Treatments Available for Acne

The modern treatment for acne focuses on reducing the body’s natural oil production, improving skin cell turnover, reducing inflammation, and combating bacterial infection. If you are using a prescribed treatment for acne, then you may not see any noticeable results within the first four to eight weeks. In some cases, your skin could have a negative initial response to this type of treatment before it gets better. If you have not had any success with these treatments, then you may be interested in enrolling in a acne clinical trial.

Your primary health care provider or dermatologist can recommend prescription acne medications which are taken orally or applied directly to the skin. However, you should not be taking any oral prescription medication if you are or plan on becoming pregnant in the near future.

Here are some of the treatments available for acne:

  • Non-Prescription Topical Treatments: There are numerous lotions which can be used to kill bacteria, dry up oil, and promote sloughing of dead skin cells. Most of these over-the-counter acne lotions contain benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, sulfur, and salicylic acid as their active ingredient. These types of treatments can be effective for more mild cases of acne, though they can cause some adverse side effects during the first month of application.
  • Prescription Strength Topical Treatments: For more severe cases of acne, over-the-counter ointments may not produce the desired effect. So, your doctor may prescribe a stronger type of acne lotion. Commonly prescribed acne lotions include tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage), tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, others), and adapalene (Differin). These acne treatments promote better cell turnover and prohibit further plugging of hair follicles. Some patients may also use topical antibiotics to kill the excess skin bacteria.
  • Oral Contraceptives: Combinations of ethinyl estradiol (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Previfem, others) and norgestimate, among other oral contraceptives, have been used to improve acne in women. However, this type of acne treatment can cause certain side effects. If you have been experiencing breast tenderness, headaches, depression, and nausea, then you may want to talk to your doctor about changing your treatment. More severe complications resulting from the use of oral contraceptives include an elevated risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and blood clots.
  • Laser and Light Therapy: This is a more advanced form of acne therapy which can reach the deeper layers of the epidermis without damaging the surface of the skin. Laser therapy is used to damage the sebaceous glands (oil producers), which reduces the amount of oil they can produce. This treatment also targets certain bacteria that causes acne related inflammation. Laser and light therapy helps to improve skin texture and can treat acne scars. However, this form of treatment is still recommended only for people who have adverse reactions to other approved acne medications. Patients have reported some mild discomfort and temporary skin irritation resembling a bad skin sunburn after undergoing laser therapy for acne.
  • Cosmetic Procedures: Microdermabrasion and chemical peels have proven effective at reducing acne as well. Traditionally, chemical peels are used to limit the appearance of facial scars, age lines, and sun damage, but these cosmetic procedures can also be used in combination with other types of acne treatment. A word of warning, chemical peels can cause scaling, severe redness, and some blistering. Other people have reported long-term discoloration of the skin after undergoing certain cosmetic procedures like these.

If you are living with severe acne, then be sure to discuss your options with your doctor and/or dermatologist before trying any new acne treatments. As you have seen, some of these treatments can produce side effects that could be worse than the acne you are trying to treat in the first place.