I was probably around 10 years old when I got my first pimple. I remember because it was picture day, and I was absolutely dreading having my photo taken with what felt like a GIANT red spot sitting atop my chin. I felt terrible — self-conscious, embarrassed — and never wanted to feel like that again. So I went home and practically begged my mom for literally anything to clear up my adolescent acne.
Fast-forward to today: After trying dozens and dozens of treatments that promise to clear up my skin, I still live with mild acne — a flare-up here, a smattering of blackheads there — and its confidence-crippling aftermath. Years after surviving my acne-filled teenage years, I now live with the texture and discoloration left behind by said acne. My cheeks have a slight rigid texture you can really see only when I don’t wear BB cream. Enter Differin Gel, the first retinoid gel to be approved for over-the-counter use, which was formulated to clear up all the above.
Differin Gel, which was first approved as a prescription drug in 1996, contains an acne-fighting retinoid called adapalene, which treats two causes of acne (clogged pores and inflammation). “Topical retinoids are prescribed for almost all patients in the office,” Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, has previously told Allure. “They help reduce inflammation in the skin and prevent cells from sticking together within the follicle, which then blocks the pores — aka pimples.”
Now that the treatment is available over the counter — meaning it’s available at drugstores for less than $15 per tube — and it’s now easier than ever to clear and prevent breakouts, ultimately restoring skin’s texture and tone.
And I would know, because after using the gel for about 12 weeks (the recommended amount of time to see true results) as both a spot treatment and all over on both those just-popped-up pimples (you know, the ones that manage to surface right before an important event), as well as the ones threatening to come to a head, I’ve noticed my skin slowly clearing up (mild breakouts became less frequent) and previous scarring started to diminish in appearance. (There was mild peeling during the first couple of weeks of use, so I cut down to using it every other night and following up with sunscreen the following morning.)
Sure, I still have my scars and still occasionally break out, but when it does happen, I just dab a dollop of Differin Gel onto the suspicious spot and breathe a sigh of relief.
The Differin Gel is a 2020 Allure Best of Beauty Winner. See the complete list of this year’s winners here.