How is Acne Treated?


Acne can be a handful to get around – especially if your hormones or androgens are a whack. But that does not mean that it’s impossible to at least lessen the severity of breakouts. If you have tried several OTC ( over the counter ) acne spot treatment products for a while with minimal success, then it may be time to seek the advice of your dermatologist on a few prescription-strength products. 

A skincare specialist can help you. 

  • Avoid scarring and subsequent further damage to your complexion 
  • Rein in your flare-ups
  • Make the scars from past acne episode less visible 

Most acne medications typically work either by lessening sebum production or  inhibiting the activity of acne-causing bacteria.

This way, the skin has an opportune chance to heal even if it is just for a couple of weeks. Speaking of which, with most prescription-strength acne drugs, you may not necessarily see any meaningful improvement for 6 to 8 weeks and it could take as many as a couple of months before your breakout clears up entirely. 

The treatment regimen employed by your dermatologist will hinge on a couple of factors. This includes

  • Your age and skin type 
  • The severity and seriousness of the breakout
  • The treatment method that you are ready or able to commit to 

An expectant woman, for example, may not be in a position to take hormonal pills to control her acne that a teenager would have no problem with whatsoever.

You could also be required to apply a topical cream at least twice a day for months before seeing any reasonable results. Now, some may not be able to put up with this if the acne cream in question has serious side effects for them.

In such a case, the doctor could be forced to look for another way of getting in control of the breakout. Here are some of the options they could explore. 

Topical Medications and  Midnight Recovery Concentrates

There are several topical prescription-strength medications available today. Unlike OTC drugs, they tend to be more potent in their approach against pimples and zits. They fall under the following categories. 

Retinization with retinoids

These are retinoid-like drugs or medications that contain tretinoin or retinoic acids.

They often come as gels, creams and lotions and are quite effective for mildly severe to moderate acne. Good examples include tazarotene, differin ( adapalene ), tretinoin (retin-A, avita, etc ). Most dermatologists will advise you to apply it twice a day – once in the morning and before bed – three times a week. You will then graduate to daily use as soon as your skin gets used to it. 

Unlike other topical solutions and acne scar removers, retinoids reduce the chances of having clogged hair follicles but, on the downside, make your face very sensitive to the sun’s UV rays.

For this reason, you may want to stay out of the sun and avoid using tretinoin products at the same time as those that contain benzoyl peroxide.  

People with skin of color may find that most retinoid creams often cause dry skin and redness as potential side effects. Adapalene, nonetheless, tends to have the mildest of such side effects in the retinoids family. 

Antibiotics for Clogged Pores

As you may already at this juncture, antibiotics work by inhibiting the activity of acne-causing bacteria to give your skin a chance at recovery.

That much-needed break from the full onslaught of p.acnes bacteria could go a long way in helping your acne scar removal efforts later on by preventing extensive damage of the epidermis. 

If you have a severe acne bout, you may be required to combine the action of both an antibiotic and a retinoid in the first few weeks of treatment before dropping the retinoid when the situation improves. Speaking of combination, skincare specialists may sometimes recommend using antibiotics alongside benzoyl peroxide to reduce the probability of developing much-dreaded antibiotic resistance.

Examples of such include; 

  • Using clindamycin alongside benzoyl peroxide 
  • Benzaclin being used with Duac 
  • Benzamycin used with erythromycin 

Salicylic Acid and Azelaic Acid in Face Moisturizers for Men

Azelaic acid, contrary to what most people are led to believe, is derived from yeast activity. As such, it has minimal but very important antibacterial properties.

In fact, this is why a 20% azelaic acid moisturizer appears to be more effective than most conventional topical treatments when applied twice a day.

Speaking of which, prescription-strength medications that contain azelaic acids such as Finacea and Azelex, have always been an ideal option for controlling acne in expectant women or those that are breastfeeding due to their lower incidence of harboring side effects and drug interaction. 

Salicylic and azelaic acid topical treatments are also used to reduce the visibility of defects such as hyperpigmentation and discoloration that accompanies major types of acne. Expect mild side effects such as skin irritation and redness, though these should resolve within a week or so. 

Topical treatments that contain only salicylic acid, on the other hand, are effective at preventing the blockage and plugging of hair follicles by excess sebaceous secretions. They are typically available as both leave-on and wash-off products. However, they are considered to be less capable of managing acne than prescription-strength retinoids. 

Dapsone for Butt Acne 

5% dapsone gel – to be applied at least twice a day – is often recommended for the treatment of inflammatory butt acne, particularly in adult women. Its side effects include a bit of redness and dryness. 

Oral Medications – Best Acne Treatment for Teens and Adolescents 

It’s not uncommon for a dermatologist to resort to using oral medication in cases where the treatment of acne using topical remedies has failed to bear fruit. 

Antibiotics and Whiteheads

Oral antibiotics are often introduced as a last resort when the inflammatory acne appears to have gotten out of hand. The reason being; its mode of application involves risking developing antibiotic resistance and should therefore be used within the shortest time frame possible. 

The first choice of oral antibiotics for treating zits and pits is tetracycline or a suitable macrolide like azithromycin or erythromycin. Macrolides are ordinarily ideal options for people who are not considered fit to take regular antibiotics such as kids under the age of 8 and pregnant women. 

Oral Contraceptives and Body Acne

Oral birth control pills that impact the levels of progestin and estrogen hormones are practical ways of managing the secretion of sebum which then controls the severity of inflammatory acne in women.

Although, you may have to wait for a few weeks or even months before seeing any meaningful improvement with this treatment approach. Add to this the various side effects of contraceptives such as nausea, weight gain and breast tenderness and you begin to see why it is not the most preferred treatment option for most. 

Birth control pills have also been associated in the past with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, cervical cancer and a number of cardiovascular problems. 

Anti-androgen Agents and Nodular Acne

If oral antibiotics are not helping, then the physician can turn to anti-androgen drugs such as spironolactone to get the acne in control. These aldactone work by blocking ( or minimizing ) the effect that androgen hormones have on sebaceous glands and oil-producing hair follicles.

There are, therefore, most effective in teenagers and adolescent women. 

Isotretinoin and Pustules

Isotretinoins like Claravis and Amnesteem are derivatives of vitamin A.

They are mostly prescribed to teenagers whose severe to moderate acne has proven to be resistant to other forms of treatments, They are not exactly the most preferred way of treating acne thanks to the slew of potential effects that they pack including; depression, birth defects and inflammatory bowel disease. 

In Closing 

Treatment of acne has, without a doubt, come a long way from the days when we used to rely on only home remedies to maintain an attractive complexion.

Now, thanks to the ground-breaking advancement in dermatological science, you have an array of affordable treatment options for getting rid of pimples and zits.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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