Acne treatment Acne treatment

Best Prescription Acne Medications

Best Prescription Acne Medications Best Prescription Acne Medications


The Acne Resource Center reports that acne is one of the most common skin diseases in the United States. Acne can be caused by hormones, environmental elements, cosmetics, stress and genetics. A medication that works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Before deciding how to treat breakouts, first, a doctor should determine what is causing the lesions to appear.

Prescription Medications

The National Institutes of Health indicates that commonly used prescription medications used for treating acne include retinoids, azalaic acid and topical antibiotics.


Topical antibiotics, like clindamycin and erythromycin, and oral antibiotics, like tetracycline and doxycycline, work by killing P. acnes bacteria. Oral antibiotics are taken once a day. Although about 20 percent of adult Americans have acne, because it is thought of a social taboo, according to the Acne Research Center, only about 11 percent of adults seek medical advice about their complexion.


Topical retinoids, like adapalene and Tretinoin, are vitamin A derivatives that increase the ability of the skin to dry, shed and peel. They also decrease the formation of and clear existing forms of acne. Isotretinoin, known as Accutane, is a popular prescription medication. It is taken in pill form for about 15 to 20 weeks. reports that this medication should only be prescribed for the treatment of severe, inflammatory lesions. Accutane works by reducing the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands. Adapalene acid, sold as Differin, is a topical medication available as a gel, cream or swab. The Mayo Clinic reports that Differin cleans pores and has anti-inflammatory properties. Azalaic acid, sold as Azelex, is believed to help prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores.

Hormonal Medications

Oral contraceptives are commonly prescribed to women for the treatment of mild to severe acne. One popular birth-control pill used for preventing breakouts is Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Ortho Tri-Cyclen contains the hormones progesterone and estrogen. Oral contraceptives help eliminate acne by decreasing testosterone levels. A review published in Cochrane Database System Review in 2007 compared the effects of using oral contraceptives to treat acne versus a placebo. The researchers concluded that oral contraceptives successfully reduced facial acne lesions. Also, few differences were found among the types oral contraceptives used in the study.

The Science

Although all of the medications mentioned here have a proven track record for treating acne, studies show that patients have success with different medications and combined formulations. A 1998 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology compared the effect of adapalene and Tretinoin on 900 patients. Over the course of 12 weeks, while both medications were equally as effective, adapalene was proven to work more quickly and produce less irritation. The NIH indicates that benzoyl peroxide is one of the most successful acne medications on the market. A 2003 study by the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that benzoyl peroxide was more effective in the treatment of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions compared with adapalene. Both medications, however, were deemed safe. A 2005 study published in the journal SkinMed compared adapalene and oral antibiotics on severe acne. Results indicated that the combination of adapalene and the antibiotics worked faster and had better results than using an antibiotic alone.

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