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How can topical treatments help with acne?

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For mild to severe acne, a doctor might recommend prescription treatments that are "topical," which means they go on your skin. These treatments might also be used for more severe acne in combination with other medicines.

Topical treatments for teenage acne come in different forms, including creams, lotions, gels and pads. Some types include:

Topical antibiotics.  These acne medicines can kill some of the bacteria on the skin and reduce redness and inflammation. Examples of antibiotics include clindamycin (Cleocin T, Clinda-Derm) and erythromycin (Emgel, Erygel).

Topical retinoids.  Retinoid creams are made from vitamin A. They work by unplugging the follicles, which also allows other medicines like topical antibiotics to work better. Examples include adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac), tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A), and trifarotene (Aklief).

Other topical medicines.  Some of the medicines that you can find over the counter are available in more potent forms by prescription. These include azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur-based treatments. They help by reducing swelling and blocking the growth of bacteria.

SOURCES:  American Academy of Dermatology: “Acne.” American Academy of Dermatology’s AcneNet web site: “12 Ways to Get Better Results from Acne Treatment,” “Prescription Medications for Treating Acne,” “When to see a dermatologist,” “Psst...Topical Acne Medication Can Clear Acne,” “Treating Severe Acne.” American Academy of Family Physician’s FamilyDoctor.org web site: “Acne in Teens: Ways to Control It.” American Academy of Pediatrics: “Teen Q&A: Acne.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Acne.” FDA.





Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on December 28, 2019

SOURCES:  American Academy of Dermatology: “Acne.” American Academy of Dermatology’s AcneNet web site: “12 Ways to Get Better Results from Acne Treatment,” “Prescription Medications for Treating Acne,” “When to see a dermatologist,” “Psst...Topical Acne Medication Can Clear Acne,” “Treating Severe Acne.” American Academy of Family Physician’s FamilyDoctor.org web site: “Acne in Teens: Ways to Control It.” American Academy of Pediatrics: “Teen Q&A: Acne.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Acne.” FDA.





Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on December 28, 2019

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