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What can I expect when starting a new topical treatment for my acne?

Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
Depending on the medication used, there can be an adjustment period where the skin adapts to the treatment. In the process, the skin can look red and feel irritated or more sensitive, and there can be scaling of the skin, which feels like layers of the skin are peeling off. This can be minimized by increasing moisturizing of the area and by starting more slowly.

I usually recommend starting only one new medication at a time when possible so that if there is an unacceptable reaction it will be more clear as to which is the most likely offending agent. Also, you can usually start by using the medication less often and then increasing as your skin tolerates it. Also, most people use too much of the product at one time. You only need to use just enough to get a thin coat over the skin; anything else is only waste and increases the risk of irritation.

What people often perceive as their skin getting worse when they start a new treatment is simply irritation and peeling from this adjustment. If the predominant type of acne is comedonal and the comedones are deep under the skin, sometimes the skin may look temporarily worse as these lesions move through the surface and are expelled. This can take 1 month or longer to run its course.
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.