Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world and can affect just about anyone at any time; young or old, male or female. It can appear anywhere on your body, with face, chest, shoulders and back acne being some of the most common examples.
It occurs as a result of a hormonal imbalance affecting the sebaceous glands, which create sebum, an oil that moves across pores to hydrate and protect the surface of the skin.
When excess sebum is produced, it can clog up the pores, and the blockage collects dead skin cells. This creates conditions that cultivate the growth of a bacteria called P. acnes, which then triggers skin inflammation in response. It is this inflammation that produces the typical swollen red bumps we call pimples.
Pimples are an important detail to look for when you have skin issues. This is because it can sometimes be tricky to distinguish between acne and eczema.
You need to be able to distinguish between the two skin conditions, as they’re treated differently — you might take a salicylic acid-based treatment (like Sebco Ointment) for eczema and an azelaic acid-based cream (like Skinoren Cream) for acne.
So, what can you do about them if you’re unlucky enough to suffer from an acne outbreak? Fear not, there are plenty of great treatment options you can consider for your pimply and sensitive skin.
While some people take natural remedies (such as tea tree oil to unclog pores and manage oil production), using medical treatments can often be more effective at tackling oily skin, minimising spots and managing future breakouts.
We list and explain the top treatments for you, including helpful links to the best acne products you can buy.
What we cover in this guide to the best acne treatments
Different Types of Common Acne Treatments
- Acne Creams, Gels, and Lotions
- Oral Medication/Antibiotics for Acne
- Laser or Light Treatment
- Chemical Peels
- Steroid Injections
- Washes, Cleansers, and Moisturisers
- Vitamin Supplements
Popular Pharmaceutical Acne Treatments
- Skinoren Cream
- Duac Gel
Different Types of Common Acne Treatments
Skin conditions such as acne are treated in a wide variety of ways, and some are more effective than others. Through discussion with a medical professional, you can determine which one is right for you. Here are some of the common acne treatment types that are used:
Acne Creams, Gels, and Lotions
Available in a huge number of configurations, they are diverse in form and functionality. Some of the best acne creams, gels and lotions use vitamin A as a base to prevent hair follicles from clogging up, while other acne creams use antibiotic bases to fight harmful bacteria.
Some of these can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy whilst some are prescription only. National guidelines suggest starting with a non-antibiotic topical treatment, such as Acnecide, Skinoren, or Differin, before moving to a topical antibiotic, such as Duac, Treclin, or Zineryt.
Oral Medication/Antibiotics for Acne
As we’ll see later, oral treatments for acne in the form of pills or tablets are typically reserved for more serious cases where other topical treatments have been ineffective. The side effects can make them not suited for some.
Oral antibiotics for acne are best used with non-antibiotic topical acne treatment (see above) for better results and to prevent resistance. They should be used for a period of 12 weeks continuously to judge their effect and used for a maximum period of six months before having a break to reassess your condition. Oral antibiotics should always be used with a non-antibiotic topical treatment for the best effects.
Laser or Light Treatment
Light-based therapies have been found to work against acne, using blue light to stop bacteria from growing. Lasers, though, are more often used to treat acne scarring by removing damaged skin and/or stimulating collagen growth.
In certain scenarios, chemical solutions (many of which form the bases of creams, gels, and lotions) may be applied in the form of peels, though this only produces short-term results and requires further treatment. Chemical peels are often considered a health and beauty treatment as they are not clinically tested to prove their effectiveness.
When acne produces nodular or cystic lesions, a direct steroid injection is an option, though a relatively drastic one. Quick improvement can be expected but at the cost of significant thinning of the affected skin. This is an option that would need to be recommended by a dermatologist when all other acne treatments have failed.
Washes, Cleansers, and Moisturisers
While they don’t directly address the bacteria that produce acne, washes are certainly good for overall skin health and can help manage the factors that made acne a possibility, to begin with. The occasional face wash, for instance, will help prevent the build-up of sebum. A cleansing wash containing benzoyl peroxide, such as Acnecide wash, would be a good option to complement a topical or oral antibiotic treatment.
Acne sufferers are often found to have vitamin deficiencies. As with washes, cleansers, and moisturisers, vitamin supplements target acne very directly, but they are healthy and might be worth taking as a preventative measure.
Now that we’ve looked at the main types of treatment you can use against acne, let’s go through some of the top medical treatment options that help sufferers overcome their acne every day.
Popular Pharmaceutical Acne Spot Treatments
Your local pharmacy or chemist will have a wide range of acne treatments for you to choose from. However, most medicated acne treatments are prescription only so you would have to speak to your GP to see which one is best suited for you. Ordering your acne treatment online from our Online Doctor can save you time and money.
Part of a family of antibiotics known as tetracycline antibiotics, Tetralysal is an oral medication used to treat acne that works by preventing bacteria from producing the protein that allows them to reproduce, grow, and cause the skin irritation and inflammation that causes the development of spots.
Tetralysal is often prescribed when over-the-counter acne treatments have proven ineffective, as both medical studies and patient feedback show it to be an effective treatment for moderate to severe adult acne. Tetralysal 300 hard capsules are recommended for treating acne where there is an active infection and visible inflammation, but can also help with cystic acne, acne rosacea, and hormonal acne.
How long you’ll need to take Tetralysal will depend on how quickly your condition improves, but the average case ends up needing at least eight to twelve weeks to see great results. It should be combined with a topical treatment (that doesn't contain antibiotics) for best results.
Skinoren Cream’s active ingredient is azelaic acid, which works in two ways: firstly, it acts to reduce the growth of keratin skin cells, which helps avoid pore blockage because it’s the mixture of keratin skill cells with sebum (a natural oily substance) that tends to obstruct pores. Secondly, it kills Propionibacterium (the bacterium associated with acne) by reducing the production of sebum on which it feeds, thus reducing irritation and inflammation and allowing the skin to heal.
Skinoren cream can also be prescribed for rosacea, acne scars, and dark spots. Overall, it’s a very valuable treatment option, as it accomplishes a lot: reducing inflammation, soothing and moisturising the skin, improving microcirculation, and lessening redness.
Skinoren cream is recommended for the treatment of mild to moderate acne, including cystic acne. For best results, it’s recommended that Skinoren cream is applied for several months, but for no more than six in total.
For more information about this treatment, take a look at our customers' Skinoren reviews.
Oxytetracycline 250mg Tablets help to kill the bacteria associated with causing spots (Propionibacterium or Propionibacterium acnes) by interfering with their ability to produce the proteins they need.
They are recommended for treating moderate to severe acne (or rosacea) where there is an active infection and visible inflammation. If you have 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 125 total lesions, your acne is considered moderate. How long you’ll need to treat the acne will depend on when it improves - normally 12 - 24 weeks.
Oxytetracycline 250mg Tablets should be used in combination with a good skincare regime that sees the affected areas washed with a mild soap or cleanser once or twice every day to remove excess bacterial waste and sebum. Use warm (not hot) water and pat the areas dry with a towel. Be careful not to dry out the skin, as that can make the situation worse.
Duac Gel works by killing the bacteria responsible for the spread of acne. As a topical antibiotic, it makes an excellent choice for anyone who can’t, or would rather not, take oral antibiotics. Visit our about Duac gel page to find out more about how Dual gel works.
It contains two active ingredients: clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide. Clindamycin is a macrolide antibiotic that stops bacteria from reproducing, and benzoyl peroxide then kills those bacteria, leading to a strong reduction in pimples and acne.
Duac Gel should be applied once daily. You should carefully wash and rinse the area with warm water, dry it gently, and apply a small amount of gel to the skin with your fingers. If possible, follow up with an oil-free acne wash, and pat the skin dry to avoid aggravation. Click here to find out more about the possible side effects.
If you have a long history of suffering from acne, you should see an improvement within a month, and your skin returned to normal within a few months. It is suggested that you then continue to apply it indefinitely to prevent the acne from returning.
Click here to read more Duac gel reviews from our customers.
Zineryt contains erythromycin, an antibiotic that inhibits bacteria growth, as well as zinc acetate, which is renowned for having skin-healing properties and effectively combines with erythromycin to form a chemical complex that is efficiently absorbed by the skin.
This topical lotion is for external use only and is recommended for the treatment of mild to moderate acne. For optimal results, it should be applied for a period of 10-12 weeks.
Like Duac Gel, Zineryt is a good option for those who want to treat their acne using antibiotics but do not want to take oral tablets due to possible side effects or interactions with their current medicines.
Zineryt is the best option for acne treatment during pregnancy as the active ingredient, erythromycin, has been widely shown to be safe for unborn babies.
Differin is an acne treatment containing the active ingredient adapalene, which works to reduce the growth of keratin surface skin cells that can block pores.
Applying Differin to acne-affected areas will work to unblock the pores and sebaceous glands, allowing the sebum to escape. This will result in a reduction of inflammation, whiteheads, comedones and spots. It will also aid the natural exfoliation of the skin’s outer layers through increasing the turnover of skin cells.
Differin should be applied once per day, in the evening if possible. Wash the affected areas and pat them dry, then apply the cream. You can use cosmetics and moisturisers on those areas, but make sure the Differin has been fully absorbed before you apply anything additional.
Treclin gel is a dual-action treatment containing the antibiotic clindamycin and tretinoin, which slows skin cell turnover and helps to shed skin cells that normally block pores. By combining the two ingredients, they are more effective than when used separately.
Treclin should be applied once daily at bedtime after washing the face with mild soap and warm water. Use a pea-sized amount and spread it evenly over the entire area affected by acne, not just the spots themselves. You should use Treclin regularly for a period of 12 weeks to assess its effectiveness in reducing your acne.
Treclin is a popular choice for acne treatment due to Isotrex (containing isotretinoin) being discontinued.
Find out more detailed information about Treclin in our 'What is Treclin?' guide.
These are some of the top acne treatments on the market today. There’s a lot of overlap in how they function, but also plenty of subtle differences that make it very important to get the medicine that’s right for your specific needs. To find out what’s best for you, be sure to get a free consultation with one of our medical professionals.