Oral Antibiotic
Compare To Other Treatments

What Is It?

Tetracycline is an oral antibiotic that works by systemically fighting bacteria in the body, including in the skin, and also reduces inflammation.


Strength of Evidence
Average 69% reduction in acne after 16 weeks
  1. Hjorth, N. & Graupe, K. Azelaic acid for the treatment of acne. A clinical comparison with oral tetracycline. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh) 143, 45–48 (1989).
  2. Katsambas, A., Towarky, A. A. & Stratigos, J. Topical clindamycin phosphate compared with oral tetracycline in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 116, 387–391 (1987).
  3. Gammon, W. R. et al. Comparative efficacy of oral erythromycin versus oral tetracycline in the treatment of acne vulgaris. A double-blind study. J Am Acad Dermatol 14, 183–186 (1986).
  4. Bladon, P. T. et al. Topical azelaic acid and the treatment of acne: a clinical and laboratory comparison with oral tetracycline. Br J Dermatol 114, 493–499 (1986).
  5. Lester, R. S., Schachter, G. D. & Light, M. J. Isotretinoin and tetracycline in the management of severe nodulocystic acne. Int J Dermatol 24, 252–257 (1985).
  6. Greenwood, R., Brummitt, L., Burke, B. & Cunliffe, W. J. Acne: double blind clinical and laboratory trial of tetracycline, oestrogen-cyproterone acetate, and combined treatment. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 291, 1231–1235 (1985).
  7. Braathen, L. R. Topical clindamycin versus oral tetracycline and placebo in acne vulgaris. Scand J Infect Dis Suppl 43, 71–75 (1984).
  8. Rapaport, M., Puhvel, S. M. & Reisner, R. M. Evaluation of topical erythromycin and oral tetracycline in acne vulgaris. Cutis 30, 122–126, 130, 132–135 (1982).
  9. Gratton, D. et al. Topical clindamycin versus systemic tetracycline in the treatment of acne. Results of a multiclinic trial. J Am Acad Dermatol 7, 50–53 (1982).
  10. Feucht, C. L., Allen, B. S., Chalker, D. K. & Smith, J. G. Topical erythromycin with zinc in acne. A double-blind controlled study. J Am Acad Dermatol 3, 483–491 (1980).
  11. Cunliffe, W. J., Burke, B., Dodman, B. & Gould, D. J. A double-blind trial of a zinc sulphate/citrate complex and tetracycline in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 101, 321–325 (1979).
  12. Cullen, S. I. & Cohan, R. H. Minocycline therapy in acne vulgaris. Cutis 17, 1208–1210, 1214 (1976).

Side Effects

Medium-high side effects and adverse reactions

Acne.org's Real World Take

Antibiotics should be used for a maximum of 3 months, provide only moderate benefit to only some people, and may lead to side effects and strains of resistant bacteria. Studies do show they can sometimes reduce severe acne in the short term, but approach with caution and stay your own advocate.


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