Skip to content
Font Size

Acne: Treatment With Antibiotics - Topic Overview

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat severe acne or acne that is likely to leave scars. Antibiotics improve the look of your skin by killing bacteria that cause acne. This means you'll have fewer pimples and redness. Less acne means less acne scarring.

You can put antibiotics directly on your skin (topically) or take them by mouth (orally). Topical antibiotics kill bacteria on your skin. Oral antibiotics kill bacteria in your skin pores. Oral antibiotics work best if you start them at high doses. Your doctor will reduce the dose as your acne gets better.

Recommended Related to Acne

Skin Conditions: Teenage Acne

Almost all teens get acne. It happens when an oily substance called sebum clogs pores. Pimples usually pop up on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne isn't a serious health risk, though severe acne can cause permanent scars. Acne can also damage self-esteem.

Read the Skin Conditions: Teenage Acne article > >

People with mild acne may need only topical antibiotics. The most common types include:

  • Clindamycin (such as Cleocin).
  • Erythromycin (such as E-Mycin).

A topical antibiotic may be combined with a topical retinoid, such as tretinoin (Retin-A). Or a topical antibiotic may be combined with benzoyl peroxide gel.

Talk with your doctor before using these medicines if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

People with severe acne and people who are more likely to have scarring from acne often take antibiotics by mouth. The most common oral antibiotics include:

  • Erythromycin (such as E-Mycin).
  • Tetracyclines, which include:
    • Doxycycline (such as Vibramycin or Monodox).
    • Minocycline (such as Minocin).

If you are using topical antibiotics or taking oral antibiotics, your doctor also may have you use benzoyl peroxide on your skin. This can make it less likely that you will develop antibiotic resistance.

For more information on antibiotics, see Drug Reference. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Acne: Treatment With Antibiotics Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Girl with acne
    See if you know how to control your acne.
    happy woman with clear skin
    Triggers and treatments for blackheads, whiteheads, and cystic acne.
     
    Bride with acne
    Dos and don’ts for hiding breakouts.
    close-up of a young man soaping his face
    Why adults get acne and how to treat it.
     
    Doctors
    Article
    Boy cleaning acne face
    Quiz
     
    HPV Vaccine Future
    Video
    beauty cream
    Article
     
    Bride with acne
    Slideshow
    Woman applying mineral makeup
    Slideshow
     
    69x75_mineral_makeup.jpg
    Video
    Arrows pointing on teen girl blemish
    Quiz
     

    WebMD Special Sections