acne treatment comparison

Understanding how acne treatments differ can help your (or your child’s) dermatologist find a solution that meets your needs. If there are certain features that are important to you (e.g., fragrance-free, how often you need to use it), there may be a treatment that is more suitable. The table below may be a helpful starting point when considering your options.

Feature How treatments
may differ
Over-the-counter (OTC) vs. prescription
  • OTC products usually only work for mild acne
  • A prescription treatment may be needed if you don’t see results with OTC options
  • Gel or cream: Applied directly to the skin
  • Pills: Taken orally; work on the whole body
  • Procedures (lasers, chemical peels, drainage & extraction)
How often you
need to use it
  • Some treatments are taken or applied once-daily, whereas others need to be taken multiple times a day
  • No treatment works overnight: follow your dermatologist’s instructions on how often or how long to take your treatment
  • Some treatments have an odor/fragrance, while others are fragrance-free
Suitable to use under
makeup or sunscreen
  • Some treatments cannot be used under makeup or sunscreen; check with your dermatologist about which ones can be

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