Acne is a common skin condition that affects up to 50 million Americans. It can cause significant emotional distress and affect the quality of life. Acne is not just a cosmetic problem – it can lead to permanent scarring and other serious health problems. The skin condition is more common in women, but this doesn’t mean that men don’t suffer from it. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, adult-onset acne affects 50% of men and 25% of women.

Acne treatments are available, but they vary in effectiveness. Some people are able to clear their acne with over-the-counter treatments, while others may need prescription medications, cosmetic procedures, or even surgery. The best acne treatment depends on the severity of the acne and the individual’s skin type.

Topical treatments

Some people with mild to moderate acne can clear their acne with over-the-counter acne products, such as benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or salicylic acid. Topical agents have anti-inflammatory properties and work by killing acne-causing bacteria and/or unclogging the pores. Benzoyl peroxide is available in a variety of formulations, including gels, creams, and lotions, while salicylic acid can be found in gel, cream, and patch formulations. Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring substance in wheat, rye, and barley, but it can also be made in a lab. It can be used to kill the bacteria responsible for Propionibacterium acnes, unclog pores, and reduce the redness and swelling associated with acne.


For people with more severe acne, prescription medications may be necessary. These include oral antibiotics, retinoids, and hormonal therapies. Antibiotic tablets fight the bacteria responsible for acne, while retinoids are vitamin A analogs that unclog pores and reduce skin inflammation. Some people struggling with acne can also resort to hormonal therapies. Hormone treatments may be used to lower the levels of acne-causing hormones in the body.

Acne laser treatment

Laser therapies use beams of light to destroy the bacteria causing acne breakouts. The laser energy also shrinks the sebaceous oil glands, which decreases the amount of produced oil and, thus, the appearance of acne. Following the procedure, patients also notice less visible acne scars. Acne laser treatment is often done in a series of treatments, and each treatment lasts for about 20-30 minutes. This cosmetic procedure is considered a safe and effective acne treatment option with little to no downtime.

Light therapy

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a treatment option for acne that uses light to improve acne symptoms. Patients can resort to two types of light therapy in their battle against acne: ultraviolet B (UVB) and intense pulsed light (IPL). UVB light therapy targets acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation. IPL light therapy is a newer type of light therapy that uses a broad spectrum of light to improve acne symptoms. It is a popular treatment among celebrities and those with busy lifestyles, as it requires no downtime and delivers results after just a few short treatments.

Chemical peels

Chemical Peels are one of the most popular remedies for acne. The procedure relies on various acids to peel away the outer layer of skin that contains the acne-causing bacteria and expose the skin underneath. This type of therapy for acne allows the skin to heal and causes acne to recede. The most popular chemical peel for acne uses salicylic acid. This acid can penetrate deep into the pores and help clear out the bacteria responsible for acne.


Dermabrasion is an acne treatment that uses a tool to sand away the top layer of skin. This type of acne treatment removes the dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause acne, and contributes to the prevention of scars. However, dermabrasion is a more invasive acne treatment option and requires some downtime for healing. It’s typically recommended that dermabrasion be used in combination with other acne therapies, such as antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide, for best results.


Surgery for acne is usually a last resort after other acne therapies, such as topical therapy and oral medications, have failed. This acne treatment option involves the removal of the sebaceous glands to prevent acne development and help with acne management. Surgery is usually only recommended for people with severe acne that has not responded to over-the-counter acne treatments and other treatment options.