Differin Cream

Differin Cream

Differin cream contains adapalene which increases how fast skin cells grow, helping avoid new spots forming. You should seen results within just 2 to 3 weeks.

In stock
from £27.50

Product details

Differin Cream is a prescription topical cream used to treat moderate to severe acne. It is one of the most common acne treatments available, and works to help clear up acne flare-ups and prevents them from coming back. Differin Cream is an effective treatment: You should start to see improvements to your skin within 2-3 weeks of treatment.

Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Development

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 19 Sep 2023

Differin cream prices

Pack Size Price
0.1 % w/w - 45 g £27.50

How it Works

About Differin Cream

What is Differin Cream?

Differin Cream is a topical cream used to treat acne. It contains the active ingredient adapalene.

It belongs to a group of medications known as retinoids. Retinoids increase the turnover of skin cells, removing dead cells from the skin and reducing inflammation. This helps to prevent the formation of new spots.

Differin Cream can be used on your chest, face, or back if you have spots, pimples, or blackheads.

How does Differin Cream work?

Differin cream works in a few different ways to prevent acne.

  1. It slows down how often your skin forms new cells, which helps to clear up breakouts and prevents acne from returning.
  2. It has an anti-inflammatory effect which reduces irritation and redness.
  3. It regulates your skin’s oil production to prevent further outbreaks.

How long does Differin Cream last?

This depends on the size of the cream and the surface area of the affected skin. As you don’t need to apply a lot of Differin Cream, it should last a while. Make sure you only apply as much Differin Cream as you’ve been prescribed. Using more, or using it more often, won’t deal with your acne quicker.

How long does Differin Cream take to work?

You should start to see an improvement to your acne after 2 to 3 weeks of taking Differin Cream, but it may take several months for your acne to improve enough to stop treatment.

After using Differin Cream for 3 months, your doctor will check to make sure your treatment is working effectively. If it isn’t, they may recommend an alternative.

How effective is Differin Cream?

Differin cream is a highly effective acne treatment. A clinical study showed patients reporting up to an 87% decrease in acne after 12 weeks of use.

How to use Differin Cream

Differin cream is applied directly to the affected area and should only be used externally. You should use Differin Cream just before bed and leave it on overnight.

You can use Differin Cream for as long as you need it, but speak to your doctor if your acne is not improving within a month of treatment. It may take a while for acne symptoms to fully disappear.

You should always use Differin Cream as prescribed by your doctor. Using more, or using it more frequently will not make it more effective or work faster.

How to apply Differin Cream

To apply differin cream:

  1. Wash treatment areas with water. Your skin should be clean and dry before application.
  2. Apply a thin layer to the areas of your skin with acne and rub it in gently.
  3. Wash your hands after applying the treatment.

Differin Cream should not be applied to areas of the skin with eczema. It should also not be applied to cuts, scrapes, or sunburnt skin. Avoid contact with the nostrils, eyes, mouth, and any other sensitive areas of the skin.

What if I apply too much or miss a dose?

Applying more Differin Cream than you need will not help with symptoms but could irritate the skin. Therefore, if you apply too much, rinse it off. Wait until the next day to apply more if your skin is red or irritated.

If you forget to apply Differin, carry on with your treatment as soon as you remember.

Where can I buy Differin Cream?

You can buy Differin Cream online or from your local pharmacy, but you will need a prescription from a GP to do so. You can also get Differin Cream on the NHS. Before purchasing any medication, make sure you’re using a trusted and regulated healthcare provider like Superdrug Online Doctor.

Can I buy Differin Cream online?

Yes, getting Differin Cream online is quick and easy with Superdrug Online Doctor. To get started, complete a short online form about your medical history and acne symptoms. One of our doctors will make sure Differin Cream is suitable for you. If it is, they will prescribe it for you. You can then choose to get your treatment delivered or collect it from your nearest Superdrug pharmacy.

Can I buy Differin Cream over the counter?

No, Differin Cream is prescription-only.

Can I get Differin Cream on the NHS?

Yes, you may be able to get Differin Cream on the NHS. You will need to make an appointment with your GP to get a prescription beforehand.

Differin Cream side effects

Differin Cream has a few side effects, mainly affecting the areas of skin where it’s applied. Side effects are more likely if you apply more cream than needed. If you get a lot of skin irritation, we suggest applying it less often until it settles down.

Common side effects of Differin Cream include:

  • irritation, redness, or burning sensation at the site of application
  • dry skin

Uncommon side effects of Differin Cream include:

  • contact dermatitis (a local skin reaction)
  • sunburn
  • skin discomfort
  • itching of the skin (pruritus)
  • peeling skin
  • acne flare-up

Rare side effects of Differin Cream include:

  • a severe allergic reaction, which can make it difficult to swallow or breathe, and may cause a rash, itching, swelling, and dizziness

If you get a severe allergic reaction, you need immediate medical attention. Call 999 or get someone to take you to A&E straight away.

Other side effects have been reported but not enough to determine whether they are common, uncommon, or rare. These include:

  • a mild allergic reaction at the site of application
  • swelling or painful skin
  • redness, irritation, itching, or swelling of the eyelids
  • a change in skin colour, such as darkening of fair skin or lightening of darker skin
  • burns at the application site

How long do Differin Cream side effects last?

Differin Cream side effects should only last a couple of weeks. If you get irritation, soreness, or burning that is affecting you for longer, or it irritates you a lot, speak to your doctor. Remove the cream with water if irritation continues after application.

What to do if you get Differin Cream side effects

If you get Differin Cream side effects that are mild and go away after application, continue treatment and monitor side effects. If your side effects are bothering you a lot and do not go away within a few weeks, speak to your doctor. They may recommend using the cream less often, or waiting until side effects go away before trying again.

Differin Cream warnings

Differin Cream is not suitable for everyone. If you have certain medical conditions or allergies, Differin Cream may not be the right acne treatment for you. Our doctors will make sure Differin Cream is suitable before prescribing.


You should not use Differin Cream if you are:

  • allergic to any ingredients in the cream
  • pregnant
  • planning to get pregnant
  • under 12 years old

You can still use Differin Cream if you breastfeed, but it should not be applied to the chest to avoid exposure to your baby.

When using Differin Cream, avoid artificial UV light or strong sunlight on treatment areas.

Medications that interact with Differin Cream

You should let your doctor know if you take any medications or herbal supplements, especially any other acne treatments. You may need to use them at a different time so they don’t interact with Differin.

Speak to your doctor about any cosmetic treatments you use on your acne.

Differin Cream alternatives

If you are looking for acne treatments, Superdrug Online Doctor has a range of different topical treatments and antibiotics. If you are not sure which treatment is best for your symptoms, speak to one of our doctors for free through your online account.

You can also get a photo diagnosis of your acne, which can help our doctors determine which treatment is best for you.

Antibiotic tablets

If you have severe acne, your doctor may recommend taking antibiotic tablets alongside a topical acne treatment. This includes antibiotics like lymecycline, which work to kill the bacteria causing an acne flare-up.

Topical treatments

A topical treatment is applied directly to the affected areas of your skin and is recommended for people with mild to moderate acne. You can get a topical retinoid like Differin, an antibiotic cream, or azelaic acid.

Topical treatments available at Superdrug Online Doctor include:

  • Zineryt, a topical treatment containing an antibacterial agent called erythromycin and zinc, which is a healing agent
  • Epiduo, which contains an antibacterial agent called benzoyl peroxide and a retinoid
  • Aknemycin Plus, which contains erythromycin and a retinoid

Hormonal treatments

Some women get acne during certain points in their menstrual cycle. If this is the case for you, hormonal treatments like the pill may help.

The combined contraceptive pill can control the amount of oil your skin produces and regulate your hormones, which may reduce acne flare-ups and symptoms.

Over-the-counter treatments

Some acne treatments are available over the counter, but these may not be as effective as prescription treatments. Speak to your pharmacist if you need advice.


Adapalene BNF (2023) [Accessed 26th June 2023]

Differin Cream EMC (2022) [Accessed 26th June 2023]

Acne NHS (2023) [Accessed 26th June 2023]

Pivotal clinical trials of adapalene in the treatment of acne PubMed (2001) [Accessed 26th June 2023]

Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne PubMed (2017) [Accessed 26th June 2023]

Patient Reviews

Further Reading on Acne