Adapalene: the retinoid for acne treatment and prevention

What’s adapalene and how does it work?

Adapalene is the active ingredient in Differin® Gel. It’s a multi-benefit, dermatologist-recommended retinoid specifically used for clearing acne. Adapalene treats acne deep in the pores at the source, prevents new acne from forming and, as a result of reduced acne, restores your skin’s natural texture and tone. Adapalene has been prescribed to more than 40 million people over the last 20 years. With Differin Gel, acne sufferers now have access to this effective treatment without a prescription.

Pre-Lesion, clogged pore, and acne lesion

What’s a retinoid?

Topical retinoids play a crucial role in the treatment of acne. When you have acne, your skin cell turnover is in overdrive — as new cells are being produced, old cells aren’t being discarded as they should. These old cells, along with sebum and bacteria, clog the pores. Adapalene adjusts the speed of skin cell turnover to make sure your skin goes through the right process, creating a healthier environment for skin. Regulating skin cell turnover to a normal rate helps to keep the pores from clogging and target acne before it even starts. According to the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) therapeutic treatment guidelines, topical retinoids are recommended as a primary therapy for initial treatment of mild, moderate and severe acne.

There are other topical retinoids — tretinoin and tazarotene — used to treat acne, but adapalene is the only one available over the counter. In clinical studies, adapalene has shown superior tolerability to other topical prescription retinoids, meaning Differin is gentler on your skin, while still effective.

  • Adapalene is more stable to light and oxygen, compared to tretinoin
    • Stability to light means that it won’t lose effectiveness when exposed to sunlight
  • Adapalene rapidly penetrates the follicles
    • Works deep in the pores where acne begins
  • Adapalene remains high in concentration, deep in the pores, to help clear and prevent acne

Adapalene through the years

  • 1925 woman

    Studies linked abnormal cell turnover to vitamin A deficiency.

  • 1950 woman

    Different types of retinoic acids

  • 1971 woman

    First topical retinoid launched for acne.

  • 1985 woman

    Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide become available in OTC acne products, a dated standard is born

  • 1996 woman

    Adapalene FDA-approved as
    prescription retinoid acne treatment.

  • 2016 woman

    Differin Gel receives FDA approval for use without a prescription.

  • 2017 woman

    Differin Gel launched. Happy,
    clear-faced selfies increase.*


A dermatologist’s perspective

How is adapalene different from other retinoids?

Retinoids, such as adapalene…are ready to go once you put them on the skin.
Dr. Adam Friedman

Differin Gel (adapalene 0.1%)

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