Creams for treating acne

Acne Creams At A Glance

  • Best Results3-6+ weeks
  • Treatment Recovery0 days
  • Procedure TimeTopical application
  • Skin SpecialistClinician
  • Duration of ResultsMonths-Years
  • AnaestheticNA
  • Back to WorkNA
  • Cost$

Asian Skin Rejuvenation

Most cases of mild to moderate acne can be treated with creams & washes. Creams can help reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria on your skin. Vitamin A creams can also decrease blackheads, and oil production, & help your skin repair acne scars. Dermatologists at Cutis Clinic can tailor a skin care program based upon your acne type and skin sensitivities.

FactsFacts on creams for treating acne

  • Antibiotic creams can reduce the number of bacteria on the skin
  • Antibiotic creams should always be combined with retinol or retinoids to combat any acne bacteria resistance
  • Vitamin A creams form the foundation of treating blackheads and early acne lesions
  • Application of creams should be tailored according to your skin sensitivity and lifestyle
  • Breakout creams can reduce pimples within days of application
  • Acne Prevention creams take 6-8 weeks before results are seen

What creams are available for the treatment of acne?

Several types of acne-fighting creams are available including-

Antibiotics: these creams kill acne-causing bacteria on your skin. Creams are safe and most can be used in pregnancy. Ideally antibiotic acne creams are used to help reduce breakouts.

Vitamin A / Retinol/ Retinoid creams: These form the foundation of acne treatment and address the cause of acne. Vitamin A creams are acne prevention creams. There are many types of vitamin A creams including over the counter retinol & prescription retinoids. The ideal cream will depend on facts such as your skin sensitivity and type of acne. Specialists recommend you apply retinol or retinoid creams to acne prone areas, and not just spots. Apply every second night and increase your application if you don’t experience any skin irritation.

Retinol can be purchased without a prescription. Used night for 6 weeks, it can reduce mild case of acne.

Do I need a prescription for acne creams?


Most acne creams do NOT require a prescription. As a guide-

Non-prescription over the counter creams include

  • Retinol, Retinyl palmitate, Retinaldehyde
  • Finacea
  • Benzac
  • Clearisil

ProactivePrescription creams used to treat acne include the following

  • Eryacne
  • Differin
  • Epiduo
  • Zurac
  • Duac
  • Clindatech
  • Clindabenz
  • Retreive, Isotrex and Stivel A
  • Akleif
Retinoic acid peels are 200-400X stronger tham retinol.


How should I apply creams?

Retinol is more forgiving than prescription retinoids. Use every second night, increase SLOWLY as tolerated.

Acne cream treatments will depend on the type of cream prescribed. Your medical dermatologist will instruct you in regards to treatment and your application regime.

Break out creams can be applied to acne spots for that emergency breakout or new pimple. Examples of creams used to treat acne breakouts include Erycacne, Duac, Benzac AC cream and Clindatech lotion. Other breakout preparations include hydrocolloid dressings that may contain salicylic acid.

Prevention creams should be applied to acne prone areas such as the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. These prescription creams usually contain a derivative of Vitamin A. Acne prevention creams, as the name suggest, should be use at least 3-6 nights per week. Acne prevention creams help decrease oil production and blackheads, and can prevent acne from forming. Examples of acne prevention creams include Differin, Epiduo, Retreive, Isotrex, Stivel A, and Zorac.

How long does it take for my acne to improve?

Break out creams can remove pimples within days of use- in some cases creams can decrease the size of zits within 24 hours. Acne Prevention Creams however, may take at least 6-8 weeks to start working. Prevention creams are aimed at decreasing new outbreaks of acne. In some cases they can treat mild acne scarring.

Davin’s perspective on creams for acne prone skin

Creams are often the first-line treatment in cases of mild acne. A simple way of understanding how creams work is to divide creams into two groups- breakout creams and acne prevention creams.

Prescription creams are more effective compared to over-the-counter acne creams however they have much more side effects such as skin irritation & dryness. Start with a GOOD over-the-counter non-prescription retinol. Breakout creams can shorten the duration of zits & pimples, whilst prevention creams are designed to reduce the formation of blackheads, clogged pores, and oily skin. In turn, this can reduce the formation of acne-causing bacteria. Factors such as skin sensitivity, type of acne, and what products you use will enable your Specialist to find the correct combination of acne creams.

Disclaimer: I do NOT treat acne. My work is purely procedural, namely, I treat severe acne scars with scary lasers & surgical techniques. If you have acne, please see my colleagues at Clinic Cutis.

Join the conversation

Join Dr Davin Lim on Instagram to stay up to date


Enquire now!

Get In Touch

Quick Contact

Dr Lim has unparalleled experience in dermatology. Fill in the form below and he will get back to you with your query