Acne is a common skin disease that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oils, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
Depending on the severity, acne can be treated with topical (non-prescription) or prescription medications. These treatments target a variety of factors that lead to acne, including the oil glands and skin bacteria.
Acne is a common skin condition that can be very debilitating. It’s not caused by diet, stress or even soap, but by increased levels of oil production in the skin and certain types of bacteria that can infect plugged hair follicles (clogged pores).
Topical medications are part of most acne treatment plans. They can be effective in reducing the number and severity of breakouts, but they may not work for all people or for all types of acne.
Retinoids — Topical retinoids are very popular acne treatments, and they work by removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin and preventing them from building up within the hair follicles. They include tretinoin (sample brand names: Ret-A, Avita, Atralin, Altreno), tazarotene, and adapalene (sample brand name: Differin).
You should apply a retinoid to all of the parts of your face that are affected by acne twice a day before you go to bed. Some retinoids can cause irritation and peeling of the skin, so you should use them sparingly.
Benzoyl peroxide — Benzoyl peroxide is an effective treatment for mild acne and can help prevent scarring by killing the bacteria that cause infections. It can be applied to your entire face or to specific areas, such as the back of your hands and the sides of your neck.
These can be used on both oily and dry skin. They can be irritating to your skin and can make it more likely to burn in the sun, so you should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more while using them.
If you have very severe or cystic acne, a doctor might recommend prescription medications. These may be oral or topical and can offer a more powerful level of acne treatment than over-the-counter products.
The medications are often a combination of different types of antibiotics or antifungal agents. They may also be combined with a retinoid, which can reduce the length of time you have to take the medications and lessen the risk that you’ll become resistant to them.
If you are concerned about your acne, it is a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible. Getting medical treatment early can prevent your acne from getting worse and causing scars.
Often, acne treatment plans include a combination of topical and oral medications to address the different stages of the condition. The goal of a good treatment plan is to clear acne lesions, prevent new flares, and keep your skin healthy.
A prescription acne medication may be prescribed by your doctor to help reduce your skin’s oil production and clogged pores. These medicines target the hormones that cause sebum to build up and clog pores, which can lead to acne breakouts.
If you have severe or persistent acne that won’t respond to over-the-counter treatments, your doctor might recommend isotretinoin (formerly sold as Accutane), which has been proven to be highly effective in clearing breakouts. It can also reduce the risk of permanent scarring.
Isotretinoin works by decreasing the size of your sebaceous glands. When your sebaceous glands produce too much oil, a plug forms in the pore, trapping dirt, bacteria, and other impurities under the skin.
Another type of oral medication for treating acne is a topical antibiotic, which you use on your face and chest daily to kill the bacteria that cause breakouts. These drugs are usually combined with a topical retinoid, which helps decrease clogged pores and make your skin less oily.
You can also try a birth control pill that contains estrogen and progestin to reduce your body’s testosterone levels, which can trigger acne in some people. The FDA has approved four combined oral contraceptives for this purpose, including Yaz, Estrostep, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen.
Some women with severe, hard-to-treat acne may want to consider taking an oral antibiotic called tetracyclines. Tetracyclines reduce the synthesis of estrogen and progestin, which can decrease your body’s production of sebum. They can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and UV light, so they should be used for the shortest possible time.
The side effects of tetracyclines are rare, but they can include dry lips, mouth, nose and throat; itchy, red, or swelling skin; and increased sensitivity to sunburn. Some of these side effects are temporary, but you should see your doctor if any of them persist.
If you’ve ever had a super-swollen pimple, a cortisone injection could be the perfect quick-fix. This injectable works by reducing the swelling and redness of the acne breakout, which makes it easier to cover with makeup.
Cortisone injections are also an effective way to treat cystic and nodular acne. The steroid medication that’s injected into the skin (called triamcinolone, or Kenalog) reduces inflammation and shrinks acne nodules.
When a doctor administers a cortisone injection, they usually use a small needle to inject the diluted steroid directly into an active acne cyst or nodule. The steroid reduces inflammation and reduces the size of the acne cyst within a few days.
A cortisone shot can help to heal your acne faster and make it less painful, but you’ll want to be sure to follow up with your dermatologist afterward to prevent permanent scarring from the steroid. You’ll also want to be careful not to get a cortisone injection too deep into the skin, as this can cause a dent, pit, or depression in your skin.
Your derm will determine whether a cortisone shot is right for you by looking at the appearance of your pimples. If your blemish is more on the surface and less in the middle, your derm may recommend topical treatments first.
If your blemish is deeper in the skin and larger, your doctor may recommend a more potent steroid, like hydrocortisone, to speed up the healing process. In addition to the steroid, you may also need other acne medications to complete your treatment plan.
Some clients report that their blemishes fade completely after receiving a cortisone injection. This is because the steroid decreases inflammation while still causing the body’s natural healing process to take hold.
But it’s important to note that the steroid may cause the skin to thin. This is especially true if you have dark skin, as it can cause an area of lighter skin to appear.
In general, however, a cortisone shot is a quick-fix for those who are dealing with a super-swollen zit that won’t respond to a regular acne treatment. It’s not recommended for recurring or large nodules, but if you have a few one-off nodules that aren’t responding to regular treatment, it’s worth trying this treatment for a few months before switching to a more comprehensive plan.
Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when pores become blocked with oil and dead skin cells. While most people can control their acne with topical creams and lotions, those with more severe or persistent pimples may need to consider surgery as part of a treatment plan.
For patients with mild to moderate acne, treatment usually involves topical medications such as adapalene, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which can be purchased without a prescription. The medication can reduce the number and size of pimples and improve the look of the affected areas.
However, these medicines do not cure the acne and require repeated use to achieve full results. Some acne medicines work better than others and a dermatologist can recommend the best one for you.
Medications can also include antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. These help to clear up pimples by reducing inflammation and bacteria.
These medications can be found at most drug stores and pharmacies. They can be taken daily or as needed.
A dermatologist can also prescribe a topical corticosteroid, which helps reduce inflammation in the pores and prevents them from becoming blocked again. The drug is typically applied to the face, but it can be applied to other parts of the body as well.
Another type of acne medicine is antibiotic ointment, which is sprayed on pimples and other lesions to kill bacteria. This can be effective for mild to moderate acne and requires repeat applications.
In severe acne cases, a doctor might prescribe oral isotretinoin, which can be very effective in reducing the number of pimples and the severity of the breakouts. This treatment is sometimes used in conjunction with other acne medicines and is often prescribed for patients with cystic acne, which can be difficult to treat with topical or oral medication.
Laser treatments are another common method for treating acne and can be very effective. They are often delivered over a series of sessions, so they can be more cost-effective for some patients than one session.
These treatments can be performed on the forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and other areas that may be affected by acne. Some lasers are more expensive than others, so your dermatologist will discuss the costs and benefits before scheduling your appointment.