Updated: 2018, Nov 22

Acne Treatments: Know the Best Ways to Reduce Acne

By - Reviewed by CHD Team
Acne Treatments

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.

There are many possible products and treatments to consider if you suffer from acne. So, what are the best available options right now? What are the most effective methods for getting rid of acne fast? Here are some of the best ways:

Deep Pore Cleaners

Most mild and even somewhat moderate acne can be dealt with sufficiently with over-the-counter pore cleansers. These products use deep exfoliation and proven acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in order to fight breakouts.

These products can be even more effective if they are switched out with one another every month or so, as acne tends to grow immune to certain ingredients.

Pre-Packaged sets

Pre-Packaged kits aren’t for everyone, but some classic ones are still great. You’re able to get three very quality products in one kit that work cohesively. It’s a decent thing.

Pre-packaged kits also can mean travel kits, which you can use to your advantage if you want to try out acne products before you buy. This is very helpful with the pricier brands, most of which offer travel sets of their acne lines.

Oral Antibiotics

If acne can’t be cleared any other way and there simply isn’t another option, doctors may prescribe of the antibiotics available. These drugs fight and kill the bacteria that cause acne from the inside out, and in doing so have a reputation for causing numerous gastrointestinal problems. They also can raise a patient’s immunity to certain types of other antibiotics drugs.

  • Isotretinoin – The most heavy-duty antibiotic choice for acne, prescribed usually only when it’s the absolute last resort. Although it is known for its effectiveness, the patient needs to take into consideration the substantial side effects; Isotretinoin has a known link to Chron’s disease.
  • Tetracycline – Also effective against acne, but with carries a high cost. Tetracycline has a link to irritable bowel syndrome. Women taking this drug need to be aware that it severely lowers the effectiveness of most birth control pills.

Topical Antibiotics

Topical treatments are a nice middle ground choice for those with more severe acne, who don’t want to take the risk of side effects with the oral medications. They work by attacking bacteria and stopping its growth, and often need to be used in combination with benzoyl peroxide treatment in order to be effective.

Adapalene is a topical retinoid/antibiotic, which means that it penetrates the skin and clogs the pores. Adapalene needs to be applied every day at least once.

Erythromycin is a trusted topical treatment that is is a macrolide antibiotic, which is fancy medical speak for a treatment that kills bacteria when applied directly to the skin. It is also available in pill form, however,

Birth Control Pills

Since acne has so much to do with hormones, and birth control pills work by regulating hormones in the body, certain birth control pills have been shown to be incredibly effective in treating acne.

A group of hormones called androgens (which includes the hormone testosterone) is often times responsible for excess sebum and acne. Oral contraceptives regulate these types of hormones and, therefore, can minimize breakouts and acne.

The FDA has allowed certain oral contraceptives to be prescribed specifically with regard to acne: can be used by any female over 15 but it is another. The approved generic medications are: ethinyl estradiol, norgestimate, norethindrone, and drospirenone.

Oral Retinoids

Oral Retinoids are powerful systemic treatments available for acne. Isotretinoin is the gold standard and has been shown in numerous studies to be to be tremendously effective when over-the-counter acne treatments just don’t seem to do the job.

Often, dermatologists prefer to use oral medications such as Isotretinoin as a first line of defense with severe acne, in combination with topical treatments.

Oral treatments for acne work fast, often within only days. The effectiveness is increased when retinoids/antibiotics are used alongside benzoyl peroxide and consistent cleansing.

New formulations are being used, one of which combines a time-release version of the effective drug minocycline with prescription topical products that are designed to work together in harmony for total effectiveness.

Another new option for fighting acne is a very low dose of doxycycline in a new formula. Although originally formulated for the treatment of rosacea, dermatologists are finding it to be incredibly helpful in fighting acne.

Topical Retinoids

Not just for acne, topical retinoids are powerful and popular vitamin-A based products that are very effective in treating a wide variety of skin conditions. They work by unclogging pores and opening hair shafts so that other acne-fighting products will be more effective when applied after. They are also effective in highly reducing the appearance of acne scars.

Acne Prevention Tips

Additional Prevention Tips:

  • Most people think oily skin is the culprit of acne, but a complexion that is too dry can be just as bad. Moisture soon after cleansing and drink plenty of water.
  • If you’re headed to the gym, get rid of all the powder and concealer on your face your makeup off before you sweat! Check all of your makeup before you buy; certain foundations, powders, and concealers are acne nightmares waiting to happen.
  • Wash all blankets and pillows at least twice a week.
  • And sanitize your cell phone!

All in All:

Whether using over the counter options or a dermatologist, there are plenty of choices out there in the war on acne. Doing a little research and considering your own budget and skin type will go a very long way.

Those suffering from mild acne and those with only occasional breakouts might only need over-the-counter pore cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide to treat their problem. With more moderate and severe acne, prescription products from the dermatologist will probably be needed.

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.

Chemical peels details

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.

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