The Most Effective Acne Medication

There are two main types of acne medications. There are over the counter (OTC) medications and there are doctor-prescribed medications. Over the counter acne medications are bought in the store without a prescription from your physician or dermatologist. These medications are good for mild to moderate acne or even the occasional blemish. For acne which is severe or chronic, it is not recommended to use an over the counter acne medication. For acne that is severe, a prescription-strength medication may be needed.

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The prescription-strength medication is one that can only be purchased if your doctor writes you a prescription. Either your physician or your dermatologist can be the one to write the prescription. This type of medication is not recommended for the occasional blemish or a mild case. These medications are very strong and should only be used for serious cases of acne.

Over the Counter Medications

There are many different over the counter medications available. Just knowing what type to use can be a bit confusing. Each brand contains a specific medication.

Benzoyl peroxide

The first type of medication is Benzoyl Peroxide. This type of medication is used in products such as Neutrogena On-The-Spot, Oxy 10, Foster, Clear by Design, Persa-Gel and Clear Skin Regimn Gel.

Benzoyl Peroxide is available in both over the counter and prescription strengths. You can get benzoyl peroxide in cream, gel, or wash form. It is an antibacterial agent. Benzoyl Peroxide kills P. Acnes. This is the bacteria which causes acne. There is also a mild drying and peeling effect which is said to prevent breakouts. About three percent of people are allergic to Benzoyl Peroxide and experience inflammations of the skin. Many people however, have excellent results with Benzoyl Peroxide.

Salicylic acid

The second type of over the counter mediation. This type is used in products such as Stri-Dex, Clearasil Clear stick, and Oxy Night Watch. Salicylic acid is used in products that use pads as applicators. It is used to treat other disorders as well including psoriasis, calluses, corns, and warts.
Acne occurs when skin cells shed and clump together. This causes them to clog the hair follicle. Salicylic acid helps to slow down the shedding process, preventing clogging. It also helps to break down whiteheads and blackheads.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should not use over the counter medications which contain sulfer, benzoyl peroxide, or resorconil. These medications can be overly drying on the skin when used in conjunction with salicylic acid. People often report a mild stinging sensation upon application.


The third type of medication used in over the counter acne medications is sulfur. This is mainly used in Clearasil Adult Care.

Sulfur is used to treat acne for thousands of years for its peeling and drying actions. It is found in various soaps, creams, and washes.

Sulfur provides peeling and drying of the skin. Although it may be effective at breaking down existing whiteheads and blackheads, it can also develop new ones by increasing cell adhesion. Sulfur does also have a few unpleasant side effects. It can cause drying and peeling of the skin. It also smells bad and can cause discoloration.

Prescription Strength Medications

There are many differently types of prescription strength medications. These can be purchased only if you have a prescription from your doctor.

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The first type of medication is Adapeline. It is commonly used in Differin and comes in a gel-form which is applied once a day. Acne is said to be caused by skin cells shedding and clogging the pores and the hair follicles. This medication slows down the shedding process so the pores cannot clog as easily. When using this medication, patients should avoid too much exposure to sunlight. Between ten to forty percent of patients reported having redness, scaling, itchiness, burning, or dryness.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is the second type of medication. This medication is made under the brand name Azelex. Azelex is a cream containing twenty percent azelaic acid, an acid found in whole grain cereals and animal products. This medication is usually applied twice a day. Azelaic acid is thought to renew the skin more quickly and prevent the build up of skin cells which can clog the pores. It is also said to help kill the bacteria known as P. Acnes. This is the bacteria that is said to be responsible for causing acne.

There are some side effects from azelaic acid. These effects are usually short term and include itching, burning, stinging, and tingling. There have also been reports from dark skinned people of lightening of the skin. Azelaic acid has not been thoroughly tested in darker skinned people.


Acne is a skin disorder which millions of people deal with. With the proper medication however, they do not have to.

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