Treating Acne with Epiduo Gel / Epiduo Forte Gel

Acne treatment medication in tube.
Photo: Pascal Broze / Getty Images

Epiduo Gel and Epiduo Forte Gel is a topical acne treatment that's used to treat mild to moderate acne. This treatment is actually a combination of two different acne medications: adapalene (better known by the brand name Differin) 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%.

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

You can only get Epiduo with a prescription. As of yet, there is no generic version available, however the active ingredients in Epiduo can be bought separately in over-the-counter products.

How Epiduo/Epiduo Forte Works

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

First, you have adapalene. Adapalene works as a comedolytic. This means it causes your skin to shed cells more effectively. Adapalene helps dead skin cells slough off, keeping your pores from becoming blocked. This helps prevents future blemishes from forming.

Benzoyl peroxide works in a different way. Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial. It fights the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts.

Epiduo also helps tone down inflammation. This is especially good news if you tend to get red, inflamed pimples.

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.

How to Use Epiduo/Epiduo Forte

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.  This way, it can help stop those breakouts before they can even form. Epiduo works on the face, and can also be used to treat body breakouts.

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

Possible Side Effects of Epiduo/Epiduo Forte

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.

The FDA lists Epiduo as Pregnancy Category C. Epiduo use hasn't been studied in pregnant women. There are better acne treatment options for pregnant moms.

Tips for Using Epiduo/Epiduo Forte

This medication can cause photosensitivity, so wearing sunscreen is key.

Also, stay out of tanning beds and booths (a 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.

Stay away from harsh or drying skin care products. This can include scrubs, alcohol-based toners, and other OTC acne treatment products unless your doc gives you the OK.

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 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.


Dressler C, Rosumeck S, Nast A. "How Much Do We Know About Maintaining Treatment Response After Successful Acne Therapy? Systematic Review on the Efficacy and Safety of Acne Maintenance Therapy." Dermatology. 2016; 232(3): 371-380.

Galderma Laboratories LP.  “Epiduo (Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide) Gel Prescribing Information.” [Package insert].  Fort Worth, TX.  2013 Jan.

Leyden J. "Recent Advances in the Use of Adapalene 0.1%/Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% to Treat Patients with Moderate to Severe Acne." Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2016; 27(1): S4-S14.