Treatments For Acne

(Last Updated On: April 20, 2020)

Treatment Options For Acne

Acne can be a source of misery for many but it can be controlled by the right treatment

woman looking in mirror at spots

There are a huge variety of treatments available to treat all forms of acne and they are easily available OTC and by prescription.

There is no definitive ‘cure’ for acne so in order to keep your skin looking as clear as possible it will require constant maintenance.

The treatments do however, provide a very effective respite from your symptoms and many individuals experience a very long period of ‘remission.’

In cases of more milder acne, a doctor will normally always begin treatment with a topical solution or cream.

Topical Acne Preparations

Topical acne preparations work to help unblock pores, kill bacteria and help to reduce inflammation.

Many treatments are available without prescription and come in various formulations that include face washes, creams and gels. woman applying cream

One of the most common ingredients found in these preparations is Benzoyl Peroxide.

They can have very good results but do come with some side effects that can be unwanted, particularly redness and dryness of the skin, though this normally settles down in time.

The stronger preparations are available on prescription only.

Topical Antibiotics

There are several topical antibiotics, one such antibiotic that is often used in a topical form is Erythromycin. You can only get a topical antibiotic on prescription.

Topical antibiotics help to reduce the degree of bacteria on the skin and help to reduce inflammation but they aren’t so effective at unblocking pores.

They are generally gentler to the skin but they can still cause a few minor side effects.

how acne is treated by medication


Retinoids are much more effective than a topical cream or topical antibiotic alone. These types of medications are excellent at unplugging blocked pores and reducing the inflammation associated with acne.

They come in various formulations and brand names, one of the most popular topical retinoids is Adapalene.

Topical retinoids are more potent than other topical treatments and so require a little more care and diligence when using them.

A common side effect is burning and/or stinging, redness of the skin and peeling, though this is generally only during the first few weeks of treatment and settles down once the skin adjusts to the medication. Its also normal for the skin to appear to get worse before it gets better.

It can make the skin very sensitive to sunlight so its important to apply a good quality SPF when going out in the sun or on a very bright day.

There is a risk to an unborn child if a retinoid is used during pregnancy, so it’s very important to use some form of contraception when using this medicine.

Antibiotic Tablets

acne capsulesAntibiotics help to kill the bacteria that causes acne and helps to clear the angry and inflamed acne spots and pimples. However, they do little to unblock the pores.

Those with more blackheads and whiteheads are normally advised to also use a topical treatment alongside the antibiotic.

A common antibiotic used in acne treatment is Tetracycline.

It should not be used by pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding or children under the age of 12.

Certain antibiotics can interact with certain food and drink and some require being taken with food only.

The Contraceptive Pill

The contraceptive pill (particularly what’s known as the combined pill) can help to clear spots that are associated around the time of the menstural cycle and the hormone changes that take place. Oestrogens in combined pills are what’s believed to prevent these flare ups.

The most common pill that is prescribed solely for acne is Co-cyprindiol (Known as Dianette).

How Long Until I See Results?

This varies from person to person and the severity of the acne.

blonde woman with acne on one side of faceA minimum of 4 weeks is required to start seeing a visible improvement, by 6 weeks, a more significant improvement should be seen.

Though it can take 4 months, 6 months or even longer than that to start to really clear the skin, so in order for the treatment to be successful you need to be patient and use it consistently.

After your skin has cleared, its usuallly required to use a maintenance treatment as it can flare up again (in some cases).

Antibiotic tablets are not recommended for long-term use because of the possibility of resistance to the medication, meaning in the end it will stop working.

Other treatments

If tablets or topical creams or gels aren’t an option for you, you can have treatments that include laser, chemical peel and injection of collagen filler. Though this is not normally covered by insurance and will require several visits to achieve the optimum results.


The information in this website is for advice and guidance only. It is based on my own intensive research and personal experiences, and is not intended in any way to replace professional medical advice, or to diagnose or treat any health conditions. All rights reserved.