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Home: Diseases & Conditions: Acne: Treatments: Topical Treatments

Acne: Topical Treatments

Acne Treatment - Topical

Topical treatment means application of medication on the skin. Cream, gel, liquid, powder, etc. are used for topical application. The following medications are formulated for topical treatment of acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide:

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular medicines for acne. Benzoyl peroxide:

  • Unclogs the closed pores,
  • Reduces the infection causing bacteria P.acnes and,
  • Reduces inflammation.

Benzoyl peroxide is available in the form of cream, gel and liquid etc. Benzoyl peroxide may cause excessive dryness of the skin. Benzoyl peroxide should not be used with tretinoin because it reduces the effect of tretinoin.

To know more about Benzoyl Peroxide, click here

Salicylic Acid:

Salicylic Acid is a popular medicine for acne. It is an effective medication for whiteheads and blackheads. Salicylic acid corrects the abnormal shedding of skin cells. These skin cells block the pore openings and cause acne. Salicylic acid also removes the dead skin cells. Salicylic Acid treats acne by opening the pores. Excess use of Salicylic Acid can irritate the skin.

Azelaic Acid:

Azelaic acid treats acne by

  • Killing the bacteria P.acnes and
  • Reducing the abnormal shedding of dead skin cells.

Azelaic Acid thus reduces infection and opens the clogged pores. Azelaic acid is commonly used to treat mild and moderate acne. As this acid is also a skin bleach, it can sometimes lighten the skin. It can also cause dryness.

Topical Antibiotics:

Antibiotics kill the bacteria. In case of infected acne, the antibiotics that are commonly used are: clindamycin, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide. The strength of topical antibiotic used depends upon the inflammation.

Most topical antibiotics don't cause any side effects except dryness or irritation. Antibiotics are commonly used with another topical medicine that helps treat acne by reducing sebum and/or reduce the excess shedding of skin cells.

Topical Retinoids:

Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives and are used in treatment of mild to moderate acne. They effectively remove blackheads and whiteheads. Adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin are the common retinoids used for acne treatment.

Retinoids -

  • Clear the clogged pores and
  • Have anti-inflammatory properties.

Another advantage of using topical retinoids is that they help remove fine lines and wrinkles. Topical retinoids may produce skin irritation. They should be used under medical supervision as some of them, such as tazarotene, have shown to increase birth defects in animal trials.


Nicotinamide is a part of Vitamin B complex. It has anti-inflammatory properties and treats acne without any of the side effects of antibiotics. Nicotinamide is also called Niacinamide.

Sulfur and Resorcinol-

The combination of Sulfur and resorcinol has been used since long ago to treat acne. It unclogs the blocked pores and reduces excess oil. It is effective in treating whiteheads and blackheads. It is not popular now because of the smell of sulfur.

Alcohol And Acetone:

Alcohol is an antimicrobial agent and acetone is a solvent that cleanses dirt and oil. This combination is used to treat mild form of acne.

Treatments For Acne

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Acne & Sunshine

Despite the belief that acne gets cleared by sunshine, there is no scientific evidence to this. Excess sun can damage your skin rather than treating acne.

Click here to learn more on Sun Damage.

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