Acne treatment

Acne treatment depends on the severity of the lesions. Washing skin properly with warm water and nonperfumed soap, avoiding oily cosmetics and abrasive acruhs, and regular shampooing of hair to stop it becoming too oily can help to control acne. It is important to minimize the effects of pressure from tight collars or helmets, perspiration and touching, scrubbing and rubbing affected areas. Stress also causes an increase in certain hormones which can affect the severity of acne, and relaxation techniques may be useful in improving symptoms.

Acne treatmentPicking and squeezing pimples can result in infection and scarring and should be avoided. There is no instant or permanent cure for acne, although it can be controlled and proper acne treatment will prevent scarring.

Acne treatment: Medications

Mild cases of acne may be treated with various medicated creams and solutions, both prescription and nonprescription. Benzoyl peroxide, which is used on all acne-prone areas of the skin, can prevent as well as treat acne, and is used even when the face is clear. Side effects include burning, excessive drying and redness. Other treatments include clindamycin solution, tretinoin cream and azelaic acid cream.

Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline and minocycline are sometimes prescribed for moderate or severe cases, especially when there is a lot of acne on the back or chest. They reduce the bacteria in the hair follicles. It is usually found that acne symptoms recur after short periods of antibiotic treatment and long-term therapy may be necessary. However there are adverse side effects associated with long term antibiotic use.

Acne treatment: Vitamin A-derivative drugs

Synthetic vitamin A-derivative drugs known as retinoids are used to treat cases of severe acne which have not responded to other acne treatment or which have only shown partial response to antibiotic therapy. There are topical and oral forms of these drugs and they are available on prescription. Visits to a doctor or dermatologist are necessary to monitor the side effects which include dryness and inflammation of the lips, conjunctivitis, photosensitivity, arthritis, bone abnormalities and depression. These drugs can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy and should also be avoided by breastfeeding women.


Isotretinoin (Accutane) is derived from naturally occurring retinoic acid, which is related to vitamin A. It acts to reduce oil production by reducing the size of the sebaceous glands and also exerts anti-inflammatory effects. It is taken by mouth, with food. Care needs to be taken when giving isotretinoin to people with diabetes, alcoholism, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and obesity, or those with high blood fat levels.


Tretinoin is similar to isotretinoin but is more toxic. It prevents the build-up of keratin and increases the turnover of epithelial cells. This prevents the formation of new spots. There are rare reports of nerve damage with topical tretinoin. Symptoms include headaches, depression and memory loss.


Adapalene is a new retinoid which is used on the skin in gel form. Studies have shown that it is as effective as tretinoin gel but is less irritating to the skin.

Hormonal treatment

In women whose acne seems to be particularly related to menstruation, oral contraceptives may relieve symptoms.

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