Antibiotics are used for inflammatory acne – pink lumps and bumps which may be small or in more serious cases, may appear as nodules, cysts or pustules.
Antibiotics have been used in acne management for decades, however there is a recent trend to use shorter courses, usually three to six months of treatment.
Antibiotics work by controlling the bacterial infection that contributes to acne. They also have an anti-inflammatory action, which can reduce the redness, swelling and pain.
Antibiotic gels and lotions are applied directly onto the skin (eg, Clindatec, Dalacin). Those currently used for the treatment of acne contain the active ingredients clindamycin or erythromycin.
They should be used sparingly on a cool, dry face to minimise irritation. Using topical antibiotics avoids some side effects that may occur with oral antibiotics, however they may take longer to become effective.
There is also a combination product (Duac® gel) that combines clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide.
Antibiotic tablets/capsules include tetracycline (eg, Tetrex Achromycin), doxycycline (eg, Doxy, Doryx, Vibratabs) and minocycline (eg, Minomycin, Akamin). Bactrim is less commonly used by some doctors, as is erythromycin.
A number of different antibiotics are available and a doctor will recommend the most suitable product for you.
If one antibiotic does not improve your acne, your doctor may change you to a different one, which may be more effective.
A six week trial is usually needed to work out if a certain treatment will work well. These medications are usually helpful and only occasionally cause significant side effects.
Last updated March 2016