Differin vs. Retin-A | THIS OR THAT?

Today I want to compare Differin vs. Retin-A for you! When the first over-the-counter Retinoid (aka Differin) became available earlier this year, I had to try it! Finally a Retinoid that does not cost an arm and a leg (around $12) or that I have to buy from an online pharmacy from India and wait weeks for it to arrive. YES!

So I got myself a tube in May and have tried it now for 3 month- I guess this is a sufficient time to really tell you my thoughts on Differin and most importantly: how does it compare to it´s bigger sister Retin-A?

If you have never tried Retin-A, you might not really understand why Retin-A is so hyped (to get rid of acne and to get rid of wrinkles!) Let me bring it to a simple point: what Retin-A does is: it will make your skin peel! And that is exactly what older skin needs, because we lose as we get older the ability to renew our skin- which happens when we are young naturally all the time- that is why the skin looks so good when we are young. But us oldies, we keep the old skin and that is why we look older and older and older. LOL! So, we need something to get rid of those old looking layers of skin! And that is where Retin-A works fabulous.

Read here how to start Retin-A without irritation, flaking, redness or sensitivity. Because yes: all these side effects are likely to happen once you start with Retin-A. And yes, you want the flaking- that means it is working! I find it highly satisfying seeing the flakes and therefor getting rid of my old skin! ;-)

Watch it on YouTube too!

Retin-A vs. Differin | A COMPARISON


While Retin-A and Differin are both Retinoids, they differ in their main active ingredient. Differin contains Adapalene and Retin-A contains Tretinoin.

Simple said they all are just Vitamin A! ;-)

Retinol (you need no prescription for that- see also my favorite Retinol products) is actually just a scientific name for Vitamin A. Retin-A is derived from retinoic acid, a synthetic derivative of vitamin A. And Adapalene is the synthetic form of Retin-A.


Depending if you get an expensive prescription Tretinoin, the more affordable solution from Curology or the cheap version from another country this can deeply vary from around $10 to $100. Differin however costs only around $12 and you can get it easy peasy in your drugstore, Walmart, Target- no prescription needed!

Winner: Differin!


While Retin-A is a rather thick cream that applies patchy and needs some work to put into your skin and I find it on top quite greasy (which isn´t very comfortable if you already have oily skin). Some women mix Retin-A with a "blender" to make it easier to apply- however this will also "water down" the Retin-A.

But quite the opposite with Differin: this is a thin gel that applies super fast. No greasyness and it feels undetectable and very comfortable on my skin!

Winner here: Differin!


Let´s get to the effectiveness, which is probably what matters the most! I find it important to mention that I do not have sensitive skin and don´t have huge issues with Retin-A at all. Also: I don´t have acne- most people will want to treat their acne with Retin-A or Differin, but it is no secret anymore that us old ladies use it to get rid of wrinkles. So my experience is not based on treating acne but rather my wrinkles!

I started using Retin-A in the beginning of 2017 and while I started to use it once a week and worked myself up to using it every second day (and I used immediately 0.1%),  I slowed down my process a couple month ago, because I found that I am peeling too much if I use it that often. I only use it now about every 2 weeks to get a nice peel. Currently that is just enough for my needs. I don´t want to overdo it.

Point is: I only need to apply Retin-A once to achieve a peel (around 2-3 days after) with it. This was however not the case with Differin. I found this light gel very comfortable to apply, wear and use- however: not once did I peel! I could immediately use it every single night- but the (so wished for) peel never has ocurred.

And while I do not suffer from acne, I have had in these last 3 month here and there a spot that I tried to spot treat with Differin, but sadly I have to say that I found my Zapzyt (that contains 10 % Benzoyl Peroxide) works better to get rid of that occassional blemish than Differin.

I can however say that my skin feels very balanced and not as oily as usual (I do have combination skin with an oily t-zone) and really very clean and and clear overall.

Overall winner: even thoug Differin wins the price and consistency match, Retin-A will still be overall my winner, because of how effective it is. Differin is just no match when it comes to the big peel!

My verdict:

Again: I can´t speak for the effectiveness of severe acne- maybe this will work. Differin is definitely very gentle, so I could imagine that this is a great treatment for those that have sensitive skin and acne.

For getting rid of wrinkles I find Differin not really effective. No peel whatsoever. Sadly I will have to continue to get my hands on the real thing (I have tips how to get Retin-A without a prescription). And Retin-A just still seems to give the best peel of all.

You might want to read also this scary study I found where 122 people have died because they used Retin-A.

Have you tried Differin? How did you find it compares to Retin-A?

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