The FDA Just Approved Acne Miracle Gel Differin to Be Sold at Drugstores

Lauren Caruso


You probably remember Differin’s god-awful commercials from the mid-aughts (if you don’t just know this: There was Word Art.) But I’ve jogged your memory for good reason, especially if you still deal with the joy that is adult acne: The FDA has approved Differin for over-the-counter use for people 12 and older.

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The active ingredient is a retinoid called adapalene, and though it was originally approved by the FDA in 1996 as a prescription drug, the over-the-counter version will be available at a lower concentration. This is the first time a retinoid for acne will be available sans an Rx since the 1980s, according to the National Institute of Health.

“Up until now, the only available OTC treatments for acne were benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur,” says Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Topical retinoids are commonly prescribed in the office to acne sufferers because of their ability to reduce skin inflammation and unclog blocked pores that cause pimples. In fact, we commonly combined topical retinoids with other ingredients like benzoyl peroxide to treat as many acne causing factors as possible.  Topical retinoids are particularly useful in treating blackheads and whiteheads by bringing them to the surface and helping to keep follicles clear.”

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Just like any other retinol product, FDA warns that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should have a chat with their doctor before using Differin. Oh, and make sure you use sunscreen, as “retinoids can increase your risk for a sunburn,” Dr. Zeichner warns. (Not that you’d dare step outside without it, obviously.)