Acne Medication and there side effects:

Posted in Acne at 10:48 am

Topical Medications: 


1.      Tetracycline:  One of the first available acne antibiotics that was changed for topical use.  Discoloration of the skin is a possible side effect.  

2.      Sulfonamide: Popular treatment for acne and skin inflammation.  One of the oldest antibiotics to date.

3.      Clindamycin: a semisynthetic antibiotic that is similar in nature to erythromycin.  

4.      Erythromycin: Active to a large and diverse grouping of bacteria.  Its topical use is for the treatment of common acne vulgaris.  It is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medication.

5.      Azelaic acid: Adapted for acne treatment.  Applied as a cream.  Useful for treating certain acnes by antimicrobial approaches.  Process can take several months to be effective. Over use may result in increased or in some cases permanent redness of the skin.

The main problem encountered with antibiotic use is the need to change antibiotics frequently as bacteria mutate and become resistant to an antibiotic usually in 3 to 5 months. This is the reason you often hear people on antibiotic therapy say, it used to work but now it no longer controls my acne.


Molecules in the Vitamin A family.  Popular for anti-acne meds because of their proven effectiveness.  Proven to lessen abnormal growth of cells around the sebaceous follicles.

Retinoids, while effective, also have side effects.  Among these are redness, dryness, itching and cracking of skin.  However, in systemic retinoids, chance of birth defect can be a major issue.  A teenager or female acne sufferer should first consult a doctor before using these systemic treatments to evaluate if the possible risks outweigh any possible benefits.  

Retinoids are used topically and may also be used in pill form.  Here is a list of the ones available in the United States.  Some are topical and some are systemic:

1.      Tretinoin: Vitamin A acid.  Derived from the Vitamin A family.  Topical acne medication.Gel form is generally stronger than the cream form. Also known as Retin-A, Renova, Adaplene and Differin. Prolonged use may lead to another skin condition called rosacea.

2.       Isotretinoin (brand name Accutane) is an oral retinoid best known for treating severe cystic acne. Retinoids all carry the risk of causing birth defects in developing fetuses if the mother is using the drug, women who take them must wait a certain amount of time before safely attempting to become pregnant as Accutane can stay dormant in the fat cells for seven (7) years. People taking oral retinoids should not take vitamin supplements containing vitamin A.  Accutane has now been linked with a long list of serious side effects, which are frequent, varied and at times severe such as depression and suicide. The Food and Drug Administration has been considering removing it from the market due to the above factors.

Over the counter Acne Products:


The most common over-the-counter medications used to treat acne contain one of the following ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, zinc or sulfur.  Each works a little differently. These acne medications are available in many forms, such as gels, lotions, creams, soaps or pads.


Many of these over-the-counter acne medications may cause side effects such as skin irritation, burning or redness. These products can take between 4 and 8 weeks before you notice an improvement in your skin. If an over-the-counter acne product doesn’t seem to help after 2 months, get advice from your doctor. Likewise tell your doctor if you have side effects that are severe or that don’t go away over time.


To be effective, an over the counter acne medication needs to have the right concentration and combination of helpful ingredients to avoid causing further damage to the skin. Sometimes “Less is More”.


To find the proper blending of ingredients in an acne treatment that can calm the skin while providing the necessary antimicrobial benefits, in a non-inflammatory preparation should be the goal of all acne sufferers.


To learn more about acne and the treatment of acne we suggest the following website references:


The Acne Factor:



Chemical Peels and Retinoids: http://www.internationalrosaceafoundation.org/peels_retinoids.php4


ACNE-Ltd III Adult Acne and Lifestyle Treatment Information:



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