1.13.2021

My Differin Review

My Differin Review

After close to three months of use, I wanted to share my Differin Gel review. I shared it on stories when I started out, and had a bit of a rollercoaster ride, so that's what took this post so long. I made sure to try a couple different routes with Differin before stopping it completely.

My Differin Review

For those who don't know, Differin is now an over-the-counter acne treatment. Before, you needed a prescription through a doctor's office, but now it's available at places like Target, Walmart, and Amazon. It's one of the main FDA-approved acne treatments on the market and is meant to help people struggling with major breakouts, cystic acne, and anything else. From their website they say, "Differin Gel contains an Rx-strength acne-fighting retinoid. It clears breakouts where they start (deep in the pores), prevents acne before it begins, and as a result, restores skin's texture and tone."

I started Differin off the recommendation of a dermatologist online and thought it would be a great way to combat my acne while also getting some side benefits of a retinoid to fight aging. I had heard about it a lot, and thought since my skin was already in a good place, it would be the perfect time to test out a new product. I never try anything new when I'm in the middle of a breakout because I want to solve the problem before starting anything new.

So this was me before I started. I had just written a post about how my acne was finally under control. I had been feeling really good about my skin and didn't start Differin with the intention of creating more acne, but fighting off any new breakouts that may occur.

My skin type is sensitive and combination. 

I have an oily t-zone and deal with cystic acne mainly on my chin, but also sometimes between my eyebrows. This year, I started to also breakout pretty badly on my cheeks, but I have chalked it up a lot to stress over the past year. Anyway, here I am before starting Differin:

My Differin Review

My skin was feeling good, my acne under total control and I was good to go. I started using Differin as she suggested: starting off slowly every other night and applying it after my moisturizer was totally absorbed. This was the best way for my sensitive skin because the moisturizer helped create a barrier as I was first starting out. There are plenty of ways to put it on. Something may work differently for others. This just was what worked best for me.

Within the first week I started to notice a change. 

The biggest being the smoothness of my most congested areas around my nose. It was like the gel totally evaporated my clogged pores and made them seem a lot smaller. I was really excited! The thing I was waiting for was the purge of acne.

This is a super common side effect when starting Differin, that your skin purges out anything under the surface right away so you can start to get better from there. During week two, I started to see some pretty big breakouts come to the surface. 

They were on my chin and on my cheek, which I was partly expecting because that's where most of them occur. I would read blogs, articles and consult their website as well to make sure that this was normal and they all assured me it was. Breakouts in normal areas are normal, breakout in non normal areas were a sign that it might not be working for you.

But I stuck with it. I wanted to ride out the purge and see the other side of the tunnel. But the issue was the breakouts kept coming. They didn't ever stop and at one point I looked like this:

My Differin Review
My Differin Review
My Differin Review

Breakouts all over my face, in places that I hadn't really experienced before, and ones much larger and deeper than I've had in a while. Again, we were in the process of getting our home, listing our apartment, dealing with a second store launch, and more, so I blamed it mostly on stress with a little combination of the purge.

I also tried other methods of using the gel: 

Applying it before my moisturizer, with my moisutrizer, every night, every three nights ... everything you could think of for the first month and a half. The next issue that came up was the skin irritation it caused. When you're using Differin, it's important to also use some kind of petroleum (I used CeraVe) around your eyes, nose, and lips as these are really sensitive places that need extra protection and where Differin should not be applied. I religiously followed those rules, as I have super sensitive skin already.

My Differin Review
Differin acne treatment results

It's a little hard to see, but it's really all I have to show the irritation that Differin caused. I've run into issues like this with my skin before where it feels like a light burn from overdoing it. I had dried out my skin too much and the products I was using were only making it worse. I definitely saw this coming because I have a pretty intensive skincare routine that works for me, but with Differin, I had to change almost everything to include this.

So I stopped using anything else. 

I even switched out my cleanser to just bring it back to basics -- a cleanser and moisturizer in the AM, a cleanser, Differin, and moisturizer in the PM. As simple as it could be trying to get my skin to stop getting red and dry from irritation, and to stop breaking out. But it was still freaking out, so I stopped Differin for close to two weeks until my skin got back to normal.

I remember this was all around the time we were moving (about a month back from this post) and right away I started to see my skin clear up. It was a miracle! Not only was the irritation calming down, but my acne was starting to fade too. I thought: great! back to basics helped a lot and now I can pick back up where I left off. 

To start out slow, I kept the same routine but just added Differin back in and within the week my breakouts were back. Not going to lie, I was getting pretty frustrated at this point because I was just over my acne. I wanted to stop breaking out and I wanted my skin to be clear again! I could also tell it was starting to get irritated, so I moved to just using it as a spot treatment on any leftover spots I had or ones that were coming in.

Differin acne treatment review

I started doing this at the beginning of January. For spots that I could feel under the surface, Differin was great. It made them all but disappear (at least the two on my chin I used it on). For the acne I had on my cheeks, it really didn't make much of a difference at all.

So I decided last week to stop using Differin altogether. 

I thought, two and a half months was a good enough trial run for me to realize that it just didn't work for me. A week from not using it and my skin is almost 100% back to normal without any breakouts. So it's pretty clear to me (now) that Differin just wasn't for me or my skin.

Differin for acne

Not to say that it isn't for everyone, I've had some people tell me they used it and LOVED it and it totally changed their skin and acne 110%. Others say they just use it for breakouts as a spot treatment and some had the same experience I did.

I just wanted to update you guys on how my story went and the process of events because I know a lot of you were interested in how it worked for me. Long story short: it didn't. BUT I would still recommend people to try it. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's because I think the benefits can outweigh the cons if it turns out it does work for you. Not only is this great for your acne, but it's also great for your skin.

Me personally, I'll be going back to my most recent routine and testing that out for a bit before trying anything new. It's all about the give and take and seeing what works best for you and your face. 


6 comments:

  1. Same experience for me! It was hard to tell if it was just going through "the purge" or having a reaction. Have you ever tried a retinoid before? My derm just prescribed one for me, but i'm a little nervous since I seem to be pretty sensitive to Differin.

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  2. Nobody needs to see that many close ups of acne, gross.

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    1. Others may want to know personal experiences with these types of products. Don’t comment if you don’t have anything nice to say...number one rule you learn as a child.

      Thanks for the info Krista!

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  3. You should try Retivance by Obaji! I’ve been using for six months now - had skin purge at first, but then went away and has not come back since. The product is designed for people with sensitive skin, but want to incorporate a retinol in their routine - highly recommend!!

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  4. I have very oily skin, with the odd few spots that pop up and large pores, and personally, I find Differin very helpful in terms of keeping the oil at bay. Doesn't increase how many spots I get, in fact it seems to decrease the frequency, number and duration of spots a little, but does make my face a bit sensitive, e.g. if I wash my face too vigorously, it gets sore and red for a short while. I've been using it for about 18 months.

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  5. I appreciate you sharing your experience! Skincare is personal and unique to the individual. I've used Differin for years and love it. I'm close to 30 with zero fine-lines because Differin also is one of the best anti-aging products available over the counter. I share my experience only to say that it works for some (like me) but might not work for others (like for you). I'm so glad you consulted a dermatologist and encourage anyone suffering from acne to do the same (if you're able). Thank you for the post Krista!!

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