Acne Treatments - Antibiotics

Information about oral and topical antibiotics |

Antibiotics are available as prescription topical products and oral tablets. They are usually prescribed in conjunction with other acne treatments to hasten acne improvement or to minimize initial breakouts associated with retinoid use.

The following chart describes both topical and oral antibiotics and explains how they work:

Antibiotics Description

Active Description Product Name

Topical antiobiotics are available in cream or gel form from your dermatologist or doctor. They work by killing off all bacteria on the surface of your skin, preventing p.acnes from doing its dirty work.

Though they help clear acne, their results are not long-term. Your skin eventually develops bacterial resistance to topical antibiotics (usually after 6 months) and they stop being as effective.

Because of this, some people like to rotate product usage so their skin doesn't get used to the treatment. For example, some people will use an antibiotic for one month and then the next month use a different acne topical, alternating usage to prevent antibiotic resistance.

There are generally no side effects from topical antibiotics. They either work or simply do nothing. However, the gel or cream base of the product can make your skin dry or oily.
Clindamycin Prescribed for mild acne; Can develop bacterial resistance
  • Dalacin T
  • Cleocin
  • Evoclin
  • Clindagel
  • Cleocin T
  • Clinda-derm
  • Clindets
Clindamycin with Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) Studies have shown that using clindamycin and BP together is more effective than using them separately
  • Duac
  • Benzaclin
Erythromycin Inhibits bacterial growth
  • A/T/S 2-3%
  • Akne-Mycin
  • Theramycin Z
  • Emgel
  • Erycette
  • Eryderm
  • Erygel
  • Erymax
  • Staticin
Erythromycin with Benzoyl Peroxide (BP)
  • Benzamycin
Dapsone Antibacterial, antiinfective, and anti-inflammatory; Mild and non-irritating acne treatment; Good for treating inflammatory acne
  • Aczone

Oral antibiotics are pills you take that wipe out bacteria from your entire system and reduce inflammation. These antibiotics take a few months to work and most do work, but since they are also subject to bacterial resistance, your body eventually becomes immune to it.

I would consider carefully before using oral antibiotics because they can really wreak havoc on your body. By killing all bacteria, both good and bad, they exterminate the healthy gut flora that aid proper digestion.

As a result, oral antibiotics can be constipating for some people and even cause gastrointestinal distress. However, you can reduce some of these side effects by taking a good probiotic or consuming large amounts of yogurt. Women on oral antibiotics may also be more prone to developing yeast infections and thrush.

Oral antibiotics may cause sunlight sensitivity, so you want to be careful and stay out of the sun or wear a protective sunscreen. My friend's mom didn't know and ended up getting permanent white splotches on her neck and chest. On a side note, oral antibiotics can also reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, so speak with your doctor for more information.
Tetracycline Kills bacteria and suppresses acne symptoms; Not suitable for pregnant women or children under 12 because it inhibits bone growth; May stain teeth, give you skin rashes, cause headaches or gastrointestinal problems as side effects
  • Sumycin
  • Terramycin
  • Tetracyn
  • Panmycin
Erythromycin Anti-inflammatory; Can help reduce redness; Should be taken with food; Usually take 250-500 mg twice a day; Can cause nausea; Can be used by pregnant women
  • ERYC
  • E-Mycin
  • EES
Minocycline Prescribed when acne doesn't respond to tetracycline or erythromycin; Can take with or without food; Usually take 50-100mg twice a day; Side effects include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, discoloration of skin and teeth; Do not take with dairy products
  • Minocyn
Doxycycline Inhibits bacterial growth to prevent acne; If you take other supplements, take them at least 2 hours before taking doxycycline so you don't mess with its absorption; Not safe for pregnant women; Side effects include: skin rashes, diarrhea, hives; Severe side effects include: liver damage, gastrointestinal problems
  • Vibramycin
  • Monodox

Antibiotics, both oral and topical, can be an effective treatment for acne. However, whether an antibiotic will clear your skin will depend on the type of antibiotic you take and your body's response. Whatever you do, make sure you don't forget to properly research all antibiotics and their side effects before using them.

Last updated: October 10, 2012

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