Acne treatment Acne treatment

Best Five Medicines for Acne

Best Five Medicines for Acne

There is no one cause of acne--increased hormones during puberty, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or simply genetics all factor in to the eruption of pimples on the face and other body parts. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, charged with clearing acne medicines and procedures to treat acne, indicates that there is no need for acne to simply "run its course" when there are numerous options available to treat acne, regardless if it is mild or severe. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) cites five effective medicines used by dermatologists to treat acne.

Prescription Topicals

Topical antimicrobials and retinoids are first-line treatments for acne that is mild to moderately severe, says the AAD. Antimicrobials, such as azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide, reduce the presence of the P. acnes bacteria on the surface of the skin. Retinoids work by increasing the turnover of skin cells, reducing clogged pores.

Oral Antibiotics

Moderate to severe acne that fails to resolve with topical treatments may respond to oral antibiotics, says the AAD, which describes these medicines as "mainstays" of acne treatment. Oral antibiotics treat acne systemically (from within the body) by reducing the number of P. acnes bacteria and decreasing inflammation. Some antibiotics used to treat acne include erythromycin, tetracycline, and the tetracycline derivatives, doxycycline and minocycline. Oral antibiotics and prescription topicals are often used concomitantly to treat acne.

Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are one long-term option for female acne sufferers. This medicine curbs the oil production in the sebaceous glands, resulting in a reduction of clogged pores. The AAD cautions that this therapy isn't appropriate for all women, specifically, those who smoke, are over 35 years of age, or have a history of blood clots or migraines, unless the patient's gynecologist indicates otherwise.


Isotretinoin is known as the most effective acne medicine, as it addresses all of the factors that cause acne--bacteria, excess oil, dead skin cells and inflammation--and is often the best solution for those with severe acne, especially when nodules and cysts form under the skin. Isotretinoin is taken daily for between 16 to 20 weeks, after which most cases of acne resolve, says the AAD. This medication may cause a host of side-effects, however, and must be prescribed to women of child-bearing age cautiously, as it cause birth defects in a developing fetus (see Resources).


There is one medication that is used during an in-office procedure to treat deep, inflamed cysts that are in danger of rupturing: interlesional corticosteroid injections. The AAD notes that the lesion is injected with a dilute corticosteroid, which causes the cysts to dissolve and heal in between three and five days, preventing potential scarring.

Your Dermatologist Knows

Each case of acne is different. The AAD points out that there is no miracle cure for whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and cysts--resolution takes time. Although almost every case of acne can be treated, there is no one best medicine that's appropriate for all patients. Often, a combination of treatments is used.

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