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Nov 27, 2023

Skin Health

Choosing the Right Topical Acne Treatment

Acne is a common skin condition, affecting approximately 85% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 24, but it can also persist into adulthood and affect individuals of all age groups.

Types of acne

Acne is a chronic skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. It typically manifests as various types of blemishes, ranging from mild to severe. The main types of acne include the following:

  • Whiteheads: Closed comedones that form when pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells beneath your skin's surface.
  • Blackheads: Open comedones that result from clogged pores where the oil oxidizes and darkens.
  • Papules: Small, inflamed bumps that can be tender to the touch and are typically red or pink.
  • Pustules: Similar to papules but filled with pus at their tips, appearing as white or yellow bumps.
  • Nodules: Located deeper beneath your skin’s surface, nodules are large, painful, swollen pores, often requiring medical treatment.
  • Cysts: Deep, pus-filled lesions that are painful, prone to scarring, and require professional intervention.

Acne treatment has evolved significantly, offering various options like Differin and Epiduo. Understanding their differences and similarities is helpful in selecting the right treatment.


Differin, a topical retinoid also known as Adapalene, is a first-choice treatment option for various types of acne. It's effective for mild, moderate, and severe acne in adults and children aged 12 and older. This includes treatment for blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples found on the face, chest, and back.

The medication works by penetrating deep into the pores to treat acne, preventing new acne by promoting the turnover of old skin cells. Differin is typically applied once daily, usually in the evening. It requires a prescription for the 0.3% gel strength. However, a lower 0.1% gel is available over the counter.


Epiduo is a prescription-only topical gel combining Adapalene 0.1% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5%. It treats mild to moderate acne, including severe cases like acne vulgaris. Adapalene, a retinoid similar to vitamin A, is also a component of Differin. Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, has antibacterial properties effective against the bacteria that cause acne. It is particularly useful for treating inflammatory acne, such as papules and pustules, in addition to whiteheads and blackheads.

Epiduo is available in two strengths. The lower strength, with 45 grams of 0.1%/2.5%, is FDA-approved for use in adults and children aged 9 and above. The higher strength, known as Epiduo Forte, contains 45 grams of 0.3%/2.5% and is approved for adults and children aged 12 and older.

  • Differin: Primarily treats comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads) and has minimal impact on inflammatory acne.
  • Epiduo: Effective on both comedonal and inflammatory acne due to the combination of Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide.
  • Differin: Available as a topical cream, gel, and lotion.
  • Epiduo: Available only as a topical gel.

It’s important to keep in mind that Adapalene is a retinoid, and all retinoids are contraindicated and not approved for use in those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and children younger than 12 years old, and should not be used.

How to Choose Between Differin and Epiduo

  • Type of Acne: If you primarily have blackheads and whiteheads, Differin might be more suitable. For mixed or primarily inflammatory acne, Epiduo may be a better choice due to its combination of ingredients.
  • Skin Sensitivity: Consider your skin's sensitivity. Differin may be less irritating for those with sensitive skin.
  • Budget: Epiduo is more expensive. If cost is a concern, Differin might be a more budget-friendly option.
  • Age and Pregnancy: Neither medication is recommended for children under 12 or during pregnancy.
  • Personal Experience: User ratings indicate a slightly higher satisfaction with Epiduo, but individual experiences may vary.

Speak With Your Doctor

Both Differin and Epiduo are considered effective medications in managing skin conditions such as acne. If you’re struggling with acne, talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment options suited for you. It’s important to consult your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis, ensure your medication is the right treatment option, receive personalized guidance on its usage, as well as monitor treatment progress.

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