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How I Got Rid of My Acne Breakouts: My Differin Gel Acne Treatment Journey



As an adult in her late 20s (almost 30), the last thing I wanted to have other than an aging skin is a face with breakouts.

But it was inevitable with this changing weather and all such factors. Fortunately, I was chosen for a Smiley360 mission to try the most talk about over-the-counter acne treatment - Differin Gel Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment for 60 days. I was sent a full-size 45 g tube that can be used up to 90 days. 


So what is this Differin Gel Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment?

It's an oil-free and fragrance-free acne treatment that contains Retinoid Adapalene. It used to be an acne treatment prescription for more than 20 years but was approved by the FDA  for over-the-counter used without prescription in 2016. It is the first and only OTC product to contain a full prescription-strength, acne-fighting retinoid — adapalene. 

And what is this Adapalene ingredient?

As you may have noticed, Differin Gel's main active ingredient is Adapalene. It is a kind of retinoid specifically used for clearing acne. It treats acne deep in the pores at the source, prevents new acne from forming and restores the skin's natural texture and skin tone.

How long does Differin Gel take to work?

Differin Gel starts working immediately and results will be seen within 2 to 3 weeks. This acne treatment requires commitment and long-term relationship. It may take some time to see significant results but the key is to stick with it. With continued use, you will definitely see the notable results! To give you an idea, it has been proven from a clinical study that patients reported a nearly 60% average decrease in acne after 12 weeks of use.

Are there any known side effects?

Although Adapalene is known to be the most gentle among other retinoids, you may still experience dryness, redness, irritation and burning/stinging (I felt the stinging and experienced the dryness for about 2 weeks). But these are all part of the retinization - where your skin is trying to adapt to the retinoid. The irritation usually lessens after four weeks of continued use. So do not give up! Just stick to it and your skin shall be rewarded after. It is also good to note that not all experience retinizaton - how fortunate these souls are.

How to use Differin Gel?

Differin Gel should only be used once a day - preferably at night. You only need a pea-sized amount to apply to your face.



Unlike spot treatments, this gel is meant to be applied to the entire face. To make it easier to cover the entire face using this small amount of product, I found it useful to dab tiny amount of the product to my cheeks, forehead, and chin, then spread it evenly to my entire face.

My Experience with Differin Gel

Let me begin by showing you how my skin looks like before using the Differin Gel.



A little gross, right? This was really a bad breakout for me since I usually have a nice smooth skin. Noticed that I have tiny bumps spread all over my right cheeks and some big chunks on my left and forehead too! Not a happy face at all.

Then I began using Differin Gel at the beginning of October 2016. It is usually a 3-step process: Cleanse, Treat and Moisturize. But I do add some steps in between.😊First, it is important to use a gentle, non-drying cleanser when using this product, so long before I received the product, I did some research for a perfect mild cleanser to pair it with. Differin gel actually offers a Balancing Cleanser and a Balancing Moisturizer, however, I read not-so-good reviews about them so I refrain from using both. I decided to go with Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser, it's fragrance-free, non-drying and non-irritating. And it did work well with Differin Gel. After cleansing, I use the Mario Badescu Aloe Vera Toner. It is also gentle, alcohol and fragrance-free that is ideal for a dry or sensitive skin. Since using Differin Gel makes the skin drier than usual, this toner is also a perfect match with Differin Gel. Then I apply a moisturizer as a buffer and to reduce irritation. I used e.l.f. Daily Hydration Moisturizer - a lightweight and nourishing moisturizer. It is not required to apply a moisturizer before applying the Differin Gel, it was my own way of making sure I do not get the irritation at it's best which for me actually worked out. After my moisturizer, I will finally apply the acne treatment. In the first week, I only used the Differin Gel every other night to build up my skin's tolerance and to slowly adapt to the new acne treatment. After the acne treatment application, I then moisturized again with my e.l.f. Daily Hydration Moisturizer. However, in the past couple of weeks, I tried different moisturizer (some PRs and free) which I believe work well too. I am currently using Swanicoco Life Time Saver Bio Cream (which I received as one of the products in my Swanicoco PR package) as a moisturizer and the final step of my night time skincare routine.

Surprisingly, I did not see any side effects on my first week of using the Differin Gel but instead, I noticed that my skin was loving it and the pimples on my face were drying fairly quickly.

After the first week, I started using the Differin Gel every night. Then my face became a little sensitive. Some products will make my face suffer from a tingling effect when applied to my face and I started to notice that more acne is coming out. This did not worry me since I know that the treatment is beginning to work on the surface of my skin to reduce the acne-causing clogs and it will subside after using it continuously for 2 more weeks.

See my results of using Differin Gel for the first 2 weeks below:





My breakouts are still clearly visible but the pimples are drying slowly. I continued my routine while trying to minimize the use of other new skin care products and makeups too. But from time to time I incorporate my masking addiction to my routine - after applying the Differin Gel and before my final moisturizer. I even joined a November masking challenge which I think my skin loved!πŸ˜€πŸ˜

So after 4 weeks (a month) of using Differin Gel, below is a comparison result:


A huge difference indeed! I still have pimples coming out every now and then but they are tiny, unlike the big, painful ones I used to have in the before photo. You can clearly see that my breakout was finally tamed.

After the 60-day Differin Gel challenge, the results are in. And here's mine:



Yay for the amazing results! I still continue regularly using the product and I am not planning on stopping it as it is truly effective in keeping my acne at bay. Here are some photos from December of my current skin state:


And here's the most recent photos taken just a few days ago:


I still have pimples coming out every once in a while, especially when I have my monthly period (like now), but I can confidently say that I do not have any more breakouts since I started using Differin Gel continuously. The only left to treat now are my annoying acne scars. They are still visible and looks like pimples in the photos.😩

Overall, I am convinced that I found my holy grail. And this thing is very affordable retailing at $28.88 for the 90-day supply tube and $10.88 for the 30-day supply at Wal-Mart. This is also available to all your local stores such as Target, Walgreens, and CVS. My journey on getting rid of my breakouts finally came in to close. But my journey to a healthier skin is still on-going.

Some takeaways:


  • always choose a gentle cleanser
  • do not use more than one acne treatment product. Differin Gel works better if used alone.
  • avoid products containing alpha hydroxy acid or glycolic acid as it may worsen the irritation.
  • always use SPF if you are going to be exposed to sunlight.


How about you? Have you found your perfect match in terms of treating your acne? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Disclaimer: I received this product complimentary from Smiley360 to test and review but this article in no way sponsored by Smiley360 or by the brand. All opinions are my own and based on my personal experience.

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