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Differin Side Effects

Generic Name: adapalene topical

Note: This document contains side effect information about adapalene topical. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Differin.

For the Consumer

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

Along with its needed effects, adapalene topical (the active ingredient contained in Differin) 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

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:

Rare - 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. "Australian Product Information." O 0

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

Some side effects of Differin may not be reported. Always consult your doctor or healthcare specialist for medical advice. You may also report side effects to the FDA.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.