Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are brand-name prescription drugs. They’re FDA-approved to treat acne in adults and children.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte both contain two active drugs: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. Adapalene belongs to a group of drugs called retinoids. (Retinoids are a form of vitamin A.) Benzoyl peroxide belongs to a group of drugs called anti-acne agents. Adapalene and benzoyl peroxide work together to treat acne and help prevent new breakouts.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte both come as a gel that’s used on areas of skin with acne. You’ll apply a thin layer of either drug once daily to affected areas of skin after you’ve washed them.

Epiduo vs. Epiduo Forte

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne. Epiduo is approved for use in people ages 9 years and older. Epiduo Forte, on the other hand, is approved for use in people ages 12 years and older.

Both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain the same active drugs. And they each contain the same strength of benzoyl peroxide. However, they contain different strengths of adapalene. Strengths of these active drugs in Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are as follows:

  • Epiduo contains 0.1% adapalene and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.
  • Epiduo Forte contains 0.3% adapalene and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.

This article will discuss both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. Read on to learn about side effects, uses, and more.

How well do Epiduo and Epiduo Forte work?

In clinical studies, both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte were effective in treating acne. To learn about the effectiveness of these drugs, see the “Epiduo and Epiduo Forte for acne” section below.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte each contain two active drugs: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide.

Epiduo is available as a generic gel that contains adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. (A generic drug is an exact copy of active drugs in a brand-name medication.)

Epiduo Forte is available only as a brand-name medication. It’s not currently available in generic form.

Generics are considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne. But during the first few weeks of treatment, they may actually worsen your acne. This occurrence is called skin purging, and it can occur with many acne treatments.

During skin purging, your skin quickly gets rid of dead skin cells, oil, and other substances that cause acne. As your skin cells shed and these substances come to the surface of your skin, new acne breakouts may occur. Breakouts caused by purging typically resolve within the first few weeks of starting treatment with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte.

Clinical studies haven’t shown that either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte specifically cause skin purging. However, both of these medications contain the active drug adapalene. And skin purging has occurred in clinical studies of other medications that contain adapalene.

If you’re concerned about having worsened acne with either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They may be able to suggest ways to help reduce this possible effect.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to deal with any side effects that may be bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to report to the FDA a side effect you’ve had with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can include:*

  • dry skin
  • rash
  • eczema (a condition that causes cracked, itchy, and red skin)
  • skin discoloration

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit the prescribing information for both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.
† This mild side effect is discussed in more detail below in “Side effect details.”

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Epiduo and Epiduo Forte aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can include:

  • skin sensitivity to the sun*
  • swelling in treated areas
  • allergic reaction
  • burning skin
  • peeling skin
  • erythema (redness of your skin)

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Common questions about Epiduo and Epiduo Forte” section below.
† These serious side effects are discussed in more detail below in “Side effect details.”

Side effects in children

Both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are approved to treat acne. Epiduo can be used in children ages 9 years and older, while Epiduo Forte can be used in children ages 12 years and older.

The side effects of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte seen in children are similar to those seen in adults. For more information, see the lists above in “Mild side effects” and “Serious side effects.”

Side effect details

You may wonder how often certain side effects occur with this drug, or whether certain side effects pertain to it. Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may or may not cause.

Purging

With skin purging, your skin quickly gets rid of dead skin cells, oil, and other substances that cause acne. This process may cause acne breakouts in some people.

Skin purging wasn’t reported as a side effect in clinical studies of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. However, it has been seen with other medications that contain the same active drug as these medications contain.

For more information about skin purging, see the “Do Epiduo and Epiduo Forte cause skin purging?” section above.

Burning

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can each make your skin sting or burn. Sometimes, this type of reaction can be similar to a chemical burn. Typically, symptoms caused by Epiduo or Epiduo Forte include painful, reddened skin.

Burning is typically worse during the first 4 weeks of treatment with either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. But this side effect should become less bothersome as you continue using either drug.

If you have skin burning that doesn’t go away after a few weeks of treatment with these medications, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ways to help reduce your discomfort.

How common is skin burning with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte?

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte have each been studied in adults and children ages 12 years and older. In these studies, 1% to 2% of people had skin burning after their acne was treated with either of these drugs. (This percentage range varied depending on which drug was being used.) Studies of Epiduo in children ages 9 to 11 years showed similar results.

In comparison, less than 1% of people had skin burning when their acne was treated with a placebo gel. (A placebo gel contains no active drug.)

In these clinical studies, people’s skin burning was at its worst during the first week of treatment. When it was at its worst:

  • 41% of people had mild skin burning
  • 15% to 19% of people had moderate skin burning
  • 3% to 6% of people had severe skin burning

People’s skin burning lessened over time during the 12 weeks of treatment. At the end of treatment with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte:

  • 7% of people had mild skin burning
  • 1% to 2% of people had moderate skin burning
  • 1% of people had severe skin burning

In comparison, of people who used the placebo gel:

  • 3% had moderate skin burning when this side effect was at its worst
  • 1% had severe skin burning when this side effect was at its worst
  • 0% had moderate or severe skin burning at the end of the 12 weeks of treatment

Peeling skin

It’s possible to have peeling skin (scaling skin) while you’re using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte.

Applying these drugs to the skin around your eyes may cause flaky skin or dry skin in the area. But you should avoid applying Epiduo or Epiduo Forte to the skin around your eyes. If these drugs do come in contact with the skin around your eyes, rinse the area with water. This may help lessen your chances of having dryness or flaking.

If you have bothersome skin peeling with these drugs, talk with your doctor. They may suggest ways to help lessen this side effect. For example, using an oil-free or noncomedogenic moisturizer may help with skin peeling. (Noncomedogenic moisturizers are less likely to clog your pores and cause breakouts.)

How common is peeling skin with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte?

It’s not known how many adults and children ages 12 years and older had peeling skin in clinical studies of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

But of people who did have peeling skin while using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, this side effect was at its worst during the first week of use. When peeling skin was at its worst:

  • 35% of people had only mild peeling
  • 11% to 17%* of people had moderate peeling
  • 1% of people had severe peeling

* This percentage range varied depending on the drug being studied.

Peeling skin lessened over time during the 12 weeks of treatment. At the end of 12 weeks of treatment with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte:

  • 9% of people had mild peeling
  • 1% of people had moderate peeling
  • less than 1% of people had severe peeling

In these studies, of people who used a placebo gel (gel with no active drug):

  • 6% had moderate peeling when this side effect was at its worst
  • 1% had moderate peeling at the end of 12 weeks of treatment
  • no one had severe peeling when this side effect was at its worst or at the end of 12 weeks of treatment

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. But it’s not known for sure how many people have had an allergic reaction to these drugs.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth and redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have a severe allergic reaction to Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. But call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Redness

Erythema (skin redness) is a common side effect of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. It typically occurs over the first several weeks after you start treatment with either medication. But this side effect should lessen as you continue using either drug.

If you have skin redness that doesn’t go away after a few weeks of treatment with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ways to help reduce this side effect.

How common is skin redness with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte?

It’s not known how many adults and children ages 12 years and older had skin redness in clinical studies of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

Of those who had skin redness while using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, this side effect was at its worst during the first week of treatment. When skin redness was at its worst:

  • 27% of people had only mild redness
  • 13% to 20%* of people had moderate redness
  • 1% of people had severe redness

* This percentage range varied depending on the drug being studied.

People’s skin redness lessened over time during the 12 weeks of treatment. At the end of 12 weeks of treatment with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte:

  • 8% of people had only mild redness
  • 2% to 4%* of people had moderate redness
  • 1% of people had severe redness

* This percentage range varied depending on the drug being studied.

In these studies, of people who used a placebo gel (gel with no active drug):

  • 6% had moderate redness when this side effect was at its worst
  • 1% had moderate redness at the end of 12 weeks of treatment
  • 1% had severe redness when this side effect was at its worst
  • no one had severe redness at the end of 12 weeks of treatment

Rash

Some people using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte may develop a skin rash. But it’s not known how often people had a rash in clinical studies of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

If you have a skin rash while you’re using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor right away. They may want to make sure your rash isn’t related to an allergic reaction. In addition, your doctor may be able to suggest ways to help clear up the rash.

Eczema

It’s possible that Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may cause eczema. With eczema, you have areas of the skin that are cracked, itchy, and red.

In clinical studies of Epiduo Forte, 1% of people developed eczema while using the drug. In comparison, no one using a placebo gel (gel with no active drug) developed eczema. It’s not known how often people had eczema in clinical studies of Epiduo.

If you have eczema while you’re using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They may recommend ways to treat or reduce your eczema. For example, using an oil-free and noncomedogenic moisturizer may help to reduce symptoms of eczema. (Noncomedogenic moisturizers are less likely to clog your pores and cause breakouts.)

In addition, it may be helpful to use gentle skin care products that don’t irritate your skin with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Epiduo and Epiduo Forte to treat certain conditions.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte for cystic acne, hormonal acne, and others

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are FDA-approved to treat acne in adults and children. Specifically, Epiduo is approved for this use in children ages 9 years and older. And Epiduo Forte is approved for this use in children ages 12 years and older.

Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. Symptoms of acne can include having the following types of skin lesions:

Acne occurs when pores in your skin are clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria. When your skin produces sebum (oil), dead skin cells may stick together inside your pores. Bacteria may also become trapped inside skin pores. Both of these situations can clog your pores, leading to red and swollen spots on your skin called pimples.

Acne may occur on many locations on your body, including your:

  • arms
  • back
  • buttocks
  • chest
  • face
  • neck
  • shoulders

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain two active drugs: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. These two active drugs work together to treat acne and help prevent new breakouts.

Effectiveness for acne

In clinical studies, both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte were effective in treating acne. Below, we describe results from these studies.

Effectiveness of Epiduo for acne

In clinical studies of adults and children with acne, Epiduo was compared with the following products:

  • gel that contained only adapalene 0.1%
  • gel that contained only benzoyl peroxide 2.5%
  • placebo gel that didn’t contain any active drug

After 12 weeks of treatment with Epiduo:

  • 21.5% to 47.2% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
  • people had a 36% to 53.4% reduction in inflammatory acne (a type of acne with red, swollen blemishes)
  • people had a 45.9% to 54.7% reduction in noninflammatory acne (a type of acne with blemishes that aren’t swollen or painful)

In comparison, after 12 weeks of treatment with the other products, the following results were seen.

  • After treatment with gel that contained only adapalene 0.1%:
    • 12.2% to 19.8% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
    • people had a 39.9% to 41.7% reduction in inflammatory acne
    • people had a 29.6% to 40.8% reduction in noninflammatory acne
  • After treatment with gel that contained only benzoyl peroxide 2.5%:
    • 12.1% to 22.2% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
    • people had a 35.8% to 47.6% reduction in inflammatory acne
    • people had a 32.2% to 37.2% reduction in noninflammatory acne
  • After treatment with the placebo gel:
    • 5.6% to 15.4% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
    • some people had a 13.2% worsening in inflammatory acne, while other people had up to 31.8% reduction in inflammatory acne
    • people had a 2.3% to 27.8% reduction in noninflammatory acne

Effectiveness of Epiduo Forte for acne

In clinical studies of adults and children with acne, Epiduo Forte was compared with the following products:

  • gel that contained both adapalene 0.1% (a lower strength than that contained in Epiduo Forte) and benzoyl peroxide 2.5% (the same strength that’s contained in Epiduo Forte)
  • placebo gel that didn’t contain any active drug

After 12 weeks of treatment with Epiduo Forte:

  • 33.7% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
  • people had a 68.7% reduction in inflammatory acne (a type of acne with red, swollen blemishes)
  • people had a 68.3% reduction in noninflammatory acne (a type of acne with blemishes that are not swollen or painful)

In comparison, after 12 weeks of treatment with the other products tested, the following results were seen.

  • After treatment with gel that contained a different strength of adapalene and the same strength of benzoyl peroxide:
    • 27.3% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
    • people had a 69.3% reduction in inflammatory acne
    • people had a 68% reduction in noninflammatory acne
  • After treatment with the placebo gel:
    • 11% of people had their acne improve and be either clear or almost clear
    • people had a 39.2% reduction in inflammatory acne
    • people had a 37.4% reduction in noninflammatory acne

Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and children

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne in children and adults. Specifically, Epiduo is approved for this use in children ages 9 years and older. And Epiduo Forte is approved for use in children ages 12 years and older.

In clinical studies, these medications were effective when used in children with acne. For information about the effectiveness of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte in children, see the “Effectiveness for acne” section above.

if you’re interested in having your child use Epiduo or Epiduo Forte for acne treatment, talk with your child’s doctor. They can recommend appropriate treatment options.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Epiduo and Epiduo Forte to treat certain conditions. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are FDA-approved to treat acne in adults and children. And you may wonder if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are used for certain other conditions.

Below, we describe another possible use for Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte for acne scars (under study)

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte aren’t approved to prevent or treat acne scars. But these medications have been studied for this purpose.

One clinical study found that Epiduo was effective in reducing the risk of new acne scars in people using the drug. Another clinical study found that Epiduo Forte was effective in:

  • reducing the risk of new acne scars
  • improving the appearance of existing acne scars

More research is needed to know the role of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte in preventing and treating acne scars. If you’d like to know more about using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte for acne scars, talk with your doctor.

In clinical studies, both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte were effective in treating acne. However, some people who use Epiduo may have brown spots or skin redness after their acne clears.

If you’d like to see before and after pictures of results you may expect with Epiduo Forte, visit the manufacturer’s site. And to view pictures of results seen with Epiduo, check out this study.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne in adults and children. These drugs may be used with other facial products as part of an acne skin care routine. In addition, Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can each be used before you apply makeup to your skin.

Below, we describe other facial products that may be used with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

How to treat dry skin that’s caused by Epiduo or Epiduo Forte

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may cause dry or irritated skin. To help reduce this side effect, try using a face wash or cleanser that’s gentle on your skin and won’t worsen skin irritation. Examples of such products include Cetaphil.

In addition, try to avoid using skin care products that will dry or irritate your skin. Products that contain alcohol, lime, or spices may be too harsh on your skin when used in combination with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. On the other hand, products that contain vitamin C may help to reduce some skin inflammation.

Using a moisturizer with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte

Using a moisturizer with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte can help lessen dry, irritated skin.

But if you have acne, it’s important to use a moisturizer that won’t cause acne breakouts. Moisturizers described as “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic” are less likely to clog your pores and cause acne.

If you have questions about using a certain moisturizer with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a specific moisturizer that would be best for you.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

Do Epiduo and Epiduo Forte increase the risk of sunburn?

Yes, both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can increase your risk of sunburn. If possible, while you’re using either of these drugs, avoid sunlight, sunlamps, and tanning beds.

If you can’t avoid sunlight, you should use a noncomedogenic sunscreen (sunscreen that is less likely to clog your pores and cause acne). You should also wear protective clothing to cover areas of your body where you apply Epiduo or Epiduo Forte.

If you have concerns about your risk of sunburn while using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They can help advise you on how to avoid sunburn.

Are Epiduo and Epiduo Forte safe for sensitive skin?

Maybe. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may cause severe skin irritation.

If you have sensitive skin, talk with your doctor before using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. Your doctor may recommend a different acne treatment option for you.

Are Epiduo and Epiduo Forte used to prevent or reduce wrinkles?

While Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may prevent or reduce wrinkles, they aren’t approved for this use. So using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte for this purpose would be an off-label use. (With off-label use, a drug that’s approved for certain uses is used for other conditions.)

Adapalene, one of the active drugs in Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, belongs to a group of drugs called retinoids. Retinoids are a form of vitamin A. And they’re often used to reduce wrinkles.

Other products made with adapalene are sometimes used to reduce wrinkles. Examples of these products include Differin and Differin OTC.

If you’re interested in using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte to prevent or reduce wrinkles, talk with your doctor. They can recommend appropriate options for your condition.

Are Epiduo and Epiduo Forte retinoids?

Yes, both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain a type of retinoid called adapalene. (Retinoids are a form of vitamin A.)

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte also contain a drug called benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide isn’t a retinoid. Instead, it’s an anti-acne agent.

Adapalene and benzoyl peroxide work together to treat acne and help prevent new breakouts.

What will happen to my acne if I stop using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte?

If you stop using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte before you’re instructed to do so, your acne may come back.

To help avoid this, you should keep using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte according to your doctor’s instructions. If your doctor advises that long-term use of either drug is OK for you, it’s important to continue using the drug even if your acne clears up.

Other drugs are available that can treat acne. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed below are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label use is when a drug that’s approved to treat one condition is used to treat a different condition.

Examples of prescription drugs used topically (applied to your skin) to treat acne include:

  • adapalene (Differin)
  • azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea)
  • benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin (Onexton)
  • benzoyl peroxide/erythromycin (Benzamycin)
  • clindamycin topical (Cleocin, Clindagel)
  • dapsone (Aczone)
  • erythromycin topical (Erygel)
  • minocycline topical (Amzeeq)
  • salicylic acid (Bensal HP)
  • sulfacetamide topical (Klaron)
  • sulfur/sulfacetamide (SulfaCleanse 8/4)
  • tazarotene (Arazlo, Tazorac)
  • tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A)
  • tretinoin/clindamycin (Veltin, Ziana)

Examples of prescription drugs taken by mouth that may be used to treat acne include:

Examples of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that may be used to treat acne include:

  • adapalene (Differin OTC)
  • benzoyl peroxide (CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser, PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash, Proactiv products)
  • Curology products
  • salicylic acid (Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, and others)
  • vitamin B3 (niacinamide)

You may wonder how Epiduo and Epiduo Forte compare with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin are alike and different.

Ingredients

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte each contain two active drugs: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. Differin, on the other hand, contains only the active drug adapalene.

Uses

Both Epiduo Forte and Differin are approved to treat acne in adults and children ages 12 years and older. However, Epiduo is approved for this use in adults and children ages 9 years and older.

Drug forms and administration

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte come as a gel. Differin comes as a cream, lotion, and gel. While these forms of Differin may be prescribed by your doctor, Differin 0.1% gel is also available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product.

Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin are each used once daily. They should be applied in a thin layer to areas of your skin affected by acne.

Side effects and risks

Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin all contain adapalene. Therefore, these medications can cause very similar side effects, but some different ones as well. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

These lists contain up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, with Differin, or with all of these drugs (when used individually).

  • Can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte:
    • rash
    • eczema (cracked, itchy, and red skin)
  • Can occur with Differin:
    • itching
  • Can occur with Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin:
    • dry skin
    • skin discoloration

Serious side effects

These lists contain examples of serious side effects that can occur with Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, Differin, or with all the drugs (when used individually).

  • Can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte:
    • swelling in the treated area
  • Can occur with Differin:
    • no unique serious side effects
  • Can occur with Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin:
    • burning skin
    • erythema (redness of your skin)
    • peeling skin
    • skin sensitivity to the sun

Effectiveness

The only condition that Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin are all used to treat is acne.

These drugs haven’t been directly compared in clinical studies. But separate studies have found Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and Differin to be effective in treating acne.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, Epiduo and Epiduo Forte cost significantly more than Differin costs. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Epiduo Forte and Differin are both brand-name drugs. There are currently no generic forms of either drug. (A generic drug is an exact copy of active drugs in a brand-name medication.) Epiduo is available in a generic form called adapalene and benzoyl peroxide gel.

Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics.

Like Differin (discussed above), other medications are prescribed for similar uses as Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. Here we look at how Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin are alike and different.

Ingredients

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte each contain two active drugs: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. Tretinoin is an active drug that’s available as both generic and brand-name medications. (A generic drug is an exact copy of active drugs in a brand-name medication.)

Uses

Both Epiduo Forte and tretinoin are approved to treat acne in adults and children ages 12 years and older. However, Epiduo is approved for this use in children ages 9 years and older.

Drug forms and administration

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte come as a gel. Tretinoin comes as a cream and gel. Each of these medications are used once daily. They should be applied in a thin layer to areas of your skin affected by acne.

In addition, tretinoin comes as capsule that’s taken by mouth. But that form of the drug is approved to treat certain types of leukemia. (Leukemia is type of cancer that affects your blood cells.) Tretinoin capsules aren’t used for acne.

Side effects and risks

Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin all contain drugs used to treat acne. Therefore, these medications can cause very similar side effects, but some different ones as well. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

These lists contain up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, with Tretinoin, or with all of these drugs (when used individually).

  • Can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte:
    • dry skin
    • rash
    • eczema (cracked, itchy, and red skin)
  • Can occur with tretinoin:
    • no unique mild side effects
  • Can occur with Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin:
    • skin discoloration

Serious side effects

These lists contain examples of serious side effects that can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, with Tretinoin, or with all of these drugs (when used individually).

  • Can occur with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte:
    • burning skin
    • peeling skin
  • Can occur with tretinoin:
    • blistering skin
    • crusting skin
  • Can occur with Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin:
    • erythema (redness of your skin)
    • skin sensitivity to the sun
    • swelling in the treated area

Effectiveness

The only condition Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin are all used to treat is acne.

These drugs haven’t been directly compared in clinical studies. But separate studies have found Epiduo, Epiduo Forte, and tretinoin to be effective in treating acne.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, Epiduo and Epiduo Forte cost significantly more than tretinoin costs. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Epiduo Forte is a brand-name drug. There are currently no generic forms of this drug. (A generic drug is an exact copy of active drugs in a brand-name medication.) However, Epiduo and Tretinoin are available in generic forms.

Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics cost.

You should use Epiduo and Epiduo Forte according to your doctor’s or healthcare provider’s instructions. Your doctor will recommend the best way for you to use these medications.

Before applying Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, you should wash your skin with a gentle cleanser. Then pat your skin to dry and apply a thin layer of either medication to areas of your skin affected by acne. Don’t use Epiduo or Epiduo Forte on your eyes, lips, or the lining inside of your nose.

You should leave Epiduo or Epiduo Forte on your skin until either medication has been fully absorbed. You don’t need to rinse your skin after applying either of these drugs.

After using either drug on your skin, you can apply cosmetics or other skin products as usual unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Just be sure to let Epiduo or Epiduo Forte dry completely before applying other products to your skin.

Spot treatment with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte

You should apply either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte over the entire area of your skin that’s affected by acne. You shouldn’t use either of these medications as just a spot treatment. By applying these drugs to the entire area of skin with acne, you’ll be helping to clear acne as well as prevent future breakouts.

When to use

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may be used once daily. You can apply them either in the morning or at night. But be sure to use Epiduo or Epiduo Forte at the same time each day. Doing so gives your skin a more consistent level of the medication, which helps the drug work better.

To help make sure that you don’t miss applying a dose of Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, try setting a reminder on your phone. Using a kitchen timer may be useful, too.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne in adults and children.

With acne, your skin pores are clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria. When this happens, you can have red and swollen spots on your skin called pimples.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain the following two active drugs:

  • Adapalene. This drug belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids. (Retinoids are a form of vitamin A.) It treats acne by unclogging pores and preventing new blemishes from forming.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. This drug belongs to a group of drugs called anti-acne agents. It treats acne by killing bacteria on your skin. It also helps your body get rid of old, dead skin cells so that new skin cells can grow.

How long does it take for Epiduo and Epiduo Forte to work?

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte start working right away to treat your acne. But it may take several weeks until you see an improvement in your skin.

Also, keep in mind that you may have skin purging when you first start using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. (With skin purging, you may have an initial worsening of your acne when you begin treatment.) For more information about purging, see the “Do Epiduo and Epiduo Forte cause skin purging?” section above.

The Epiduo or Epiduo Forte dosage your doctor prescribes for you will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the area of skin you’ll be using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte to treat
  • the amount of skin irritation you have while you’re using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte

Typically, your doctor will start you on a recommended dosage of these medications. But they may adjust your dosage over time depending on any side effects that you may have.

Your doctor will recommend how many times a day you’ll need to use Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and how much product you should use. Ultimately, your doctor will prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to use the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte both come as a gel. And they both contain the same active drug ingredients: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte each contain the same strength of benzoyl peroxide: 2.5%.

But Epiduo contains 0.1% adapalene, while Epiduo Forte contains 0.3% adapalene.

Dosage for acne

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should be applied in a thin layer to areas of your skin that are affected by acne. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are each used once daily. Try to use Epiduo or Epiduo Forte at the same time each day.

A pea-sized amount of either product may be applied to each of the following areas:

  • cheeks
  • chin
  • forehead

For other areas of your body, your doctor will recommend how much product to use.

Either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte should be applied to your skin after you’ve first washed the area. You shouldn’t apply Epiduo or Epiduo Forte to your eyes, lips, or the lining inside of your nose.

Pediatric dosage

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are both approved to treat acne. Epiduo is approved for this use in children ages 9 years and older. Epiduo Forte, on the other hand, is approved for this use in children ages 12 years and older.

The recommended dosage of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte for children is the same as it is for adults. See the “Dosage for acne” subsection above to learn more.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss applying a dose of Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, just apply your next dose at the typical time. Don’t apply more Epiduo or Epiduo Forte than usual to make up for the missed dose. Doing so can increase your risk of skin irritation from these medications.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try setting a reminder on your phone. Using a kitchen timer may be useful, too.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are each meant to be used as a long-term treatment. If you and your doctor determine that Epiduo or Epiduo Forte is safe and effective for you, you’ll likely use it long term.

There aren’t any known interactions between alcohol and either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. If you have questions about drinking alcohol while you’re using either of these drugs, talk with your doctor.

There aren’t any known interactions between Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and other medications, herbs, supplements, or foods.

In clinical studies of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, the manufacturer didn’t study drug interactions. But just because there aren’t any known drug interactions with either Epiduo or Epiduo doesn’t mean that interactions can’t happen.

Before taking Epiduo or Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Certain products that should be avoided while using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte

Certain products should be avoided while you’re using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte. This isn’t because the products interact with these medications. Instead, it’s because using the products with Epiduo or Epiduo Forte may cause increased skin discomfort. Below, we describe some of these products.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte with Aczone

Using either Epiduo or Epiduo Forte with the acne drug dapsone (Aczone) may cause color changes to your skin or facial hair. Specifically, using these drugs together may cause your skin or facial hair to turn yellow or orange. This change in color is temporary, and it can usually be washed away by cleansing your skin.

Instead of using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte at the same time as Aczone, you could try using one product in the morning and one product in the evening. Doing this may lessen your risk of having skin discoloration.

If you’re concerned about skin or hair color changes, talk with your doctor before using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte with Aczone.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte with other topical acne products

Using Epiduo or Epiduo Forte with other acne products that are applied to your skin can cause new or worsened skin irritation.

Examples of other topical acne products that may cause skin irritation can include:

  • azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea)
  • clindamycin (Clindagel)
  • dapsone (Aczone)
  • erythromycin (Erygel)
  • minocycline (Amzeeq)
  • salicylic acid (Bensal HP)
  • sulfacetamide (Klaron)
  • sulfur/sulfacetamide (SulfaCleanse 8/4)
  • tazarotene (Arazlo, Tazorac)
  • tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A)
  • tretinoin/clindamycin (Veltin, Ziana)

If you have questions about acne products that are safe to use with Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They can recommend a treatment plan that’s right for you.

It’s not known whether Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are safe to use during pregnancy. These drugs haven’t been studied in pregnant women.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about the risks of using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

It’s not known if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte.

For more information about taking Epiduo and Epiduo Forte during pregnancy, see the “Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and pregnancy” section above.

It’s not known if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can pass into human breast milk. If you’re breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed while using Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor. They can recommend whether it’s safe for you to use either of these products.

When you get Epiduo and Epiduo Forte from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the bottle. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications.

Keep in mind that expired Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may not work as well as they would if they weren’t expired. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk to your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should be stored at room temperature (77°F/25°C). They should be kept away from light and heat. The tubes of these products should remain tightly closed when they’re not in use. Avoid storing Epiduo and Epiduo Forte in areas where the drug could get damp or wet, such as in bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to take Epiduo and Epiduo Forte and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information on how to dispose of your medication.

Do not use more Epiduo and Epiduo Forte than your doctor recommends. Using too much Epiduo or Epiduo Forte may increase your risk of skin irritation.

What to do in case you use too much Epiduo and Epiduo Forte

If you think you’ve used too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

As with all medications, the cost of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte can vary. To find current prices for Epiduo (and Epiduo Forte) in your area, check out GoodRx.com.

The cost you find on GoodRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Before approving coverage for Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, or if you need help understanding your insurance coverage, help is available.

Galderma Laboratories, L.P., the manufacturer of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, offers a cost savings card for Epiduo Forte. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, visit the program website. To find ways to save on Epiduo, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Generic version

Epiduo is available in a generic form called adapalene and benzoyl peroxide gel. (A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.) Epiduo Forte is not available in a generic form.

Generics are considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of adapalene and benzoyl peroxide gel compares with that of Epiduo, visit GoodRx.com.

If your doctor has prescribed Epiduo but you’re interested in using adapalene and benzoyl peroxide gel instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one version or the other.

Before taking Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, talk with your doctor about your health history. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Skin damage. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should not be applied to areas of skin with bruises, cuts, eczema, or sunburn. Applying these drugs to areas of damaged skin can increase your risk of skin irritation. Instead, talk with your doctor about other ways to treat acne on areas of damaged skin.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Epiduo and Epiduo Forte or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Epiduo and Epiduo Forte. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you. If you’re not sure about your medication allergies, talk with your doctor.
  • Pregnancy. It’s not known if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are safe to use during pregnancy. For more information, please see the “Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. It’s not known if Epiduo and Epiduo Forte pass into the breast milk. For more information, please see the “Epiduo or Epiduo Forte and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Epiduo and Epiduo Forte, see the “Epiduo and Epiduo Forte side effects” section above.

The following information is provided for clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

Indications

Both Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are approved for the treatment of acne vulgaris in adults. Epiduo is also approved to treat acne vulgaris in children ages 9 years and older. In addition, Epiduo Forte is approved for use in children ages 12 years and older.

Administration

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte are each applied in a thin layer over affected areas of skin once daily. These drugs should be applied after the affected area has been thoroughly washed. If applying to the face, a pea-size amount should be sufficient to cover the cheeks, the chin, and the forehead. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should not be applied to the eyes, lips, or mouth.

Mechanism of action

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte contain two active ingredients: adapalene and benzoyl peroxide. Adapalene is a retinoid that binds to retinoic acid receptors, which are responsible for regulating inflammation, keratinization, and cell turnover. Benzoyl peroxide is a keratolytic agent that kills bacteria. These drugs work together to eliminate existing acne and prevent formation of new acne.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Adapalene may be absorbed into the bloodstream after topical treatment. It is eliminated primarily through bile. Benzoyl peroxide is absorbed into the skin, metabolized into benzoic acid, and excreted in the urine.

Contraindications

There are no known contraindications to Epiduo or Epiduo Forte.

Storage

Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should be stored at room temperature (77°F/25°C). Temperature variances between 59°F to 86°F (15°C to 30°C) are allowed. Epiduo and Epiduo Forte should be protected from light and heat. Tubes of these medications should remain tightly closed while not in use.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.