Acne is a medical condition that affects 40 to 50 million Americans, making it the most common skin disorder for teenagers and adults. About 85 percent of people will have acne at some point in their lives, and by mid-teens, 40 percent of people will have acne or acne scarring.
The active ingredient in many over-the-counter treatments is benzoyl peroxide, which kills P. acnes bacteria. For mild cases, benzoyl peroxide alone may be effective. For more severe cases, benzoyl peroxide can be combined with prescription treatments such as retinoid cream (retin-A) and/or topical antibiotics.
Another good over-the-counter treatment to use is a salicylic acid cleanser or cream. This helps unclog pores.
Many of the topical treatments can cause dryness and irritation. The goal is to kill the bacteria and decrease sebum, but if this is overdone then you get dryness and irritation. Often you need to start treatments slowly, 2-3 times a week and increase slowly.
Those who require courses of oral antibiotics may experience stomach upset. Fortunately, we have new slow-release formulations that allow us to use lower doses with less stomach irritation.