Acne Part II: How to Treat Acne

Find out the available medical options to treat acne.

Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read

Acne is not a very physically dangerous health condition.  However, its deep psychological impact is what makes acne an important issue to address.  It can lead to anxiety and depression, social isolation, and low self-esteem.  Last week I wrote about acne myths and its underlying causes, today I will discuss the available treatments of it.

How Do Doctors Decide on Acne Treatments?

There are numerous choices when it comes to anti-acne medicines.  Your doctor will need to see you and examine your skin in order to determine the first steps.  Make sure that you are makeup-free at your appointment so that the doctor can make an accurate assessment.  Your doctor will be looking for the following signs:

  1. How severe is the acne?

  2. Is your skin dry, oily, or both?  Gels tend to be more drying, and lotions and creams are more moisturizing.

  3. Are there whiteheads or blackheads?

  4. Are there larger, deeper cysts?

  5. Is there a component of “inflammation,” or redness, surrounding the acne?

  6. Is there significant scarring?

Your Doctor Will Take a “History”

It’s also important to share the following with your doctor:

  1. Make a list of the medicines you’ve already tried in the past, both prescription and over-the-counter, and take it with you to your visit.

  2. Are your menstrual cycles regular?  The presence of irregular periods and acne can indicate certain health conditions that can predispose to acne, like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (read about PCOS here).

  3. Do you have a history of excessive hair on your body, referred to as “hirsutism” (which you can read about in a previous episode)?  Like irregular periods, hirsutism can also be a reflection of other health conditions that cause acne.

  4. Are you on any medications that may possibly cause acne?  Reveal all over-the-counter and prescription medications you are taking.

Once your doctor has performed an examination and taken a thorough history, she can decide the right medication for you and individualize your treatment plan accordingly.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.