In this article I’m going to answer a common question that many people ask: can you mix adapalene and benzoyl peroxide?
I’ll be telling you how to use differin gel with benzoyl peroxide.
Table of Contents
What is Differin Gel?
Differin gel, if you’re not familiar is, adapalene. Adapalene is the only FDA approved retinoid that you can buy over the counter for the treatment of acne.
Why Mix Adapalene And Benzoyl Peroxide?
Adapalene is a retinoid. It works within the pore to go to work at the site of acne to prevent breakouts from occurring and to treat existing breakouts.
It helps the skin behave more normally and not clog up the pores. It also helps with oiliness.
Benzoyl peroxide also gets down and within the pore, but it’s more focused on reducing the burden of that bacteria that is responsible for acne. It also reduces inflammation along with adapalene.
Together they can really help reduce inflammation, which is a key driver in acne pathogenesis.
Adapalene or differin gel will treat existing breakouts and prevent breakouts in the future.
Benzoyl peroxide will treat existing breakouts and prevent breakouts in the future.
But the two work differently.
Combine them together and you really have a strong treatment strategy for acne, especially if you have red, painful acne or you get painful cysts.
This combination actually can be more effective than either ingredient alone.
Whole Face vs Spot Treatment
As a reminder, differin gel (adapalene) is not a spot treatment. This is something that you want to use to treat your entire face, sparing the thin skin of the eyelids to not only treat existing acne but to prevent acne breakouts in the future.
The differin gel will not work at all if you just use it as needed, when you get a breakout. It has to be something that you use consistently.
It’s safe to use long term and definitely every day for years and years.
Benzoyl peroxide on the other hand can be used to the entire face, it is safe to use long term, however, it’s super drying. Unlike adapalene, it’s actually very effective as a spot treatment.
If you are not such a fan of using benzoyl peroxide, understandably it’s super drying, you can just use it as a spot treatment and that’s really why I like the idea of mixing benzoyl peroxide and adapalene.
If you go to a dermatologist, they might prescribe you something called epiduo, which combines adapalene and benzoyl peroxide together in one product.
Having a situation where you can just use benzoyl peroxide as needed, as a spot treatment, I think is really convenient.
How Do You Use Adapalene And Benzoyl Peroxide Together
First of all let’s talk about the type of benzoyl peroxide that you might want to use.
Probably the easiest to tolerate is going to be a face wash.
Differin actually makes a benzoyl peroxide face wash.
The way to use this is you can just lather it to a clean face. You don’t want to use it as a makeup remover or anything like that because it can be very irritating and combined with makeup makes it even more irritating.
Wash your face first, lather this to your face, sparing the eyes. Don’t get this near your eyes. As a side note this can also be used to other areas of the body.
Leave that lather on the skin for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
Doing that consistently, the benzoyl peroxide will get down in the pore and really help. This is much gentler than using an actual spot treatment or a leave-on product, which tends to be more drying.
The other advantage of doing the wash is if you have used benzoyl peroxide before, you know it will stain your fabrics, your sheets. It will bleach them.
I have pillowcases that have benzoyl peroxide bleach marks on them and there’s even a benzoyl peroxide bleach mark on my carpet in my bedroom.
The watch form removes that issue because you just lather it to your face and then you rinse it off down the sink and it’s not going to transfer that into fabrics as opposed to the leave-on stuff will.
So that’s nice and it’s less drying, it’s less irritating.
You can do that before you apply differin. That can certainly be one way to incorporate it to get that extra level of control.
You may choose to use a benzoyl peroxide wash just during periods of time when you’re having more acne, maybe seasonally. Some people find that their acne gets a little bit worse in the summer, if they live in a really humid climate and they’re sweaty a lot.
That might be a time where you might want to bring in a benzoyl peroxide wash.
Alternatively you can also use a benzoyl peroxide leave-on product.
In the drugstore you’ll find a ton of them. They vary in percentage strength. There’s 2.5%, 5%, 10%. You may be wondering what’s the best percentage.
I recommend going with the lowest percentage. Why?
Studies show that lower percentages of benzoyl peroxide are equally effective at treating acne as higher percentages, but less irritating.
If you’ve already got differin gel on board, the last thing you want is excessive irritation from a drying benzoyl peroxide. Just go with a low 2.5 percent. There aren’t that many products that are lower, but if you can find one that’s great.
How Do You Apply Both Products Together
You’re going to use them at nighttime. You’re going to start with a clean face, a clean, dry moisturized face.
I recommend that you wash your face and after you rinse your skin, you apply a moisturizer. This will help reduce dryness and irritation.
Once the moisturizer has absorbed and dried and is all well and good, then you’re going to apply your differin gel to the entire face, sparing thin skin of the eyelids.
After your differin gel has dried and absorbed, then you’re going to come in with the benzoyl peroxide gel. Again I recommend 2.5% just because it’s less drying and irritating.
Where you put it is up to you and the type of acne that you have.
First and foremost you do not want to put it around the thin skin of the eyelid it’s going to be very drying and irritating there.
If you have a lot of acne, like on the cheeks and the jawlines, you might want to just go ahead and put it to the entire face. Be aware it can be super drying.
If you’ve got moderately severe acne, you may want to just go ahead and apply it to the entire face.
But if you’re someone who is getting occasional breakouts, even on differin, you might just want to apply it to those breakout areas as a spot treatment.
Let it dry fully before going to bed because it will transfer to your sheets and bleach them. Even once it dries it can still do that.
I recommend putting down a towel on your pillowcase so you don’t ruin your pillowcase.
That’s how to use benzoyl peroxide gel.
The percentage does not matter. The higher the percentage, the more likely it’s going to be drying and irritating when it comes to benzoyl peroxide.
Epiduo the prescription combination cream is an adapalene gel and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.
What Are The Advantages of Using Both Together?
What is the advantage of using both together as opposed to just using one?
The advantage is faster results.
Adapalene, differin gel, takes some time to work. Benzoyl peroxide will help that acne go away faster, if it’s used along with a differin gel.
That’s an advantage especially for those those random painful breakouts, like on the jawline.
It also can help in preventing breakouts in the future.
The combination of adapalene and benzoyl peroxide is more effective than either alone.
Here’s what I recommend.
Try adapalene, differin gel, first. Try it for four to six weeks. As I’ve said, it takes about three months to really start seeing the best results. But as early as four to six weeks you really should start seeing improvement.
If you’re still getting breakouts through the differin gel, you might want to introduce that benzoyl peroxide spot treatment at that point. Assuming that in those four to six weeks into using differin gel, you’re tolerating it okay, it’s not too drying, it’s not too irritating.
Then might be a time to consider pulling in benzoyl peroxide back into the picture to get you a little bit more control.
When it comes to benzoyl peroxide and adapalene, there’s no risk of resistance. Your skin doesn’t become resistant to them, your skin doesn’t become used to them. You can use them indefinitely. They’re safe and they’re effective.
If you do become pregnant, you would want to stop these. It’s the only time that you really need to stop them or if a treating dermatologist tells you to stop these because they are going to prescribe some other treatment.
You don’t have to just think about this as a treatment for the face. It can also be used to chest acne, back acne, acne on your rear end, anywhere you’ve got acne you can use these treatments. They’re not face specific.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.