How is prescription topical medication helpful in treating acne?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Prescription topical treatments help by promoting cell turnover and also by killing bacteria on the skin. The combination is often very effective in treating acne.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

A prescription retinoid keeps acne in control by regulating cell turnover and keeping the pores unblocked, which is half the battle. Sulfa medications, benzoyl peroxide, and antibiotic cleansers - all in prescription strength - are effective too. Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, so they calm redness and kill P. acnes.

Most people do not want to use a bunch of different lotions, gels, and liquids if they can just use one. (In a compliance study, researchers placed a computer chip inside the cap of a medication container to record every time it was opened. Though most patients said they applied the cream twice a day as prescribed, the computer chip proved that they hardly opened the tube.) The newest acne products - for example, a prescription cleanser that contains both benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin - multitask and make it easier for patients to be compliant with at-home treatment. There is now a prescription acne gel that combines an antibiotic with a retinoid, a one-two punch that is especially successful in treating adult-onset acne.

Usually a patient with severe acne takes one oral medication once or twice a day, applies a topical retinoid at night, and uses one topical benzoyl peroxide antibiotic (such as BenzaClin wash). It is a lot to remember and a long process to endure, but the results are worth the effort.

Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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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.