In mild cases, patients can treat symptoms with over the counter products which contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid which work by cleaning and gently peeling the skin and drying up excess oil. Mild irritation can occur with such treatments. If this happens, take a short break from treatment and restart after a few days. It is a good idea to talk to a pharmacist before you buy a product to find out which treatment might be the most useful for you.
If your acne is not improving with over-the-counter treatments or if you have more severe forms of acne, you will need to see a doctor so they can prescribe medication after assessing your acne. They may also refer you to a dermatologist if required. Medications can lead to huge improvements in how the skin looks and can reduce the number of new pimples.
Medical treatments are topical or oral and can include:
retinoids, which unblock pores of existing acne and prevent new blockages from developing
antibiotics to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation
hormonal agents, such as the contraceptive pill, to reduce the amount of androgen in the body and therefore oil secretion.
Doctors may also recommend more than one acne treatment, as different treatments work differently to fight acne. Fixed-combination products are also available, which blend together two treatments into one product.