How Long Can I Use Antibiotics for Acne? by Deb Chase

Antibiotics for AcneQuestion:  I’ve had acne  since my teens and  every new doctor seems to prescribe another antibiotic.  I’m worried about this and wonder how long can I take antibiotics  safely.

Answer:  When a doctor recommends antibiotics for an infected bug bite  or lingering cough, its usually for a relatively short period of time that ranges from 5-10 days. But when  antibiotics are prescribed for antibiotics, the time frame changes significantly.  How long  you can safely and effectively use  antibiotics for acne  depends  on the type and form  of the different  antibiotic options.

Antibiotics for Acne 101

For acne, antibiotics are used directly on the skin as well as taken in pill form. The most commonly used antibiotic is benzoyl peroxide. Available without prescription and formulated into a gel or cream, benzoyl peroxide is a triple threat to acne.  This multi-tasking antibiotic kills the bacteria in the follicles which are driving breakouts, reduces inflammation  and helps  control blockage in the pores.  But wait there is more good news.  According to  Dr Gary Goldenberg of Mount Sinai Medical Center, bacteria don’t develop resistance to benzoyl peroxide and can be used effectively for years.  A mild ( 2.5%) benzoyl peroxide gel  can be found for about $15 in most pharmacies.  This can be  a good start to get  your skin  familiar with the medication.  Once only available by prescription, you can now find 4% BP  on the drug store shelves and you can work your way up to the higher  concentration  as your skin  becomes  comfortable with treatment.

With the other antibiotics including clindamycin and erthromycin ( both available only with prescription) resistance can become a problem.  Dr Goldenberg prescribes low dose  oral antibiotics  for just six weeks to three months.  In gel  form that’s used day and or night directly on the skin, he recommends  using them  for not more than three months.

One final thought– Antibiotics,   either in  pills or gels,  should be used with other  acne fighters such as glycolic acid peels, salicylic acid and Retin A.  All these medications work in different but collaborative ways to quell  the active acne process.

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