Drugs and Medications to Treat Acne


Acne is treated with topical medications as well as oral drugs. Mild acne eruptions usually respond to over-the-counter ointments or lotions that reduce excess oil secretion,

Drugs and Medications to Treat acne

inhibit abnormal growth of the P. acnes bacteria and improves skin cell turnover, thereby healing the acne and clearing the acne scars. For treating severe acne flare-ups, you will need prescription medications that usually clear the zits within four to eight weeks.

Drugs And Medications To Treat Acne

Benzoyl Peroxide

Ointments containing benzoyl peroxide of 2.5% concentration is used for treating mild to moderate acne. By clearing the pores, benzoyl peroxide removes the excess oil from the skin and inhibits growth of P. acnes bacteria.

As a peeling agent benzoyl peroxide helps to clear the acne scars. Initially after applying benzoyl peroxide, you may develop irritation and skin dryness, which usually subside naturally after a week when your skin becomes accustomed to the topical medication.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid based topical medications are used for treating mild to moderate non-inflammatory acne. In over-the-counter topical medications for acne, salicylic acid is often combined with other anti-acne ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and resorcinol.

acne treatments and drugs

Salicylic acid easily penetrates the hair follicles, clears the pores and reduces the risk of further acne breakouts. Skin dryness, skin irritation and peeling are common side effects of using salicylic acid, which can be prevented with the help of oil free moisturizing lotion.


Topical medications containing sulfur treats acne by removing blockages in the hair follicles, reducing excess oil secretion and killing the bacteria responsible for the acne breakout. Sometimes, skin irritation may occur after using topical sulfur products.


In several popular over-the-counter topical medications for treating acne, sulfur is combined with resorcinol. Resorcinol breaks down the dead skin and clears the clogged pores, thereby creating an unfavorable environment for the acne causing bacteria to multiply.


Tretinoin is a prescription topical medication for treating acne. This vitamin A derivative helps to dissolve the blockages in the hair follicle. It is prescribed for treating comedonal acne. Flaking and irritation of the skin are common side effects of tretinoin use.


Adapalene is a retinoid-like compound prescribed by dermatologists for treating acne. It helps to control acne breakouts. Initially, your acne might worsen after applying an adapalene-based gel on the affected areas on the facial skin, which is the sign of adapalene pushing the acnes developing below the skin to the surface. It usually takes 6 to 8 weeks to notice the positive effect of adapalene.


Tazarotene is another vitamin A derivative used for treating acnes. It helps to heal the lesions by clearing the clogged pores.


Severe acnes are treated with isotretinoin. It is extremely effective for treating cystic acne or painful acnes that cannot be healed with standard acne drugs. Isotretinoin should be taken only under the supervision of a dermatologist. It is not recommended for pregnant women.


Bacterial infections responsible for moderate to severe acne breakouts are treated with oral antibiotics. Oral antibiotics may be taken with topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide. Antibiotics such as erythromycin and clindamycin are also combined with benzoyl peroxide in ointments used for treating acne.