Acne Treatment

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Acne is a common skin problem where pimples, whiteheads, blackheads or cysts develop on the face, neck, chest or back. It is caused by a build-up of dead skin cells, bacteria and dried up sebum (oil) which blocks the skin pores.

The sebum blocking the pores provides an ideal environment for a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes to thrive on the skin. If they multiply to larger numbers then this can result in the immune system to react causing inflammation and spots.


Common Symptoms

There are six types of spots caused by acne:

  1. Blackheads; black/yellow bumps in the pores of the skin.
  2. Whiteheads; white bumps in the pores of the skin.
  3. Papules; tender small red spots.
  4. Pustules; red spots with a white tip in the middle caused by pus.
  5. Nodules; large red hard lumps in the skin.
  6. Cysts; large pus filled lumps.
Common Treatments

There are a range of over-the-counter treatments you can try first. Please speak to your pharmacist for further advice, and see our 'Self-help' section below. In more resistant cases of acne that have not responded to over-the-counter options, then antibiotic lotions or tablets may be considered. We can prescribe the treatments listed below. 

Possible treatments we prescribe if clinically appropriate: 

  • Lymecycline 408mg Once Daily: 1-month course (£4.26*) or a 2-month course (£8.52*)
  • Doxycycline 50mg Two Tablets Daily: 1-month course (£2.34*) or a 2-month course (£4.68*)
  • Zineryt (Erythromycin and Zinc) Lotion - 30ml (£9.25*) or 90ml (£20.02*)
  • Duac (Clindamycin and 5% Benzoyl Peroxide) Gel - 30g (£13.14*) or 60g (£26.28*)

*Prices shown are cost price of the medication, taken from the British National Formulary 2018, and are given as a guideline. Pharmacies will add a dispensing fee to this which will vary considerably, so it is worthwhile phoning around to compare prices. The medication is paid for at your chosen pharmacy. 

Please click on the medication above to read the Patient Information Leaflet for important information about each drug. We use national prescribing guidelines to select which treatment would be most appropriate for your condition. 


Benzoyl Peroxide

You can purchase this from the pharmacy. This can help clear inflamed spots, blackheads and whiteheads. It does so by reducing inflammation, killing bacteria and it helps to clear blocked skin pores. There are four different strengths from 2.5% to 10%. Start with the lowest and gradually increase it to the maximally tolerated level. Also gradually increase the time it is left on the skin before washing off. To start with use it once a day then increase it to twice a day. It is common to cause mild skin irritation. A water based preparation instead of alcohol based one is less likely to irritate. 


These work well for unclogging the pores, so are effective at treating blackheads and whiteheads. They can also help with mildly inflamed spots. They can cause some skin redness and peeling which usually settles with time.

Azelaic Acid

Works best for treating blackheads and whiteheads, as it also helps to unclog the pores. It can also help to treat mildly inflamed spots but does not work as well as topical antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide for treating inflamed acne.


Mild acne will often settle without specific treatment however it sometimes can cause complications including scarring, skin discolouration, low self-esteem and depression. 

Acne scarring can have different appearances, the main types include uneven skin texture, craters, small deep holes and bumps where the pimples used to be. Scarring may also occur if you squeeze or pick the spots. 

Acne can be an embarrassing condition for some people particularly when it affects the face. This can lead to low self-esteem, and sometimes even depression if it is not adequately addressed. If it is affecting you psychologically then it is important to be able to discuss how it makes feel with someone you can trust or your GP. 

Treatments for scarring

Options available for scarring include laser resurfacing of the skin, dermabrasion or chemical peeling of the skin, breaking the scar tissue down with a sterile needle (subcision) and injection of collagen filler.

When seeking advice for cosmetic procedures it is important to ensure you consult a suitably qualified practitioner, such as a GMC registered Dermatologist to ensure you receive the best possible outcomes. 

Antibiotic Guardianship

Antibiotics should be used responsibly and only when really necessary. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is where the antibiotic becomes less effective at treating certain types of bacterial infection, so they do not work when needed. 

Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, and it is important to complete the full course, this can reduce the chance of the bacteria developing an immunity to that antibiotic. It is important not to share antibiotics, and always take unused medication to your local pharmacy for disposal.

Start an acne diagnosis

Do you think you require treatment for acne?

We could diagnose and send you a treatment plan with a prescription, if appropriate, within an hour.