There is no cure for acne, but certain measures can help prevent more breakouts. Acne can result in scarring, so minimizing breakouts is important.
Mild acne consists of a few papules/pustules and/or comedones. Moderate acne has an increased number of lesions. Severe acne has numerous comedones, papules, pustules, and may have painful nodules.
Acne can result in permanent scars, which can appear to be depressions in the skin or hyperpigmentation, which is dark red or brown flat marks where the acne lesions were.
There are also a variety of over-the-counter medications that may help. These are meant to be preventative therapies and should be applied in a thin layer to the entire area on a regular basis. If applied consistently, you may see small improvements quickly, but results are generally seen after a few months. Benzoyl peroxide (most effective), is available in a variety of forms and strengths. Benzoyl peroxides tend to dry the skin, though, so if you have dry skin, use a weaker-concentration product; for oily skin, consider higher strengths. It can also bleach your clothing and towels. Peeling agents (exfoliants) such as salicylic acid, sulfur, resorcinol, and alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, pyruvic, and citric acid) can also help but will also cause some dryness of the skin.
Microdermabrasion performed every 7–10 days ("lunchtime peel") has been a popular albeit costly way to control mild acne and can be done by a health care professional or in a salon. The same types of peeling agents are available in over-the-counter products, which can be used at home at much less cost.
- Antibacterial agents and antibiotics such as benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, erythromycin, sulfur, sodium sulfacetamide, and azelaic acid.
- Retinoids – vitamin A-derived products such as tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene.
- Antibiotics such as tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline, erythromycin, ampicillin, clindamycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, azithromycin, or cephalosporins.
- Oral contraceptives and spironolactone have been found to help regulate hormones.
- Isotretinoin, a strong drug with many side effects, for severe acne unresponsive to the above treatments.
- Special "blue light" treatments are being investigated to treat acne but are usually not covered by insurance.
- Several types of laser treatments also help acne and are often used with other treatment methods; treatments are expensive, must be repeated for several months, and have variable efficacy. Insurance may not cover laser therapy.
- Laser resurfacing, plastic surgery, and/or dermabrasion may help reduce the prominence of old acne scars.