Skip to Content

Differin Side Effects

Generic Name: adapalene topical

Note: This page contains information about the side effects of adapalene topical. Some of the dosage forms included on this document 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

In addition to its needed effects, some unwanted effects may be caused by adapalene topical (the active ingredient contained in Differin). In the event that any of these side effects do occur, they may require medical attention.

Severity: Moderate

If any of the following side effects occur while taking adapalene topical, check with your doctor or nurse as soon as possible:

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

Minor Side Effects

Some of the side effects that can occur with adapalene topical may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

Rare - more common during the first month of use
  • Worsening of acne

For Healthcare Professionals

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


Local side effects have included erythema, scaling, dryness, burning, and pruritus in 30 to 60% of patients. Persistent pruritus and stinging have been reported in up to 24% of patients. Skin irritation, acne flares, sunburn, and skin discoloration have been reported rarely (less than 1%).[Ref]

Erythema, scaling, dryness, burning, and pruritus usually occur during the first 2 to 4 weeks of therapy and lessen with continued use. Burning and itching immediately after application occurs in approximately 20% to 30% of patients.

All local side effects occurring with adapalene topical appear to be reversible upon discontinuation of therapy.[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects have rarely included dermatitis, contact dermatitis, rash and eczema.[Ref]


Ocular side effects have rarely included eyelid edema and conjunctivitis.[Ref]


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

2. Cunliffe WJ, Caputo R, Dreno B, Forstrom L, Heenen M, Orfanos CE, Privat Y, Aguilar AR, Meynadier J, Alirezai M, Jablonska S, "Clinical efficacy and safety comparison of adapalene gel and tretinoin gel in the treatment of acne vulgaris: Europe and U.S. multicenter trials." J Am Acad Dermatol 36 (1997): s126-34

Not all side effects for Differin may be reported. You should always consult a doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice. Side effects can be reported to the FDA here.

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.