All You Need To Know About Using Antibiotics To Treat Acne

Acne is a common problem and usually doesn’t pose any serious health problems. However, for someone who battles an intense form of acne, it can become distressing. Especially in a society obsessed with appearances. Fighting an acne outbreak can prove to be cumbersome because it won’t disappear in a day. For those dealing with extremely stubborn acne, antibiotics are a treatment option.

How Are Antibiotics Used To Treat Acne

Anti-acne antibiotics come in cream and pill form.

Since most forms of acne are caused by bacteria living on the skin, they can be dealt with using antibiotics. However, any antibiotic treatment for acne should only be started under a doctor’s supervision.1 There are two main kinds of antibiotic therapy for acne.

Topical Antibiotics

One of the most effective and widely accepted treatments for acne is the use of topical antibiotics, applied externally in the form of creams. Antibiotics such as erythromycin, clindamycin or tetracycline are indeed effective in treating mild to moderate inflammatory acne. Using antibiotics topically helps control the inflammation caused by the bacteria.2


Another common mode of treating persistent or severe acne is systemic antibiotic therapy. These are usually pills taken orally for a prescribed amount of time. They have been known to provide excellent results.  Antibiotics like tetracyclines (tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, lymecycline), erythromycin, co-trimoxazole, and trimethoprim are also prescribed in oral form.

Side Effects Of Using Antibiotics For Acne

Anti-acne antibiotics can cause dryness and peeling.

Antibiotics come with their fair share of side effects when used against acne. Common ones are dry skin, peeling, irritation, and contact dermatitis. Usually, these are caused by topical antibiotics.3 There are some other rare but serious side effects associated with topical and systemic antibiotics.4

  • inhibited skeletal growth
  • risk of discoloration of developing teeth.
  • moderate to severe photo-toxicity(vulnerability to sunburn)
  • gastrointestinal intolerance.

Why Antibiotics May Not Be A Long-Term Solution

Microbes are growing resistant to antibiotics

Studies show that long-term, indiscriminate use of antibiotics for the treatment of acne can lead to bacterial resistance. This means that the bacteria adapt to survive the antibiotic and render it ineffective.5 Hence, antibiotics are prescribed in combination with benzoyl peroxide and/or topical retinoids. Usually, the therapy is taken for six to eight weeks to see if there are any results and then for a maximum of up to six months only. Further treatments may be done using topical antibiotics.6


this, acne is caused by a number of factors outside of the bacteria. Clogged pores and an increase in oil production can allow the bacteria to multiply. Inflammation which makes the infection spread deeper and wider across the skin. Antibiotics only work to kill the bacteria but not the underlying causes that allow them to thrive on your skin. Therefore, it is not a cure, rather a method of managing the acne.

Natural Remedies For Acne

Turmeric is a great treatment for acne.

While antibiotics can be effective, they do pose a lot of problems. Instead, acne can be battled with some key changes to lifestyle and diet.

  • Try to stay away from greasy and sugary foods which may increase the oil production on your skin
  • Drink lots of water to improve circulation and help carry away cell waste.
  • Get enough sleep to keep your skin healthy and well-rested.
  • Check to see if some foods are personal triggers for acne and avoid them
  • Exercise to improve circulation and shower immediately after to prevent breakouts from sweat.
  • Advertisements
  • Wipe down your cell phone with hand sanitizer to prevent bacteria from spreading on to your face.

Here are some natural remedies to help battle acne.

  • Tea tree oil: Use a few drops of tea tree oil diluted in coconut oil or olive oil to fight bacterial infections.7
  • Coriander and turmeric paste: Turmeric has incredible anti-bacterial properties.8 Add a pinch of turmeric powder to two teaspoons of fresh coriander juice. Apply this mixture on to the face, leave on for 10 minutes and wash off. Do this twice daily.
  • Neem paste: Neem is a plant popularly used in Ayurvedic medicine for its antimicrobial action.9 Just crush and grind a handful of neem leaves into a paste and apply on the face, leave it on for a few minutes and then wash off. Do this twice daily to see results.
  • Advertisements
  • Orange Peel Paste: The vitamin C in oranges helps maintain skin health.10 Make a paste of dried orange peel powder and milk and apply on the face just before bedtime. Wash off after 10 to 15 minutes.

If you find your acne to be frustrating and hard to deal with, antibiotics could be an option for you but beware of the side effects. You can still rest easy knowing that there are still numerous other ways to deal with acne.