Considering taking medication to treat acne vulgaris? Below is a list of common medications used to treat or reduce the symptoms of acne vulgaris. Follow the links to read common uses, side effects, dosage details and read user reviews for the drugs listed below.
Topical retinoids such as adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac) and tretinoin (Retin-A). Topical retinoids are actually similar to isotretinoin since they may reach the blood stream. Although studies show that the amount of these medications absorbed through the skin is low (about 5%), they still may increase the risk of birth defects. Please note that all retinoids or cosmetic products that contain them are required to carry a warning that states it is unknown whether they can harm a developing baby or a child that is being breastfed.
Combination therapy—using medications of different classes together, each with a different mechanism of action—has been demonstrated to be a more efficacious approach to acne treatment than monotherapy. The use of topical benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics together has been shown to be more effective than antibiotics alone. Similarly, using a topical retinoid with an antibiotic clears acne lesions faster than the use of antibiotics alone. Frequently used combinations include the following: antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic and topical retinoid, or topical retinoid and benzoyl peroxide. The pairing of benzoyl peroxide with a retinoid is preferred over the combination of a topical antibiotic with a retinoid since both regimens are effective but benzoyl peroxide does not lead to antibiotic resistance.
“Things are so much better today because there are so many more options for treating acne,” said Sarah Taylor, MD, a dermatologist with Wake Forest Baptist Health. “While OTC products are pretty much the same as they have been for years – just different concentrations of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in various forms such as cleansers, gels and creams – the prescription world has really changed in the past 10 years or so. We’re much better equipped to deal with all different types of acne.”
[Guideline] American Academy of Dermatology. Ten Things Physicians and Patients Should Question. Choosing Wisely. April 30, 2016. Available at http://www.choosingwisely.org/societies/american-academy-of-dermatology/. August 19, 2015;
Dermal injections have become a popular way to treat and alleviate shallow acne scars. There are many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons performing these injections, and there’s been a significant increase in the number and quality of filler substances used to help decrease the appearance of scars. Dermal fillers may also stimulate the production of collagen, to help smooth the skin even further. While these injections have immediate effect, they also are only temporary, and last around three to 12 months after injection.
The first lasers to be used were aggressive, 100% resurfacing; which means they would treat the whole skin area, leading to open healing and prolonged recovery time and redness. Those drawbacks led to the advent of fractionated lasers.
Antibiotics. Antibiotics may be used on top of the skin (topical) or taken orally (systemic). Antibiotics work by clearing the skin of acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation. There are several topical products available in creams, gels, solutions, pads, and lotions. Topical antibiotics are limited in their ability to penetrate the skin and clear more deep-seated acne, whereas systemic antibiotics circulate throughout the body and into sebaceous glands. However, systemic antibiotics often cause more side effects than topicals, but they can be used for more severe kinds of acne. Usually, topical antibiotics aren’t recommended alone as an acne treatment, as they can increase the risk for antibiotic resistance in skin bacteria. However, using benzoyl peroxide with a topical antibiotic may reduce the chances of developing antibiotic resistance.
The severity of acne vulgaris (Gr. ἀκµή, “point” + L. vulgaris, “common”) can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe as this helps to determine an appropriate treatment regimen. Mild acne is classically defined by the presence of clogged skin follicles (known as comedones) limited to the face with occasional inflammatory lesions. Moderate severity acne is said to occur when a higher number of inflammatory papules and pustules occur on the face compared to mild cases of acne and are found on the trunk of the body. Severe acne is said to occur when nodules (the painful ‘bumps’ lying under the skin) are the characteristic facial lesions and involvement of the trunk is extensive.
Tea tree oil is an antibacterial agent that can help clear out the microbes clogging your skin. Avoid using undiluted tea tree oil — it’ll burn your skin, and worsen acne. Read the warning label on the bottle.
Some people use natural treatments like tea tree oil (works like benzoyl peroxide, but slower) or alpha hydroxy acids (remove dead skin and unclog pores) for their acne care. Not much is known about how well many of these treatments work and their long-term safety. Many natural ingredients are added to acne lotions and creams. Talk to your doctor to see if they’re right for you.
Systemic antibiotics are a mainstay in the treatment of moderate-to-severe inflammatory acne vulgaris.  These agents have anti-inflammatory properties, and they are effective against C acnes (formerly P acnes). The tetracycline group of antibiotics is commonly prescribed for acne. The more lipophilic antibiotics, such as doxycycline minocycline, are generally more effective than tetracycline. 
Jump up ^ Sobanko, JF; Alster, TS (October 2012). “Management of acne scarring, part I: a comparative review of laser surgical approaches”. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (Review). 13 (5): 319–30. doi:10.2165/11598910-000000000-00000. PMID 22612738.
Silicone gel sheets work well with hypertrophic scars. They have been known to soften, flatten and improve the appearance of scars, but they won’t disappear totally. The most famous brand is this one.
Antibiotics are frequently applied to the skin or taken orally to treat acne and are thought to work due to their antimicrobial activity against P. acnes and their ability to reduce inflammation. With the widespread use of antibiotics for acne and an increased frequency of antibiotic-resistant P. acnes worldwide, antibiotics are becoming less effective, especially macrolide antibiotics such as topical erythromycin. Commonly used antibiotics, either applied to the skin or taken orally, include clindamycin, erythromycin, metronidazole, sulfacetamide, and tetracyclines such as doxycycline and minocycline. When antibiotics are applied to the skin, they are typically used for mild to moderately severe acne. Antibiotics taken orally are generally considered to be more effective than topical antibiotics, and produce faster resolution of inflammatory acne lesions than topical applications. Topical and oral antibiotics are not recommended for use together.
The first three types listed are all types of the most common form of acne – acne vulgaris. The non-inflammatory kind is the mildest of these types and is usually characterized by the appearance of whiteheads or blackheads. The inflammatory type is a moderate form that is characterized by the formation of papules, pustules, and macules.
But why does isotretinoin work so well? “We don’t really know,” said Joslyn Kirby, professor of dermatology at Penn State College of Medicine. “That’s part of the research that people at our group at Penn State are doing is looking into some of the changes in the oil glands in the skin called the sebaceous glands, and what is happening to the cells that might explain … this sustained improvement.”