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Acne Treatments

For a quick list of acne treatments and how well they tend to work, check out the acne treatments overview page.

Generally speaking, for most people, proper application of benzoyl peroxide can completely clear acne and keep it clear until it naturally subsides with time.

For people with severe, widespread, and scarring acne, isotretinoin (Accutane®) is an oral treatment that can produce long-term remission of acne in about 2/3 of people, but comes with many side effects, some of which can be lifelong. It also causes severe birth defects, and may cause premature aging and joint pain in the long-term. For all of these reasons, all other options should be exhausted first. If it is used, it must be administered in close partnership with a physician.

Females: If you are experiencing irregular menstruation, particularly if it comes with excessive hair growth, be sure to see your doctor concerning poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If PCOS is diagnosed, oral contraceptives are normally prescribed and can clear acne and relieve other symptoms at the same time.

Many other topical and oral treatments exist for acne, most of which produce moderate, yet incomplete, results. Home remedies, aside from a few exceptions, tend to produce little to no results.

Latest in Acne Treatments

Anti-androgens Cyproterone Acetate in Acne Treatment Cyproterone acetate is an anti-androgen, which means it suppresses the production of male hormones. It is prescribed almost always as part of a birth control pill that contains both cyproterone acetate and an estrogen, commonly known by the brand names Diane-35 or Dianette. April 03, 2020
Oils Topical Olive Oil and Acne People have applied olive oil to the skin for centuries. It is healing and healthy in several ways. However, when it comes to acne, it is likely a bad choice, since it has been shown to be slightly comedogenic (pore-clogging). August 11, 2021
Salicylic acid (BHAs) Salicylic Acid Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in over-the-counter anti-acne medications, washes, spot treatments, and makeup. It penetrates into the skin where it helps unclog pores and prevents future clogs. It also helps reduce inflammation. On its own, however, it will not completely clear the skin. July 29, 2020
Retinoids What Are Retinoids, and Why Are They Used to Treat Acne? When people refer to retinoids in acne treatment, they are normally referring to the three approved prescription topical retinoids: tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene. All three work by unclogging pores and reducing irritation. They are unlikely to completely clear the skin on their own, however. October 02, 2020
Isotretinoin (Accutane) Is Isotretinoin (Accutane) Overprescribed? Isotretinoin (Accutane®) is FDA approved for only severe cases of acne that do not respond to other treatments. However, it is often prescribed for less severe cases of acne, which is concerning because it comes with severe, and sometimes lifelong, side effects. July 09, 2021