How to Use Differin Gel With Moisturizer?

how to use differin with moisturizer
Having trouble figuring out how to use differin with moisturizer .Take some of the creams use a bit of difference on that cream, mix them, and use them .

Galderma laboratories first introduced the Differin gel almost 20 years ago, and they are the brand that also makes Cetaphil and Epiduo. Differin gel is adapalene which comes from retinoids, a form of vitamin A. These are used for acne treatments, anti-aging, and many other skin conditions. The Differin gel contains 0.1% of adapalene, which is currently the third generation of retinoids and is often regarded as Retin-A. They have been FDA-approved for 30 years and have been used to treat acne for 20 years now.

The way that a retinoid works is mostly by skin turnover or by the shedding technique. This means there will be the outer skin layer dissolves and the production of a healthy skin layer. The Differin gels are also used to improve collagen production and prevent water loss from the skin. But there are some topics that are left untouched. And these are the questions that have hardly been answered. For example, how to use Differin gel with moisturizer?

Differin gels or retinoids, in general, are very dehydrating. So the moisturizers are used with Differin gel to get rid of the dryness. Differin gels are primarily used at night. You can mix the Differin gel with a moisturizer of your choice and apply it directly to the skin. Or you can apply the moisturizer right after you apply the Differin gel. This way, the gel gets in direct contact with the skin and is better for penetrating the skin layers.

The Differin gels or retinoids are wonderful when it comes to acne and inflammation. One of the regular side effects of using Differin gels is that it will dry out the skin over time. But the drying skin is not very irritating. Differin gels are gentle compared to the other retinoids in the market, but there are some patches of dry skin on the face while using this cream.

When using the Differin gel for the first time, the skin will get red, itchiness, irritation, and dryness. This is known as the reaction called retinization. With retinization, the skin takes weeks to adjust. Typically the period of retinization is around a month or four weeks. Photosensitivity is also a fact in this case. So both the sunscreen and the moisturizer are important to use in case of using a Differin gel.

How does Differin work against acne?

How Does Differin Work Against Acne

Differin gel mostly works against acne, like all the other retinoids on the market. For starters, they are the adapalene or analog of tretinoin. This means they are designed to treat acne and even feel like treatment with some added benefits. These are available over the counter for sale and offer some added advantages to regular retinoids. For acne, here are some facts about Differin gel that need to be addressed:

  1. The concentration of adapalene in Differin gel is around 0.1% to 0.3%. The 0.1% version is the only one that is available for the over-the-counter method of purchase, which is recommended by doctors and bought with a prescription-only method.
  2. Retinoids are the derivatives of vitamin A, and they reduce acne by shedding the skin.
  3. The more skin is shed, the more they work.
  4. These products do not clog the pores but rather might work as an exfoliator.
  5. The Differin gel will get rid of acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.
  6. The adapalene in the Differin gel also works against inflammation, so it’ll calm down the skin.
  7. These are not used for spot treatment but rather to get rid of acne.
  8. Differin will not work with several chemical exfoliators like glycolic acids or AHAs, and mixing the difference with these ingredients can cause irritated skin.
  9. But the Differin gel can be mixed with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
  10. Using toners with Differin will dry out the skin more. So the ultra-rich moisturizers are perfect to be used with Differin gels.

Why use Differin gels?

Well, in short, the Differin gel will work with less irritation, and it will work faster than the tretinoin. They tend to prevent clogged pores and also get rid of inflammation. Differin gel is more stable in the presence of oxygen and light than tretinoin. If you compare the 0.025% tretinoin and the 0.1% difference, the latter works the best. Due to their stability, these gels are perfect for use in the morning, and they do not decompose and become inactive.

Differin gels have a lower absorption formula as the adapalene groups are larger than the tretinoin, which means they get more time to act on the skin than retinol. This will work perfectly as an anti-aging cream and will work on fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

Why use a moisturizer with Differin gel?

There’s a reason why so much emphasis is given to moisturizers with Differin gel. And the main reason would be to treat the flakiness of the skin from the side effects of the gel. Flaky skin, redness, and irritation, itchiness are very common with the gel, but the condition is temporary. And to deal with it, sometimes heavy moisturizers are used.

Another thing that might be important to add is that the Differin gel should be used only in a very small amount. And right after the gel, apply a thick layer of moisturizer. The start of the gel should be from the day only to the night eventually. And if you have oily skin and use a light gel-based moisturizer, buy a thicker one and apply it to prevent the side effects.

Without moisturizers with Differin gels, there might be problems which are:

  1. The skin will start to peel and become very dry
  2. Dermatitis or rashes are also a possibility.

What to look for in a moisturizer for applying with Differin gel?

What To Look For In A Moisturizer For Applying With Differin Gel

Before you purchase any of the products, there are some things worth considering, and for us, it would be the ingredients. Moisturizers are made up of several ingredients and vary according to climate and skin type. So the moisturizers that are suitable for Differin gel should contain:

  • Moisturizing glycerine: this is a great humectant that will trap water from the environment and hydrate the skin.
  • Hyaluronic acid: This is the most powerful hydrating product out there, and it can easily heal the skin damaged by dehydration.
  • Petroleum: this is a very common emollient. But if you have acne-prone skin, go for something natural-based rather than mineral-based, as it can clot the pores.
  • Ceramides will protect the skin barrier and help to rejuvenate the damaged skin cells. These are mostly fats and protect the skin from aging.
  • Vitamins B and E are essential for protecting the skin and coping with the shedding process.
  • Antioxidants: these protect the skin from the overall environment. And the same thing will happen when a different gel is used on skin exposed to the sun, and the antioxidants will protect it.

How to use Differin gel with moisturizer?

You can use the difference gel with moisturizers in one of two ways. These two are also known as the buffer method. But why use two methods? Well, the first one would be when you have very sensitive skin, and are just starting with retinoids. The skin will take time to get used to the treatment. The next method is used when the skin is over the retinization period and can cope with the application. Here are the ways to do so:

The first method is to apply the Differin gel with a moisturizer

The First Method Is To Apply The Differin Gel With A Moisturizer

How to use Differin gel with moisturizer in general? When you start on the Differin gel or any other retinoid, the skin will react as the products are on the harsher side. This way, the skin might get too dry and uncomfortable. So it is better to apply the moisturizer with the Differin gel. Take some of the creams on your palms and use a bit of difference on that cream, mix them, and use them directly over the infected areas.

People who suffer from sensitive skin should also use this method. This way, the skin will be less prone to breakouts and burns.

The second method is to apply the Differin gel directly to the skin

The Second Method Is To Apply The Differin Gel Directly To The Skin

When the skin feels okay with retinoids, and as the retinization period is over, you can just put the Differin gel directly on the skin. Still, use a bit of the Differin gel to see if it causes any irritation. For dryness, use some moisturizer on top of the gel.

Try and use a heavy moisturizer at night. A mineral oil or petroleum gel like vaseline will also work if it doesn’t clog the skin.

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Some of the moisturizers to be used with Differin gel

We all know how confusing it is to find a moisturizer that works with a retinoid. But here, we have included a list of moisturizers that can be used with Differin gel in both of the methods that we mentioned before. These are:

CeraVe renewing night cream

Cerave Renewing Night Cream

These are packed with ceramide, hyaluronic acid, and glycerine, and for a drugstore brand, they work very well. They do not contain any fragrance and don’t clog the pores.

CeraVe moisturizing cream

Cerave Moisturizing Cream

This will be perfect if you are suffering from extremely dehydrated skin and have just started your retinoids. These are non-comedogenic, have no oil or fragrance, and are the most comfortable kind of moisturizer out there.

Paula’s choice hydrating moisture-infusing lotion

Paula’s Choice Hydrating Moisture Infusing Lotion

These are non-detectable on the face; you can use them with the difference gel in the morning without any peeling or dryness. They are packed with sodium hyaluronate and also give a matte finish.

Neutrogena Hydroboost gel cream

Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel Cream

If you want something affordable, then this one’s got your back. They are water-based gel creams and do not contain any fragrance or oil without feeling too heavy.

Dr. Jard’s ceramidin cream

Dr. Jard’s Ceramidin Cream

These are made with the 5-cera complex, and they have all five ceramides in them. Those with very, very dry skin can use the Differin gel with this moisturizer. You might want to push the gel cream mixture into the skin instead of ribbing it.

CosRx oil-free ultra-moisturizing lotion

Cosrx Oil Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion

This is a famous Korean brand and also a very affordable one. They come with hyaluronic acid and glycerine and will help heal the skin where the Differin gel has made its mark. They don’t also contain any oil.

La Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

La Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

This favorite French brand is specifically made to be an allergy-safe and dermatologically tested moisturizer. They have ceramides and glycerine in them, which are the most complimentary ingredients to go with the different gels. Perfect for sensitive skin.


1. How to use Differin gel in a skincare routine?

The Differin gel shouldn’t be mixed with anything but a moisturizer, and use it before applying it. Use it only in the affected areas.

2. How to use Differin gel for wrinkles?

Take a pea-sized amount of the gel on your fingers and apply it directly to the fine lines and wrinkles. Apply a moisturizer over it. Do not go close to your eyes or any sensitive areas.

3. How to use adapalene gel on the face?

Once you wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply the adapalene gel on the affected areas and apply a moisturizer over it.

4. Can I use moisturizer after adapalene?

Yes, you can and should use a moisturizer after adapalene. This way, the side effects of the gel will not be prominent.

5. What products should I use with Differin gel?

A moisturizer followed by sunscreen should be enough for application with the Differin gel.

Final Thoughts

Differin might be a third-generation retinoid, but it surely comes with the same issues as regular retinoids. And that’s why the side effects of dryness, irritation, and redness can be reduced with creams and moisturizers. And during the first few weeks, there needs to be access to hydration. Once the retinization period is over, you can go back to your regular moisturizer.

And if the skin feels too uncomfortable then how to use Differin gel with moisturizer? We recommend mixing the Differin gel with the moisturizer and then applying it. And for the question on how to use Differin gel with moisturizer: We say that you can use it like any other acne treatment and moisturizer. Use the gel first and then apply a moisturizer. This way, you’ll have a better chance of getting it to work.

Key Points

  1. Differin gels and retinoids, in general, are quite harsh. To alleviate the dryness, moisturizers are used with Differin gel.
  2. Use the Differin gel to apply the moisturizer. Take some of the creams and apply a little Differin to them, mix them, and apply them directly to the diseased regions.
  3. Test a small amount of Differin gel to check whether it creates any irritation. To combat dryness, use a moisturizer on top of the gel.
  4. In comparison to tretinoin, the Differin gel will operate more quickly and with less irritability.

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