With your teenage years behind you, you probably expected your acne outbreaks to be history, too. You’ve since found out otherwise. Adult acne outbreaks are embarrassing and frustrating and can adversely affect your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are several over-the-counter and prescription products to help you get adult acne outbreaks under control.
After you’ve tried adjusting your skin care routine, product use, and diet, there are still lots of options to explore. With more than 25 years of experience specializing in dermatology, Eliot Y. Ghatan, MD, FRCPC, remains an active researcher in his field. Dr. Ghatan supports patients with adult acne from his conveniently located Brooklyn office and can advise you about your treatment options.
Many over-the-counter and prescription topical treatments help to reduce your oil production, reduce acne-related skin inflammation, and speed up your skin cell production and turnover.
In over-the-counter products, look for these active ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
There are several prescription topical treatments for adult acne as well. These include:
- Retinoids and retinoid-like drugs in the form of creams, gels, or lotions derived from Vitamin A that work by keeping your hair follicles open and unplugged
- Topical antibiotics that kill excess skin bacteria, reducing redness (often used with retinoids)
- Salicylic acid and azelaic acid to prevent your pores from clogging
- Dapsone (Aczone) 5% gel, a particularly effective treatment for inflammatory acne in adult women
You might need to wash and treat the affected area twice a day for several weeks to see sustained improvement.
Oral medications for adult acne tend to be reserved for more severe cases. Prescription acne drugs usually take about four to eight weeks to show results, and sometimes your skin gets worse before it improves. If you’re pregnant, you can’t safely use oral prescription medications for acne.
Here are some common oral medications that we might prescribe for adult acne:
For some outbreaks, we may prescribe oral antibiotics, most commonly tetracycline, to reduce skin bacteria and fight inflammation, but you should only take them for a short time to avoid antibiotic resistance.
Several types of combined oral contraceptives are effective as an acne treatment for women, due to the combination estrogen and progestin.
Anti-androgen agents block the effects of androgen hormones on your sebaceous glands.
Oral isotretinoin is a powerful oral medication that is highly effective, but it has potential side effects including ulcerative colitis, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and severe birth defects.
Other treatments and therapies
In addition to medication, cosmetic therapies can treat and prevent your outbreaks. Here are some of the options available:
- Laser or photodynamic therapy, using a gentle, focused beam of light to strip away the damaged outer layer of your skin
- Chemical peels, using solutions like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or retinoic acid to temporarily improve acne outbreaks
For particularly bad outbreaks or lesions, medical extraction of whiteheads and blackheads or steroid injections serve as an excellent treatment options, with improvement within a day or two. These techniques are very safe, and can in fact prevent scarring. If you have a special occasion to attend and looking for an effective quick treatment, this would be an excellent choice.
The best treatment for your adult acne depends on a lot of factors, from your skin type and symptoms to your lifestyle and medical history.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Ghatan to discuss your options with our team and get the help you need to decide which course of treatment is best for you. To make an appointment, call Dr. Ghatan Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery or book your consultation online.