Disadvantages of Treatments currently available

Most treatments can take more than three months to work, so don’t expect results overnight.

Prescription medications that can be used to treat acne include:

  • Topical retinoids
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Azelaic acid
  • Antibiotic tablets
  • Isotretinoin tablets
  • In women, the combined oral contraceptive pill

Topical treatments

Benzoyl peroxide

  • Irritates the skin.
  • The face becomes more sensitive to sunlight, so avoid too much sun and ultraviolet (UV) light
  • Can have a bleaching effect; so avoid getting it on your hair or clothes.
  • The skin becomes dry and tense
  • Burning, itching or stinging sensation
  • Redness and peeling of the skin

Topical Retinoids

  • Tretinoin and Adapalene are topical Retinoids used to treat acne.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and UV, as skin becomes more sensitive.
  • Irritation and stinging of the skin.
  • Not suitable for use during pregnancy as there is a risk that they might cause birth defects.

Topical antibiotics

A six- to eight-week course is usually recommended. After this, treatment is usually stopped, as there is a risk that the bacteria on your face could become resistant to the antibiotics. This could make your acne worse and cause additional infections.

  • Minor irritation of the skin
  • Redness and burning of the skin
  • Peeling of the skin

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is often used as an alternative treatment for acne if the side effects of benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids are particularly irritating or painful.

The side effects of azelaic acid are usually mild and include:

  • Burning or stinging skin
  • Itchiness
  • Dry skin
  • Redness of the skin

Antibiotic tablets

  • Antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics) are usually used in combination with a topical treatment to treat more severe acne.
  • In most cases, a class of antibiotics called tetracyclines is prescribed, unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women are usually advised to take an antibiotic called erythromycin, which is known to be safer to use.
  • It will usually take about six weeks before you notice an improvement in your acne.
  • Tetracyclines can make your skin sensitive to sunlight and UV light and can also make the oral contraceptive pill less effective during the first few weeks of treatment.

Hormonal therapies

  • Hormonal therapies can often benefit women with acne, especially if the acne flares up around period or is associated with hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • This combined contraceptive pill can often help improve acne in women, but may take up to a year before the full benefits are seen.


Co-cyprindiol is a hormonal treatment that can be used for more severe acne that doesn’t respond to antibiotics. It helps reduce the production of sebum.

Takes more than two to six months before you notice a significant improvement in your acne.

There is a small risk that women taking co-cyprindiol may develop breast cancer or a blood clot in later life.

  • Bleeding and spotting between your periods
  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Mood changes
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Weight gain or weight loss


Isotretinoin is taken as a tablet. Most people take a four- to six-month course. Your acne may get worse during the first 7 to 10 days of treatment.

  • Inflammation, dryness and cracking of the skin, lips and nostrils
  • Changes in your blood sugar levels
  • Inflammation of your eyelids
  • Inflammation and irritation of your eyes
  • Blood in urine
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Kidney disease
  • Not to be used in pregnancy
  • Mood swings, depression

*At The London Acne Clinic we can reduce Acne & Scarring more quickly, painlessly, with permanent results.