The truth about antibiotic use for acne treatment: is it effective and safe?

Topical use of antibiotics is currently a widely accepted, safe, and effective treatment option for acne. Studies suggest that topical application of antibiotics such as clindamycin, erythromycin, or tetracycline showed clinical effectiveness for mild to moderate inflammatory acne, especially when they are used in combination with tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide and zinc, while they are little effective on non-inflammatory acne. Antibiotics as acne medications work by inhibiting inflammation caused by bacteria rather than a direct bactericidal effect. 

Do antibiotics improve acne?

Acne is one of the most skin diseases seen in dermatology practice in the United States, affecting more teenagers and sometimes persisting to adulthood. The skin condition can have a significant psychological and physical impact. Many people with acne report feelings of anxiety, depression, emotional stress, or poor self-esteem, and severe acne may cause permanent scarring. Although acne is not an infectious disorder, antibiotic for acne has remained a mainstay of treatment over the last few decades. The anti-inflammatory properties of oral antibiotics, particularly tetracyclines, effectively treat inflammatory acne lesions.  

Treatment options for acne include a range of prescription acne medications (topical and oral agents). Topical treatment such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, and retinoids is generally used as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate acne with comedonal and inflammatory lesions. They are considered the best medicines for pimples. Oral antibiotics are extremely effective in case of moderate to severe acne, in combination with a topical agent. Research studies support oral antibiotics for treating moderate and severe acne, among the most effective antibiotics for acne treatment for 50 years. It is well-accepted that antibiotics are extremely effective at reducing acne severity and have an overall safety profile.

Are antibiotics effective in treating acne?

You may develop acne if your pores and hair follicles become blocked with oil or dead skin cells. Several things may be responsible for causing acne, including having oily skin, inflammation, hormonal changes, genetics, inflammation, excessive exposure to sunlight, and certain medications. However, experts believe bacteria also play a role. Bacteria survive on the skin; some bacterias are beneficial, while others can cause problems if they become excessively present. Propionibacterium acne can aggravate acne.

Unveiling the Reality: Antibiotic Use for Acne Treatment

Topical antibiotics

Antibiotics are the best acne medication for stopping the growth of harmful bacteria on the skin. Azithromycin is found to be effective and well-tolerated in various doses in clinical trials. Furthermore, several classes of antibiotics, including macrolides and tetracyclines, have also effectively treated inflammatory acne.

Clindamycin and erythromycin are the most effective common topical antibiotics. These can also be prescribed as over-the-counter acne medications to reduce the severity of acne. This work best for inflammatory acne, which develops when bacteria get the entry to the blocked pores. Other types of acne may not respond as well. Topical formulations come in many forms, including gels, pads, and lotions. Topical antibiotics do not affect gut flora. However, these still play a role in antibiotic resistance. Due to this, experts recommend using topical antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids.

Oral antibiotic options

The most researched antibiotic for acne is tetracycline and macrolides. Tetracyclines are considered the best antibiotics for acne. Other antibiotic acne pills, such as minocycline and doxycycline, have less evidence. Still, dermatologists recommend these medications if an individual doesn’t see improvement. The America Academy of Dermatology recommends not using oral antibiotics alone. Combining retinoids and benzoyl peroxide may increase the effectiveness of the treatment. To reduce the risk of resistance, it is important to take oral antibiotics, as the dermatologist recommends.

Oral or topical antibiotic formulations such as erythromycin and tetracycline can help treat severe, painful acne associated with bacteria on the skin. Antibiotics are powerful agents that are extremely effective in fighting infections. They also cause a significant reduction in inflammation, which soothes swelling and reduces the risk of scarring.

Dermatologists recommend oral antibiotics that a person takes as a pill or topical product that a person applies to the skin. However, one should be aware of the risk associated with the prolonged or repeated use of oral antibiotics. These can affect healthy bacteria in the gut, disrupting the balance of someone’s gut flora. However, there has been growing concern about the development of antibiotic resistance in recent years. As such, some previously employed antibiotics, such as erythromycin and clindamycin, are no longer used clinically used in clinical practice due to their high rates of resistance. The concern is serious enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC now promote public awareness to confront antibiotic resistance.

CDC recommends a prescription of antibiotics should be done responsibly, which helps limit the development of antibiotic resistance. The use of antibiotics usually depends on an individual’s circumstances. This blog will help you look at the safety and effectiveness of antibiotics for acne, the types, side effects, risks, and other acne treatments.


Antibiotics help with acne; they cause a significant reduction in the presence of bacteria on the skin that ultimately causes acne and inflammation. Dermatologists prescribe antibiotics, particularly for people with inflammatory acne or those with moderate to severe acne for whom first-line treatments are not effective enough at reducing the appearance of acne.

Research shows several antibiotic drugs are capable enough to reduce the symptoms, and both topical and oral forms of medications are associated with potential risks. Topical forms of antibiotics are less likely to cause side effects, but they still can give rise to antibiotic resistance. It is important to discuss all the benefits and drawbacks of using antibiotics with a dermatologist.

Read More: What is the Importance of Antibiotics in Our Day to Day Life?