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How Do I Choose the Best Acne Treatment?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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In general, there is no such thing as the "best" acne treatment for every patient because the appropriate treatment depends particularly on the severity of the condition. If you have mild acne, the best acne treatment may be an over-the-counter topical cream such as benzoyl peroxide. Moderate acne can be treated with antibacterial drugs, topical antibiotics and, for women, the contraceptive pill. The best acne treatment for severe outbreaks is sometimes oral retinoids, although these have many potential side effects.

The best acne treatment depends on how severe your condition is. Most doctors recommend little or no treatment for mild acne because the condition usually gets better on its own. Moderate and severe acne is more likely to require treatment. There is no cure for acne, but there are a number of treatments that can effectively manage the condition and reduce its severity.

There are several things a person with acne can do to reduce the frequency of outbreaks without using medical treatment. Regularly washing the face, for example, is an important first step, although be careful to wash gently and no more than twice a day. Eating a healthy diet may also be effective at reducing the severity of outbreaks.

If you have mild acne, treatment may include the application of topical gels and creams. These are directly applied to the affected areas and can be relatively effective. Benzoyl peroxide, for example, is available in several different forms and is useful for getting rid of the top layer of dead skin cells. This reduces inflammation and helps to prevent additional spots from forming.

For moderate acne, a doctor may prescribe more powerful treatments. Antibacterial drugs, for example, are sometimes used in the treatment of acne. Antibiotics in the form of lotions may also be prescribed. The best acne treatment also depends also how your body reacts to the various regimens. As a general rule, the more powerful a treatment the more likely it is to cause negative side effects.

There are a variety of other treatments for acne that can be prescribed by your doctor. If, for example, lotion antibiotics are ineffective, oral antibiotics may be recommended. These can take several months to make a significant difference, however. Women with acne are sometimes treated using the contraceptive pill because this reduces the amount of male hormones in the body.

Severe acne is sometimes treated with oral retinoids. These drugs are extremely effective at reducing sebum production, which in turn reduces acne outbreaks. There are, however, a number of associated side effects including joint pain and skin dryness.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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