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Antibiotics - maximise the benefits, reduce the risks

Antibiotic gels, solution and lotions will be prescribed by a doctor with instructions - how often to apply it, which parts of the face it should be put on, and for how long. These instructions should be followed carefully.

A thin smear should be applied once or twice a day to the entire area affected by acne, not just the spots. This is because topical preparations work to reduce visible pimples but also help prevent new ones. Using them regularly over the entire area will lead to much better control of acne.

Oral antibiotics may work faster and be more effective if large areas are involved, such as acne on the face and body.

Pharmacists will tell you when it’s best to take tablets or capsules and whether or not they should be taken with food. They can also provide some practical tips on how to remember to take medications.

Antibiotics usually produce some improvement in 8-12 weeks. Talk to your doctor if your acne is not settling down within this timeframe.

As with all antibiotics, there is concern that if they are over-used or inappropriately used, strains of the acne bacteria will become resistant to antibiotics, making the medications ineffective. Taking antibiotics for the full course as prescribed and applying antibiotic creams and gels as directed will reduce this risk.

Combining antibiotic therapy with other acne treatments e.g. benzoyl peroxide cream or wash also helps to protect against antibiotic resistance.


Last updated March 2016

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