Best Treatments for Adult Acne

woman finding acne on face

The best treatment for adult acne depends on the type of acne you have, as well as the degree of severity. If you suffer from adult acne, it is wise to make an appointment with a dermatologist, who can guide you regarding the most effective treatments.

Best Treatments Available for Adult Acne

According to Web MD, although there are may over-the-counter treatments available for acne, they aren't always as effective for deep acne in adults. The best way to combat breakouts for adults is to consult a dermatologist, who can recommend therapy options based on the severity of your acne and your skin's needs.

Topical Options

A dermatologist may suggrest a specific type of topical treatment. If you choose to go for OTC treatments, Mayo Clinic suggests that those either benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, or sulfur work best. Topical treatments may include products with one of the following:

  • Dapsone: Gel containing 5% dapsone, an ingredient used to fight skin infections, is an option, because it is thought to help fight inflammation that can cause or exacerbate acne. One such topical gel, Aczone, has been proven to significantly improve acne, although side effects such as oiliness or peeling, dryness, and erythema may occur.
  • Retinoid medications: Topical retinoids can help unclog pores and may work on moderate to severe acne.
  • Salicylic acid: Propa pH and Stridex, which contain salicylic acid, are an effective acne treatment. Salicylic acid helps keep pores from clogging. and it is found in both acne products and in some anti-wrinkle creams. While the active acne-fighting ingredients are the same as those found in skin care products tailored to teens, the cosmetics formulated for adult women are less drying, and many also feature anti-aging ingredients. It can cause mild skin redness.
  • Topical antibiotics: Most over-the-counter topical treatments include benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin or erythromycin. One such combination cream is Erythromycin, which when combined with benzoyl peroxide, is both an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment proven to be very useful in treating adult acne.This combination of antibiotics is effective for adults with mild to moderate acne.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: Creams containing benzoyl peroxide, such as Brevoxyl and Benzac, are often effective in treating mild forms of adult acne because the benzoyl peroxide helps remove excess oil and kill P. acnes. Side effects can include excessive dryness, scaling of the skin photosensitivity. Many experts tell adults to avoid benzoyl peroxide for these reasons.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids: These can help in two ways. The acids both help remove dead skin cells and can also help decrease inflammation.
  • Resorcinol and sulfur: These are are usually combined and work to keep pores clear and remove excess oil. These ingredients can cause skin peeling and redness.
  • Alcohol and acetone: Usually sold as "astringents," acetone and alcohol remove dirt and oil. However, they can be too harsh for dry or sensitive skin.

Birth Control Pills

For adult acne that is brought on by hormones, some low-dose birth control pills such as Yaz and Ortho Tri-Cyclen can regulate hormonal inflections that trigger breakouts. For best results, oral contraceptives are often used in conjunction with other acne treatments such as topical retinoids or benzoyl peroxide. However, birth control pills can also cause acne. A doctor can help you decide if contraceptive pills might work for you.

Oral Antibiotics

Oral Antibiotics

Antibiotics act as anti-inflammatories, and have proven to be effective in fighting acne that comes from an infection. Tetracycline is one of the most common antibiotics prescribed to treat adult acne, although it cannot be taken by anyone who is pregnant. Another oral antibiotic often used to treat adult acne is Minocycline, which is especially effective in fighting pustular acne, which is the deep, painful lesions commonly present along the jaw line in adults suffering from acne.

Other Medications

For severe cases of adult acne, some dermatologists recommend oral treatments, such as Accutane or Sotret. However, both products can cause birth defects, so the treatment is not an option for all patients.

Accutane is a form of Vitamin A that reduces the amount of oil produced by the oil glands. It is usually prescribed after other acne treatments and antibiotics have been tried without success. It can cause severe birth defects, so women of child-bearing age must be very careful not to become pregnant while taking it.

Some medications that are intended for another use have also proved to be effective in the treatment of adult acne. One such medication is spironolactone, a blood pressure medication. Spironolactone is effective in treating hormonally induced acne in women. If breakouts typically occur around a woman's menstrual cycle, doctors will often prescribe Spironolactone for the week prior to their period.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is a relatively new concept in acne treatment that targets the deeper layers of skin. According the the Mayo Clinic, light therapies may work for those who haven't responded to other acne treatments. Types include blue light therapy, pulsed light and heat treatment, diode lasers, and photodynamic therapy.

Skin Care Solutions

Adults need grown-up skin solutions for their acne problems. The best regimen to use for adult acne depends on the individual case and may include:


Famous faces like Katy Perry, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Mandy Moore have seen skin improvements with Proactiv products. This product line is customized for you after a quick consultation with a skin care specialist. Each customized system includes three products: a cleanser, toner and lotion. It is important to use the products as prescribed. Products can be ordered directly from Proactiv's website.


Murad's promise is "transforming skincare." There are three main types of skin care systems: Acne Complex, Resurgence and Environmental Shield. Adult acne sufferers may have success with Acne Complex, which employs a basic three part system that cleanses, treats and hydrates the skin. There are also spot treatments and hydrating masks available to address more specific conditons.


Neutrogena's Complete Acne System contains everything adults need to achieve clearer, more beautiful skin. Neutrogena promises to improve the skin's appearance in just four days. The secret to the product's effectiveness is salicylic acid in the cleanser and benzoyl peroxide in the toner; both decrease inflammation, reduce redness, and minimize the occurrence of breakouts.

Get Clear Skin With the Right Treatment

The right treatment for you situation depends on your specific skin and the severity of your acne. Physicians may suggest a combination appropach of topical and other medications. Despite what many people believe, there is no real proof that eating chocolate and drinking soda causes skin breakouts. Stress may play a role in adult acne, but there is no evidence that it makes acne worse. By taking an active approach getting clear skin, following a good skin care regimen, and discussing the treatment possibilities with a dermatologist, you can fight the aggravating problem of adult acne.

Best Treatments for Adult Acne