Acne that is traditionally treated with active ingredients such as salicylic acid may now be treatable over-the-counter (OTC) with the help of retinoids for the first time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally approved Differin Gel 0.1% (adapalene) as an over-the-counter solution to acne for people 12 and older.
Differin 0.1% Prescription Gel
How Do Retinoids Fight Acne?
Retinoids are compounds that are chemically related to vitamin A. They help regulate the growth of epithelial cells, which are the cells that line organs and glands within the body and comprise our largest organ, skin. Mature and maturing skin that is bombarded by sebum, keratin, inflammatory lipids, and bacteria may not be getting enough retinoids to fight back against acne vulgaris.
Retinoids like Differin prepare the skin to fight against acne. They make an effective first-line defense against the many factors that cause visible acne. Other common retinoids include: Retin-A and Tretinoin. Products like Differin help soften the outer layer of skin and allow keratin to shed rather than clog pores in acne-prone areas.
Once the retinoids have eliminated some of the major acne-causing factors, physicians advise combining them with a gentle antibacterial wash. Acne-causing bacteria that remains even in retinoid-treated skin may continue to cause acne flare-ups, so medicine use in combination is advised. Once most of the microbes are gone, often after the first few months, it is most effective to discontinue antimicrobial treatment.
Why Is Differin Now Over-the-Counter?
Previously, Differin was used at a higher concentration for better absorption, and as a prescription medication, it could be monitored closely by physicians. Without expansive testing, medical professionals were unable to attest to the safety of everyday use of Differin as an OTC medication.
Low absorption is usually a prerequisite of allowing OTC consumption of medications, as it greatly reduces the risk of side effects and overdose. It has also been recorded that use of Differin causes an exacerbation rather than remission of acne in the first few weeks of treatment. The effect lasts only until Differin has taken full effect, after which acne pustules quickly fade.
Use of Differin also increases the risks associated with overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. An increased risk of sunburn and consequent permanent skin damage kept Differin under tight control until recently.
However, Differin received FDA approval after 5 clinical trials determined that absorption was low enough to allow Differin to be sold at 0.3% strength. The approval means that there is a new ingredient available for widespread OTC treatment of acne, which has not happened since the 1980s.
What Does This Mean For Acne Treatment in the Future?
With greater access to effective combinations of over-the-counter acne medications, public use and testimonial may help garner interest and research money for further research into viable acne treatments. Researchers will also have an easier time getting approval and funds to improve the ways in which acne is treated now, which could lead to even broader OTC access to prescription acne treatments.