Many people control their skin disorder issues like acne by washing their faces regularly and using over-the-counter acne treatments, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Notably, people with severe forms of acne require special measures to deal with the issue.
It is imperative that you consult your dermatologist if you are dealing with a persistent case of acne that leaves unsightly blemishes on your skin. Doctors usually begin with a mild treatment, and then switch to strong prescription oral treatments for acne. There are various kinds of oral antibiotics for acne that your doctor can recommend to you in order to fight your stubborn skin disorder.
In this article, you will learn the pros and cons of using antibiotics for treating acne. So, without further ado, let’s start with our list.
1. Here’s What Everyone Needs to Know About Acne
There are a few health problems that affect people of all races and colors. It is safe to say that almost everyone has dealt with unpleasant and embarrassing acne at some point in their life. Every year, people spend millions of dollars in order to find the most effective remedy for acne.
Acne is formed when a certain type of bacteria comes into contact and resides in the pores of your skin. These bacteria breed here and cause infection, which is commonly known as acne. The bacteria is not only present on your facial skin, but also on other parts of the body, such as your chest, scalp and back. These bacteria work by enhancing the amount of oil produced by your skin.
There are various causes of acne and a few of these are listed below:
- Hormonal Imbalances: Stress, puberty, health issues and other health disorders usually disrupt your hormonal balance and cause acne.
- Improper Hygiene: When you don’t wash your face properly, the remaining oil on your skin becomes a perfect breeding ground for acne causing bacteria.
- Presence of Dead Skin: Your skin continuously produces new cells and disposes of dead skin cells. When you don’t exfoliate your skin properly, these dead cells remain on your skin surface and become the cause of your acne.
- Unhealthy Foods: The processed and unhealthy foods that you eat everyday cause the formation of harmful free radicals in your body. Besides, unhealthy and fatty foods trigger the secretion of oil on your skin, leading to acne.
2. Acne Treatment with Antibiotics: An Important Overview
Antibiotics work to improve the look of your skin by fighting acne causing bacteria. When there are fewer bacteria on your skin, you deal with less acne and inflammation. Consequently, less acne leads to less scarring.
There are two types of antibiotics available for the treatment of acne.
- Oral Antibiotics for Acne: They help destroy acne bacteria residing in skin pores. According to experts, oral antibiotics work effectively when you start them at high doses and later taper the dose as the acne clears.
- Topical Antibiotics for Acne: These antibiotics treatments are available in cream and gel forms. You are required to apply them on your skin in order to kill acne causing bacteria present on the skin. People with mild acne can achieve results by using only topical antibiotic treatment.
3. The Different Types of Common Topical Antibiotics for Acne
Topical antibiotics for acne help destroy the Propionibacterium acne bacteria. This works to diminish the infection in the skin pores and helps them to remain open. Usually, your doctor will prescribe topical treatments; however, you can also get topical antibiotics for acne over-the-counter.
Below is a brief summary of the best antibiotics for acne:
- Clindamycin or Cleocin: Clindamycin is an antibiotic that works by preventing the development of acne causing bacteria. It treats bacterial infections, but may not work for viral infections such as the common cold and flu.
It is available as a gel, foam and a swab to apply on the skin. You are required to apply the gel twice a day, around the same time on the affected areas of your skin.
You should not apply the gel on broken skin or around your eyes, nose and mouth. Even though clindamycin is safe to use, you may experience a few side effects such as a redness of the skin, dry or peeling skin, oily skin, itching or burning skin, new pimples or blemishes and headaches.
- Erythromycin or E-Mycin: This topical antibiotic for acne works to lessen the number of pimples. It is a macrolide type and works to prevent the growth of bacteria. Doctors suggest applying a thin layer of the medication on the skin and massaging it gently in order to maximize its absorption.
You should use it twice a day or as directed by your physician. This treatment is generally well tolerated but may cause some irritation. You should not exceed the recommended amount of this treatment on your skin or for a longer duration than recommended. This will not clear your skin quickly, but instead may enhance the risk of side effects.
It usually takes up to three months of regular use of this treatment for complete clearing your skin of acne.
4. Spotting the Side Effects and Risks of Best Antibiotics for Acne
In general, topical acne treatments are well-tolerated by the majority of people. The possible side effects depend on the type of medication you are using. Some may deal with minor side effects, such as:
- Dryness of the Treated Area: It is one of the common side effects of topical gels. Your skin looks visibly flaky and scaly. In order to get rid of this dryness, you are required to apply a thin layer of non-oily moisturizer to the affected areas.
- Skin Irritation: It affects only a few people with extremely sensitive skin. If the user suffers from irritation, doctors recommend to stop using the treatment. They may also try using the lotion form of topical treatment, as these are less irritating than gels or solutions.
- Contact Dermatitis: This skin disorder is characterized by dry, itchy and red skin. This can occur due to an allergy or irritancy. You can treat this condition with the use of corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone.
- Bacterial Resistance: Intermittent use of topical antibiotics for acne often causes bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In order to reduce the occurrence of this side effect, you should apply topical antibiotics twice daily.
5. Tips for Treating Acne with Oral Antibiotics
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics taken orally for those who have moderate to severe inflammatory acne. Besides, oral antibiotics treat cystic acne effectively. Your doctor may prescribe them alongside a combination with topical therapies.
This effective dual treatment works to reduce the colonization of acne causing bacteria. It usually takes two months for these medicines to start working and stop the formation of new acne lesions. Doctors often advise patients to stop antibiotics once new acne lesions are no longer forming.
Here is a list of antibiotics for acne:
- Doxycycline or Vibramycin or Monodox: Doxycycline is an antibiotic that belongs to a group of antibiotics called It works for the treatment of several forms of bacterial infections from urinary tract infections to gum diseases.
Doxy helps to cure moderate to severe forms of inflammatory acne that are not getting better with topical treatments. It is worth noting that this treatment will not cure non-inflamed breakouts such as milia or blackheads.
This oral antibiotic treatment helps clear breakouts by minimizing the amount of acne causing bacteria on the skin such as P. acnes. It usually takes two to three months of using this treatment before you notice results. Therefore, doctors recommend that you keep using this treatment for the suggested time duration.
- Minocycline or Minocin: Minocycline is a tetracycline oral antibiotic treatment for acne. It helps fight bacteria in the body that triggers acne. This medicine also helps for the treatment of gonorrhea, chlamydia, tick fever, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.
It destroys the acne bacteria more effectively than many other acne medicines and has a separate “anti-inflammatory” effect. This is because it diminishes the redness, swelling, tenderness and pimples.
There are many antibiotic supplements used for treating acne, bur minocycline is the most effective and easiest to take. It also causes fewer side effects compared to other acne medicines.
- Tetracycline: Tetracycline works to treat various ailments including acne. It is a prescription medicine and therefore you need to consult your doctor before using it. Your doctor may decide to prescribe you a topical medication such as Retin-A along with oral tetracycline.
Tetracycline slows down the activity of acne causing bacteria and makes pimples less red and swollen. You need to take this antibiotic daily for longer periods of time if you are dealing with severe forms of acne.
Warning: Pregnant women should not take oral antibiotics for acne. It could harm the baby and cause permanent tooth discoloration later in life. Lactating mothers should also avoid taking this oral antibiotic since it may pass into breast milk and affect bone and tooth development in a nursing baby.
6. The Downside: The Side Effects and Risks of Oral Antibiotics
Side effects of antibiotics for acne may occur, though for most people they are minor. Just be sure to consult your doctor if you notice any symptoms. Some of the more common side effects are as follows:
- Allergies: People who are prone to allergies, skin irritation and rashes may experience uncomfortable symptoms after taking oral antibiotics. These can be mild, severe or life-threatening. According to experts, erythromycin or tetracycline usually do not cause allergies, but people on more than two percent of trimethoprim or cotrimoxazole may get affected. It is imperative that you tell your doctor if you have ever had a bad experience with antibiotics.
- Photosensitivity: People who are taking doxycycline may deal with photosensitivity. It is a condition where the user becomes more sensitive to the harsh rays of the sun. It is best to take the supplement after an evening meal in order to reduce the risk of sunburn. Cover up and protect your skin from exposure to the sun.
- Gastrointestinal Disturbance: About five percent of patients suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, colicky pain and diarrhea.
- Thrush: Also, known as candida albicans infection, it affects five percent of treated women and most often affects the vagina. This condition can also affect the oral mucosa or body folds, mainly in people with diabetes or people who are obese.
- Bacterial Resistance: It may occur but is less common with the use of oral antibiotics than with topical antibiotics.
- Failure of Oral Contraceptive Pills: Oral antibiotics for acne may not result in the failure of a contraceptive pill. But, if you are concerned, you can use a barrier method and consult your gynecologist about your risks.
7. Effective and Popular Over-the-Counter Treatment for Acne
There are various types of over-the-counter treatments that you can use to heal acne. Here are a few of the treatments:
- Salicylic Acid: This treatment is effective for patients with sensitive skin. In general, this is typically one of the first medications people will use to get rid of their acne. You can easily get topical salicylic acid from your local health store.
You need to apply this topical lotion on your skin once to three times per day. Massage it gently and rinse off. It is worth noting that, according to users, salicylic acid is not as effective as benzoyl peroxide, but it works for those with sensitive skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is available as both an over the counter product and as a prescription. It is available in 2.5 percent to 10 percent strength. Just like salicylic acid, users commonly use it to self-treat acne.
It works to treat mild to moderate forms of acne. Commonly, people use this topical therapy in combination with a prescription treatment to clear up more moderate to severe cases of acne.
It is imperative that you apply this treatment from every other day to twice daily. It is available in several forms, such as a gel, creamy wash and foam. Make sure that you go through the package directions for application before using it.
Some Additional Notes on Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne
- Redness: One of the most common side effects is a redness of the skin. It usually happens when you begin using the product. In fact, it is quite common that your acne may appear worse because of the redness. The redness usually subsides when you continue to use the product.
- Dosage: You should start the dosage at once daily or even once every other day to become accustomed to the product and reduce the possibility of redness. Experts recommend that you start with either the 2.5 percent or the 5 percent benzoyl peroxide strength.
- Bleaching: You should keep in mind that benzoyl peroxide may cause bleaching of towels and other fabrics. Benzoyl peroxide also can cause sun sensitivity.
- Azelaic Acid: Azelaic Acid or Azelex helps treat mild to moderate acne. It tends to be less irritating than other products, so is preferred by people with sensitive skin.
You need to apply azelaic twice daily: once in the morning and once in the evening, at the start of therapy. Gently wash your face, pat dry and apply the cream to your entire face or to the affected areas of the skin. Do not wash your face afterwards.
According to users, azelaic Acid is slightly less effective than the retinoid products. But, the fact is that it is therapeutic for people with sensitive skin. In people with darker complexions, it may cause hypopigmentation, also known as a loss in skin color.
- Treatment for Acne Scarring: While using treatments to cure your acne issues, you should consider using skin care products to take care of the scars. After you have controlled your acne, use scar reduction therapy to fade your scars. This treatment is a unique blend of potent ingredients, antioxidants and moisturizers.
8. Prescription Products For Treating Mild to Severe Form of Acne
One of the most commonly used prescription products for acne is topical retinoids. You can use them on their own in order to treat mild acne or use them in combination with other products in order to treat more moderate to severe acne.
You should begin the treatment with the lowest possible strength to avoid side effects. Initially, your doctor will recommend you start dosing at least three times a week. It is worth noting that you are required to apply retinoids before going to bed. In general, you should wash your face with a gentle cleanser and apply a thin film of the cream, lotion or gel to cover the entire face. Do not rinse off afterwards.
Useful Information for Using Retinoids Safely and Effectively
There are many forms of retinoids available for curing acne, pimples and cystic acne such as adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin. These preparations come in several different forms such as creams, gels and solutions.
- Ask for Generics: Doctors commonly prescribe tretinoin creams as they are available generically. In addition, they are less expensive than other products and do not tend to cause much irritation when compared to other retinoid products. Nowadays, there is a new tretinoin product known as Retin-A micro, which is gentle on the skin. It is vital that you apply this cream at bedtime, since it is deactivated by sunlight.
- Understand Adapalene: According to specialists, adapalene products are slightly more efficacious than tretinoin products and definitely cause less skin irritation. Some formulations of adapalene are available generically, the same as tretinoin products, but they are more expensive. Sunlight neutralizes adapalene, just like tretinoin and therefore you need to apply it before going to bed.
- Ask About Tazarotene: Experts consider tazarotene as one of the most effective retinoids of all. However, the fact is that it causes more irritation than the others. It commonly causes redness and scaling.
Note: For all the retinoid products, the prospects of flaking, irritation and redness increases as the strength increases. Preferably, you need to start the dosage at a couple of times per week and move up to nightly dosing.
When finding a treatment type for your skin, such as cream or gel, consider choosing the one that goes with your skin type. People with excessive oily skin should opt for gel-based products because they contain more alcohol and thus they have skin drying properties.
On the other hand, people with dry and flaky skin should use cream-based products. Lastly, it can sometimes take around a month to start seeing the positive effects of medication.
Tip: In order to find the right treatment, you can browse the net to read reviews on antibiotics for acne.
9. Debates on the Use of Antibiotics for Acne
Many healthcare providers are concerned about the use of antibiotics for acne, primarily due to reports of increasing rates of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. A few of the global threats of antibiotics include serious infections such as pneumonia, cellulitis, tuberculosis and diarrheal illnesses.
Excessive usage of these antibiotics can make the body become resistant to antibiotics, which will make your body more prone to infections. Therefore, it is vital that you use the medicine according to the stated guidelines and as suggested by your dermatologists.
Everyone strives to have clean and clear skin, but the treatments used for getting a smooth and acne-free face should not pose a dangerous risk to your overall health.
You should consult your dermatologists before using antibiotics for acne. Ensure that they perform physical examinations and check your health history, so that you can get the best treatment to meet your tailored demands.
If needed, your dermatologist might put you on stronger antibiotics to treat your acne, especially if other treatments have not been effective. If this one fails as well, your doctor may consider using stronger medication such as Accutane.