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How do medications treat acne?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Over-the-counter creams and gels usually have chemicals like salicylic acid that work by drying out the skin to unclog pores. Topical medicines prescribed by a doctor are applied to and absorbed by the skin. These medicines can either kill the bacteria trapped in pores, or they can unclog the pores themselves. Oral medications work from the inside out to kill the bacteria in the pores. Sometimes these use the same chemicals found in topical creams, but they're a lot stronger and more effective when taken by mouth.

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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.