Acne treatment Acne treatment

Names of Prescription Acne Topicals

Names of Prescription Acne Topicals

There are many different types of acne medications on the market, ranging from prescription to over-the-counter products. Acne medications can also vary depending on whether they are taken orally, or need to be used topically. Depending on the severity of your acne outbreak, your dermatologist may recommend on or more of the following topical medications.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is a topical acne medication that is extracted from a type of yeast called Malassezia furfur. Once applied to the skin, azelaic acid acts as an antimicrobial by reducing the colonies of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria in the pores. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, P. acnes plays an important role in the development of inflammatory acne, such as acne cysts or nodules. Azelaic acid also helps reduce inflammation and correct abnormal skin cells shedding in the follicles.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is often found in over-the-counter acne products, but can also be found in prescription strength acne treatment creams and lotions. When used to treat acne, salicylic acid penetrates into the pores and helps correct and slow abnormal skin cell shedding. The less dead skin cells available in the pores, the less material there is available for forming acne plugs.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another common acne treatment ingredient that can be found in both over-thecounter and prescription strengths. Benzoyl peroxide specifically targets the P. acnes bacteria. P. acnes is unable to survive in environments with high levels of oxygen. When applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide penetrated deep into the pores, introducing oxygen to the bacteria. This effectively kills the bacteria which helps control infection.


Erythromycin is a common antibiotic used to treat acne. When used topically, eryhtromycin's antibiotic properties help reduce the levels of P. acnes bacteria in the acne affected areas of the skin. Erythromycin also has the ability to reduce inflammation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eryhtromycin is often used in conjunction with other antimicrobials, such as benzoyl peroxide, to help prevent bacterial resistance to the medication.


Adapalene is a common retinoid that can be used topically to treat acne. Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A, and help treat acne by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation. The use of topical retinoids may increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight, requiring some form of sun protection while undergoing treatment.

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