There are several different types of acne treatment available. There are several factors—including the type and severity of the acne, personal health factors, and individual priorities—that will determine which is right for you. For mild acne that isn’t time sensitive, a combination of over-the-counter acne medications and some patience is probably all you need. But not all acne cases fit into this household definition of how to deal with the random pimple. If you have a severe acne lesion, a widespread outbreak, or recurring acne that has resisted over-the-counter treatments, you should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

It’s always good to learn about the basic types of acne treatment, but you will still want to create a personalized acne treatment plan in consultation with a skin specialist. We can prescribe stronger medications, perform an immediate extraction, and provide advice about how to prevent future outbreaks.


Oral Acne Medications

From treatment of an active lesion and prevention of future outbreaks to treating the most severe forms of acne, here are the most common types of oral acne medications.

  • Antibiotics: When an acne sore is infected, antibiotics may be needed to help kill off the infection and accelerate the healing process. Rather than a full course of antibiotics, these medications should be used for the shortest time possible to reduce the chances of developing a resistance to the antibiotics.


  • Oral Contraceptive: Oral contraceptives that use a combination of estrogen and progestin may be effective at managing hormonal acne (acne vulgaris). This is often a good option for women who are also interested in using contraception.


  • Isotretinoin: This is a powerful oral medication that may provide long-term benefit to even severe types of acne, but which may also cause very serious side effects. Isotretinoin, known commercially as Accutane, is only to be used after careful consideration, under the close supervision of your dermatologist, and when agreeing to strictly follow the treatment plan.


Topical Acne Medications

There are several types of topical acne medications, each designed to treat a different part of acne formation. The best product for a normal course of teen acne is often different from the best product for severe acne nodules.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-bacterial ingredient that works to reduce pimples and oily skin secretions. It also helps prevent bacteria from developing antibiotic resistance. While available as an over-the-counter treatment in lower concentrations, higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide require a prescription.


  • Topical Antibiotics: Antibiotics may also be prescribed as a topical acne treatment. Clindamycin is one popular treatment option.


  • Retinoids: Topical treatments include creams, lotions, and gels which may be available over the counter or through a prescription-strength medication. A derivative of vitamin A, this medication works by getting deep into the skin to open follicles, reduce oil production, and increase skin cell growth. It’s also an anti-bacterial.


  • Salicylic acid: This exfoliating treatment helps break down oil, remove dead skin cells, and prevent clogged pores. It does not kill bacteria or reduce oil production. A staple of most acne treatments but rarely enough on its own for moderate-to-severe acne problems, salicylic acid is available over the counter or as a prescription-strength acne treatment.


  • Alpha hydroxy acids. Similar to salicylic acid, these exfoliants remove dead skin and debris to reveal a new layer of skin. However, because alpha hydroxy acids are water-based, they cannot penetrate to the deeper layers of the epidermis. This can also be an effective treatment to reduce the appearance of acne scars.


  • Natural/Home Remedies: There are also several natural home remedies that people use to treat and prevent acne, but the evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments is limited. Topical treatments include tea tree oil, green tea, apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, fish oil, aloe vera, antioxidant facial mask, and bovine cartilage. Oral treatments include zinc and Hansen CBS (brewer’s yeast).


Diet can Help Prevent Acne

Research has shown that a generally healthy diet and avoiding certain foods can help reduce the number and severity of acne outbreaks. Dermatologists aren’t entirely sure why certain foods help or hurt acne, but we do have some idea. Dairy products and foods with high sugar levels can change our hormone levels, while omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation. Meanwhile, a healthy and high-fiber diet help regulate blood sugar and hormone levels. Learn more about the best diet for acne.

Along with a healthy diet, an acne self-care routine that avoids skin irritation and reduces contaminants that contribute to clogged pores is a great way to prevent acne.


Get Immediate Help with Acne Extraction

The best advice for most pimples and acne lesions is some combination of treatment and patience. Sometimes, you can’t wait for acne to go away on its own. It could be a wedding, prom, homecoming, or a job interview. Rather than try to pop your own pimple and risk further inflammation with a permanent acne scar, let a dermatologist perform your acne extraction with a specially designed tool. Before your next social event, or before you become so frustrated that you no longer care what happens to your skin, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists.


Find the Best Acne Treatment with a Certified Dermatologist

The characteristics of your acne can point toward treatments that are likely to be more effective than others. Unfortunately, not everybody reacts the same way to each type of treatment. Some people respond immediately to acne treatment that almost completely clears up any lesions and pimples. Finding the best combinations, concentrations, and schedule to treat a severe acne condition can take months or even years. Likewise, the best acne treatment when you’re 15 may not be the best option when you’re 25, but a dermatologist can help you navigate the waters.


Contact us to schedule an appointment with our St. Louis-area dermatology clinic.


*Results may vary per patient.