Acne Treatments

A Look at Acne Treatments

Acne can be a painful and embarrassing skin condition that can have a serious impact on self-esteem and confidence. The good news is that there are ways of treating this condition to remove or reduce its effect on our lives.


Acne sufferers can take action to avoid worsening their condition by using a very mild soap or cleanser, not washing their face too frequently, not squeezing spots, blackheads and whiteheads, and limiting the amount of make-up that they use on their face. On the downside, these steps are unlikely to be effective enough to deal with the condition completely on their own, but there are also no disadvantages or side-effects to this method of treatment.

Topical treatments

There are a number of topical treatments that can be used for acne, many of which are available in pharmacies and online, including the likes of:

• Benzoyl peroxide

• Vitamin A cream or gel

• Antibiotic cream or gel

• Azelaic acid cream or gel

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is able to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation while serving to open up blocked pores. It is an effective treatment for mild cases of acne, but side-effects can include mild burning, skin reddening, itchiness and causing the skin to become extra sensitive to exposure to the sun. It can also stain bed sheets and clothes.

Vitamin A cream or gel

Creams or gels called rub-on topical retinoids are a derivative of vitamin A. They are capable of reducing the production of sebum, otherwise known as skin oil, and unblocking pores. They are very effective at clearing smaller spots, blackheads and whiteheads, but can cause mild stinging and skin irritation, and sunlight sensitivity. They are not suitable for pregnant women.

Antibiotic cream or gel

Bacteria is killed by these rub-on topical antibiotics, which have been proven to be extremely effective when dealing with inflamed spots. They are less likely to cause skin irritation than a number of other acne gels or creams. On the downside, the risk of antibiotic resistance means they can only be used for around eight weeks and they can be less effective with whiteheads and blackheads.

Azelaic acid cream or gel

Azelaic acid is able to kill bacteria and unblock pores. This is an effective treatment for mild acne in individuals who have had issues with other treatments, and does not cause sunlight sensitivity. However, side-effects can still cause mild burning, dryness, itchiness and stinging.


Forms of medication that can be used to treat acne include Isotretinoin, co-cyprindiol and antibiotic medicines.


Isotretinion is a derivative of vitamin A which can be taken in capsule or tablet form. It functions in a similar manner to retinoid cream or gel, but is considerably more powerful and is very effective in treating more severe cases of acne. On the downside it can result in those taking the medication bleeding and bruising more easily, as well as causing headaches, skin rashes, pain in bones, joints and muscles, blood in urine, inflammation of the eyes or eyelids, and dry and inflamed lips. It cannot be prescribed by GPs, only by dermatologists.


This is a hormonal treatment for women when acne is believed to be caused by hormonal conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome. It has proven to be very effective in treating severe cases of acne that have failed to respond to antibiotics. However, it is unsuitable for women who are pregnant, and has a number of side-effects including headaches, loss of sexual interest, weight loss or weight gain, mood changes, sore breasts, and bleeding between periods. There is also a very small risk that using this treatment could cause breast cancer and blood clots later in life.

Antibiotic medicines

Antibiotic medicines are taken by mouth, often in conjunction with a cream or gel, to kill bacteria. They are very effective treatments for mild to severe cases of acne. Antibiotics can take up to six weeks to improve symptoms, and can be used for no longer than six months due to the danger of antibiotic resistance. They can also cause nausea, diarrhoea, mild stomach pains, vomiting and sunlight sensitivity. They may cause the contraceptive pill to become less effective, requiring the use of alternative methods while on the treatment.