Treating Acne With Epiduo Gel

Two-in-one formulation helps treat and prevent breakouts

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.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain the same active ingredients, just in differing amounts. The original Epiduo Gel contains 0.1% adapalene, while Epiduo Forte contains higher strength adapalene at 0.3%. Both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte 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 U.S. 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
Caiaimage/Chris Ryan / Getty Images

How Epiduo Works

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

Adapalene 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 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 reduces 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 hits many of the factors that cause acne, it is an effective treatment for non-inflamed whiteheads and blackheads as well as inflamed pimples.

Epiduo isn't the only medication that contains adapalene or benzoyl peroxide. In fact, you can get each of these medications on their 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.

How to Use

You'll 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. In 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

Luckily, 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 doctor if side effects are making you very uncomfortable, or seem really severe.

Epiduo is classified as a Pregnancy Category C, meaning that there are no well-controlled studies in people who are pregnant. The potential benefits may outweigh the risks, but speak with your doctor to determine whether Epiduo is the right choice for you.

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 (good practice for everyone, really).
  • Don't have a waxing treatment done on any areas 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 doctor 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 skin up any faster.
  • Use your medication consistently, 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 layer the moisturizer over the top. (You can also ask your dermatologist how he would like you to incorporate a moisturizer into your treatment regimen.)

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

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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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA listing of authorized generics as of September 30, 2019. 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 (adapalene and benzoyl peroxide) gel 0.1%/2.5% for topical use. Updated January 2013.