Acne treatment Acne treatment

Systematic Products to Take for Acne

Systematic Products to Take for Acne Systematic Products to Take for Acne

Systemic treatment may be needed to resolve acne that's moderate to severe. "Systemic" means that the medication works internally, says the American Academy of Dermatology, where treatment is offered in the form of oral medication, rather than a topical cream, gel or lotion. These medications may provide a higher degree of effectiveness, as they treat acne on all parts of the body, including hard-to-reach areas, such as the back and shoulders. Systemic products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to resolve acne are available by prescription only.

Oral Antibiotics

Broad-spectrum antibiotics have been used to treat acne for years as one type of systemic therapy that may be offered to a patient. Erythromycin and tetracycline and its derivatives are common antibiotics that may be proffered, says the AAD. Antibiotics treat acne by reducing the number of P. acnes bacteria on the skin, which is one cause of acne. These medications may have some side effects, including gastrointestinal upset. Acne may eventually become resistant to one type of antibiotic, causing the patient to switch to another.

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills that include a combination of norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol may be offered to women as a way to treat acne. Oral contraceptives curb excess oil produced by the sebaceous glands, which is a primary cause of acne, says the AAD. Oral contraceptives can often be used as a long-term systemic approach to treating acne, but they may not be appropriate for all women, including those who are over 35, smoke or have a history of migraines or blot-clotting disorders.


Isotretinoin, derived from vitamin A, is a potent drug that may be given to patients with severe acne types of acne--namely, painful, disfiguring cysts and nodules. The medication is taken daily for between 16 and 20 weeks, after which most cases of severe acne resolve. The AAD indicates that isotretinoin addresses all of the causes of acne, including excess oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. But it may also have severe side-effects, such as very dry skin, eyes and other mucous membranes, high triglyceride levels and even liver damage. Because it causes birth defects, it is administered to women of child-bearing age extremely cautiously (see Resources).

Other Medications

Certain medications may be prescribed to adult women who get acne as a result of hormonal changes and fluctuations. Spironolactone and hormone replacement therapy are other methods in which acne can be treated systemically. The Mayo Clinic states that these medications aren't appropriate for all women (such as those who are pregnant). Hormone replacement treatment may be used to treat acne that flares up around menopause that's accompanied by other symptoms, such as sleeplessness, thinning hair, anxiety and mood changes.


Certain dietary supplements may be purchased over-the-counter. The Mayo Clinic mentions zinc, guggul and brewer's yeast as three systemic products that purportedly have an effect on acne. However, research is very limited as to the efficacy of these supplements. Those with acne are encouraged to talk to a doctor before trying any form of alternative acne treatment.

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