Is Adapalene Anti-Aging: Skin Care for Signs of Aging

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Acne and signs of aging are among the most widespread skin concerns. But, did you know that popular over-the-counter acne treatment may also work for wrinkled, aging skin?

Adapalene gel (also known as Differin gel) is a drugstore retinoid formula that’s widely recommended for acne. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of adapalene for signs of aging, including stubborn wrinkles and age spots.


Does Adapalene Have Anti-Aging Properties?

Adapelene Differin Gel

Adapalene gel is effective at treating acne because it alleviates inflammation and redness. It also helps prevent acne by managing skin cell turnover, which wards off clogged pores. [1] But, can it also work as an anti-aging treatment? To answer this question, let’s evaluate its clinical efficacy.

Before and After Results in a Clinical Study

A 6-month clinical study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of 0.3% adapalene gel for photoaging (signs of aging caused by sun exposure).

facial cream lady

The results of this study revealed an improvement of 40% in the severity of forehead wrinkles, 52% in the severity of periorbital wrinkles, and 29% in the severity of perioral wrinkles. Additionally, hydration, general skin tone, and the number of wrinkles were significantly improved with adapalene. [2]

Ingredients in Adapalene vs Tretinoin (Differin vs Tretin A)

Adapalene and tretinoin (also known as Retin A) are both topical retinoids. This means that they’re both derived from vitamin A and, unsurprisingly, are easily confused.

With that said, there are key differences between adapalene and tretinoin, including:

  • Topical tretinoin was FDA-approved for the treatment of acne in 1971 [3], while adapalene was developed and approved later, in 1996. [4]
  • In 2016, adapalene 0.1% gel was approved as an over-the-counter acne treatment, while tretinoin is a prescription medication.
  • Adapalene offers comparable efficacy to tretinoin but often causes less skin irritation. [5]

The Benefits of Adapalene for Different Skin Concerns

Does Adapalene Help Wrinkles, Lines, and Signs of Aging on the Face?

happy woman bathroom

As a retinoid, adapalene is thought to help with wrinkles, lines, and other signs of aging by increasing collagen production in the skin. Collagen is a protein that gives the skin strength and structure but naturally diminishes with age. By ramping up the production of collagen in the skin, adapalene can gradually rejuvenate the skin. [6]

Inflammation, Hyperpigmentation, Dark Spots, and Enlarged Pores

Adapalene has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, which is why it’s often so effective to treat acne vulgaris and inflammatory acne in general. [7] Its anti-inflammatory properties may also help you manage redness and sensitive skin in older age.

Additionally, adapalene speeds up skin cell turnover. This can help your skin shed dead, damaged skin cells and produce new, healthy cells to take their place.

By consistently applying adapalene gel, you can fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots over time, as well as shrink enlarged pores. [8] [9]

Treatment for an Acne-Prone Skin Type

As we’ve already mentioned, adapalene is widely used to help manage acne breakouts. It can lessen the number of pimples, decrease acne severity, and speed up the healing process for new acne breakouts. [10]

How To Use Differin Gel for Wrinkles

Does Differin Help with Wrinkles?

Differin gel can help fade fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production in the deepest layer of the skin – the dermis. This helps boost the thickness and smoothness of the skin, leading to fewer wrinkles.

nightly routine lady

To use Differin gel for wrinkles, start by incorporating it into your nightly skin routine (before your normal moisturizer). It can be irritating for dry and sensitive skin types, so consider using it every other day or a few times per week, then build up to more frequent use. Your skin will adjust to the formula over time.

While using Differin gel, make sure to diligently apply sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather. Like all retinoids, Differin gel increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. [11]

Possible Side Effects of Adapalene

Although adapalene gel is widely used for acne and anti-aging, it can cause side effects including:

  • Dryness, peeling, and/or scaling
  • Mild stinging or burning sensation
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Skin discomfort/irritation
  • Sunburn
  • Warm sensation right after applying topical adapalene

In certain individuals, adapalene can cause contact dermatitis, rash, eczema, and acne flare-ups. Talk to a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as adapalene may not be right for you.

Rare, but serious, side effects of adapalene include extreme skin irritation, an intense burning sensation, eye irritation (conjunctivitis), skin discoloration, and eyelid inflammation. If you experience any of these side effects, contact your doctor promptly. [12]


Can adapalene be used for anti-aging?

Yes, adapalene can help reduce signs of skin aging, including fine lines and wrinkles.

Is Differin retinoid, and does Differin have retinol?

Differin is a type of retinoid. It consists of adapalene gel 0.1%.

Is adapalene as effective as tretinoin for anti-aging?

Adapalene is less potent than tretinoin. For some individuals, this means that it can provide anti-aging benefits with less irritation than tretinoin.

Does Differin make you look younger?

Yes, with consistent use, Differin can make you look younger by diminishing wrinkles, lines, and other signs of photoaging.

Does adapalene help with collagen?

Yes, adapalene gel enhances collagen production in the skin. [13]

Does adapalene improve skin texture?

Yes, adapalene can smooth and even out skin’s texture.

Does adapalene smooth skin?

Yes, adapalene contributes to smoother skin.

Is adapalene good for deep wrinkles?

While adapalene can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, it’s not as potent as other topical retinoids, like tretinoin. So, it may not be the best option for deep wrinkles.

How quickly is adapalene absorbed?

Adapalene is absorbed into the skin approximately five minutes after application. [14]

Does adapalene help with photoaging?

Yes, adapalene gel has been found to be effective for photoaged skin.

Is adapalene as effective as tretinoin for wrinkles?

Yes, for mild to moderate wrinkles, adapalene has been found to be as effective as tretinoin. [15]

How long does it take to see adapalene results?

Typically, significant results from adapalene appear after approximately 12 weeks. [16]

What skin types is adapalene good for?

Adapalene is safe for all skin types. [17]

What professional skin care brand products contain adapalene?

Differin, La Roche-Posay, and Proactiv are three skin care brands that offer products containing adapalene gel 0.1%.

What are common names used to identify adapalene on an ingredient list for skin care products?

Skin care products that contain adapalene will list it as an active ingredient under the name “adapalene”.

How much does Differin gel cost?

The cost of Differin gel can vary depending on where you purchase it from. However, you can get a 30-day supply on Amazon for approximately $15.

How does Differin gel compare to other retinoids?

Differin gel is different from other retinoids because it’s widely used to treat acne and is less likely to cause skin irritation.

What makes adapalene different from benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid?

Adapalene is different from benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid because instead of killing bacteria in the skin or drying out pimples, it works for acne by regulating the skin cell cycle.

What’s the difference between Differin gel vs cream?

Differin gel dries faster than Differin cream, so it’s often preferred for oily skin types. However, Differin cream is less likely to dry out or irritate the skin, so it’s often preferred by sensitive skin types. [18]

Can I use Differin and tretinoin together?

No, using Differin and tretinoin together may cause skin irritation.

What’s the difference between tretinoin and adapalene?

Tretinoin and adapalene are both vitamin A derivatives. Tretinoin is more commonly used for signs of aging, while adapalene is more commonly used as an acne treatment.

Is adapalene Retin A?

No, Retin A is the brand name for topical tretinoin, not adapalene.

Is adapalene an FDA-approved prescription medicine?

Adapalene is an FDA-approved medication for treating acne. However, as of 2016, adapalene 0.1% gel is available over-the-counter. [19]

Conclusion: Is Differin Anti-Aging Used as a Skin Care Product?

While adapalene is most commonly used for the treatment of acne, it’s also an effective anti-aging treatment. As a retinoid, it can effectively increase collagen production and speed up the skin cell cycle, leading to brighter, smoother, and firmer skin.

Differin is now available over the counter and safe for all skin types, making it an excellent choice for people who want to reduce signs of aging without irritating the skin.



Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.