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How to Control the Side Effects of Differin Gel

author image Lisa Sefcik paralegal
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.
How to Control the Side Effects of Differin Gel
Woman patting her face dry Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Differin Gel, the trade name for adapalene, is a synthetic topical retinoid used to treat acne. Differin and other retinoids can be very effective in reducing clogged pores, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), but they also have unpleasant side effects. Some of these may include dry, flaking skin, redness and itching. Control the side effects of Differin Gel by using this treatment appropriately and taking recommended precautionary measures.

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Using Differin

Step 1

Wash your face using a mild cleanser and lukewarm water twice daily. Apply the cleanser directly to your fingertips, rather than to a facial puff or washcloth, which can be too abrasive for your skin, advises the AAD. Blot dry gently with a towel. Wait five to 15 minutes before applying Differin Gel; when your skin is still absorbent, you increase your risk for unpleasant side effects, regardless of which topical medication you use.

Step 2

Use only as much Differin Gel as your dermatologist advises. Typically, this will be the amount the size of a pea. According to the manufacturer, using more Differin than prescribed won't get rid of acne more quickly. It will, however, irritate your skin.

Step 3

Apply Differin Gel to the part of the skin affected by acne, rubbing the medication in gently and thoroughly. Be careful not to get Differin too close to your eyes, on your mouth or in your nose. Wash your hands well afterward to remove any medication that's still on your fingers.

Step 4

Don't apply any other topical acne treatment unless your dermatologist tells you to. The Mayo Clinic points out that use of other acne medications, such as clindamycin or erythromycin, or skin-care products that cause peeling, such as benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur, make irritating side effects worse.

Preventive Strategies

Step 1

Use sun protection. Differin Gel makes your skin more sensitive, and you'll be more prone to sunburn. The Mayo Clinic advises using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Avoid seeking out ultraviolet rays, either from the sun or a tanning bed.

Step 2

Make sure other products you use don't contain a lot of alcohol, cautions the Mayo Clinic. These may include aftershave lotions, makeup and shaving cream. Other products that may irritate your skin include hair care products (such as permanents) and hair removal products (such as cream depilatories).

Step 3

Talk to your dermatologist if side effects of Differin Gel make your skin too dry or irritated; this medication may not be the right treatment for you. Mayo Clinic experts point out that side effects may be reduced by using oil-free moisturizing lotions and creams. Your doctor may have specific product recommendations.

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