Acne Medicine – My Experience with OTC medicine

By | July 9, 2017

Did you know that over 180,000 people search for information on acne everyday, out of which 77,000 want to know more about acne medicine ? And that there are over 22 million sites talking about acne, and acne medicine, treatment and products ? This tells me a few things. One, there are many people out there suffering from acne, and they are interested in knowing what kind of acne medicine is available to help them cure their problem. Equally, there are millions of available acne treatments and products out there. Obviously, no one acne medicine is suitable for any one person then.

First, a quick review on what acne is. It is what the layperson calls “pimples” or “zits”. There are different forms of acne, and all can occur at the same time, though one stage does not necessarily progress to the next. There are comedones, or blackheads and whiteheads, as they are usually called. Then there are acne spots caused by bacteria, leading to inflammation, resulting in a red possibly painful swelling called a papule. If the papule does not subside spontaneously, a pustule may form. This heals by discharging pus. A severe enough reaction may cause a lot of deep damage, leaving behind scars.

Acne medicine has different purposes. There is acne medicine to prevent acne. There is medicine to prevent infection of the acne. And there is medicine to prevent scarring from the acne. Finally, there is medicine to minimise the effects of acne scarring, should scars form.

Acne medicine can be divided into those that are applied to the skin – called topical acne medicine, and those that are taken orally – called systemic medicine.

Topical treatments come in the form of creams and lotions. There are two main types of topical acne medicine . The keratolytics , which act by peeling off the top horny outer layer of the skin, so helping to dislodge the comedones ( blackheads and whiteheads), and the antiseptics, which attempt to get rid of harmful bacterial action. Examples of keratolytic acne medicine include benzyl peroxide, Retin A, and sulphur. Examples of antispetic acne medicine include iodine ( eg Betadine), chlorhexidine, zinc salts, which are frequently incorporated into acne creams and lotions, azelaic acid.

One of the main problems with topical acne medicine is that they can be rather harsh. They can cause skin irritation and inflammation. Some, like retin A cannot be used during pregnancy. Sulphur containing acne medicines can be extremely smelly, like rotton eggs !

I can still remember the days when acne used to rule my life. I was so desperate for a cure I must have tried every over-the-counter acne medicine there was available. And there were plenty. That was the time when nobody thought acne was a serious problem. Everyone got it. Nobody had died from it. So it never occured to me that maybe I would need help.

It started with a few small spots. So I tried the standard sulphur-based acne medicine. I would apply it just over the offending spots and wait patiently till they went away. But they gradually got worse, with the number of red spots extending to different areas of my face. Soon it covered large areas of my face. I followed the instructions for how to use the acne medicine. I would cover my face with it faithfully every night, and went to bed smelling of sulphur. Even my pillows would smell of it. But I would hope and pray the medicine would do its wonderful work, and my acne would be gone. I always awoke the next day disappointed. I would wash my face, apply on a fresh layer of acne medicine and go about my day. I finally gave up when someone pointed out to me they always knew when I was coming, because the smell of the acne medicine announced my arrival !

I decided to try the benzyl peroxide-based acne medicine next. At least these did not smell of sulphur. The instructions seemed easy enough to follow. Just apply the acne medicine twice a day after washing the face and the acne would be gone within three to five days. It was again with great hope that I applied the new acne medicine. The first night, nothing happened. By the second night, my face was beginning to get a little itchy. By the third night, the side effects of the acne medicine were causing me to have a rather dry and red face. By the fourth night, my poor face was positively uncomfortable. By the fifth night, I gave up. The acne was still there. This acne medicine had not worked either.

Things just got from bad to worse. The small little red spots progressed to big spots. Big spots joined with other spots to form entire continents. There was hardly a clear space on my face. My confidence dipped to an all-time low. Acne ruled my life. It was the first thing I saw when I awoke, and the last thing I saw when I went to bed. Well meaning friends and relatives constantly commented on it and had lots of advice of what type of acne medicine would work best. I had tried everything.

Generally topical acne medicines work well for those with mild acne. A good number can be simply bought over-the-counter without the need of a doctor’s prescription. And for many, this may be the only treatment required for acne.

Karen Cheong has started a blog giving information on acne medicine and her experiences with them – all in the hope of finding a cure.

Come and visit her
to find out more.