Does Adapalene Cause Skin Purging? 

Does Adapalene Cause Skin Purging

Adapalene is a retinoid medication commonly sold under the brand name Differin. It works as a powerful tool in the fight against acne. 

However, many users experience a temporary increase in breakouts shortly after starting treatment. This phenomenon is known as “purging,” can be discouraging.

In today’s article, we will explore why Adapalene can cause purging and how to differentiate it from regular breakouts. We will also provide tips on managing your skin during this initial phase and offer insights into how long the purging period usually lasts. 

What is Adapalene?

Adapalene works by increasing cell turnover and unclogging pores. It’s a medication that doctors often recommend to treat acne vulgaris, the scientific name for common acne. Adapalene can also be used for other skin problems, but that’s something you should discuss with your doctor.

This can bring existing microcomedones (tiny blockages deep within pores) to the surface, leading to a temporary increase in breakouts. Adapalene also has other potential side effects, including:

  • Dryness: This is a common side effect, especially during the first few weeks of use.
  • Irritation: Adapalene can cause redness, stinging, and burning sensations.
  • Increased Sun Sensitivity: Adapalene makes skin more susceptible to sun damage. Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is crucial during treatment.

These side effects are usually mild and temporary. However, if they become severe or persistent, consult a dermatologist.

Skin Purging vs. Breakouts: Understanding the Difference

Adapalene can be a protector for your skin, but sometimes it might seem like it’s making things worse before it gets better. That’s because it can bring hidden pimples to the surface, causing a temporary breakout called purging.

These purges usually show up as whiteheads or small pimples in areas where you already get acne, and they should clear up within a couple of months.

The important thing is to be able to tell the difference between purging and a breakout from the medication itself.

Breakouts from the medication can be red, inflamed bumps or even painful cysts, and they can pop up anywhere on your face, even in new spots. They also tend to last longer than the first few weeks of treatment.

If you’re not sure what’s happening with your skin, it’s always a good idea to check with a dermatologist – they can help you figure it out. 

So, Does Adapalene Really Cause Purging?

The short answer is yes, Adapalene can cause purging. Ingredients like Adapalene can be great fighters against pimples, but sometimes they cause a temporary breakout called purging. This can happen even if you’re already using something else for acne. It’s like your skin is having a little tantrum before it gets better.

This is a sign that the medication is working by clearing out clogged pores. Not everyone experiences purging, but it’s a relatively common side effect.

Purging usually clears up after a while, so stick with it, even if you see some extra pimples at first.

Related article: Can you use Glycolic acid with Adapalene? Complete Guide

Why Does Adapalene Cause Skin Purging?

Adapalene causes skin purging due to a couple of key mechanisms:

  • Increased Cell Turnover: Adapalene accelerates the rate at which skin cells renew themselves. This means dead cells are shed more rapidly, bringing underlying blockages to the surface.
  • Unclogging Pores: As Adapalene works to clear out pores, it pushes existing micro comedones (tiny, often invisible clogs) to the surface. This manifests as a sudden influx of breakouts, commonly known as purging.
  • Inflammation Reduction: Adapalene also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can initially cause sensitive skin to react before it starts healing. It can make pre-existing blockages more apparent as they come to the surface.

How Long Does Purging Last?

The duration of purging with Adapalene can vary depending on your skin. Some people may experience a shorter or longer purging period based on their unique skin type and severity of acne.

However, it usually lasts for 4-8 weeks. If your breakouts haven’t subsided after this timeframe, consult a dermatologist to rule out a negative reaction to the medication.

It’s important to keep using Adapalene even if your skin gets worse at first, so you can see the long-term benefits.

Tips for Managing Skin Purging with Adapalene

Here are some tips to help you manage skin purging while using Adapalene if you’re experiencing skin Purging.

  • Moisturize: A gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer helps combat dryness, a common side effect.
  • Sunscreen: Daily use of SPF 30 or higher sunscreen is crucial to prevent sun damage.
  • Be Patient: Stick with the treatment. Purging is temporary, and clear skin is on the horizon.
  • Spot Treatment: For stubborn breakouts, consider using a gentle spot treatment.
  • Gentle Cleansing: Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser. Avoid harsh scrubs or drying products.
  • Reduce Application Frequency: If irritation is a concern, consider temporarily reducing the application frequency to every other day until your skin adjusts.
  • Makeup Matters: Choose oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup. This will help prevent clogged pores and further breakouts.

Remember, consistency is key. Don’t be discouraged by purging. Continued use will lead to clearer skin. 

Read also: Switching From Adapalene to Tretinoin: A Patient’s Guide 

Factors Influencing Your Response to Adapalene

Adapalene is a powerful warrior against acne, but everyone’s skin reacts differently to it. Here are some factors influencing how your skin responds to Adapalene:

1. Skin Type:

  • Oily Skin: Oily skin tends to be a natural ally of Adapalene. Its increased oil production allows for better tolerance of the medication’s drying effects. This doesn’t mean oily skin is immune to dryness, but it can usually handle Adapalene’s initial impact better.
  • Dry or Sensitive Skin: Dry and sensitive skin types might find Adapalene more challenging. The medication’s drying and potentially irritating properties can be more pronounced on already delicate skin. This can lead to increased dryness, redness, and flaking. 

2. Dosage Strength: 

  • Higher Dosage: As with many medications, the “strength” of Adapalene plays a role. Higher concentrations (often prescribed in creams) can be more effective but also more likely to trigger purging—a temporary increase in breakouts as Adapalene brings hidden pimples to the surface.
  • Lower Dosage: Lower concentrations (often found in gels) might be gentler on your skin, especially if you’re new to retinoids or have sensitive skin. While still effective, they might take longer to show their full benefits. 

3. Previous Retinoid Use: 

  • Retinoid Veterans: If you’ve previously used other retinoid medications (like Tretinoin), your skin might be more accustomed to the effects. This can lead to less intense purging or even none at all. Your skin has already “trained” to some degree, making it better prepared for Adapalene’s action.
  • Adapalene’sRetinoid Rookies: If Adapalene is your first foray into the world of retinoids, your skin might need more time to adjust. Purging is more likely, and you might experience some initial dryness or irritation.

My skin is irritated and breaking out after starting Adapalene. Is this normal?

Yes, it could be normal. This initial reaction is called retinization, and it’s quite common, especially if you’re new to retinoids like adapalene. It typically happens within the second week and goes away after about four weeks.

Here’s why it happens: Your skin is simply adjusting to the new, powerful treatment. It’s like your skin is learning the ropes!

Even though you might see some irritation and breakouts, adapalene is still working its magic behind the scenes. It’s unclogging pores and clearing your skin. The key is to be patient and stick with your daily use. Stopping now could actually set you back. 


Adapalene is a powerful acne medication, but the initial purging phase can be frustrating. By understanding the difference between purging and breakouts, and by following the tips provided, you can navigate this temporary phase and achieve clearer, healthier skin. Remember, consistency is key.


What does an Adapalene purge look like?

 A purge can look like whiteheads and blackheads, but it should not look like tiny red bumps—that’s a sign of irritation, not purging. If the breakouts look similar to what you typically experience, it’s likely a purge.

Can I use Adapalene with other acne treatments?

It’s generally not recommended to combine Adapalene with other potent acne treatments, as this can increase irritation and dryness on your skin. However, you can use a gentler spot treatment for stubborn breakouts if needed.

Can Adapalene be used on other areas of the body?

Yes, Adapalene can be used to treat acne on other parts of the body like the back, chest, and shoulders. Make sure to follow the same application guidelines and be mindful of any irritation or excessive drying that may occur.

Is it normal for my skin to peel while using Adapalene?

When you start using Adapalene, you might notice some mild peeling. This is normal and means your skin is getting used to the medicine. To help with this, use a good moisturizer and apply Adapalene less often.



The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Don’t ignore professional medical advice or put off seeking it just because of something you read here. Although we aim to offer precise and current information, we do not guarantee its completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability for any purpose. Using the information in this document is at your own risk. We are not responsible for any losses or damages caused by our content.

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