Acne Treatment Options

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, oil and bacteria. It affects more than 80 percent of teenagers and young adults.


Mild acne is characterized by whiteheads and blackheads (comedones). Inflammatory acne includes red, swollen bumps papules. Pustules take things one step further and form pus-filled bumps. Cystic acne is also severe and can be scarring-prone.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Topical Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications, such as gels and creams, can help treat mild acne. They typically contain the ingredients salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which reduce oil production and fight inflammation.

These medications also have antibacterial properties and can reduce redness and swelling. Most are safe to use without a doctor’s prescription. However, you should consult your dermatologist before using them.

Retinoids – Derived from Vitamin A, retinoids promote skin cell turnover and help remove microcomedones. They also help keep your pores unclogged and prevent inflammatory acne breakouts.

Oral retinoids, such as tretinoin and isotretinoin, are often used to treat severe acne. Women who take these drugs need to follow strict rules to avoid pregnancy because they can cause birth defects in the fetus.

Other OTC acne treatments include over-the-counter antiseptics and antibiotics. These treatments kill the bacteria that causes acne.

For example, erythromycin and clindamycin can stop acne-causing bacteria from multiplying and causing redness and pain. You can also buy products that contain antibiotics that you apply to your skin, such as minocycline and doxycycline.

Topical retinoids are another type of medication that you can purchase over the counter. They can improve your appearance by reducing dark spots and wrinkles.

Some of these medications may increase your risk for sunburn, especially if you’re not using sunscreen. If this happens, it’s best to avoid the sun as much as possible.

Many people also use over-the-counter moisturizers to help protect their skin from the sun’s UV rays. If you have sensitive skin, ask your dermatologist about a moisturizer with a low UV index.

You should always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to protect your skin from the sun. This will help to reduce the risk of sunburn and other skin problems that can result from overexposure to the sun, such as discoloration, rashes, and dryness.

Benzoyl peroxide, adapalene, and tretinoin are some of the most common over-the-counter acne treatments. They can be effective in treating moderate to severe acne and can be purchased over the counter or with a prescription.

Prescription Topical Medications

There are a variety of topical medications that can help treat your acne. Some are available over-the-counter (OTC) while others require a prescription from a doctor.

OTC products often contain the active ingredients benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which work by reducing oil on your skin and fighting inflammation. The effects of these substances can reduce blemishes and prevent them from forming in the first place.

Your doctor may also prescribe a topical antibiotic, such as clindamycin, which works by killing bacteria and reducing redness on your skin. These drugs can be used alone or with benzoyl peroxide.

Another type of medication is a retinoid, which comes from vitamin A. Retinoids are commonly used to reduce inflammatory acne and can be found as creams, gels or solutions. These drugs can improve your acne quickly and reduce the risk of scarring.

When you see a dermatologist, your skin can be analyzed to determine which medication is right for you. Some patients respond well to a combination of topical medications and oral antibiotics, while other patients require stronger oral medications like isotretinoin.

These prescription medications have a number of side effects, including photosensitivity, gastrointestinal problems and skin allergies. If you are allergic to these medications, talk to your doctor before using them.

The topical retinoids adapalene and tretinoin are the most common medications in this category. They can improve your acne and reduce your risk of scarring, but you may have to use them for a while before you start seeing results.

If you have severe acne that doesn’t respond to OTC medications, your doctor can recommend a stronger medication. Some of these medicines include tretinoin, an antibiotic called erythromycin and a strong version of benzoyl peroxide.

Some of these drugs aren’t a good choice for teenagers, pregnant women or people who have other health conditions, because they can cause birth defects in the fetus. Your doctor will discuss which options are best for you on an individual basis, as well as what risks and benefits are involved with each option.

The tretinoin and isotretinoin medications are the most effective treatments for severe, cystic acne. But they can be expensive, so your doctor will likely suggest other medications to keep your acne under control while you wait for these to take effect.

Oral Medications

Oral medications can be a very effective way to treat acne, especially for people who are not getting relief from other treatments. Your doctor will prescribe an oral medication based on your type of acne, medical history, and overarching skin goals.

Antibiotics, anti-androgens, birth control pills, and a vitamin A drug called isotretinoin are all oral medications that can be effective in treating moderate to severe acne. Some of these medications can cause side effects, however, so it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before taking any medication.

When you first start a new medication to treat your acne, it may take a few weeks for the treatment to work. That is normal, as your body adjusts to the new drug.

If you are using an antibiotic, it is important to take your medication as directed by your doctor, and not skip doses. It is also important to update your doctor about how the medication is working for you, and if any side effects occur.

Oral antibiotics are commonly used to treat mild to moderate cases of inflammatory acne, but they should be taken for the shortest possible time. This will reduce the risk of bacterial resistance and help your doctor find an antibiotic that is safe for you.

For more severe cases of acne, a doctor might recommend a medication called doxycycline or isotretinoin. These medicines can be effective for treating inflammatory acne, but they can also be very harsh on your skin.

Another oral medicine that your doctor may recommend is spironolactone, an antihypertensive (high blood pressure medicine). This medication has been shown to be an effective acne treatment for some people, but it should be used carefully, as it can affect your heart rhythm and kidney function.

A dermatologist might also use a hormonal therapy, such as a combination oral contraceptive pill that includes estrogen and progestin, to reduce the inflammation of your skin and reduce the oil production in your sebaceous glands. This can help you with your acne and prevent it from coming back in the future.


Surgery is a common method of treating many diseases and disorders. It may be done for elective or emergent reasons.

Surgical procedures can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including some skin problems. They may be performed in a hospital, ambulatory care clinic, or a private physician’s office.

In general, surgery involves cutting or penetrating the body’s tissues, as well as repairing or replacing tissue. These types of procedures can have many benefits, but also have risks and side effects. It’s important to discuss the options with your doctor and understand what is involved in each procedure before deciding on a treatment option.

There are many surgical procedures, some of which can be performed on the face or neck. These include laser scar treatments, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and skin resurfacing.

These procedures can help reduce the appearance of acne scars by stimulating collagen production and encouraging new skin growth underneath the skin surface. They are often paired with other therapies to maximize results.

For acne scars that are atrophic or deep, such as ice pick and boxcar scars, injection of facial filler, like Juvederm (r) or Restylane (r), may be recommended. Depending on the location of the scar, the hyaluronic acid filler can be used to lift and level the skin.

This type of treatment is a great option for patients with broad or severe acne scars, and it can improve the color and texture of skin as well. If you are interested in this treatment, consult with your dermatologist to see if it is right for you.

In most cases, people need a series of treatments to achieve complete and permanent results. These sessions are usually spaced 2-4 weeks apart.

During the procedure, your health care provider will use various instruments to make the incisions and treat the areas of the skin affected by the condition. These instruments may include a scalpel (knife), hemostatic forceps, sterile pads or sponges, and other tools to control bleeding.

After the procedure, your doctor will close the wound and apply a bandage to the area. You’ll have to be observed for a period of time to ensure that the skin is healing properly. Your doctor will also give you instructions on how to take care of your skin after the treatment.