Differin vs La Roche-Posay | Which Is Better for Acne?

written by: Tom Qiao
last update: December 24, 2023

As an editor who relies on over-the-counter retinoid adaptolene to keep stubborn hormonal acne at bay, two products I alternate between are cult classic Differin and the newer La Roche-Posay […]

As an editor who relies on over-the-counter retinoid adaptolene to keep stubborn hormonal acne at bay, two products I alternate between are cult classic Differin and the newer La Roche-Posay Effaclar adapalene gels. At first glance, both contain 0.1% adapalene to target everything from clogged pores to texture irregularities by speeding up skin cell turnover. But upon closer inspection, key differences emerge that make one better suited for certain acne-fighting needs and budgets.

A major similarity is that both gels have smooth, lightweight, and oil-free consistencies ideal for layering serums or spot treatments on afterward. Compared to Differin though, I find La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar formula spreads a touch easier and seems to absorb slightly quicker while remaining just as non-comedogenic. For my combination skin prone to shine by midday, I never noticed any additional greasiness while using either adapalene gel. However those with very dry complexions may prefer La Roche-Posay’s less matte finish.

Another key difference is that La Roche-Posay Effaclar packs niacinamide into its adapalene formula for extra sebum regulation and pore tightening power in addition to the retinoid acne-fighting benefits. Differin sticks to a more minimalist approach, letting 0.1% adapalene work its magic as a solo active ingredient. So for those needing maximum strength acne- and clog-clearing, the niacinamide and adapalene combo makes La Roche-Posay even more hard-hitting. Differin still clears breakouts well, just without bonus actives in the mix.

In terms of irritation, both gels can cause the typical retinoid reaction of redness, peeling and dryness as skin adjusts. But I noticed less sensitivity occurring with La Roche-Posay Effaclar as the soothing thermal spring water and smooth gel base counter any sting. Plus the built-in niacinamide also calms inflammation. So first-time retinoid users may transition better with La Roche-Posay’s formula.

Pricewise, a smaller tube of La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel costs around $30 compared to just $14 for a bigger tube of classic Differin. But a little La Roche-Posay product goes a long way so in terms of cost per use, both last equally as long. At the end of the day, those needing heavy-hitting yet budget-friendly acne power can rely confidently on Differin. But for extra soothing and smoothing benefits, La Roche-Posay’s adapteralene upgrade makes a worthy splurge!

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Article written by Tom Qiao
Tom is the founder and editor of TheDermDetective.com where he applies his decades of personal experience with skincare problems like acne and acne scarring to provide readers with practical advice and product recommendations.

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