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Adapalene topical Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 8, 2020.

For the Consumer

Applies to adapalene topical: topical cream, topical gel/jelly, topical lotion, topical swab

Side effects requiring immediate medical attention

Along with its needed effects, adapalene topical may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur while taking adapalene topical:

More common

- especially during the first month of use
  • Burning sensation or stinging of skin
  • dryness and peeling of skin
  • itching of skin
  • redness of skin

Side effects not requiring immediate medical attention

Some side effects of adapalene topical may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.

Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:


- more common during the first month of use

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to adapalene topical: topical cream, topical gel, topical lotion, topical solution, topical swab


Pruritus, erythema, scaling, dryness, irritation, sunburn, and acne flares usually occurred during the first month of therapy and decreased thereafter. These side effects were reversible when treatment was discontinued.

Skin exfoliation was associated with skin exposed to mechanical abrasion (e.g., waxing).[Ref]

Very common (10% or more): Persistent pruritus (up to 74%), persistent burning/stinging (up to 71%), erythema (up to 60%), scaling (up to 60%), pruritus (up to 60%), dryness (up to 48%), pruritus immediately after administration (up to 30%), skin stinging or burning (up to 22%)

Common (1% to 10%): Skin irritation, sunburn

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Contact dermatitis/eczema, dermatitis, skin discomfort/pain, skin exfoliation, acne/acne flares, skin swelling

Postmarketing reports: Allergic dermatitis/allergic contact dermatitis, rash, eczema, skin discoloration[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Burning (up to 60%); burning immediately after application (up to 30%)

Frequency not reported: Burning/stinging[Ref]

Burning and stinging usually occurred during the first month of therapy and decreased thereafter. These side effects were reversible when treatment was discontinued.[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Pharyngitis, rhinitis, sinusitis[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Dysmenorrhea[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Eyelid irritation, eyelid erythema, eyelid pruritus, eyelid swelling/edema

Postmarketing reports: Conjunctivitis[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Tooth anomaly, tooth disorder[Ref]


Rare (0.01% to 0.1%): Allergic reaction

Postmarketing reports: Allergic contact dermatitis/allergic dermatitis[Ref]


Rare (0.01% to 0.1%): Lack of drug effect

Frequency not reported: Flu syndrome[Ref]

Nervous system

Frequency not reported: Headache[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Differin (adapalene topical)." Galderma Laboratories Inc, Fort Worth, TX.

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics." O 0

3. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0

Frequently asked questions

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.