Acne does not just change your appearance. It can erode your self-confidence and prevent you from enjoying activities and personal interactions you would otherwise love. If you have treated your acne with over-the-counter products and still experience breakouts, talk to your dermatologist about prescription options.
Many different prescription acne treatments are available, including these five common options.
1. Topical Retinoids
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. Although some are available over-the-counter, the strongest and most effective forms are available by prescription only. The first retinoid was approved for the treatment of acne in 1971, so these topical medications have a long track record of safety and effectiveness. Generally, your doctor will recommend applying a pea-sized amount of the retinoid cream to your face once a day.
Retinoids work by unclogging pores and preventing dead skin cells from clogging pores. When you first start using retinoids, you may experience some redness and peeling in your face, but this should soon subside. Applying moisturizer will help, too.
Bacteria play a key role in the development of acne. Using an antibiotic will help your body fight off acne-causing bacteria so you can experience fewer breakouts. Depending on the nature of your acne, your doctor may prescribe either an oral antibiotic, like doxycycline, or a topical antibiotic, like clindamycin.
Because bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics when the antibiotics are used over a long period of time, your doctor may recommend a course of antibiotics at the beginning of your acne treatment before following up with other medications, such as those described in this article.
If you are a female and your acne is related to your reproductive hormone levels — which is quite common — your doctor may prescribe a medication called spironolactone. This drug was originally developed to regulate blood pressure, but it also blocks the action of testosterone. Blocking the action of testosterone reduces the amount of oil your sebaceous glands produce so you experience fewer breakouts.
Spironolactone can cause birth defects, so you will need to be serious about birth control when you take it. You will also need to moderate your potassium intake. Eating too much potassium when taking spironolactone can cause your blood pressure to drop too low.
Isotretinoin is a powerful, vitamin A derivative prescribed to patients with severe cystic acne. Your doctor will generally only recommend isotretinoin if you have tried other treatments, like antibiotics and topical retinoids, to no avail. Patients take isotretinoin for four or five months, and at the end of the treatment period, they should be acne-free.
Isotretinoin can cause some serious side effects, such as dry, peeling skin and nosebleeds, so your doctor will want to monitor you closely while you are taking it. Since this medication can also cause serious birth defects, it is usually prescribed in conjunction with birth control pills for females.
5. Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptives are also really helpful in treating acne in women. A birth control pill that contains both estrogen and progesterone reduces the amount of testosterone your body produces, which means your glands won't secrete as much oil and you'll experience fewer acne breakouts.
A few birth control pills are specifically FDA-approved for the treatment of acne. Other pills may also work just as well, however. Birth control pills are often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as those listed above, for more complete control of acne.
If you are tired of waking up every morning to a new breakout, consider these more effective prescription options. Reach out to Camelback Compounding Pharmacy to learn more about these medications and our personalized prescription services.