Compare Differin vs. Accutane

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

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Differin (adapalene)

Prescription or OTC

Accutane (isotretinoin)

Prescription only
Treats acne.

Differin (adapalene) is commonly used for treating acne, but, it can cause skin irritation.

Treats severe acne.

Accutane (isotretinoin) works well against severe acne but has a lot of serious side effects. You will need to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

3.6/ 5 average rating with 101 reviewsforAccutane
Upsides
  • Differin (adapalene) is a good option for the treatment of acne.
  • It is available as a cheaper, generic medication.
  • It only has to be applied to the skin once a day at bedtime.
  • The 0.1% gel formulation is available over the counter, without a prescription.
  • Differin (adapalene) is generally well tolerated, with few side effects.
  • Works well to clear your skin when other medicines have not worked for you.
  • Most people experience clear skin after just one course of treatment. Clear skin can last for some time even after you've stopped taking Accutane (isotretinoin).
  • You only have to take Accutane (isotretinoin) once or twice a day.
Downsides
  • Your skin may look worse before it starts looking better.
  • Differin (adapalene) can take up to 8 to 12 week to start working.
  • Accutane (isotretinoin) can raise your blood sugar levels. Your doctor may have to monitor your sugar levels more frequently.
  • If you play sports a lot, you may be at higher risk of bone fractures.
  • You'll have to see your doctor every time to get a refill of Accutane (isotretinoin) because of the high risk of birth defects.
  • Can cause serious bowel problems. Talk to your doctor if you experience loose stools, blood in the stools, or bad belly pain.
  • Can damage your liver. Your doctor will do regular blood tests to make sure it's healthy.
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Used for
Dosage forms
  • Cream
  • Gel
  • Lotion
  • Pill
Price
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Reviews
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101 reviews so far
53%
saidit'sworth it
43%
saiditworked well
36%
saidit'sa big hassle

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Side effects
5possible side effects
  • Skin dryness
    42%
  • Skin redness
    38%
  • Skin scaling
    35%
  • Persistent burning and stinging
    24%
  • Persistent itching
    21%
See more detailed side effects
The Accutane (isotretinoin) FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.
Risks and risk factors
  • Local skin reactions
    • Soaps and cleansers with skin-drying effects
    • Products with high concentraions of alcohol, astringents, spices, or limes.
  • UV and sunlight exposure
  • Severe allergic reaction
See more detailed risks and warnings
  • Harm to fetus
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
    • History of depression or other psychiatric condition
  • High cholesterol
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Increased alcohol
  • Serious skin reaction
  • Bone fractures
    • History of childhood osteoporosis or bone conditions
    • Anorexia nervosa
    • Taking anticonvulsant medicines
    • Taking corticosteroids
    • Problems with vitamin D breakdown
    • Longer-term therapy with Accutane (isotretinoin)
  • Eye problems
    • History of eye problems
See more detailed risks and warnings