Topical acne medications abate the various factors that to lead to acne development either as combined topical acne products with or without antibiotics or in combination with systemic acne treatment  in cases of severe acne.

Topical Retinoids.

A derivative of Vitamin A used in the treatment of mild to moderately severe acne,works by unclogging the pores while preventing the of blackheads and whiteheads.They increase cell turnover and facilitate skin renewal coupled with theit potent effect in reducing fine lines and wrinkling(antiaging).


Derived from Vitamin A as a treatment option for mild to moderate acne especially in those with comedonal acne(pronounced whiteheads and blackheads),they are also effective in reducing dark spots and discolouration(post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) left by acne breakouts.By increasing cell turnover with rapid skin exfoliation thereby reducing accumulation of atrophied cells,Retin-A therefore decreases comedones formation.Additionally,by making dead cells less sticky,elimination of cloggs is enhanced.It takes time for changes to manifest.They are available in gel or cream forms.

An inital flare-up of breakouts on commencement of acne treatment with Retin-A is not uncommon.

Usage Tips : Use sparingly mostly at night 20- 30 mins after facial wash with a mild cleanser to enable drying of the skin before application of Retin-A.The use of astringents and abrasive scrubs that contain skin-drying components is not advisable.

Adverse reactions : Occasionall skin dryness,swelling,peeling,crusting,redness and blistering may occur.Any of these should draw the attention of your dermatologist.In view of the concommitant increased photosensitivity associated with Retin-A usage,sunscreens of at least SPF 15 or SPF 30 in addition to reducing exposure to sunlight.

Adapalene :

A synthetic retinoid variant highly effective in unclogging pores with potent anti-inflammatory properties,positive results may take 8-12 wks.Sunscreen usage is advised against irritation arising from increased photosensitivity.It is available in gel and cream form.


One of the newer retinoid-like compounds preferably applied at night to decrease risk of photosensitivity.It is contraindicated in women due to produced teratogenic birth defects seen in animals.Hence,effective contraception is recommended taking tazarotene for acne treatment..It is also available in gel and cream form.

Azelaic Acid :

It belongs to the class of medications called the Dicarboxylic acids,it kills bacteria that infects pores while also reducing keratin production,a natural precursor of acne formation.It is available in both gels and creams and used in the treatment of both mild and moderate acne.It also helps the skin to shed cells more effectively.Noticeable results usually takes at least 4wks.Commonly used twice dailly (morning and night) after prior cleansing and drying of affected areas.Usage may result in itching,redness peeling and burning irritation which should draw the attention of your doctor.

Salicylic Acid

A potent keratolytic belonging to the beta hydroxy acid group suitable for the treatment of comedonal or non-inflammed acne and other conditions where the skin have become scaly,thickened and flaky.It works bt softening the skin protien; keratin which hepls to loosen the dry scaly skin thereby facilitating shedding which enhances easier penetration by other medications.It corrects the abnormal desquamation process in acne-prone skin and also functions as an exfoliant by promoting the sloughing away of dead cells.It can also be used to treat these common scaly skin conditions :

  • Corns
  • Viral Warts
  • Lichen simplex
  • Icthyosis
  • Chronic atopic dermatits
  • Keratosis pilaris
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • Calluses

Usefull Tips : Commonly used dailly in strenghts of 0.5%-2%,available in gel,lotion,cream and pad forms.Continous use is advised to prevent acne recurrence.It is commonly available as ;

  • Salex cream
  • Stridex products
  • Clearasil products
  • Noxzema anti-acne gel
  • Dr Scholl`s products
  • Akurza cream

Benzoyl Peroxide.

This acne medication has continued to play a prominent role for decades against mild to moderate acne.It is the main ingredient in most OTC products like Proactiv and clearasil.It kills bacteria, reduces inflammation(by neutralizing free radicals) and unplogs pores by clearing the pore of cellular debris thereby preventing breakouts.It is available in gels,creams and  lotions.

Starting with a lower strength eg.2.5% to ascertain skin sensitivity is advisable.Treatment should continue even in the absence of obvious acne,however your doctor can determine appropriate duration of treament.

Side effects :skin irritation,dryness and flaking can be reduced by the use of moisturizers.Extreme burning,itching,swelling and severe redness are not common but see your dermatologist if they occur.Follow the instructions in the information leaflet for guidance.


The information contained herein is primarily for continuous health enlightenment and hence Dr Andrew Okpetu will not be held responsible for repercussions resulting from self diagnosis.Consult your Doctor for all forms of ill health.