Skin Experiment: Using Differin for Wrinkles

Can the OTC version of Differin be used for wrinkles? I’m going to find out.

Disclaimer: Yes, there are links to products in this post. No, I will not get a commission if you click the link. I know I have an affiliate link disclaimer in my sidebar. My blog is way too new for me to be apart of any affiliate programs yet, but I have it there to cover my butt in the future. You know, just in case. The links in this post are so you can click over to the product and buy it if you want to. (See? I’m helping!) Also, this post is not sponsored.

Don’t you know Differin is for acne, not anti-aging?

Over-The-Counter Differin 0.1% gel.
Differin 0.1% gel. Now available over the counter!

Yes, I know. Differin is the first new over-the-counter (OTC) acne medicine available in over 30 years. The active ingredient, adapalene, is a retinol and is related to tretinoin (Retin-A). The main difference is that adapalene is not as harsh on the skin as tretinoin, and apparently works with different receptors in the skin than tretinoin.

However, adapalene does still do some of the same things that tretinion can do, like smooth and re-texture the skin. Of course, what adapalene does best is get rid of acne.

If Retin-A is so great for anti-aging, why not just use that?

Retin-A is not available without a prescription in the United States, and if you are over a certain age and do not have acne, doctors here won’t prescribe it. That makes it difficult to get a Retin-A prescription. Also, Retin-A is expensive in the U.S. (Yes, I can get Retin-A online through an overseas pharmacy site, but I don’t know if I’m ready to try that yet.)

So, if you don’t have acne, can you still use Differin?

It’s a small tube, but it should last a long time.

There’s nothing that says I can’t. There are only one or two studies that show that adapalene is effective for anti-aging as of this posting. That’s mostly because all other studies only concentrated on adapalene’s effect on acne. Any evidence that adapalene works for anti-aging was purely coincidental.

Even though I’m in my mid-40’s, I still get a couple of spots here and there. When I do, I want them gone. However, that’s not my primary goal for using Differin. I want to use Differin for its skin smoothing and re-texturing (a.k.a. anti-aging) properties.

The OTC version of Differin isn’t full prescription strength. Will it still work?

That’s the total amount suggested for use on your entire face. That small pea-sized dollop.

In theory, yes. The main difference between the prescription strength gel and the OTC strength gel is the percentage of adapalene it contains. Prescription strength is 0.3%. OTC strength is 0.1%. With the OTC version, I should be able to use Differin every night with no redness or peeling. Just to be safe, I’m using it every other night to start.

Where can you find the OTC version of Differin?

I bought mine at my local grocery store. It’s available in 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce tubes. The 1/2 ounce tube sells for $13.99 USD. The 1 ounce tube sells for $28.99 USD. (Prices may vary depending on where you get it.) Looks like the Differin 0.1% gel is available at Wal-Mart, Target , CVS, Walgreens, Amazon, and most places you can buy skincare.

How do you plan on using Differin for anti-aging?

As I mentioned above, I’m starting out using Differin every other night. Adapalene may be gentle, but it’s still a powerful retinoid. So far, I’ve been using this for about a month. (I wish I had thought to take a photo of my skin before I started this experiment.)

I’m so purdy… This isn’t my best selfie, but this is my face right after my double cleanse.

On the nights I use the Differin gel, I double cleanse to remove all my makeup and get my skin really clean. After cleansing, I pat my skin dry and use a gentle, hydrating toner. (I’m really liking the Thayer’s rose petal toner right now.) Then I smooth on a light moisturizer. I let that sink in for a few minutes, then I apply the Differin gel all over my face, concentrating on areas that have large pores, texture, and wrinkles. I use slightly more than the recommended pea-size dollop, but I am also putting it on my neck and chest. I then let the Differin gel sink into my skin for a few minutes, and after that I follow up with a heavier night moisturizer. (This is very simplified compared to my usual multi-step nighttime routine.)

That’s not how you’re supposed to use adapalene!

I know that’s not the recommended way to use adapalene. I have done a lot a reading on how to use it and what to expect, as well as watching several videos of real people using it for their anti-aging routines. The way I’m using it is within bounds. So far, I haven’t had any redness or peeling. Well, I haven’t had anymore redness that I usually have.

I have had a few pimples crop up, but I think that’s mostly the adapalene working. The spots are also on the right side of my face. Since I tend to sleep on my right side a lot, that may be a sign I need to change my pillow cases more often. I do feel like the pores on my nose look a bit smaller since I started using this, but my oiliness hasn’t subsided. I still get quite oily by midday.

The right side of my face. I’ve had a few little “friends” pop up. Thanks, adapalene!
The left side of my face. I have some redness, but not any more than usual.

I don’t know how this experiment is going to work out, but I will keep you updated. Hopefully, this will get me some good results and I won’t have to try to order Retin-A from an overseas pharmacy.

Have you tried to use Differin 0.1% gel for anti-aging? What was your experience? Do you have any pointers for me on my journey? Let me know in the comments below!

19 thoughts on “Skin Experiment: Using Differin for Wrinkles”

  1. Is there a reason that you want to use Differin/Retin-A instead of something intended for anti-aging? There are a bunch of OTC retinols and retinoids.


    1. Partly for novelty, but partly because I’d like to use something a little stronger. I have been using OTC retinols and retinoids off and on for years. I am looking for something that will get me better results than I have had using the OTC stuff, preferably without breaking the bank. I’ve noticed a bit of new texture, and the OTC retinols just aren’t cutting it. I know that seeing results with any retinol-based product takes time, patience, and consistency. I do feel like the Differin is making a difference in my skin’s texture only after about a month of use.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, no. ☹️ Life threw me a few curve balls lately, so I have not been super consistent with my skincare routine over the last couple of months or so. I’m thinking it may be time to restart this experiment.


  2. I’m 60 but don’t have a ton of wrinkles – I’ve taken good natural care of my skin. I read a blog from dermatologist recommendations for wrinkles and found they recommended this. I tried it for 8 nights but saw a difference within a 4 or so nights. My smile eye wrinkles are completely gone when not smiling. And a little lifted somehow. If smiling I still have some wrinkles but can’t wait to see how that takes care of those as I keep going. It works for wrinkles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deb, are you using the prescription strength Differin, or the over-the-counter strength Differin? I have noticed my skin has a slightly smoother texture after several months of using the over-the counter strength Differin, but I haven’t noticed any dramatic changes to the size of my pores or my wrinkles. I am happy to know that the Differin is working for you. I wonder how much individual biology and cell turnover rates affect how well Differin works for wrinkles?


  3. I have been using adapalene for 12 years now. I’m 32. Everyone I meet assumes I am much younger than I am (22-27). I have zero wrinkles or lines. When people ask me how is it that I look so young I always mention adapalene as the main reason.


    1. That’s fantastic, Jessica! I have to ask, have you been using the prescription strength Adapalene for most of that time? I’m also curious to know if you had any side effects line dryness or flakiness when you started using it.


  4. I have! I have been using the 0.1 prescription consistently(daily) for the last 12 years. I never tried the 0.3%, I just seemed to have success with the 0.1 version. I make a fuss to get the prescription instead of over the counter because of the vehicle they use in OTC brand. I never had issues when I first started. I just tried to avoid the sun or wear sunscreen. However, for the last 6+ years, I haven’t had the need to use sunscreen unless I am out in the sun all day. My friend started using adapalene within the last year and her acne cleared up, but she does get dry skin and flakiness. I always moisturize right after I put it on so maybe that has helped?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m 65 and have always taken good care of my skin but had a trouble area above my lips, I’m not a smoker but think that straw drinking may have influenced the noticeable vertical lines. Differin made a difference in just two applications. Amazing stuff, will continue


  6. Pam Prible, Do you have a photo? Did you use the over the counter Differin? I have those lines above my lips also and nothing helps.


    1. I think if you’re looking for an affordable anti-aging product to tackle fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture that you can get without a dermatologist visit or prescription, then the OTC Differin is a good choice. The thing to remember is that you’re not going to get quick results. Consistent use over time is key!


  7. I have just started using Differin Gel a week ago. I am taking it slowly. I used it twice last week before going to bed. When I wake up I gently wash my face, use Vitamin C serum, let it dry and apply sunscreen. I took a before picture and in 3 months I am going to compare,and in 6 months compare again to see. I’ve never really had acne, just a zit that’d pop up every now and then. I am older and would like to see if this will help with fine lines and wrinkles.


    1. Hello, Marleen! Starting slow with retinols like adapalene is always a good idea. I’m still using the OTC Differin gel almost daily and still getting good results. The before and after photos are also a great idea! Because we see ourselves in the mirror every day we may not notice minor changes that are happening. Also, kudos for having sunscreen in your skincare routine! I would say that having a good sunscreen in your routine that you wear daily is even more important than using retinol. It prevents sun damage and helps protect the progress you’re making towards better skin.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s