How is systemic medication helpful for treating acne?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Systemic medication for treating acne works inside your body, unlike topical medication, which you apply directly to your skin. Oral antibiotics are one common form of systemic medication used to treat acne. Antibiotics kill bacteria. The oral antibiotics prescribed for acne help eliminate a form of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes. Controlling P. acnes helps reduce inflammation, which can improve acne.

For severe acne, doctors sometimes prescribe isotretinoin. This drug helps to reduce P. acnes and inflammation. It also treats acne by making the skin less oily and unclogging pores. For women with pimples, some doctors may suggest that they try taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which treat acne by reducing the amount of oil your skin produces. Speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits of systemic medication to treat acne.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Acne patients take antibiotics and a vitamin A derivative orally, as wellas applying them topically, so they work from the inside out too. Antibiotics are used for inflammatory acne and isotretinoin (a vitamin A analog known by the brand name Accutane) for both comedonal and inflammatory forms.

Antibiotics like tetracycline are prescribed in an eight-week course, usually in conjunction with a topical retinoid and a benzoyl peroxide antibiotic cleanser. These days doctors are gravitating more to a new generation of low-dose antibiotics that have fewer side effects and will hopefully prevent antibiotic resistance. (Higher-dose antibiotics have been known to cause gastrointestinal problems and yeast infections.) These medications, such as Doryx, Solodyn, and Oracea, are not as harsh and have a similar, positive anti-inflammatory effect - but they have little if no antibacterial strength. Another excellent medicine is spironolactone. Originally a diuretic, its anti-testosterone effects diminish acne - especially the persistent acne around the mouth.

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

More About this Book

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...

Continue Learning about Acne Treatment

What are the benefits of chemical peels for acne?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
The choice to have a cosmetic procedure is a personal one. All women are beautiful in their own wa...
More Answers
How does isotretinoin work to treat acne?
Dr. Doris Day, MDDr. Doris Day, MD
Oral isotretinoin is a retinoid preparation that decreases the size and secretion of the sebaceo...
More Answers
How Can I Get My Acne Scars Treated?
How Can I Get My Acne Scars Treated?
Are There Some Home Remedies for Acne?
Are There Some Home Remedies for Acne?

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.