Breaking down the supposed 'miracle cure' to acne

Hello, blemish-free skin

  • 02.11.2021

share the story

Skincare junkies, you may have heard of Differin gel  – a product touted as a miracle cure for severe forms of acne. For the sake of those unaware, however, we’ll break it down: Differin is basically a type of retinoid. And no, that’s not a spelling error. Though it looks similar to retinol — and works similarly, too — the biggest difference lies in this retinoid’s prescription-strength formula as compared to off-the-shelf retinol products. They both derive from Vitamin A, which we know helps to increase cell turnover, but because of its stronger formula, retinoids can deliver noticeable results faster.

Dermatologists recommend it for things like cystic breakouts and body acne, while many beauty gurus out there have claimed it to be one of the best skincare ingredients out there. This, however, begs the question: Is there a catch somewhere? We’ve dished the dirt, below.

What is Differin, exactly?

Differin is actually the only retinoid you need to get via prescription. And unlike other acne treatments, it’s not a spot treatment. In fact, you shouldn’t apply it when you’re already experiencing a breakout. Rather, it works best as a preventive measure when used regularly, and you need to apply the Differin gel on your whole face. It works before acne forms as it doesn’t actually target bacteria that is presently on your mien.

How does Differin work?

The most important thing of note when it comes to Differin: It doesn’t play well with other skincare products. So if you’re currently battling a bad breakout and have already applied some of your trusty benzoyl peroxide, it’s best to hold off starting your Differin treatment. Other products to avoid would be chemical exfoliants or drying agents like toners. After all, Differin is a retinoid that increases cell turnover. So if you add more exfoliating action into the picture, it can lead to raw, irritated skin. And we don’t want to go out with a red, peeling face, thank you very much. So to avoid this, it’s best to follow up with a super rich moisturiser when you do begin incorporating Differin into your skincare. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Differin US (@differinus)

How do you know if it’s suitable for you?

Unfortunately, Differin isn’t for everyone. Due to its stronger nature, people with sensitive skin, or skin conditions like eczema should give this a miss. Some studies have also found that using retinoids can be linked to birth defects, so to err on the side of caution, women who are pregnant; trying to get pregnant; or are breastfeeding, should stay clear of it for the time being.

However, if you’ve began using it, and found that your skin have been flaking, itchy, or generally red and irritated, don’t be too alarmed. This is a common side effect of Differin. Most in fact have to deal with dry skin. Just keep at it, but apply moisturiser religiously. It’ll be your best friend. To ease into it, you can start off with just using small amounts of the formula, then quickly slather on some moisturiser to keep flaking at bay.

What can you expect from using Differin in the long-term?
Less frequent breakouts and clogging serves as the main appeal. It also leads to overall improvement in skin texture and tone, where it is said to be even more persistent and effective than salicylic acid. It should be noted, however, that you can only obtain Differin gel via prescription, so it’s best you make an appointment with a dermatologist to evaluate if it’s the right choice for you.