Two common antibiotics for acne are minocycline and doxycyclin, which are used to fight inflammatory kinds of acne such as red bumps, pustules, and painful cysts.
Thankfully, there are more treatment options available than just what you can find at the drugstore—including antibiotics for acne.
ICYMI—along with excess oil and dead skin cells clogging pores, bacteria (specifically, P.acnes) can also cause acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these P.acnes bacteria can get inside a clogged pore and multiply, causing inflammation and redness—and antibiotics can work to kill these bacteria in order to reduce breakouts.
Two common antibiotics for acne are minocycline and doxycyclin, which are used to fight inflammatory kinds of acne such as red bumps, pustules, and painful cysts. “They are prescribed along with topical acne medications [such as a retinoid], and used for approximately three to four months,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Antibiotics for acne are only prescribed for a short treatment time due to concerns about antibiotic resistance, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology. But you should start seeing results within those three months. After your antibiotic treatment is over, you would keep using your topical treatment for continued results, although some patients with more severe cases take antibiotics for a longer period of time.
If you're only dealing with whiteheads and blackheads, antibiotics for acne probably aren't right for you. Whiteheads and blackheads are both non-inflammatory forms of acne, Zeichner says, and they're better treated with over-the-counter products that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, which kill acne-causing bacteria, and salicylic acid, which remove excess oil and exfoliate dead cells from the skin.
So how do you know if you should consider using antibiotics to treat your acne? According to Mona Gohara, M.D., a dermatologist based in Connecticut, it's time to seek a dermatologist when your skin troubles have progressed beyond whiteheads or blackheads. “Those deeper, more inflammatory cysts and papules are your body's way of saying, ‘Get help!’” she says. Another way of knowing your issues won’t be cured with over-the-counter meds is when large areas of the skin are affected, such as the face, chest, and back, says Zeichner.
Antibiotic treatments are also not for everyone. No one who is pregnant or nursing should take these antibiotics, says Gohara (so be sure to talk to your doctor ASAP if you become pregnant and are taking these medications). And as with all prescription drugs, antibiotics do have some side effects. “Doxycycline can make you sensitive to the sun and can cause esophageal reflux. It is important to take the medication with a full glass of water at least 30 minutes before bed,” Zeichner says. “Minocycline may lead to dizziness and rare allergic-type reactions.”
Most importantly, Zeichner says, you should have a discussion with your doctor about the risks and benefits of using prescription medication for your acne and find something that fits your preferences and specific type of acne.