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How long should it take for acne treatment to work?

Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
I see plenty of patients who come in with a list of treatments that they have tried and that have reportedly failed. When I question them further, I commonly learn that they gave the medicine only 1 or 2 weeks before giving up and deciding that the treatment was not working. It is very important to realize that although results can sometimes begin in as little as 1 week, it often takes 4 to 6 weeks to really see significant improvement. It is important to continue the regimen for at least the full 6 weeks before you decide that the treatment is not working for you.

Initially, you should notice the pimples drying up. They can leave red marks behind that can last for months. The red marks are not affected by the acne treatments because they are simply remnants of the acne that was present earlier, rather than active acne, and they should not be confused with true acne lesions. They should be touched or picked at as little as possible to allow the skin to recover more quickly.

With continued treatment, the next thing that you should notice is that you get fewer new lesions and that the lesions that do appear clear more quickly with less redness or scarring, if any. Over the next few months, the red marks may turn brown before they disappear, or fading creams can be prescribed to help them fade faster.
100 Questions & Answers About Acne

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100 Questions & Answers About Acne

100 Questions and Answers About Acne provides you with all the information you need to manage your complexion problems. Written by Dr. Doris J. Day, a world-class expert in the field, this clearly...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.