Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Acne Vulgaris Treatment

Acne can be difficult to treat but treatment may reduce symptoms and keep the condition from worsening. Acne is initially treated with oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics, and topical medications that dry the skin. Additional medications or surgical procedures may be added for more severe symptoms. In some cases, a person with acne can improve by avoiding substances that trigger worsening symptoms.

Treatment for acne may include:

  • Anti-bacterial soap for acne
  • Topical medication for acne
  • Topical antibiotics for acne
  • Birth control pills
  • Oral antibiotics for acne
  • Phototherapy for acne:
    • Also called photodynamic therapy
    • Exposure to intense pulsed light
    • Penetrates the skin and kills bacteria in the skin
  • Skin peels
  • Laser treatment for acne
  • Dermabrasion for acne:
    • Removes a thin layer of skin to make it more smooth
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery for acne

Topical creams and gels used to treat acne include:

Oral medications used to treat acne include:

Acne Vulgaris Cystic Acne

Cystic acne causes large, deep acne skin lesions, or skin cysts that can lead to scarring. Treatment for cystic acne includes topical creams and gels, as well as oral medications. Additional therapy may be recommended in severe cases of cystic acne.

Topical creams and gels used to treat cystic acne include:

Oral medications used to treat cystic acne include:

Additional therapy for cystic acne includes:
  • Surgical treatment of cystic acne
  • Corticosteroid injections for acne
  • Skin peels for acne
  • Phototherapy for acne
  • Laser therapy for acne

Acne Vulgaris Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure that may help remove acne scars. Using a special device, the surgeon removes the outermost layer of the skin. During healing, a new layer of skin replaces the old layer, resulting in a smoother appearance.

Microdermabrasion is a mild form of dermabrasion that involves gentle blasting of the skin with abrasive particles, such as salt or aluminum oxide crystals. The procedure gently scrapes away the scarred skin and new skin growth occurs during healing.

Acne Vulgaris Drugs

Drug therapy for acne is focused on topical creams and gels, as well as oral medications.

Topical creams and gels used to treat acne include:

Oral medications used to treat acne include:

Acne Vulgaris Antibiotics

Topical antibiotics used to treat acne:

Topical preparations are supplied as lotions, creams or gels.

Acne Vulgaris Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common topical medications used to treat acne. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne bacteria and reduces the formation of whiteheads and blackheads. It comes as a cream, lotion or gel, which is applied to the surface of the skin once or twice a day.

Some topical products contain benzoyl peroxide combined with an antibiotic.

Acne Vulgaris Birth Control Pills

Low-dose birth control pills (Yaz) may be used to treat acne in females who have started having menstrual periods. The treatment of acne with birth control pills is reserved for females who have not responded to topical acne medications and oral antibiotics.

Acne Vulgaris Drying Agents

Topical drying agents may be used to treat acne. The drying agents reduce the production of skin oil, and reduce inflammation.

Drying agents used to treat acne include:

Acne Vulgaris Laser

Laser treatment for acne:

  • Severe scarring due to cystic acne can be treated with laser resurfacing.
  • The laser burns the outermost layer of skin, and the scar is reduced during the normal healing process.

Acne Vulgaris Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of acne.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for scarring?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Acne Vulgaris Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat acne:

Acne Vulgaris Surgery

Surgical techniques used to treat acne scars include:

  • Surgical excision of scars:
    • Removal of the scarred skin with a scalpel
  • Cryotherapy for scars:
    • The scar is frozen with liquid nitrogen
    • The healing process reduces the scar
  • Collagen injections for scars:
    • Collagen is injected beneath the skin, in order to reduce the size of a pitting scar.
  • Fat injections for scars:
    • Fat, from another region of the body, is injected beneath the skin, in order to reduce the size of a pitting scar.

Continue to Acne Vulgaris Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Acne Vulgaris References
  1. James WD. Clinical practice. Acne. N Engl J Med. 2005 Apr 7;352(14):1463-72. [15814882]
  2. Magin P, Pond D, Smith W, Watson A. A systematic review of the evidence for 'myths and misconceptions' in acne management: diet, face-washing and sunlight. Fam Pract. 2005 Feb;22(1):62-70. [15644386]
  3. Marks R. Acne and its management beyond the age of 35 years. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2004;5(6):459-62. [15663343]
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