Epiduo (Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide) - Topical

What Is Epiduo?

Epiduo (adapalene and benzoyl peroxide) is a prescription gel used to treat acne.

It is a combination medication containing two acne-fighting agents: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. Adapalene belongs to a group of drugs called topical retinoids. It works by healing acne blemishes, preventing new breakouts, and decreasing inflammation. Benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial properties and helps fight off bacteria that contribute to acne symptoms.

Epiduo is a topical treatment. It comes in a gel that is applied to the skin.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Adapalene and benzoyl peroxide

Brand Name(s): Epiduo, Epiduo Forte

Administration Route(s): Topical

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Retinoid

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Adapalene and benzoyl peroxide

Dosage Form(s): Gel/jelly

What Is Epiduo Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epiduo to treat acne in adults and children aged 9 years and older.

Epiduo ( Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide ) Drug Information - Illustration by Dennis Madamba

Verywell / Dennis Madamba

How to Use Epiduo

Following the prescribing instructions, apply a thin layer of Epiduo gel to affected areas of the skin once per day. You should only apply Epiduo to the skin—never to the eyes, mouth, or vagina.

It may be tempting to apply extra Epiduo or to apply it more than once per day—especially if you’re anxious to get your acne under control. But in this case, more is not better. Applying extra Epiduo won’t make it work any faster and can increase your chance of developing irritation.

Follow these steps for applying Epiduo safely and effectively:

  1. Wash the area where you will use Epiduo with a mild cleanser and pat dry. 
  2. Apply a thin film of the gel, using only enough to cover the area. Use a pea-sized amount for each face area (such as the forehead, chin, or each cheek).
  3. Avoid getting Epiduo on the lips, eyes, or mucous membranes. 
  4. Epiduo can bleach your clothes or hair, so allow the product to dry completely before getting dressed.

Storage

Store Epiduo in its original container at room temperature, away from direct light or heat. As with all your medications, keep Epiduo in a safe location, up and out of sight from children or pets.

How Long Does Epiduo Take to Work?

In clinical trials, some people began to see improvement in their acne after just one week of treatment, but the best results occurred after using Epiduo for 12 weeks. Dermatologists often recommend continued treatment to maintain the anti-acne effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Epiduo?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Side effects from Epiduo often occur during the first month of treatment but typically go away on their own.

Common side effects at the application site include:

  • Drying  
  • Redness 
  • Scaling 
  • Stinging or burning 
  • Swelling 

Be sure to let your healthcare provider know if these side effects continue after one month of treatment or if they get worse.

Severe Side Effects

Severe reactions to Epiduo are uncommon, but all drugs have risks. Serious allergic reactions to products containing benzoyl peroxide (like Epiduo) have been reported and can cause the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Feeling faint
  • Hives or itching 
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Throat tightness

Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience any severe reaction. If you feel your symptoms are life-threatening, call 911.

Report Side Effects

Epiduo may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much of Epiduo Should I Use?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For topical dosage form (gel):
    • For acne:
      • Epiduo®:
        • Adults and children 9 years of age and older—Apply a thin layer to the affected area(s) of the skin once a day.
        • Children younger than 9 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
      • Epiduo® Forte:
        • Adults and children 12 years of age and older—Apply a thin layer to the affected area(s) of the skin once a day.
        • Children younger than 12 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

Topical retinoids—like adapalene in Epiduo—are not typically recommended during pregnancy. Let your healthcare provider know if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant before starting Epiduo.  

Missed Dose

If you forget to apply Epiduo, use it as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it’s almost time for your next dose. Don’t apply extra or use the gel more than once per day. This can increase your risk of developing skin irritation and won’t make Epiduo work any better.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Epiduo?

Epiduo gel is a topical medication, meaning it should only be applied to the skin. Never swallow Epiduo gel or use the product in your eyes or vagina.

What Happens If I Overdose on Epiduo?

If you or someone else swallows Epiduo, contact your healthcare provider or the Poison Control center (800-222-1222).

If you are experiencing symptoms that feel life-threatening, call 911.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to use it.

This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, wind, and cold weather. Use a sunscreen when you are outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. You may need to wear protective clothing, such as a hat.

Skin reactions such as dryness, redness, scaling, burning, or stinging can occur when you use this medicine. Use a moisturizer as needed to lessen these skin problems.

Do not use any other medicines on the treated skin areas without asking your doctor. Avoid using any skin care products that can dry or irritate your skin. These include rough skin cleansers, hair removal products, soaps or cosmetics that cause dryness, or products that contain alcohol, astringents, spices, or lime.

Do not use "waxing" as a hair removal method on skin areas treated with this medicine.

Allow this medicine to dry completely before getting dressed. This medicine may cause bleaching of clothes or hair. I

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Epiduo?

You should not take Epiduo if you are allergic to adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, or any other ingredient in the gel. Let your healthcare provider know about any reactions you’ve had to acne products in the past.

What Other Medications Interact With Epiduo?

Always check with your healthcare provider before using any other topical acne product with Epiduo. Using other topical acne products at the same time as Epiduo can increase irritation and should generally be avoided. Watch out for products that contain sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid, and avoid harsh soaps, toners, or astringents (such as witch hazel).

What Medications Are Similar?

Dermatologists commonly prescribe topical retinoids (like adapalene in Epiduo) to treat acne alone or with other medications. Deciding on a topical retinoid depends on several factors, including cost, side effects, and your preference for formulation (such as a gel, cream, or lotion). Some people tolerate adapalene better than other topical retinoids and like the gel more because it dries clear, without pesky residue.

But Epiduo will likely cost you more than buying the individual drugs separately—though many people find the convenience of having two medications in one product worth the price.

Other topical retinoids include:

  • Differin (adapalene)
  • Arazlo, Fabior, Tazorac (tazarotene)
  • Altreno, Atralin, Avita, Retin-A (tretinoin)
  • Veltin, Ziana (tretinoin and clindamycin)
  • Aklief (trifarotene)

This is a list of topical retinoids also prescribed for acne. It is NOT a list of drugs recommended to take with Epiduo. In fact, you should not take these drugs together. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Epiduo used for?

    Epiduo is used to treat acne in adults and children aged 9 years and older. 

  • How does Epiduo work?

    Epiduo has the benefit of combining two acne-fighting medications into one product. The active ingredients in Epiduo—adapalene and benzoyl peroxide—work together to heal current blemishes, prevent future breakouts, reduce inflammation, and kill acne-causing bacteria that live on your skin.

  • What drugs should not be taken with Epiduo?

    Using other topical acne medications with Epiduo can increase side effects and should generally be avoided. Look out for products that contain sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid since these ingredients can worsen skin irritation. Ask your healthcare provider before starting any new acne product with Epiduo.

  • How long does it take for Epiduo to work?

    Some people will start to see improvements in their acne symptoms within one week, but you’ll need to continue treatment for at least 12 weeks to get the best results.

  • What are the side effects of Epiduo?

    Common side effects include redness, drying, swelling, scaling, stinging, or burning at the application site. These side effects typically go away on their own after four weeks. Let your healthcare provider know if they don’t go away or get worse.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Epiduo?

Epiduo may cause you to get sunburned more easily. Avoid sun, sunlamps and tanning beds while you're using Epiduo. Use sunscreen, and wear clothing that protects you from the sun, as well as a hat, if possible.

If you’re living with acne, you know the effects are not only physical. Acne can lower your self-esteem and leave you feeling embarrassed, depressed, or anxious. Fortunately, several effective treatment options are available, and Epiduo may be a good choice for you. Talk to your dermatologist about your symptoms. Together, you will develop a treatment plan to get you looking and feeling your best.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-973.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Epiduo label.

  3. Thiboutot DM, Weiss J, Bucko A, et al. Adapalene-benzoyl peroxide, a fixed-dose combination for the treatment of acne vulgaris: results of a multicenter, randomized double-blind, controlled study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57(5):791-799. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2007.06.006

  4. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns of rare but serious hypersensitivity reactions with certain over-the-counter topical acne products.

  5. Chien AL, Qi J, Rainer B, Sachs DL, Helfrich YR. Treatment of acne in pregnancy. J Am Board Fam Med. 2016;29(2):254-262. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2016.02.150165

  6. DailyMed. Epiduo.

By Christina Varvatsis, PharmD
Christina Varvatsis is a hospital pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She is passionate about helping individuals make informed healthcare choices by understanding the benefits and risks of their treatment options.