Differin 0.1% Gel – The New Acne OTC


When people go to the store and look for acne washes and medications it can be overwhelming.  There are countless formulations of benzoyl peroxide, salacylic acid, and sulphur.  So which ones work?  A new over-the-counter (OTC) acne medication has hit the market, Differin 0.1% gel.  It was once a prescription medication, but has recently become available to the public and can be found at most local pharmacies.  The 0.3% concentration remains a prescription strength.  So where does this medication fit into an acne regimen and what do you need to know about this product before using it?  I will have all the information you need below.

Differin gel is part of a class of medications called retinoids.  Retinoids help to regulate cellular differentiation and have been shown to have fairly significant anti-inflammatory properties.  Patients with acne are prone to clogging.  The skin overlying the hair follicles and sebaceous glands (oil glands) become clogged and allow for the development of an acne blemish.  A retinoid cream helps to correct this.

Retinoid creams/gels are meant to be applied to the entire face when treating acne.  Many people like to spot treat their acne, however, we want to prevent any new acne from forming.  This is why we want to treat the whole face.  It is important that you avoid the eyes and eyelids.  These areas are usually not prone to acne and may cause irritation as this is a thinner skin area.

When you first start using a retinoid cream like Differin, you may notice some redness, scaliness, dryness, and irritation.  This is normal.  You are not having an allergy to the medication.  It is the initial exfoliation from this new medication.  If the irritation becomes too much, you can cut back the use of the medication to every other night for one to two weeks.  As your skin gets used to the medication you can increase the frequency of use to every night.  It is often helpful if you use a moisturizer when you begin a topical retinoid.  This will help with some of these early side effects.  Make sure your moisturizer is labeled as “oil free” or “non-comedogenic.”  Some moisturizers can actually make acne worse.

If you have mild scarring and are looking for OTC options before seeing your dermatology provider, Differin is an excellent start.  It is important to also note that this medication takes three months of consistent use before noticing improvement.  For some acne patients Differin is not enough to control their acne and they require prescription alternatives.  Early scarring would also be an important reason to see your dermatology provider sooner rather than later.

If you would like to discuss additional options for the treatment of acne or have any other skin conditions that need to be addressed, we would be more than happy to assist you.  We have four excellent dermatology providers to meet any and all of your skin needs.  Please call to schedule an appointment.  It would be our privilege to be a trusted part of your medical care.

Bentonville:  701 NW McNelly Rd. Bentonville, AR 72712 (479-268-3555)

Fayetteville:  1444 E Stearns St. Fayetteville, AR 72703 (479-718-7546)

Harrison:  520 N Pine St. Harrison, AR 72601 (870-204-5279)

Ryan Crowder, MPAS, PA-C

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