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Acne & Medications

Acne & Medications Acne & Medications Acne & Medications


Over-the-counter and prescription medications are often used in acne treatment. According to, these treatments work to reduce oil production, speed turnover of skin cells, help fight bacteria and decrease the amount of inflammation. Some acne medications do several of these things at once.

Over-the-Counter Topical Medications

Benzoyl peroxide is the most common acne treatment medication and can be found in many over-the-counter medications, according to It is used to kill the bacteria associated with acne conditions and is generally used on mild cases of acne. Benzoyl peroxide can be found in combination with sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid or lactic acid--other active ingredients used to decrease oil production. Skin irritation, dryness and flaking can result; use with caution.


Retinoids such as Avita, Retin-A or Renova, are topical medications derived from vitamin A and can only be prescribed by a physician. They work to promote cell turnover with an end result of preventing clogged hair follicles, says Prescription strength retinoids should only be used under a doctor's supervision because excessive redness, burning, inflammation or dryness can occur.

Topical Antibiotics

According to, topical antibiotics work to help kill bacteria on the skin's surface. Benzamycin topical gel is a combination of 5-percent benzoyl peroxide and erythromycin (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) and has been known to be effective for inflammatory acne. Other brand names are Benzaclin, Duac, and Acanya, which include benzoyl peroxide with clindamycin (an antibiotic). Watch for stinging, burning, peeling or redness.

Prescription Oral Antibiotics

If your doctor determines that bacteria are significantly involved in your acne condition, an oral antibiotic such as Tetracycline or Minocin may be prescribed, says Physicians often use oral antibiotics in combination with topical treatments like those mentioned above to get better results.


According to, severe acne conditions (such as cystic acne) may need a corticosteroid injection. A steroid injection works over a 3- to 5-day period by dissolving the cyst. Local bleeding or infection are potential side effects.


According to, most acne medications will not show results until between 4 to 8 weeks. In addition, the acne condition may get worse before it gets better. All medications should be used with care; check with your doctor if your acne worsens or becomes increasingly painful. Be aware that all medications have side effects, and allergic reactions are possible. Use prescription acne medications only under a doctor's care, and do not use if you're nursing or pregnant, unless told to do so by a doctor.

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