Acne treatment depends on whether you have a mild, moderate, or severe type of acne. Sometimes your doctor will combine treatments to get the best results and to avoid developing Reference drug-resistant bacteria Opens New Window. Treatment could include lotions or gels you put on blemishes or sometimes entire areas of skin, such as the chest or back (topical medicines). You might also take medicines by mouth (oral medicines).
Treatment for mild acne (whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples) may include:
- Gentle cleansing with warm water and a mild soap, such as Dove or Cetaphil.
- Applying Reference benzoyl peroxide (such as Brevoxyl or Triaz).
- Applying Reference salicylic acid (such as Propa pH or Stridex).
If these treatments do not work, you may want to see your doctor. Your doctor can give you a prescription for stronger lotions or creams. You may try an Reference antibiotic Opens New Window lotion. Or you may try a lotion with medicine that helps to unplug your pores.
Moderate to severe acne
Sometimes acne needs treatment with stronger medicines or a combination of therapies. Deeper blemishes, such as nodules and cysts, are more likely to leave scars. As a result, your doctor may give you oral antibiotics sooner to start the healing process. This kind of acne may need a combination of several therapies. Treatment for moderate to severe acne may include:
- Applying Reference benzoyl peroxide.
- Draining of large pimples and cysts by a doctor.
- Applying prescription antibiotic gels, creams, or lotions.
- Applying prescription retinoids.
- Applying Reference azelaic acid.
- Taking prescription oral antibiotics.
- Taking prescription oral retinoids (such as isotretinoin).
Treatment for acne scars
There are many procedures to remove acne scars, such as Reference laser resurfacing and Reference dermabrasion. Some scars shrink and fade with time. But if your scars bother you, talk to your doctor. He or she may refer you to a dermatologist or a Reference plastic surgeon Opens New Window.
What to think about
Most treatments for acne take time. It often takes 6 to 8 weeks for acne to improve after you start treatment. Some treatments may cause acne to get worse before it gets better.
If your acne still hasn't improved after several tries with other treatment, your doctor may recommend that you take an oral retinoid, such as Reference isotretinoin. Doctors prescribe this medicine as a last resort, because it has some rare but serious side effects and it is expensive.
Certain low-dose birth control pills may help control acne in women who tend to have flare-ups before menstruation.
- Opens New Window Acne: Should I See My Doctor? Opens New Window
- Opens New Window Acne: Should I Take Isotretinoin for Severe Acne? Opens New Window
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference February 3, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology