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Acne treatment

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 11.05.2023 | 2 min read

If you have symptoms consistent with acne, or have previously been told by your doctor that you have acne then there are many treatment options. These can start small at home with some self-treatment, increasing up to creams and tablet medications, and finally, a referral to a skin specialist if needed.

Caidr pharmacists' top tips

There are a variety of products that can help to build a daily regimen to control acne, here are some options we would recommend.

Daily skin cleansers that can help to unclog pores and minimise sweat build-up, thereby reducing outbreaks.

There are products that contain medicated cleaning pads that can reduce the appearance of spots or help clear the spots more quickly. Clearasil pads are a good example of this type of product. It contains salicylic acid amongst other ingredients to bring down inflammation and reduce spots.

Topical treatments

For more persistent spots or outbreaks of acne, antibacterial treatments can help to control symptoms. A topical product such as Acnecide Gel 5% which contains benzoyl peroxide is shown to be effective. The gel needs to be applied regularly for between six and eight weeks to achieve optimum control of acne spots. This product works by killing bacteria, absorbing excess oil while releasing glycerine to hydrate the skin.

Prescription treatments

Your doctor can prescribe topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide (available over-the-counter), alongside other topical treatments such as adapalene (from the family of treatments known as retinoids). They can prescribe them separately or in a combination treatment.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotic topical solutions or antibiotic tablets. These treatments will normally be performed as a time-limited trial initially, with 8-12 weeks a good length of time to see whether the treatments are making a noticeable difference. The antibiotics are specially selected for their anti-inflammatory, rather than anti-bacterial properties.

Women also have the option of being offered a hormonal option, as contraceptive pills can sometimes be used as an addition to treatment. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice before starting or continuing any acne treatment, as some may be harmful.

Referral to a skin specialist

If there is already evidence of scarring to the skin, your doctor may start treatment but also refer you to a skin specialist, a dermatologist, at the same time.

Your doctor may consider referring you under other circumstances, such as if you've had inadequate success after three to six months of prescribed treatments. If you are suffering from low mood or low self-esteem due to your skin, this is also another valid reason for your doctor to consider an earlier referral to a skin specialist.

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