalene), inform your doctor straight away. Your doctor may recommend an alternative treatment which poses less of a risk to you and your baby.

Differin should be used with caution in breastfeeding mothers. If you are breastfeeding, speak to your doctor before using Differin. They will be able to determine the safety of the treatment for you and your child.

Allergies

Do not use Differin if you are allergic to adapalene or any of the other ingredients listed in the patient information leaflet.

If you experience the signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction, stop using Differin and go straight to your nearest accident and emergency department. Remember to take the packaging and any remaining medicine with you so that doctor's know exactly what you have taken.

Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Chest tightening
  • Dry, red and cracked skin
  • Itchy, red watery eyes
  • Raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes or face
  • Tummy pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Wheezing

Other safety information

Always seek your doctor's advice before you buy Differin online from Prescription Doctor.

During your online consultation, you should inform our online doctor of all other medicines you are currently taking. Remember to include medicine prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter, health and herbal supplements.

Do not use Differin past the expiry date printed on the packaging. The date refers to the last day of the specified month.

Never throw away medicine via household or water waste. Take any unwanted or expired medication to your local pharmacy and ask them dispose of them safely on your behalf.

Always store your medicine out of sight and reach from children and pets.

Never share your medicine with anybody else, even if they are experiencing the same symptoms or have been diagnosed with the same condition as you.


Tips for managing acne

While acne can be difficult to prevent, there are a number of things you can do while you have acne to prevent your symptoms from worsening.

Picking at, squeezing and scratching your acne will likely make things worse. Popping a pimple will not make your spot heal any faster and may in-fact increase your risk of infection.

If you do pick a spot and it starts to bleed, apply pressure to spot until the bleeding stops. Wash the area with water afterwards. The spot may scab over or develop a yellow pus-filled head - this is part of the healing process.

Washing your face more than twice a day can exacerbate your acne, especially if you wash your face with exfoliating face washes.

When washing your face, should be mindful of the products you use. Avoid using exfoliating face scrubs on areas affected with acne. Switch to gentle moisturising soaps and wash your face with either your hands or a soft face cloth - avoid brushes, loofahs and other abrasive materials. Also, the temperature of the water you use will not affect how your pores work.

For men particularly, shaving can be especially challenging when you have acne. If you find that regular shaving cream irritates your skin, try swapping it out for a shaving cream intended for sensitive skin. You might also benefit from using an electric razor rather than a conventional razor - what you lack in a smooth, clean shave, you make up for with less irritation on the skin. Alternatively, you could trim your facial hair instead of shaving.

If you find your acne to feel more uncomfortable after using aftershave, check the ingredients. Many aftershaves contain high amounts of alcohol, which dries quickly, giving you that cool sensation. But alcohol also irritates the skin and can be especially painful when used on a popped pimple. Try switching to a witch hazel based aftershave.

For women, make-up can be both a blessing and a curse for acne prone skin. Masking over a patch of acne with concealer might do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem, but it can irritate your skin. Check to make sure you are using a non-comedogenic product which won't clog your pores. Tinted moisturisers can be useful for covering blemishes while also looking after your skin. While stringent testing of products has made make-up more suitable for sensitive skin, some products may contain chemicals which clog your pores. While you have an acne break out, limit the amount of make-up you use.

While back and chest acne can be easily covered with cloathing and forgotten about, it doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions to prevent making matters worse. Backpacks apply pressure and friction to your back and shoulders, which can irritate acne prone skin. Switch to a side bag, if you can, or carry some stuff by hand to relieve the load on your shoulders.

If you aren't sure what else you can do, ask a pharmacist for advice. Your local pharmacist may be able to recommend some more suitable skincare products which will irritate your skin less. You may also be able to find a treatment for your acne available over the counter.

If you've tried everything and your acne still remains, or is causing you particular distress, your condition may require a prescription-strength treatment such as Differin. Arrange an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition and the treatments available.


Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I forget to use Differin when I should?

If you forget to use Differin when you should, use it as soon as you remember. Continue to apply Differin as you normally would. Do not apply more Differin (adapalene) cream or gel to make up for the forgotten dose.

What should I do if I accidentally use more Differin than I should?

If you accidentally apply too much Differin (adapalene), simply wipe away the excess with a clean tissue and discard of it safely. Using more Differin (adapalene) will not clear your acne any faster, but may increase your risk of side effects.

Can I drink alcohol while using Differin?

Yes, it is safe to drink alcohol while using Differin (adapalene). Always drink in moderation and avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Will Differin cream or gel affect my ability to drive or operate machinery?

Differin should not impact your ability to drive or operate machinery.

Can I use Differin with moisturisers and other cosmetics?

You can wear make-up and use other cosmetic products while using Differin for acne. You should stick to products which are non-comedogenic, which means it doesn't clog pores. Apply Differin and wait for the area to dry before applying other cosmetics.

How long does Differin take to work?

It may take up to 12 weeks of consistently using Differin before you notice an improvement in your acne.

Will Differin make my acne worse?

Differin may make your acne appear worse when you begin using it. As you continue to use Differin, you should notice an improvement in your acne.


Buy Differin online

You can buy Differin cream or gel for acne from prescription doctor and have it delivered to your door the very next day.

Simply complete our online medical form for our doctor to review. If our doctor approves your treatment, they will issue a prescription for our UK based pharmacy to fulfil. Orders approved before 3pm are dispatched by our pharmacy team the same day.

We deliver your treatment via our discreet courier service quickly and easily. If you have any concerns about this medication, speak to our doctors via your online portal.


Table of contents

About Differin

What is acne?

How does Differin work?

How to use Differin

Side effects and cautions

Tips for managing acne

Frequently asked questions

Buy Differin online

Additional resources

Natural ways to control your acne.

Control your hormones, control your acne

How to use Tea Tree oil for acne?

What is 'bacne' and how is it treated?

Treatment information

  • Product Name: Differin
  • Manufacturer: Galderma
  • Active Ingredient(s) Adapalene
  • Administration: Directly to skin (topical)
  • Presentation: Cream or gel
  • Available Strength: 0.1% adapelene
  • Exemption: Prescription only medication
  • Application: Men and women over 18 with acne
  • Dosage: Once daily to affected area
  • Description: Differin is a topical treatment for acne which contains Adapalene
  • Drug Class: Retinoid
  • Alcohol Consumption: Avoid or limit alcohol consumption
  • When Pregnant: Do not use when pregnant. Speak to your doctor for more advice.
  • When Breastfeeding Do not use when breastfeeding. Speak to your doctor for more advice.
Click here to view the Differin (Adapalene) - Patient Information Leaflet

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