Types of Acne Medications

Dr. Jan Dank, MD, discusses types of acne medications.

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Dr. Jan Dank, MD, discusses types of acne medications.
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Jan Dank, MD

Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Acne is a very treatable disease.  

All treatments don’t work equally for everybody, but if you work your way through the simple treatments and up to more complicated ones, it’s the very rare person who cannot have their acne adequately controlled.  

Whatever you’re going to do for acne, it’s going to be ongoing therapy because this is a condition we treat and control, not cure. So once you get it under control, you have to stick with the medications and keep using them in the areas affected by acne.  

Prescription treatments usually are a combination of two agents. One is a topical retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A. These medications are usually put on the skin right in the region with acne, and they try and prevent the blackheads and whiteheads from forming.  

We also use topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics. The antibiotics are both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and they reduce the pimples and the pustules.

The first medicines, the retinoids, tend to work very slowly, and you need to be patient – but they often give the best control of the acne where the topical antibiotics, fortunately, work a little quicker in taking care of those pimples and zits that you’re seeing.  

For women, there are hormonal options if the standard topical antibiotic and topical retinoid aren’t working. Certain oral contraceptives can be very helpful in treating acne, and there is a medication that blocks the hormones responsible for acne in women called spironolactone that can also be used.  

If all else fails, and especially if the acne is the deep, painful nodular cystic type that’s causing scarring, there is an oral retinoid that is available for treatment of acne. But this is a pretty serious medicine and requires close doctor supervision to take.  

Presenter: Dr. Jan Peter Dank, Dermatologist, Bellingham, WA

Local Practitioners: Dermatologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.