A Patient's Guide to Acne
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A Look At Topical Treatment Options For Acne

Topical treatment is the standard care for acne. They are available over the counter, or at prescription strengths for more severe acne. Typically, medications which contain a higher concentration of these active ingredients will require a doctor’s prescription. There are many effective topical medications that are effective at controlling acne, but most of them contain the acne via one of the three actives listed below.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common actives in acne medications. It kills acne bacteria, and simultaneously unblocks oil gland pores. There are a variety of benzoyl peroxide products that are available over the counter. Products that have higher concentrations will require a doctor’s prescription.


Retinoids primarily works by unclogging the pores, and is the medication of choice for reducing whiteheads and blackheads. Generally, these medications are prescribed by a doctor.

  • Tretinoin
  • Adapalene
  • Tazarotene
  • Isotretinoin

Topical Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used primarily to control pimples. It reduces acne causing bacteria and controls the inflammation.

  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Sulfacetamide

When using any medication it is important to understand and accept that acne treatment takes time and patience. Many acne medications also cause the acne to flare up initially, which can be frustrating. Too often, patients become frustrated too early in treatment and fail to comply.

Click here for a full page on Combination Topical Products and how they are applied.


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