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This dermatologist-approved acne gel doubles as a powerful anti-aging product

Dealing with breakouts or fine lines? This $15 retinoid gel can help.
Artem Varnitsin / Getty Images

One of the best anti-aging products you can find without a prescription doesn’t come in a fancy jar or cost hundreds of dollars. In fact, it’s not even best known for its incredible anti-aging effects.

Differin's 0.1% adapalene gel is a prescription-strength retinoid that you can get over the counter at the drugstore — and dermatologists love it. Popular for being a powerful acne treatment, the benefits of Differin go far beyond erasing blackheads and obliterating pimples. It also costs just $15 at most retailers!

Differin 0.1% Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment

According to Dr. Mohiba Tareen, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Tareen Dermatology, Differin's hero ingredient — adapalene, a type of retinoid — fights the classic signs of aging: fine lines, dark spots and dull skin.

“Differin is a fantastic anti-aging product as it stimulates collagen production by cells in our dermis (the deeper layer of the skin),” she explains. "This is what helps with fine lines and overall skin thickness."

On how it works to banish pesky dark spots, Tareen says, “It exfoliates the surface of the skin cells to prevent the brown spots and mottled pigmentation that contribute to an aged appearance."

Compared to retinols, retinoids are the stronger, fast-acting sister product, explains Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology.

Levin says topical retinoids, such as Differin, come from vitamin A and help normalize skin cell turnover, which also prevents clogged pores and acne. It's also the same ingredient that helps improve skin discoloration, texture and tone.

“Differin Gel also has anti-inflammatory properties," adds Levin, which means the formula helps soothe and smooth skin's texture over time.

Another reason this product is excellent for anti-aging is its gentle yet efficacious formulation, according to Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, a board-certified dermatologist.

“Adapalene is a newer variant of a retinoid in the least irritating category,” he explained. “Retinoids historically are amazing medications for acne and anti-aging, but if you overuse, you can dry your skin out and get a rash. Adapalene is not as irritating as most retinoids, so patients can use this more frequently.”

It's so gentle, Levin adds, "It can be used day or at night."

Like all good things, this gel’s anti-aging magic doesn’t happen overnight. These dermatologists agree that Differin’s benefits really begin to show after 90 days of use.

Tareen recommends using the gel at night once or twice a week at first, then slowly building up to more frequent use over a few weeks. The reason being that retinoids can severely dry out your skin!

If your skin is already on the dry side, she recommends using the “sandwich technique": Use a light moisturizer first and wait a few minutes for it to absorb into your skin before you apply Differin. (Tareen says anything from CeraVe or Cetaphil will work for this.) Then, apply the product and another layer of moisturizer after. It might not be edible, but this kind of sandwich is sure to be an excellent anti-aging treat for your skin.

CeraVe Body and Face Moisturizing Cream

Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion