How To Get Rid of Acne | Best Spot Treatment | How To Use Benzoyl Peroxide | Prevent Acne (2018)
Find the Best Acne Treatment for You
There are a number of options when it comes to prescription medications for your acne. How will you know what's best?
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Acne is a very common, sometimes serious skin condition. While mild cases of acne can usually be treated with over-the-counter products, more severe cases may require the expertise of a dermatologist who can recommend prescription drugs.
“The medications one uses for acne depend on type and severity,” says Adelaide A. Hebert, MD, a professor in the dermatology department at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School.
Acne treatment may involve combinations of different kinds of medication: Some remove the dead skin and oils that clog pores and create acne, while other types of acne treatment target the formation of cysts typical of severe acne. Still other acne treatment works by attacking overgrowths ofPropionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that occurs naturally on your skin but can cause acne when its growth is uncontrolled .
In talking to your dermatologist about acne treatment, you should be familiar with the types of treatment your doctor might recommend.
Prescription Medications for Acne
Acne treatments include:
Retinoids.These are chemical products based on vitamin A. They’re effective against blackheads and whiteheads as well as severe, or inflammatory, acne.
“Retinoids work by exfoliating the clogged pores (removing dead skin cells),” says dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, of the University of Miami Cosmetic Center. “This class includes Differin (adapalene), which is good for sensitive skin; Retin A and Renova (tretinoin), which is good for most patients; and Tazorac (tazarotene), which is good for severe cases.”
All are prescription medications. Dr. Woolery-Lloyd warns that each of these acne treatments can cause skin irritation when you first use them, but this should clear up within two weeks.
Common forms of acne such as whiteheads, blackheads, and inflammatory acne can be treated with retinoids, says Dr. Hebert, whereas cystic acne requires stronger medication, such as isotretinoin (Sotret, Claravis, Amnesteem, Accutane). Despite the serious side effects associated with isotretinoin, including birth defects, seizures, and stroke, Hebert says, “If you have true, severe, scarring acne and no other risk factors, it’s still the best choice.” Nevertheless, because of isotretinoin’s risks, it’s important that you remain under the close supervision of a doctor while taking it.
Benzoyl peroxide.“Benzoyl peroxide works as an antibacterial,” Woolery-Lloyd explains. That means that this acne treatment fights germs that could be contributing to your acne. It is available over the counter and by prescription.
“Benzoyl peroxide also can be drying, but is well tolerated by most people," she says. One significant drawback to this acne treatment is that it bleaches any hair or fabric it comes into contact with.
Antibiotics.Topical antibiotics are creams applied to your skin. They fight bacteria that could be contributing to your acne. Occasionally, a dermatologist might prescribe an antibiotic to be taken by mouth for acne. If your doctor recommends an oral antibiotic, you should know that they often increase sensitivity to sun, Woolery-Lloyd says.
Oral antibiotics prescribed for acne include:
- Tetracycline, doxycycline, or minocycline
Topical antibiotics for acne include:
- Azelaic acid
- Sodium sulfacetamide
Birth control pills:Another prescription medication that may be useful in women with acne is an oral contraceptive, which can help regulate hormones that may be contributing to your acne.
Many dermatologists recommend combinations of medications, such using a topical antibiotic with a retinoid. No matter which acne treatments you use, if they’re not working and you continue to have bouts of acne, talk to your doctor. You may need to step up your program, or change it a little, for better results.
Video: Dermatology Treatments : How to Get Rid of Back Acne Fast
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