Acne treatment Acne treatment

The Best Prescription Topical Acne Medications

The Best Prescription Topical Acne Medications

Acne is a common skin problem that occurs when pores or follicles on the skin become blocked with a mixture of natural skin oil (sebum), dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria. When treating acne, dermatologists have the ability to prescribe either oral or topical medications for treatment, depending on the type and seriousness of the acne lesions. However, topical treatments are typically the first line of defense against acne outbreaks.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a popular topical antimicrobial for the treatment of acne. One of the believed causing factors of acne infection and inflammation is a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). The P. acnes bacteria is unable to survive in environments with high levels of oxygen. When benzyol peroxide is applied to the skin, it penetrated blocked pores and introduces oxygen to the bacteria, effectively killing them.


Erythromycin is an antibiotic that can be used both orally and topically. Like Benzoyl peroxide, erythromycin is used to kill the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. Erythromycin has the added benefit of also acting as an anti-inflammatory to help relieve inflammation and pressure build up in more serious cases of acne, such as acne cysts or nodules. Like other antibiotics, erythromycin runs the risk of allowing the bacteria to develop resistance to the medication. To combat this, erythromycin is commonly used with other antimicrobials, such as benzoyl peroxide, to kill the bacteria before it can develop a resistance.


Topical retinoids, such as adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene, are also commonly used to treat acne. Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and help correct skin shedding irregularities. This helps unclog pores, as well as keep pores clean from further plugs. Some retinoids, such as adapalene, also double as an anti-inflammatory for more serious cases of acne.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic is also a topical medication used to treat acne. Azelaic acid is an antimicrobial that according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, works in three main ways. First, it kills the P. acnes bacteria. Second, it helps relieve inflammation in the pores, and third it decreases the rate in which skin cells shed, providing less material to combine with sebum to block the pores.

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