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New Acne Treatments


Acne is the most common skin condition around. Almost every teenager experiences this condition as they go through puberty. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that acne cases are increasing in women in their 30’s and older.

It is believed to be caused by hormonal imbalance (male androgenic hormones) combined with bacteria on the skin and fatty acids within the sebaceous gland.

Though considered to be a normal physiologic response, certain factors can worsen an existing acne condition, they include fluctuating levels of hormones during menstruation, personal hygiene, and manipulating acne lesion.

Acne treatment can be complex, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to acne. Every individual responds to treatments differently, and sometimes it can get worse before it gets better.

9 dermatologist-approved treatments for acne that actually work


Topical Retinoids


Retinoids (creams or serum) are derivatives of vitamin A. They are the treatment of choice for clogged pores, blackheads and closed comedones that often appears on the forehead and sides of the cheeks.

They work by stimulating increased collagen production and also by removing the top layers of dead skin cells, prompting the skin to regenerate at a faster rate.

Common side effects of retinoids include dryness, redness, itching and stinging. It may also result in increased sensitivity to sunlight, so a sunscreen is recommended.

It takes times to see results with retinol, hence concentration has to be maintained to see the benefits. Retinoids can be combined with other over-the-counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics, and oral medications




Spironolactone is an oral medication used for treating high blood pressure and heart but also works in treating acne in adult females. It works by blocking the androgenic effects of the male hormone testosterone. This hormone is the cause of acne in women by stimulating excess oil production. It is also used to prevent excessive facial and body hair growth in women diagnosed with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Spironolactone is a diuretic, so users might need to urinate more frequently. The female-only oral medication may need to be taken alongside an oral contraceptive pill as it can disrupt a normal menstrual cycle.


Benzoyl Peroxide


Benzoyl peroxide is an active antibacterial substance, and it is very effective at killing the surface bacteria P.acnes that cause an acne breakout. It also accelerates the turnover of skin cells and slows down the production of sebum.

Benzoyl has its own downside. It can cause dryness and irritation in people with sensitive skins. It can also bleach clothing and bedsheets, so care must be taken when applying it. An old T-shirt is preferable when going to bed if you are applying it on your back or chest.


Accutane or Isotretinoin


Isotretinoin is an oral vitamin A derivative. It is one of the most effective treatments for acne. It is usually reserved for people with severe, persistent cystic acne or acne that is not responsive to other medications and treatment.

There is a high risk of congenital birth defects, therefore it is highly contraindicated during pregnancy. Women must take careful steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment

Isotretinoin also increases skin sensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, prolonged exposure to sunlight must be avoided, and use of sunscreen is advised as there is a higher risk of getting sunburn.

Isotretinoin must not be combined with other vitamin A supplements, as these could lead to vitamin A toxicity. The blood test must be done to closely monitor cholesterol level and liver enzymes.



Aczone contains the active ingredient dapsone, a strong antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory substance. It is proven to be very effective with whiteheads, blackheads and painful pimples. It is combined with other acne treatments. The common side effect is skin dryness

Cortisone Shot


Cortisone injections are very useful for people who wish to get rid of their acne fast before a big event or occasion. The result is so fast, that acne disappears in 24 to 48 hours. It works by limiting inflammation, which makes it ideal for cystic breakouts, and can be very effective in controlling hormonal flare-ups.

A small shot of steroid is injected directly into the spot on the skin that contains the acne lesions.

Cortisone injections are pretty safe, but they can leave behind a small depression in the skin if done wrong. This usually disappears after eight weeks. Skin thinning and pigmentation change is also common.



Antibiotics are a quick and effective treatment for acne but are not recommended as a first choice. Topical antibiotics such as erythromycin and clindamycin are prescribed.

Topical antibiotics should not be used alone, as there is a risk of developing bacterial resistance, which makes future treatment with antibiotics difficult. Acne is more likely to become resistant to topical rather than oral antibiotics. Instead, they work better when combined with benzoyl peroxide. Other side effects include yeast infection, nausea, and stomach upset.

Azelaic acid


Azelaic acid is effective in treating skin inflammation associated with acne. It is also a good option for pregnant patients or people with sensitive skin. Doctors are not sure why azelaic works, but believes it contains an active ingredient which is good at treating acne, melasma, and rosacea. A small amount azelaic acid can also be found in some beauty products in very small quantity.

Contraceptive pills


Contraceptive pills seem to work for women who have acne breakouts right around their periods. This group of women are sensitive to the androgen hormone which manifests in the form of cystic acne. Birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin, which helps keep the hormones balanced and produces clear skin. Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and YAP are all FDA-approved as a cystic acne treatment.

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Brackenbury, J. (2016). Recommended topical treatments for managing adult acne in women. Nurse Prescribing14(3), 126-129. doi: 10.12968/npre.2016.14.3.126

Milani, M. (2013). Acne, anti-acne therapies and epidermal barrier functions: The role of adjuvant treatments. OA Dermatology1(1). doi: 10.13172/2054-5959-1-1-1014

Rosamilia, L. (2016). Over-the-counter treatments for acne and rosacea. Seminars In Cutaneous Medicine And Surgery35(2), 87-95. doi: 10.12788/j.sder.2016.026