Acne Treatment Journal

Acne Drug Information & Guide
A detailed guide to the major types of anti-acne medications including the generic and brand names.

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As you may already know, there are a large variety of drugs, both topical and oral, that help heal or prevent acne lesions such as papules, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and cystic nodules.

Keeping track of all these different types of acne medications, how they work, their purpose and possible side effects can be extremely confusing.

Below you'll find the major drug families with links to each drug's individual information page.

Acne Drug Guide Picture


Antibiotics are prescribed as both topical gels or creams, and also as pills to be taken orally. They help acne prone skin heal and prevent future lesions by reducing the amount of "Propionibacterium acnes" bacteria inside the hair follicles, lessening the irritation and inflammation caused by the white blood cell defense response.


Retinoids are mostly prescribed as topical gels or creams with Isotretinoin or Accutane being the only exception since it is taken orally as a gel cap pill. The topical retinoids are useful because of their ability to open up clogged pores, prevent new comedones, and allow topical antibiotics or other antimicrobials to penetrate down to the P. Acnes bacteria in the hair follicle. All retinoids are derived from either natural or synthetic Vitamin A.

Other Topical Medications

The majority of these other topical medications are the active ingredients found in the most common and best selling over the counter anti-acne gels, creams and solutions. The "available by prescription only" drugs below may be used in a combination therapy alongside more traditional antibiotics and retinoids or as an alternative treatment choice. I've marked "Over The Counter" drugs with an "OTC" and the prescription drugs with an "Rx".

Azelaic Acid
Benzoyl Peroxide
Salicylic Acid

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