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If your fight against acne has just begun, you should know what your options are and when to talk to a dermatologist for more help.

You could start with benzoyl peroxide.

"It works beautifully," says Latanya Benjamin, MD, a dermatologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. Benzoyl peroxide "works against the bacterial component of acne and against clogging of the pores."

Available in washes, creams, gels, and other forms, benzoyl peroxide comes in several strengths. Try a mild type first. It may work perfectly well and cause less irritation than a stronger concentration.

Salicylic acid also comes in many forms and is available without a doctor's prescription. It helps to unblock pores and break down both whiteheads and blackheads.

How long will these medications take to work?

"It usually takes 4 to 8 weeks to notice a substantial improvement," says Julie Danna, MD, a pediatric dermatologist at Ochsner Health Center in Metairie, La.

Next Step

If your acne has not improved after a couple of months on nonprescription products, it's time to talk to a doctor.

Make an appointment with your family doctor or a dermatologist. Both can prescribe a stronger treatment based on the type of acne you have. For examples:

  • Retinoids help to unclog pores andĀ help prevent both whiteheads and blackheads.
  • Antibiotics fight p. acnes, an acne-causing bacteria. Your doctor may prescribe pills or medicine you put on your skin.
  • Prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide.

Sometimes using two medicines at once clears up your skin. Some treatments are combined into a once-a-day treatment.