Or you can check out the skin care products aisle at your local drug store. If you've ever tried to buy acne remedies, you know the drug store is loaded with all kinds of products. Which ones should you use? It's not an easy choice, says dermatologist Julie Anne Winfield, Mill Valley, Calif.
"Which treatment is best depends on which type of acne you have," Winfield tells WebMD. "It may well be worth a visit to dermatologist. They often have samples they could give you to try. People can spend a fortune on over-the-counter medicines when there is maybe one single prescription drug that could solve the problem. Be sure to use oil-free, non-comedogenic lotions or sunscreens. Use something very simple to wash your face with, as well as low-strength benzoyl peroxide. But it would be best to see a doctor to prevent possible acne scarring."
The biggest breakthrough in acne treatment has been the development of topical retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A. New slow-release forms of this medicine greatly reduce the irritation it can cause.
- Azelaic acid cream
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (including glycolic acid, lactic acid, and gluconic acid)
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Topical antibiotics (gels, lotions, and solutions)
- Antibiotic pills (haphazard use may lead to antibiotic resistance)
- Birth control pills for women
- Accutane or Sotret for severe acne
One caveat: Accutane and Sotret can cause birth defects. Women who opt for this treatment must use foolproof birth control. Despite this and other concerns, these drugs are the treatment of choice for severe acne.
Originally published August 2003.
Medically updated June 2006.