There are many treatments for acne, and finding the right one for you can be a challenge. Therefore, before you begin any treatment, we recommend identifying your skin type and a bit of research. That will ensure the treatment is the right one for you.
Benzoyl peroxide is used to help kill bacteria and address pustules and papules. However, salicylic acid is ideal for treating blackheads and whiteheads by removing dead skin cells that are clogging pores (but does not destroy bacteria). While each of these ingredients has its place in OTC treatments for acne, benzoyl peroxide is notoriously more drying than salicylic acid and may not be safe for sensitive skin.
If symptoms do not improve with an over-the-counter treatment, a dermatologist will usually recommend a more invasive option. Those may be in the form of a prescribed topical, oral medication or a combination of both. The most common topical prescription medications used for acne are retinoids and retinoid-like drugs. Retinoid treatments are chemically derived from vitamin A and are used to address mild to moderate acne. This class of medication may cause itching, scaling, redness, and excessive dryness of the skin.
Among the oral medications used to treat acne are: antibiotics, hormone-based therapies (i.e. contraceptives) and isotretinoin, commonly known as Accutane. These medications have varying success rates and concerns. Antibiotic treatments for acne have been decreasing in popularity as awareness of superbugs, or antibiotic-resistant germs have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “taking oral antibiotics long-term isn’t just dangerous, it’s not an effective way to treat acne”.
When it comes to contraceptive pills for women, the treatment has shown to reduce lesion counts but also posed a three-times increased risk of deep-vein blood clots. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is used to treat severe nodular acne and can cause a host of side effects that are too extensive to address here. For more information on this drug and its side effects, click here