What is Adapalene?

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  • Written By: Kathy Wiehl
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 07 June 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Adapalene is a topical medication that is used to treat acne, keratosis pilaris and other skin conditions. It also is available combined with benzoyl peroxide in a gel. There is a potential for side effects, so this medication is available by prescription only. It sometimes is prescribed in conjunction with other acne medications. It usually is used once at night before bed, but some patients might be advised to use it in the morning as well.

This medication is part of the retinoid family of medications and chemically similar to vitamin A. These medications help clear acne by slowing the growth of skin cells and preventing inflammation. It is available in a 0.01-percent concentration in a gel, lotion or a cream and a 0.03-percent concentration gel for more severe cases.

Adapalene can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so people using it should use sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 at all times and avoid using tanning beds. It should never be used on sunburned, wounded or inflamed skin. Patients should allow the skin to heal before resuming adapalene treatment. Using certain skin treatments such as harsh chemicals, hair dye and hair remover should also be avoided because this can cause adverse reaction when used with adapalene. Creams containing alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid should be avoided during treatment.


Like most acne medications, adapalene might cause the skin to appear worse before improving. During the first weeks of treatment, the skin might appear red and feel dry and itchy. After about four weeks, these mild symptoms usually go away, then the appearance of the skin will begin to improve. Users should call their doctor if they experience severe side effects such as hives, difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, mouth or throat when using this medication.

Adapalene is approved for healthy adults and teenagers more than 12 years old. This medication can be harmful to an unborn baby, so patients who might be pregnant or might become pregnant should not use this medication. People who have eczema also should not use adapalene, because it might cause excessive skin irritation.



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