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Acne Treatments


There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications for acne. They may be applied directly to the skin (topical medication), taken by mouth (oral medication), or injected into the acne cysts or pustules.

Acne may require a combination of treatments but, most acne does not require surgery. Some treatments may take several weeks to work. Your skin may actually appear to get worse before it gets better.


  • Over-the-counter topical medicines—include cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels. Their goal is to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores. They may contain one or more of the following ingredients:
  • Prescription topical medicines—include cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores. They include:

Prescription oral medicine include antibiotics, medications for hormone-related acne, and vitamin A derivatives called retinoids. They are generally used for moderate to severe cases of acne.

  • Oral Antibiotics—aimed at controlling the amount of bacteria in pores, including:
  • Oral medications—aimed at controlling androgen levels, including:
  • Oral retinoids—aimed at reducing the size and secretions of sebaceous glands. Only for severe cases of cystic acne.
    • The main drug is isotretinoin (Accutane). It must not be taken by women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant, because of the risk of serious birth defects.


  • Intralesional corticosteroids—the injection of a steroid preparation directly into the cyst. This treatment is mostly used for large, cystic acne lesions.
  • Acne surgery—specialized (comedo) extractors are used to open, drain, and remove contents of acne lesions. Repeated sessions maybe required.
  • Acne scar revision—these are procedures done to minimize acne scars. Scar revision procedures include:
    • Chemical peels—the application of glycolic acid and other chemical agents to loosen blackheads and decrease acne papules
    • Dermabrasion —"sandpapers" the skin to smooth it out
    • Scar excision—uses a tiny punch tool or a scalpel to remove scars
    • Collagen fillers—fill the pits of scars with a collagen substance
    • Laser resurfacing—a laser is used to remove scars and tighten underlying skin

    Risks associated with scar revision and surgery include scarring and infection. Talk with your doctor or surgeon about the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2024 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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