Topical and Oral Antibiotics for Acne – Do Antibiotics Help Acne?

For acne treatments, antibiotics are commonly used, yet only under prescription of doctors. They are available in two type preparations including topical and oral antibiotics. Topical antibiotics in form of gels, cream, or lotion, are effective for mild acne while the systemic antibiotics through oral treatment are used to manage moderate to severe acne to avoid inflammatory.

In the following, we will learn more about the effectivity of antibiotics for acne and how to use it correctly.

Antibiotics for Acne

Do Antibiotics Help Acne?

As mentioned above, antibiotics have been effectively known to treat acne, particularly inflammatory acne. Generally, antibiotics work due to its anti-inflammatory action and capability to reduce bacteria number in the follicles and on skin surface. However, it cannot work on unplugged blocked pores, such as whiteheads and blackheads.

The type of antibiotics itself is various. The most common antibiotics for topical treatments include clindamycin (such as Cleocin) and erythromycin (such as E-Mycin). Meanwhile, the most common prescribed oral antibiotic is Tetracyclines, include doxycycline and minocycline, which has antibacterial effect to reduce the colonization of P.acnes. It also urges the anti-inflammatory effect directly and alter sebum excretion. It will results in follicular free fatty acids decreasing accumulation. According to Global Alliance, oral antibiotics should be used with topical retinoids especially for moderate to severe acne.

How to Use Acne Antibiotics?

There are often cases where oral antibiotics prescribed non-rationally. It’s important to note, for example, the use of oral antibiotics alone known to be associated with bacterial resistance development. Therefore, the guideline on how to use antibiotics correctly is needed.

For topical therapy with antibiotics for acne, you need to follow by:

  • Check your acne conditions in dermatologists or doctors whether they are in the mild, moderate, or severe type. It’s because every type of acne requiring different treatment. For mild to moderate acne, doctors will be prescribed only topical antibiotics. Meanwhile, moderate to severe acne might need combination of oral and topical antibiotics. The use of antibiotics is requiring prescription from doctors.
  • For topical therapy, start your acne treatment by washing your face with antibacterial soap gently, then dry it thoroughly.
  • Next, apply moisturizer to help preventing antibiotic side effect such as the irritation.
  • Apply antibiotics to the affected area of the skin (acne).

For oral treatment taking tetracycline, the usual prescribed dose for starting is 500 mg twice a day. When the acne lesions have been significantly decreased, the dose can be decreased to 250 mg twice a day, even discontinued. Still, it must be taken to be fully effective on empty stomach. So, you need to control your diet. Moreover, it’s highly recommended for pregnant and children under age of 8 to avoid taking this antibiotic.


Antibiotics are effectively treating acne due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory action to get rid the bacteria that causing the growth of acnes. However, antibiotics still bring some side effects, although low, depend on your skin’s condition and body’s reaction. So, if you intend to take antibiotic for acne therapy, make sure to consult with your doctor beforehand to get the proper treatment.

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