Acne treatment Acne treatment

Topical Solutions for Acne

Topical Solutions for Acne

Acne is caused by a buildup of bacteria, dirt and other debris in the skin's pores. Acne affects as many as 80 percent of teenagers and young adults, according to Dr. John J. Russell in "Topical Therapy for Acne," published in the January 2000 issue of "American Family Physician." Russell explains that topical treatment is sufficient for most types of acne. Topical treatments come in various forms include soaps and cleansers, lotions and creams, and water or alcohol-based gels.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is found in acne cleansers, lotions, creams, and gels. It works by killing the bacteria that causes acne. cautions against using benzoyl peroxide on sunburned skin or open wounds. Do not use in or around the eyes or mouth or inside the nose. Benzoyl peroxide may cause skin irritation. In rare cases, it may cause burning, peeling, swelling, severe redness or blistering. Benzoyl peroxide is typically applied once or twice a day to the affected area.

Topical Antibiotics

Clindamycin and erythromycin are the most commonly used topical antibiotics, according to Russell. They are available in many forms. Russell explains that minor skin irritation is common with most topical antibiotics. The CDC explains that it is important to use topical antibiotics under the direction of a physician to ensure detection of possible antibiotic resistance. Like benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics work by attacking the bacterial cause of acne.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid treats acne by peeling off the top layer of skin. It comes in several different forms including lotion, soap and moistened pads. Side effects are rare but can include an allergic reaction of severe skin irritation. does not recommend using other topical treatments with salicylic acid unless under the direction of a physician. Also avoid cleansers containing alcohol or other peeling agents.


Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, are available in over-the-counter and prescription treatments. They work by unclogging pores and preventing acne from forming. Like other topical acne medications, they can cause skin irritation. Retinoids can also increase sensitivity to the sun, so avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and wear sunscreen when you go outside. Aside from treating acne, retinoids have an added bonus of minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, according to AcneNet.


Russell explains that although sulfur has been used to treat acne since ancient Greek times, it is not a common form of treatment today because of the foul odor and skin discoloration associated with use. Lotions, creams, soaps and ointments containing sulfur are still useful topical tools against acne. However, side effects include skin irritation, redness and peeling. does not advise using abrasive cleansers, preparations that contain alcohol or medicated cosmetics while using sulfur treatments.

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