OTC Topical Medications For Acne:

OTC means “Over The Counter”, in other words, your patient would not need a prescription to buy an OTC product. If the patient has minimal acne, they can often get reasonable results using these preparations, which are primarily directed at reducing the blockage of pores. In general, these products include cleansers and some topical treatments, such as lotions, pads, gels, and creams that are applied onto the surface of the skin.

There are 2 main categories of topical products available for treating acne that include:

Acne cleansers (containing)

  • Glycolic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Antibacterial components

Benzoyl peroxide

Things Patients Can Do For Themselves:

  • Avoid aggravating factors
  • Try medicated cleansers first
  • Next, try Benzoyl Peroxide
  • If there is no improvement after 6-8 weeks, see a doctor

Application Of The OTC Product:

When applying topical acne medications, patients should apply them to the entire area where they have acne, not just to the visible blemishes. In this way, they will also be treating small microscopic blemishes that are not yet visible to them.

Patients need to use these products regularly as directed on the label and they will need to continue to use them for a while, typically for 6-8 weeks, before they will see significant improvement. They may also need to continue to use them in order to maintain the improvement.

Patients Faced With Dryness?

If the patient should notice that their skin becomes too dry or irritated because of the therapy, trying the following in order, may allow them to continue treatment:

  1. Use a mild non-acne cleanser or soap, the acne cleansers may compound the dryness and irritation.
  2. Use topical products for a shorter period of time, and then progressively lengthen the time of application as tolerated by his/her skin. For example, apply a topical product and leave it on for 30 minutes a day for 1 week, then increase by doubling the application time every week so that eventually the product can be left on all day or night. If his/her skin becomes irritated, then reduce the frequency and time the application is left on.
  3. Consider adding moisturizers that are non-acnegenic or non-comedogenic (does not cause acne or comedones) if irritation persists.

Note: If, after the patient has tried these suggestions, the irritation or excessive dryness persists, they should seek further advice from a physician.