Oral and topical antibiotics are used to treat severe cases of acne, especially if prior treatments have not worked. Both oral and topical versions of the medication have two primary effects: They reduce the number of bacteria in and on the skin, and they reduce inflammation. Topical antibiotics are often prescribed for mild-to-moderate acne, while oral antibiotics are used for moderate-to-severe acne. Topical iterations of the medication are applied directly to the skin in the form of a gel, while oral antibiotics are administered with pills or capsules. In many cases, antibiotics are prescribed alongside other acne treatments, like tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide.


Antibiotic acne treatments are typically used when other treatments have not worked. They will require a doctor’s prescription to obtain. If you haven’t had luck clearing acne on your own, schedule an appointment at the Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois. Our dermatologists can talk to you about your acne, what has worked, and what hasn’t worked, then prescribe a treatment option to clear your skin once and for all.


Common Antibiotic Treatments for Acne

When you visit the dermatologist for an antibiotic acne treatment, they will prescribe one of several possible options. There are two types of topical antibiotics prescribed for acne. These may be combined with a topical retinoid or a benzoyl peroxide gel to increase the medication’s effect. Topical antibiotic treatments are designed to kill surface-level bacteria on the skin. They include:

  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin

More severe acne cases may require an oral antibiotic medication. These antibiotics are used to kill bacteria in the pores, and they are often administered at high doses. Your doctor will likely reduce your dose as the acne begins to clear. Popular prescriptions include:

  • Erythromycin
  • Tetracyclines, like Doxycycline and Minocycline

Your dermatologist will make their decision based on the severity of your acne and the strength of the antibiotic. If you have any questions about the type of antibiotic you are prescribed, talk to your doctor.


Common Oral and Topical Antibiotic Side Effects

People taking antibiotics for acne may experience a range of side effects. Topical antibiotic side effects are typically minimal, including dryness, skin irritation, and contact dermatitis. Oral antibiotics, by contrast, may have more severe side effects. This can include:

  • Photosensitivity, especially with doxycycline
  • Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, pain, and diarrhea
  • Thrush, which is a type of yeast infection that most often affects women

If you experience any side effects related to antibiotic use, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Even if the side effects are not severe, you should communicate this information.

Acne is often a chronic condition, which means antibiotic treatments are typically prescribed for several months at a time. This can present a problem for both oral and topical versions of the medication. Many physicians may hesitate to prescribe antibiotics for acne, as bacterial resistance can result in serious infections. Still, this may be the treatment option that works to clear your skin. If you’re curious about how these products work, ask your dermatologist if an antibiotic treatment is right for you.


When to See a Doctor for Antibiotic Acne Treatment

Antibiotics can effectively treat several types of acne, and they are a frequently prescribed treatment. If your home and over-the-counter treatments haven’t been working, talk to your dermatologist. Antibiotics, either oral or topical, may be the best choice going forward, and the Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois is a great place to figure that out. When you meet with our dermatologists, you will receive personalized care tailored to your skin, condition, and lifestyle. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.