How to Use Differin With Moisturizer- Here’s a Simple 5-Step Guide

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Retinoids come in various strengths. For instance, adapalene, a mild retinoid, under the brand name Differin is an OTC retinoid that treats acne and aging. Differin can dry out your skin and this is why a correct routine includes using a moisturizer after Differin gel.

Every product on your skincare routine relies on the next product to be more effective. They also work together to produce the best results.

Differin is a powerful retinoid for any acne and anti-aging skincare routine. However, it needs to work with a moisturizer to prevent any adverse effects.

Differin perfectly suits every skin type. When picking a moisturizer, you should make sure to pick a formula that best suits your skin type. This article will guide you on how to use Differin gel with a moisturizer to address your skin concerns.

1. Cleanse Your Face

Start your routine by cleansing your face with a mild cleanser or micellar water. This will help to remove makeup, oil, and dust residues from your face. It creates a better canvas for the penetration of the ingredients.

Do not use an exfoliating cleanser or one that contains ingredients that will make your skin super sensitive to Differin.

2. Apply Differin Gel

Take a pea-sized amount of Differin gel and gently spread it all over your face to make a thin layer. You do not need to apply so much Differin to get results. More so, too much of it can be counterproductive.

Keep the gel away from your eyes, mouth, and areas where you have broken skin or eczema. Allow the gel to absorb into your skin; let it dry by itself before you go on to the next step.

3. Use Face Serum

Up next is a face serum to seal in adapalene and hydrate your skin. Make sure the Differin gel has dried off before you apply the serum.

Remember to not use serums that contain exfoliating acids or benzoyl peroxide. Serums that contain retinol or hyaluronic acid are the best serums to use after Differin gel. Take the serum in your palm and gently pat it onto your face and under-eye area.

4. Layer on Moisturizer

After the serum has been absorbed into your skin, apply moisturizer all over your face. The moisturizer enhances hydration levels and boosts the effects of adapalene.

Avoid moisturizers that contain fragrance, alcohol, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. If you’re using a moisturizer with Differin during your night routine, allow the moisturizer to fully absorb into your skin before you sleep.

5. Sunscreen

This is the last step of your routine, after applying every other skincare product and just before your makeup. Adapalene is a retinoid; exposure to sunlight can make your skin photosensitive and cause worse skin conditions.

Use sunscreen lotion of at least SPF 30. Gently rub the lotion all over your face and under-eye area. If you only use Differin at night, sunscreen is not necessary but you should apply it the next morning.

Should You Use Differin With Moisturizer?

All retinoids have a common side effect of drying out the skin. Also, they trigger cell turnover which although beneficial for skin texture and appearance, can come with a skin purge.

When the skin is trying to adjust to adapalene, it goes through a process called retinization which comes with skin redness, scaling, and dryness as manifest signs.

Therefore, it becomes necessary that you follow up with a product that won’t render your routine useless or counterproductive. This is where moisturizer comes in. It replenishes moisture, prevents the drying effect, and makes Differin gel more effective.

Moisturizers contain occlusive ingredients that create a protective seal over your skin to enhance the penetration of products and prevent moisture loss. Additionally, the moisturizer makes the retinization process bearable and lessens the risks of acne breakouts.

Can You Mix Differin With Moisturizer?

Yes, you can. Mixing moisturizer with Differin gel helps to lessen the retinoid concentration and make it more tolerable for your skin. It also collapses two steps into one and shortens the time spent on layering products.

However, by lessening the concentration of adapalene, it could reduce its effects on your skin. The best way to use Differin gel with a moisturizer to get results is to layer the products.

What Should You Not Use With Differin?

Think of what you don’t use with retinol…yes, you should not use the same ingredients with adapalene. Before using Differin gel, you should not exfoliate your skin or use products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid.

These ingredients tend to dry out your skin just like retinoids do. Layering them will be exposing your skin to irritations and excessive dryness. Moreover, they all trigger cell turnover; they could cause your skin to break out with acne.

In addition, when using Differin gel, avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, and tanning beds, and even use hair removal waxes. Exposure to sunlight and hair removal waxes reveal a sensitive layer of your skin and expose it to irritations and inflammation.

When Should You Stop Using Differin?

Differin is not supposed to be a permanent skin treatment product. With consistent use, you should have clear skin after about 12 months. Before this time, you will notice improvements in the appearance of acne, wrinkles, and fine lines.

Sometimes, it could be tempting to stop using Differin gel, especially during retinization which happens during the first few weeks of using this retinoid. However, you should not discontinue use as this could be a sign that the gel is working.

When you feel your skin is clearer and looks youthful again, you can stop using Differin gel as part of your daily routine. Until then, use the gel once every day.

Should You Use Differin With Moisturizer at Night?

Yes, you should. Experts advise that the best time to use Differin with a moisturizer is at night. This doesn’t mean it’s less effective with daytime use but the retinoid will work in sync with your body’s auto-repair that happens at night.

During this time, adapalene is more effective in addressing aging concerns such as wrinkles and fine lines. Moreover, at night, your skin is protected from sun exposure which can cause skin photosensitivity with adapalene.

Most importantly, you should use the Differin gel once a day.

Side Effects of Using Differin

As a retinoid (although mild), you may experience retinization which is completely harmless. This process is characterized by redness, dryness, scaling, and maybe a burning sensation.

All these are ways for your skin to adapt to the retinoid and it should not last beyond 4 weeks.

People with eczema are however warned about using Differin on their skin. Also, being a retinoid, it is unsafe for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Retinoids penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, this can cause birth defects in the unborn baby.


Can you use Differin with moisturizer under your eyes?

Yes, you can. Differin can sometimes be too much for the skin around your eyes but it is safe to use. You shouldn’t use it without applying moisturizer after to lock in moisture, enhance the effectiveness of Differin and counter the drying effect of the retinoid.

Why is your skin red after using Differin?

Redness after applying Differin gel is not a cause for alarm. It’s all part of the retinization process. As a retinoid, while your skin tries to adjust to the ingredient, you may experience redness, a stinging sensation, dryness, and scaling.

This effect doesn’t last long. It goes away after about four weeks. If the redness persists after this period, you should discontinue use and see a doctor.

Can you use vaseline as a moisturizer with Differin?

Yes, vaseline can fill in as a moisturizer when you use Differin gel to treat acne or aging. Apply vaseline after Differin to replenish moisture and hydrate the very dry areas of your skin.

Vaseline can work alone as a moisturizer but it is best used to support regular face moisturizers.


Differin (adapalene) may be mild but it is a retinoid. Therefore, it has the common drying effect that comes with using retinoids. For this reason, you should always follow up Differin gel with a moisturizer to restore moisture.

While it works for every skin type, you cannot throw caution to the wind. Use a moisturizer that works for your skin type. Also, you should make sure it does not contain ingredients that don’t work well with adapalene.

The best way to go about Differin is with a doctor’s prescription for safe use.

Thanks for reading.

If you are looking for detailed guides on how to use your products correctly to maximize results, check Serum101.