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Antibiotics for acne

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If you have acne, we totally understand. Here at Sönd, we know what it is to have non conformist skin, acne prone skin in particular. That’s why we created our groundbreaking alkaline skincare, to care for skin just like yours and ours.

Looking after acne prone skin can sometimes be a case of more than skincare. Sometimes, acne prone skin needs medications to help manage spots and pustules to help prevent breakouts. Particularly so, moderate to severe acne skin types.

If you’re female, and your acne tends to be worse around the time of your period or you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), then you may benefit from taking the oral contraceptive pill to help manage your acne. Your GP or skin specialist can advise you further.

Alternatively, you could try taking antibiotics to help cure your acne. Antibiotics for acne are only ever prescribed by a doctor, who will be able to do so after assessing your skin.

Here’s all you need to know about taking antibiotics for acne.

Would you recommend taking antibiotics for acne?

Used or taken alongside an effective skincare regime, antibiotics can be effective for acne.

Often, acne is the result of a lifestyle factor, such as stress, hormones or a poor diet. So it’s best to look at these first, to see if you can identify the cause and make changes to help manage your skin.

does acne return after antibiotics

Because finding the cause of your acne is key to long term skin management - antibiotics do work for many people to clear their skin, but they will only treat the symptoms, not the cause. The danger is, once you stop taking the antibiotics, and you haven’t managed the cause of your acne, your acne symptoms will return.

Plus, there is a tendency for doctors to prescribe antibiotics as an easy quick fix, and this kind of over reliance on antibiotics can cause problems with resistance later on down the line.

Why do antibiotics clear up acne?

Often, acne is caused by an overgrowth of a normal skin bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria can colonise the skin and grow in the skin pores blocked by excess sebum, dirt and cellular debris making acne spots and breakouts worse.

Antibiotics work to kill this bacteria, and subsequently clear up the skin. Antibiotics used to treat acne can be topical or oral. Topical antibiotics come in creams and lotions that can be applied directly to the skin every day. Oral antibiotics are tablets that are taken orally each day.

Is it safe to take antibiotics to fight acne prone skin?

On the whole, yes, antibiotics are safe. But they do come with some side effects including making the skin more sensitive to sunlight and interfering with the efficacy of the contraceptive pill. In some people, they can also cause an upset stomach and sickness.

There is also the risk that your body will become used to them, and the bacteria they’re helping to control will become resistant to them. This will mean that they’ll stop working and you may require a stronger dose.

How long does it take for antibiotics to clear up acne?

Topical antibiotics are usually prescribed for between six and eight weeks. They can be effective at treating acne, but can also cause some mild side effects such as mild burning, irritation, redness or peeling.

Oral antibiotics are often prescribed at the same time as topical antibiotics to help clear the skin. It’s common to be prescribed oral antibiotics for four to six months and you should notice the difference in your skin after around six weeks.

What are the best oral antibiotics to stop acne on the face?

The most common antibiotics for acne are from the family of tetracycline antibiotics. These can make the skin more sensitive to UV light, so you may be advised to take steps to protect your skin from the sun.

They can also affect the efficacy of the contraceptive pill, so if you’re using the pill for contraceptive reasons, make sure you use condoms for as long as advised.

Can you take antibiotics for six months to treat acne?

Yes, most doctors will prescribe oral antibiotics for up to six months. You will probably be asked to return at intervals during this time for repeat checkups so that your doctor can keep an eye on your skin and help you manage any side effects.

Does antibiotic therapy work well for adult acne?

Like with many different treatments for many different health conditions, antibiotic therapy works differently for different people. However, it is a common treatment for adult acne that does help to clear most people’s acne. It may be a case of trial and error for you, but used alongside skincare designed for non-conformist skin it could be the answer your skin needs.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor may prescribe a different antibiotic for your skin. Erythromycin is considered a safer option for pregnant or breastfeeding women than tetracyclines.

Do antibiotics cure pimples or acne?

Yes, in most cases. If you’re prescribed oral antibiotics and / or topical antibiotics for your acne, you will need to use them for around six weeks to see if they’re going to work for you.

If your acne is caused by something other than an overgrowth of skin bacteria, such as hormonal reasons, then they may not work for you. Your doctor or skin specialist will be able to give you more information.

How to use antibiotics for hormonal acne?

Your doctor will give you full instructions for using your topical or oral antibiotics. To maximise their benefit, use or take them as instructed, for the time frame suggested by your doctor.

If you use them other than instructed, they may not work properly and you may never know if they could’ve been the answer to your acne prone skin.

When should someone consider taking oral antibiotics for acne?

We recommend always taking a holistic view to treating acne first. This includes finding the right skincare and making certain lifestyle changes as mentioned above. But if none of this works, then it’s worth speaking to your GP about antibiotics.

If you have moderate to severe acne, and other treatments such as over the counter acne creams and gels haven’t helped, then antibiotic creams and tablets could work for you. Speaking to your GP about your skin is the best first step to taking antibiotics for your acne.

Is it ok to take acne antibiotics without a doctors’ prescription?

No. Never trust antibiotics that haven’t been prescribed by your GP or skin specialist. They may be counterfeit and at best, not work. At worst, they could be extremely dangerous.

Online doctors do exist, where you can get an online prescription for skin antibiotics. Many of these are very trustworthy but others aren’t. Always look for an online doctor who displays their GMC number and are registered with both the CQC and the MHRA.

Does doxycycline help in clearing acne?

Yes. Doxycycline is a type of tetracycline antibiotic that doctors commonly prescribe for moderate to severe acne.

Does doxycycline get rid of acne scars?

There is some evidence that the antibiotic doxycycline can reduce acne scarring. Speak to your doctor to see if you could be suitable for acne scarring treatment with doxycycline.

Why is Ciprofloxacin used to treat acne?

Ciprofloxacin is from a different family of antibiotics than doxycyclines and tetracyclines that can be useful in treating acne if you’re not suitable for other antibiotic treatments. Your doctor will advise the best course of action for you.



Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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