My Differin Experience: My Results and What I Learned

If you read my first post on my experience with Differin Gel– you’re already up to date on my acne struggles and why I started using this product. I think a big part of deciding to use a new product is reading other people experiences, and that was one thing I found hard to find online. I read reviews from people saying that it cleared their face instantly and reviews saying to took 8-10 weeks to get clear. Honestly I think it all depends on your skin type and the level of breakout you were experiencing and that was one thing that these reviews failed to tell me. So here’s a little background on me and my skin:

I am super oily. However in the past year I would say that I have gone toward ‘oily combination’ as I experience some super dry skin days more often now. My skin is not sensitive at all. Not even a little bit. I’ve never felt burning or itching after using a face product. My acne went away for about 4 years and just started to resurface itself as horrible adult acne (you can read more about that in my first post in this mini series), and in my teenage years I had a minor struggle with cystic acne. Writing this now I wish I took some before and after pictures, but believe me when I tell you I was going into this with a bad breakout. Like I looked like I did when I was 16 again. I would estimate that I had at least 15-20 active zits on my face at one time. For about a week before trying this my entire jawline and chin was just completely broken out.

Now that you know all of my nasty face facts- keep reading for my Differin Gel results!

differin gel results


The First Month

I wanted to make sure that I started my Differin journey on a day I would remember, so I started the day after the product arrived at my door on February 14th.  I had done some research on the product beforehand so I was able to make sure I had everything I needed. I purchased a basic cleanser with no salicylic acid to use and used my moisturizer as a barrier on my skin before diving right in with the product. You can read more about my routine and how I used the product here in my previous post. I was pretty broken out when I started and didn’t see tons of results right away. My face or level of breakout didn’t seem to change at all for the first month.

The Second Month

My skin got BAD. Like when they say “worse before it gets better” they really, really mean it. I have always had lots of blackheads and big pores and it seemed like everything that could have possibly been clogged in my skin was coming up. By this time I had been applying the Differin Gel directly to my skin every night after cleansing. Every morning I would wake up with between 5-12 nasty looking whiteheads. It was terrible and honestly I wanted to stop so bad but managed to push through the nasty looking face. The weirdest part was that I seemed to break out in phases. One week the left side of my face would be all broken out- and ONLY the left side of my face. Then the next week it would be just my forehead, then just my chin and so on. It was the strangest thing.

During the second month I did my best to not use much makeup. However it was my birthday month and Sean and I had visitors that month so it wasn’t exactly easy. The biggest thing I missed during the second month was masking. All my favorite masks contained salicylic acid and I didn’t want to chance using them and messing up my face any further. I ended up picking up a cheap charcoal mask from Walgreens, but wont even tell you about it because I don’t recommend it at all. The perfume smell was way too much for me.

The Third Month

This is when I finally started to see some improvement in my skin. I wouldn’t say I was having any active breakouts (seeing maybe one little whitehead when waking up in the morning). About 2 weeks into the third month I found an article that said I could mix a little benzoyl peroxide with my Differin Gel usage to help the process along. Although I wasn’t crazy broken out anymore I still had a lot of redness. I’m thinking it was my face just finally healing and doing its thing, but it was so annoying. So I headed to Walgreens and picked up some Neutrogena Rapid Clear.

Now, I typically hate using benzoyl peroxide. I learned back in my Proactive days that benzoyl peroxide can sometimes ‘bleach’ your face and your clothes. If you’ve every used an acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide you know what I mean- over time your pretty pink pillowcase gets what I can only describe as bleach lines from your face. But I was hating the redness that was taking forever to go away so I did it (and my pillowcases are white now- so no worries there!). I use the Rapid Clear every other night after I put on my Differin (and allowed it to dry and sink into my skin for about 10-15 minutes). So far this addition has really helped. The redness is has gone from mega inflamed red to a light pinkish red and I’m finally waking up with no whiteheads!!

Tips, Tricks and Notes

I’m nearing my fourth month using Differin and I still wouldn’t say my skin in completely clear. The redness I mentioned above is still lingering in some places and I still have blackheads hanging out on my nose and chin. But anything is better than what my skin was like before I started or what my skin looked like that second month!

Here are some notes on what I’ve learned during my journey:

ONE || If you wear an eye mask to sleep- take caution. I would always wear on but during my first week of Differin I decided to stop. The first night I woke up and my eyes felt like they were burning out of my head. I’m not even exaggerating. I ripped my mask off and went back to sleep. That next morning I washed my mask, thinking I got something on it, and used it again that night. The same thing happened. I have no idea why this happened- but I’m blaming the Differin. So it’s been no mask for me since then!

TWO || ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN. Like, seriously. I guess your skin is more sensitive when using Differin (and benzoyl peroxide) and you can get crazy painful sunburns. That’s the last thing I want, so I’ve been using the Neutrogena break-out free sunscreen and have had no issues with breakouts. I also wear a baseball hat and big giant sunglasses when laying out by the pool now. My face may be 20 shades lighter than my body, but I’m sunburn free!

THREE || Wash your hands after applying your Differin. DO NOT get this stuff in your eyes. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m sure it burns like crazy. (One day I got it a little too close to getting in my nose… it was bad. I had to rinse my whole face off because it felt like my nose was on fire.)

FOUR || Apply your Differin at night. It’s just easier. Trust me.

FIVE || If you don’t use too much product your tube of Differin will last you close to 3 months, making it super affordable!

SIX || Don’t pick your face! I’m a picker, so I did not take my own advice here. But my picking habit has totally made my face take longer to heal. And touching your face makes adds germs and nasty things that lead to breakouts.

SEVEN || So this next tip I’ve heard mixed reviews about- but I use my Clarisonic Mia 2 (with the brush head for deep pore cleansing) once a week to exfoliate and get rid of any icky looking dryness. It leaves my skin feeling so soft and with a nice glow and makes any redness/dryness/breakouts look non existent! Now here’s the ‘mixed’ part. Apparently the ingredient in Differin does exfoliating-like things from the inside of your skin. So essentially when using the Clarisonic and the Differin you’re doing double duty and could potentially damage your skin. So use at your own risk and consult your dermatologist if you have questions.

And, of course, like I’ve said in all my skincare posts so far- I’m not an expert! If you’re questioning your skincare routine its best to consult a dermatologist. If you feel like somethings wrong, your skin is burning from using a product or you have a rash- talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

Have you guys tried Differin? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

And use the widget below to SHOP the skincare products I use and mentioned in this post!


And be sure to check out my 8 month Differin checkup here


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