There are numerous prescription medications for the treatment of acne. The two basic classes of drugs are the antibiotics and the Retinoids (vitamin A derived products). These agents are generally prescribed for moderate to severe acne and the type of drug administered depends a lot on the physician and his experience in treating acne
Antibiotics have been used for decades in the treatment of acne. They are most effective in the treatment of acute episodes of acne which is characterized by red pustules. The antibiotics kill the bacteria that are responsible for the redness and tenderness in the pustules. However, antibiotics do not work in all individuals and the results are not always predictable. Most antibiotics are administered as a topical ointment but occasionally oral pills are prescribed.
In general, the effectiveness of antibiotics is mediocre at best and most individuals remain unsatisfied with the response. Judging from the variety and number of antibiotics prescribed to treat acne, should be an indication that these drugs do not work in everyone with acne.
Topical antibiotics may help decrease acne. Types of topical antibiotics used include erythromycin, clindamycin, and sulfa drugs. The topical approach is sometimes effective because the medication is applied directly to the skin lesions. In addition, because the drug is not swallowed, there are fewer side effects. A disadvantage of all antibiotic treatment is that bacteria often develop tolerance and resistance to the medication over time, and thus become difficult to eradicate. Almost all topical antibiotics are associated with some minor skin irritation which may be due to the solution in which the antibiotic is dissolved. The topical antibiotics usually have to be applied 2-3 times a day.
Tetracyclines were once the most frequently prescribed oral antibiotics for the treatment of acne. These antibiotics are only taken for short term duration. There are a number of tetracycline drugs (minocyline, doxycycline) which are used to treat acne. However, the majority of acne sufferers fail to respond to these drugs and most develop a number of side effects. Most users of tetracycline type drugs for acne reveal a great disappointment with this therapy. Frequently antibiotics have to be taken for months and often they are combined with other drug therapies such as Retinoids or benzyl peroxide.
With a large lucrative market and millions of individuals seeking to look younger and more beautiful, there are daily reports of newer products, herbs, spices, mineral and nutrients claiming to cure acne. The majority of these substances are worthless.
A few chemicals that may have the potential to treat acne include zinc and use of light therapy. However, there are no scientific data to back the claims made by these individuals who sell or offer these products.