Topical Antimicrobals for Acne Treatment - Effectivness, Cost & Side Effects


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Antimicrobials are essentially a class of antibiotics. They also work by destroying the amount of bacteria present on the skin. Unlike most antibacterial treatments, antimicrobials come in the form of prescription creams, gels or foams and are most effective at treating mild-to-moderate inflamed acne.

How do Topical Antimicrobials treat Acne?

Antimicrobial treatments treat acne by reducing the number of Propionbacterium Acnes (P. Acnes) on the skin. These bacteria are naturally present on the skin but if you suffer from acne, they can cause your, already clogged, pores to become inflamed. This creates the raised red spots we recognise as acne called papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. Using antimicrobials destroys P. Acnes and, in many cases, this can make a significant improvement to your acne condition.

Can I Use Topical Antimicrobials to treat my Acne?

Antimicrobials are a reasonable safe acne treatment with few serious side effects. If you suffer from mild-to-moderate acne that appears in the form of raised, sometimes sore, red lumps, you are a good candidate for the use of antimicrobials. Your doctor or dermatologist will be able to tell you whether or not you are suitable for antimicrobial treatment but make sure your practitioner is fully aware of your entire medical background before embarking on a course of the medication. If you have any questions or concerns, it is important that you raise them before starting treatment.

Side Effects of Topical Antimicrobials

Topical antimicrobials are relatively side effect-free. It is possible that they may cause some irritation to the skin and that your skin could become allergic to them over time. If this is the case you should contact your practitioner who will be able to change your prescription. Before prescribing any medication your doctor or dermatologist should thoroughly explain any possible side effects to you. If you are unsure about the side effects of any prescription you are using, contact your practitioner.

Topical Antimicrobials for Acne During Pregnancy

The antimicrobial, Azelaic Acid, should not be used during pregnancy as tests have shown that it could affect unborn children as it can be absorbed though their mother’s skin. Benzoyl peroxide’s safety during pregnancy is uncertain and for this reason it may be best to avoid using the product. Other antimicrobials, however, are thought to be safe to use during pregnancy. These include: erythromycin, clindamycin, thiouslfate, sulfacetamide, and tetracyclines. Talk to your practiotioner if you have any concerns about using your medication during pregnancy.

Cost of Topical Antimicrobials for Acne

Topical Antimicrobials are available free on the NHS in the UK. You may, however, have to pay a standardised charge for your prescription. In the US the cost of antimicrobials varies from medication to medication. To give you a rough idea

  • Azelaic Acid costs around $140 per 150g tube
  • Erythromycin costs about $40 per 60g tube
  • Sulfacetamide can cost about $130 for 118ml
  • Clindamycin costs approximately $17 for 60ml.

Of course, the price of antimicrobials varies depending on their concentration and brand. The price also depends very much upon where you buy from.

How Effective are Topical Antimicrobials at Treating Acne?

Antimicrobials are not a particularly strong type of acne treatment. If you have severe acne they will probably not have much of affect. If your acne is mild and inflammatory, however, you could see serious improvement in your condition after a couple of months.


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