Acne Treatments: Know the Best Ways to Reduce Acne


There are several treatment options for acne. The best treatment depends on a case to case basis including the severity of the problem. In most cases, it takes a few months before there are visible improvements in the symptoms of acne. For simple cases like if you just have a few spots, blackheads and whiteheads, topical treatments with benzoyl peroxide which can be purchased over-the-counter can treat the acne problem successfully. Here are the different types of acne treatments:

Prescription Medications

Topical Retinoids
This topical treatment for acne works by reducing the skin’s natural production of sebum while at the same time preventing dead skin cells from clogging hair follicles. The most common topical retinoids for treating acne are tretinoin and adapalene which are offered in gel or cream form. It is usually applied only once daily before bedtime. The formula is applied to affected areas of the face with acne about 20 minutes after cleansing. Take note that topical retinoids may cause birth defects so this is not a viable option for pregnant women.

Topical Antibiotics
This treatment option works by killing bacteria on the skin which may cause an infection. These are available in gel or lotion form. Topical antibiotics are usually applied on affected areas once or twice daily. Some common side effects are minor skin irritation, burning of the skin and peeling.

Azelaic Acid
This is usually an alternative treatment for acne when benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids cause skin irritation or a burning sensation on the skin. It basically works by killing bacteria in the skin and getting rid of dead skin cells to prevent clogging of hair follicles and irritation. It is available in gel or cream form and the formula is applied once or twice daily. Unlike topical retinoids, it doesn’t make the skin sensitive to sunlight.

topical antibiotics

Antibiotic Tablets
Oral antibiotics are typically used with topical treatments for severe cases of acne. In many cases, tetracyclines are used unless the patient is pregnant or breastfeeding. If the patient is either pregnant or breastfeeding, she is prescribed erythromycin which is safer. Take note that tetracyclines can make the skin sensitive to sunlight and may reduce the effectiveness of contraceptive pills.

Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill
In cases where women with acne experience breakouts around their monthly periods or when they have hormonal conditions, hormonal therapies may be beneficial. For those who are still new to hormonal therapy, doctors usually prescribe the combined oral contraceptive pill even if the patient is not sexually active. The combined pill often helps improve acne in women but optimal results can take up to one year.

Isotretinoin Tablets
Isotretinoin offers a number of benefits to individuals with acne. It helps normalize the production of sebum, prevents the clogging of follicles, decreases bacteria on the skin and reduces inflammation in the affected areas. The problem is that the drug can also cause several side effects so it is only used as a last resort or for severe cases of acne. Due to the high risk of side effects, it can only be prescribed by highly trained physicians or a dermatologist.

Other Treatments

There are several treatment options available that do not involve over-the-counter or prescription medication. However, these treatments are not always effective and may cause complications. These treatments include the following:

  • Comedone Extractor – This is a small instrument shaped similar to a pen. It is used to clean out blackheads and whiteheads. It should only be used by trained professional in order to prevent adverse effects like wounds, scarring and infection.
  • Chemical Peels – A chemical solution is applied topically to the face making the skin peel off and allowing new skin to replace it. This is also used to reduce skin aging signs but its success rate for treating acne is not very good.
  • Photodynamic Therapy – Special light is applied to the skin to help reduce symptoms of acne. It is not very effective for severe cases of acne.
  • Creams, Gels and Lotions – Creams, gels and lotions for treating acne usually contain benzoyl peroxide which prevents the clogging of hair follicles and kills bacteria on the skin to prevent infection. These are usually applied once or twice a day 20 minutes after cleansing the face. Too much use can cause skin irritation and it can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Self-Care Tips

  • Do not wash affected areas more than twice daily. This prevents irritating the skin which can worsen symptoms.
  • Use a mild soap or gentle skin cleanser preferably with lukewarm water.
  • Do not pop pimples and squeeze spots because this can cause infection and scarring.
  • Be careful with topical products and makeup which may contain irritants that can cause acne.

Final Words

There are several treatment options available for acne and choosing the best one depends on your particular case. For simple cases of acne, you can try over-the-counter formulations but for severe cases it would be best to consult your dermatologist.


Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.

Acne Treatment