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10 Things To Know About Antibiotics For Acne

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If you see a dermatologist for the treatment of moderate to more severe acne, you may be prescribed a combination of topical remedies and oral acne antibiotics—the most common of which include tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline and erythromycin. Depending on your situation, medications of this nature can be a wonderful thing. To learn more about how acne antibiotics work, how they’re commonly used, and what you should expect while using them, keep reading.

  1. Antibiotics for acne are available only through a physician—and it doesn’t have to be a dermatologist. Many women actually get acne antibiotics through their gynecologist.
  2. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) guidelines (May 2016) recommend that acne antibiotics should be used in combination with a topical therapy, such as benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid.
  3. Because of progressively worsening antibiotic resistance, topical antibiotics have become less and less effective as acne treatments over time, and thus should never be used alone or in combination with oral antibiotics for acne according to experts.
    • In fact, in 2016, with antibiotic resistance reaching the status of global public health crisis, there is little cogent argument for the continued use of topical antibiotics alone in acne.
  4. Acne antibiotics don’t work overnight. In fact, tetracycline-family based acne medications used in combination with other acne medications may take several weeks or months to produce visible results.
  5. When your breakouts do subside as a result of antibiotics (in combination with other acne treatments) it’s important to bear in mind that you are not “cured.” The medicine is simply doing its job.
  6. Acne antibiotics can result in some nasty side effects, which include, but are not limited to:
    • Photosensitivity (higher risk of sunburn)
    • Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Headaches, blurriness of vision
    • White patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips
    • Swollen tongue or trouble swallowing
    • Hives
    • Lupus-like symptoms
    • Skin discoloration
    • In women, a higher incidence of vaginal yeast infection (itching and discharge).
  7. Tetracycline is not prescribed to pregnant women or children under 12 years of age, as it can discolor developing teeth.
  8. Acne antibiotics are prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe acne—not minor breakouts.
  9. Certain acne antibiotics may render birth control pills less effective.
  10. Certain medications may affect acne antibiotics, and vice versa. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, including vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements and drugs prescribed by other doctors.