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Home / Acne / Acne treatments

Acne treatments

Suffering with acne can be very distressing, and can affect the confidence of many people with the condition. However, there are a number of acne treatments available that can help to clear the acne lesions as much as possible, thus preventing further scarring and improving the appearance of your skin. However, many of these treatments can usually take up to two to three months before they start to work and it is essential that you are patient and continue with the recommended treatment for at least a few months. The severity of the acne infection along with how you respond to specific medications will be decisive factors when choosing the right treatment.

Prescription medication

Prescription treatments can be either oral or topical and include topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, azelaic acid and antibiotic tablets. Common oral antibiotic treatments include Minocin, Oxytetracycline, and Dianette.



Minocin is a tetracycline oral antibiotic treatment that comes in 100mg daily dose capsules. It uses the active ingredient minocycline, which prevents the bacteria's ability to produce proteins that are essential for the infection to grow and multiply. It effectively stops the spread of the infection.



Oxytetracycline is an oral antibiotic treatment that specifically targets the bacteria responsible for the infection. Through its active ingredient oxytetracycline dehydrate, it inhibits the bacteria's ability to produce proteins and as a result prevents the infection from spreading. It also works to attack the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.



Although primarily known for being an oral contraceptive, Dianette is also an effective treatment for acne in women. Containing both oestrogen and cyproterone acetate, it works by blocking androgen receptors, reducing excessive sebum production in your skin, thus preventing the production of acne.

Additional prescription methods

Treatment for severe acneSevere types of acne that have failed to respond to past treatment may require stronger medication such as Roaccutane. However, only a specialist can prescribe this medication to you once other treatments have been tried. You are also required to undergo a blood test before starting a course of this treatment. Using the active ingredient isotretinoin, this treatment works by reducing the skin’s natural oils. It effectively reduces the sebaceous glands in the skin, reducing the amount of sebum produced. Due to the side effects associated with this medication it is recommended that you first try other medications and speak to your doctor if you are considering this particular treatment.

Over-the-counter medication

FreedermThere are a number of over-the-counter treatments for acne that claim to effectively treat the condition. A prescription is not required for these medications. Most of these treatments contain ingredients such as azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxyl, sulphur and salicylic acid. These topical treatments usually come in the form of gels, lotions and creams. Popular due to their cost effectiveness, these treatments may be effective for very mild cases of acne but are generally ineffective for severe cases, in which case prescription treatment will likely prove more beneficial.

Alternative methods

There are a number of treatments that have been developed as alternatives to oral or topical treatments. Such methods include chemical peels, which involve a chemical solution being applied to the face, causing skin to peel off and new skin to be left in its place. Another alternative method used to rid acne is the use of comedone extractors, which are pen-like instruments used to extract blackheads and whiteheads. Photodynamic therapy is another non-pharmaceutical method, whereby light is applied to the infected skin to improve symptoms of the condition. However, there has been limited evidence to support the credentials of these treatments and whether such treatments are effective is still undecided.

Devise a personal treatment plan

If you are prone to suffer from outbreaks of acne then some self-help techniques may help to prevent symptoms. When washing your face and the affected area, use a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Extreme hot or cold water can aggravate the condition. Although washing your face is critical in preventing the build-up of bacteria, over-washing should also be prevented as this can lead to irritation. If you regularly wear makeup, use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic. Always remove makeup before going to bed to prevent blocking your pores. Regularly wash your hair to prevent the build-up of oil and make sure to prevent hair from falling into your face.

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Anand Abbot Written by our editorial team
Last reviewed 28-04-2023

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