Treating Acne With Epiduo Gel

Uses, Tips, and Potential Side Effects

Epiduo Gel and Epiduo Forte Gel are topical acne treatments that are used to treat mild to moderate acne. Each formulation is actually a combination of two different acne medications: Differin (adapalene) and benzoyl peroxide.

These two formulations contain the same active ingredients, with different concentrations. The original Epiduo Gel contains 0.1% adapalene, while Epiduo Forte contains a higher concentration of adapalene at 0.3%. Both gels contain the same percentage of benzoyl peroxide at 2.5%.

You can only get Epiduo with a prescription. In August 2017, the first generic formulation of Epiduo was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Epiduo can be used by teens, younger tweens, and adults with acne. It works to treat both inflammatory acne as well as comedonal acne.

Smiling woman applying face cream to cheek
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How Epiduo Works

Epiduo works to treat acne in several ways, thanks to its two acne-fighting ingredients.


Adapalene is a retinoid drug that works as a comedolytic, meaning that it inhibits the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). By sloughing dead skin cells, adapalene helps clear pore blockage and prevent future breakouts.

Studies have shown that adapalene significantly decreases the size and number of comedones, in part by tempering inflammation in skin cells called keratinocytes.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide acts as an antimicrobial, neutralizing bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. A 2015 review of studies in the Archives of Dermatological Research reported that benzoyl peroxide reduced the number of acne lesions by an average of 44.3%, while complete clearance was seen in 15.2% to 28.6% of users.

Since Epiduo works on many of the factors that cause acne, it is an effective treatment for non-inflamed whiteheads and blackheads as well as inflamed pimples. Furthermore, it has been shown to reduce scarring from acne.

Epiduo isn't the only medication that contains adapalene or benzoyl peroxide. In fact, you can get each of these medications on its own. The bonus of using a combination acne medication like Epiduo is that it streamlines your acne treatment routine—one application and you're done.

Applying Epiduo

With Epiduo, you apply a pea-sized amount of the gel (about one pump from the bottle) over clean, dry skin once a day. You'll need to apply it over all of the areas where acne is a problem, not just on individual pimples. By doing it this way, you may be able to stop breakouts before they occur.

Epiduo works on the face but can also be used to treat breakouts on the back, neck, or other parts of the body.

Side Effects and Warnings

Epiduo gel can cause some side effects. Your dermatologist will give you a rundown of what to look out for, but these are the most common:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Flaking
  • Stinging or burning

The side effects are typically at their worst during the first few weeks of treatment. After your skin adjusts to the medication, side effects usually diminish. Of course, tell your healthcare provider if side effects are persistent, bothersome, or severe.

In addition to these side effects, Epiduo may cause your acne to flare up for the first few weeks of treatment. This is known as "skin purging" and is caused by pimples that formed under the skin prior to treatment coming to the surface. As you continue to use it, your acne will begin to improve.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

It's unclear if Epiduo is safe to take during pregnancy, as there are no well-controlled studies of Epiduo in people who are pregnant. It is also not known whether Epiduo is passed from mother to baby while breastfeeding. The potential benefits may outweigh the risks, but speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether Epiduo is the right choice for you if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Useful Tips

If you've been prescribed this medication to treat your acne, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you're getting the best possible results from your medication:

  • The ingredients in Epiduo can cause photosensitivity, so wearing sunscreen is key. Also, stay out of tanning beds and booths (which is a good practice for everyone).
  • Don't have a waxing treatment done on any areas where you're using Epiduo or any other topical retinoid for that matter. It could cause serious skin irritation.
  • Avoid harsh or drying skincare products. This can include scrubs, alcohol-based toners, and other over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatment products unless your healthcare provider gives you the OK. Using too many acne treatment products at once can over-dry and irritate your skin, and it won't clear your acne up any faster.
  • Use your medication consistently and exactly as recommended. Consistency is key when it comes to treating acne. Try not to skip days.
  • If your skin is uncomfortably dry, use an oil-free, fragrance-free moisturizer every day. Apply Epiduo first, let it absorb for about 20 minutes, and then layer the moisturizer over the top. (You can also ask your dermatologist how to incorporate a moisturizer into your treatment regimen.)
  • Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and towels, but it won't bleach skin, so try not to get it on fabric that you don't want to be discolored.

If you have any questions about your acne treatment, don't be shy. Ask your dermatologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does Epiduo take to work? 

It may take eight to 12 weeks or longer of using Epiduo before you see improvement in your acne.

How much does Epiduo cost?

The average cost of a 45-gram pump bottle of Epiduo is approximately $440. if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are not covered by insurance, many pharmacies and online prescription delivery services offer discount cards that can be used to allay the high cost.

Will my acne get worse with Epiduo? 

Possibly, but only during the first few weeks of treatment. Pimples that formed under the skin prior to treatment may come to the surface once you start using Epiduo. This is known as "skin purging." As you continue to use it, you will start to see an improvement in your acne.

A Word From Verywell

Your dermatologist can tell you if Epiduo or Epiduo Forte is a good treatment choice for your acne. If it's not, don't worry. With so many acne treatment options available, there's one out there that is a perfect fit for you. The most important thing is to call your dermatologist and set up that first dermatology appointment.

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5 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. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA listing of authorized generics as of September 30, 2019.

  2. Zuliani T, Khammari A, Chaussy H, Knol AC, Dréno B. Ex vivo demonstration of a synergistic effect of adapalene and benzoyl peroxide on inflammatory acne lesions. Exp Dermatol. 2011;20(10):850-3. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2011.01339.x

  3. Lamel SA, Sivamani RK, Rahvar M, Maibach HI. Evaluating clinical trial design: systematic review of randomized vehicle-controlled trials for determining efficacy of benzoyl peroxide topical therapy for acne. Arch Dermatol Res. 2015;307(9):757-66. doi:10.1007/s00403-015-1568-9

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Epiduo Forte.

  5. MedlinePlus. Adapalene.