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5 Things You Need to Know About Topical Acne Treatments

5 Things You Need to Know About Topical Acne Treatments

1. Vitamin A for Skin

More than 25 years ago, a derivative of vitamin A gave us one of the most effective topical acne treatments on the market. Doctors can prescribe Retin-A in a liquid, gel or cream form, depending on the strength desired. Patients using Retin-A must trade their suntanning days for clear skin, as this drug makes the skin highly sun-sensitive. Patients might be tempted to hide their acne with a tan in the early weeks of Retin-A treatment, as the acne usually gets worse before it gets better. If you benefit from Retin-A, but find it too harsh, ask your doctor about the gentler Retin-A Micro.

2. Kill Acne-Causing Bacteria

Topical antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause acne. Doctors can prescribe erythromycin or clindamycin. Over time, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, so your doctor may ask you to take a course of one antibiotic for several months before switching to another choice. Topical antibiotics have a low potential for skin irritation, so they're a good choice when patients require combination therapy. In particular, ask the doctor about Benzamycin, a combination of erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide.

3. Old-Fashioned, but Effective

Acne patients have used benzoyl peroxide since the 1950s, which is a testament to its efficacy. You can buy benzoyl peroxide in strengths that vary from 2.5 percent to 10 percent, but more medicine doesn't necessarily mean better acne control. In higher concentrations, benzoyl peroxide can cause so much redness and irritation that the skin looks just as bad as it did in the presence of the acne flare-ups. Start with the lowest concentration, and reduce the product application from twice to once a day if redness persists. Avoid contact with clothing or bed linens immediately after applying benzoyl peroxide, as it can bleach fabric.

4. A Popular Choice

Doctors prescribe Differin more than any other topical acne treatment. Differin is a popular first-line approach to acne because most patients tolerate the drug well. Side effects are mild, but may include an initial acne flare-up and skin redness. In 2007, the FDA approved a 0.3-percent strength Differin gel to offer an alternative to patients who didn't receive satisfactory results from the 0.1-percent concentration.

5. At Your Local Drugstore

Salicylic acid is widely available in acne cleansers, creams and pads. This topical acne treatment is affordable, but it's usually the most effective only in mild cases of acne. You can choose products ranging from 0.5-percent to 2-percent strength, and a low-strength salicylic acid body wash makes a fine addition to your skin-care regimen when other topical products aren't quite eliminating all of the breakouts.

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