Antibiotics for Acne: Topical and Oral Options and Risks

Antibiotics is a popular medical treatment for acne, particularly for severe cases. Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics for acne that may leave scars, since it can help kill bacteria, which cause acne on the surface of your skin and in the follicles. In addition, antibiotics have anti-inflammatory propertis that reduce redness and pimples.

In general, there are two types of antibiotic preparation for acne. They are topical preparation and oral preparation. Topical antibiotics are commonly used to treat mild acne. They may come in tablets, elixirs, and capsules. On the other hand, oral antibiotics for acne treatment is used for severe cases. They can be a choice for cystic acne treatment.

Antibiotics for Acne

Antibiotics for Acne – Image Acneeinstein.com

Topical Antibiotics for Acne Treatment

As mentioned above, topical antibiotics for acne treatment is used for mild cases. You can apply them directly onto your skin surface. They are effective in killing bacteria on the skin. The most common topical antibiotics used for acne treatment include:

  1. Clindamycin; this antibiotic is effective to treat various types of bacterial infections. It works by killing bacteria and stopping their growth. However, it must be noted that clindamycin only works for bacterial infection. It does not work for viral infections.
  2. Erythromycin; this antibiotic has similar working mechanism with that of clindamycin. It also treat bacterial infections. Erythromycin is known as macrolide antibiotic as it stops the bacterial growth on your skin surface. Like the clindamycin, erythromycin is not effective in treating viral infections.

Topical antibiotics for acne can be combined with benzoyl peroxide gel as well as with a topical retinoid, such as tretinoin. Benzoyl peroxide helps minimizing the risk for antibiotic resistance. However, you also need to consider their possible side effects, including:

  • Dryness on and around the treated area. This is usually mild, but if the skin looks scaly, you can reduce it by applying non-oily skin moisturizer.
  • Skin irritation. For this case, lotions can be effective relief
  • Contact dermatitis, such as itchy skin, dryness, and redness. You can reduce it by applying topical corticosteroid.
  • Bacterial resistance; this can be due to intermittent use of topical antibiotics. As mentioned above, benzoyl peroxide can be the solution.

Oral Antibiotics for Acne Treatment

For more severe case, you may need oral antibiotics for acne treatment. If you have increased risk for having acne that leaves scars, the doctor may prescribe you with oral antibiotics. The most common options include erythromycin and tetracyclines, such as doxycycline and minocycline. Trimethroprim and cotrimoxazole are other options.

Also read: Acne scar laser treatment cost for various laser treatments

Just like the topical preparation, oral antibiotics for acne treatment are also associated with some possible side effects. They include the following:

  • Allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, even though they are very rare
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, nausea, and colic pain.
  • Bacterial resistance (in very rare case)
  • Photosensitivity, particularly in those who take doxycycline. Therefore, make sure you wear the right dress before doing outdoor activities to protect your skin from sun exposure.
  • Thrush, which may affect oral mucosa and body folds. This is particularly true in diabetic patients.

Tips to Use Antibiotics for Acne Treatment

Antibiotics for acne treatment may be effective, but as they are also associated with several side effects, you need to use them in moderate amount. Taking antibiotics in intermittent way or long-term period may eventually reduce their effectiveness. Overtime, the bacterial will be more resistant to the antibiotics, leading them less effective in killing bacteria and stopping bacterial growth. The following are some tips to use antibiotics for acne treatment:

  • If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using antibiotics
  • Always combine topical or systemic antibiotics with benzoyl peroxide
  • Do not use topical and oral antibiotics at the same time
  • Switching antibiotics for faster treatment may not help much. They even increase the risk for resistance.

Antibiotics for acne can be a good solution if you want to avoid unpleasant scars. However, make sure to use them wisely.

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