Acne management

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1999. Reviewed and updated by Dr Amanda Oakley; Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, February 2014.

How is acne treated?

Treatment of acne depends on its severity – mild, moderate or severe.

General principles of treatment

Management of mild acne

Most patients with mild acne can be treated with topical treatment (gels, solutions and lotions) that can be obtained over-the-counter in New Zealand without prescription. Most people just use topical agents for facial skin as they can be difficult to apply to one's back. Extra vitamins and minerals have not been proved to help.

Suitable topical agents for mild acne that can be obtained without prescription include:

Topical agents for mild acne which require prescription include:

Combination prescription topicals include clindamycin / benzoyl peroxide (Duac™) and adapalene/benzoyl peroxide gel (Epiduo™).

Lights and lasers including blue light have been found to be safe and helpful for mild to moderate acne when oral medications are unhelpful or unsuitable.

See your doctor or dermatologist for advice if your pimples fail to clear up within six weeks or you have severe acne.

Management of moderately severe acne

Treatment for moderately severe acne usually includes the topical agents described above. In addition, oral medication may be prescribed, usually for at least 3–6 months.

Suitable oral medications include:

When oral antibiotics are discontinued, control should be maintained long term by continuing topical therapy.

Management of severe acne

Treatment for severe acne requires oral treatment. Patients should be under the care of a dermatologist.

Many patients will be treated with oral isotretinoin.

The following may also be prescribed:

Physical treatments for acne

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