This $12 OTC Treatment Is the Closest Thing You’ll Find to Prescription Retinol

Mia Maguire
This $12 OTC Treatment Is the Closest Thing You’ll Find to Prescription Retinol
Photo: Courtesy of Differin.

If a miracle-in-a-bottle type of skincare treatment actually existed, we’d probably all be using it already. But when it comes to the hunt for the next best thing, if you ask a dermatologist or esthetician, most of them will probably tell you that retinoids (the branch of vitamin A derivatives to which retinol belongs) are the closest thing you’ll find along your quest to find a product that’ll help you attain a flawless complexion.

Put simply, retinoids are a group of chemical compounds that have earned the seal of approval from dermatologists because, unlike so many other buzzy active ingredients in our serums, creams, and moisturizers, they’re actually backed by years of ample clinical research backing their effectiveness as both a treatment for blemishes and a myriad of anti-aging concerns, including dark spots, texture and fine lines. Basically, you can think of retinoids as expedited exfoliators–but with some added benefits. The strongest forms of retinoids require a prescription from your dermatologist or physician, and while they offer the most immediate results, they also come with the most side effects, including redness, peeling, and intense dryness.

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Differin gel amazon

Courtesy of Differin.

Whether you’re looking to avoid a costly trip to the derm or you’re just not quite ready to suffer through the transitional “purge” phase that kind of comes hand in hand when you’re using stronger RX retinoids like tretinoin (brand name Retin-A), consider trying Differin. Previously available by prescription only, Differin’s skin-enhancing magical powers
are brought to you by its active ingredient Adapalene — the strongest retinoid form that’s (now) available sans a doctor’s script.

While it’s primarily marketed as an acne treatment, this concentrated skincare product has amassed a rather large cult following for its additional “off-label” benefits. Loyal fans of the drugstore gel say it also works wonders for ironing out fine lines and crows feet, smoothing texture, and fading the appearance of sunspots and hyperpigmentation—and it’ll only set you back around $12
. Need some more convincing? Just head to the link above to check out the impressive before-and-after photos.

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