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Acne: Treatment With Antibiotics

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat severe acne or acne that is likely to leave scars. Antibiotics improve the look of your skin by killing bacteria that cause acne. This means you'll have fewer pimples and redness. Less acne means less acne scarring.

You can put antibiotics directly on your skin (topically) or take them by mouth (orally). Topical antibiotics kill bacteria on your skin. Oral antibiotics kill bacteria in your skin pores. Oral antibiotics work best if you start them at high doses. Your doctor will reduce the dose as your acne gets better.

People with mild acne may need only topical antibiotics. The most common types include:

A topical antibiotic may be combined with a topical retinoid, such as tretinoin (Retin-A). Or a topical antibiotic may be combined with benzoyl peroxide gel.

Talk with your doctor before using these medicines if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

People with severe acne and people who are more likely to have scarring from acne often take antibiotics by mouth. The most common oral antibiotics include:

If you are using topical antibiotics or taking oral antibiotics, your doctor also may have you use benzoyl peroxide on your skin. This can make it less likely that you will develop antibiotic resistance.

For more information on antibiotics, see Drug Reference. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)


Credits for Acne: Treatment With Antibiotics

Current as of: March 3, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology


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