What are the Different Treatments for Adult Acne?

Nick Mann
Nick Mann
A close up of acne.
A close up of acne.

For the 25 percent of adults who suffer from adult acne, finding a way to treat this ongoing problem can be challenging. Since adults have drier skin than teenagers, they usually require different solutions. When choosing treatments for adult acne, there are essentially four options available which include over-the-counter topical creams, prescription topical medications, oral medications and laser treatments. Understanding the differences between each option should help patients decide on the best treatment.

Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.

Over-the-counter topical creams are probably the most traditional and widely used treatments for adult acne. Most of these creams contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to eliminate much of the bacteria that clogs pores. Topical creams are typically designed for people with milder cases. They are inexpensive for the most part and do not require consent from a dermatologist to obtain. A variety of these products can be found at most drug and grocery stores.

When non-prescription medication has not helped, prescription topical medication may be a more successful treatment for adult acne. Prescription topical medications are usually reserved for adults with moderate to somewhat severe cases of acne. They primarily come in creams and lotions and are applied directly to the skin. Prescription creams contain many of the same chemicals as non-prescription treatments. The main difference is that they are more potent and slightly more expensive than over-the-counter products.

Oral medications are also used as treatments for adult acne, typically only in more severe cases where topical treatment alone has failed. Usually, these medications contain antibiotics that can quickly get acne under control and reduce breakouts. They also work to prevent infections, and reduce the redness and swelling of existing breakouts. With the permission of a dermatologist, patients often use oral medications in conjunction with topical creams. The price varies depending on the oral medication prescribed and how much the patient's insurance agrees to pay.

A last resort for adult acne is a laser treatment. It is the most costly option and is generally used only in the most severe cases where other options have proven to be ineffective. The two primary types of laser treatments are intense pulsed light and blue light therapy. They work by destroying much of the bacteria that causes acne, while also reducing redness and swelling. Laser treatment is a newer option and should be thoroughly discussed with a patient's dermatologist.

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    • A close up of acne.
      A close up of acne.
    • Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
      Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.