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How Is Acne Treated? continued...

Treatments may include:

Nonprescription ("over the counter") topical treatments: "Topical" means that you put these products on your skin. They're not pills. These include salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur. These treatments are available in many forms including gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and pads. When these products are used regularly, they are moderately effective in treating acne. It may take 4-8 weeks for skin to improve. 

Prescription topical treatments: These include benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, tretinoin, tazarotene, adapalene, dapsone, and azelaic acid.

Prescription oral drug treatments: For people with moderate to severe acne, doctors often prescribe oral antibiotics (pills) in addition to topical medication. Oral antibiotics are thought to help control acne by curbing the growth of bacteria, thereby decreasing inflammation. They are usually taken daily for four to six months and then tapered and discontinued as acne improves. The most potent oral drug, isotretinoin, is usually taken once or twice a day for 16 to 20 weeks. It is believed to reduce the size of the oil glands so that much less oil is produced and to help prevent clogged pores. That curbs the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Because of the risk of birth defects, women of childbearing age must not be pregnant and must not become pregnant while taking isotretinoin.

Acne Prevention Tips

Here are tips that may help control acne.

  • Don't over-wash or use harsh scrubs. Acne is not caused by dirt. Two gentle washings a day is enough. Too much cleaning can leave skin irritated and dry, triggering glands to produce more oil, increasing the likelihood of pimples.
  • Use oil-free or noncomedogenic products (those that won't clog pores) on your face.
  • Don't squeeze or pick blemishes. Popping pimples can drive acne bacteria deeper into the skin. Picking can lead to more inflammation and permanent scarring.

Don't let acne define who you are. Do what you can to improve your skin, working with a dermatologist, if necessary, and keep doing the things you enjoy.