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


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

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.