Oral acne medications are often used to treat moderate to severe acne. These treatments are ingested, often as a pill, and can require several weeks or months to take effect. However, oral medications are typically more effective than their topical counterparts, which make them a good option for people whose acne has not responded to previous treatment.
Medication for severe acne can come with some extreme side effects, and all oral medications will require a doctor’s prescription. If you think you may be a good candidate for oral acne medication, make an appointment at any of our Minneapolis-area offices. Our staff can assess your skin and provide treatment options that work for your acne and lifestyle.
Types of Oral Acne Medications
As with topical acne medications, oral acne treatments will vary in effectiveness and application based on the active ingredient used. There are three common ingredients used in most prescription oral acne medications.
- Antibiotics – Oral antibiotics can be used to treat moderate to severe acne. These medications can reduce bacteria and fight inflammation. That said, oral antibiotics should be used for the shortest time possible, as antibiotic resistance can occur. Common side effects include an upset stomach and dizziness, and patients may also develop photosensitivity, or an increased sensitivity to sunlight. Oral antibiotics are best used in conjunction with topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, both of which are available without a prescription.
- Spironolactone – Anti-androgen agents, like spironolactone, may be effective for young women if oral antibiotics do not effectively treat the acne. Though originally formulated to treat hypertension, this drug can help with hormonal acne when used in lower doses. The androgen blocker delivers a small amount of progestin, a hormone that decreases the production of acne-causing sebum. This medication will need around three months to take effect.
- Isotretinoin – Isotretinoin is a retinoid most commonly known for being the active ingredient in Accutane, a popular oral acne medication. This is a powerful drug used for people who have severe acne that does not respond to other treatments. Isotretinoin is very effective, but most dermatologists prescribe it only when necessary. The side effects can be severe, including ulcerative colitis, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and birth defects. In order to use Isotretinoin, patients will need to sign several waivers from the Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, some oral contraceptives, especially those that combine estrogen and progestin, can reduce acne. Common side effects include weight gain and nausea, and this type of oral acne medication is typically only available for women.
What to Expect with Oral Acne Medication
The experience of taking an oral acne medication will vary depending on the product used. Oral antibiotics can take between six and eight weeks to start working, but the treatment will often only last a few days. By contrast, oral medications with progestin and isotretinoin can take between four and six months to work, and the medication should be taken consistently.
Side effects for oral acne medication are typically minimal, often including upset stomach, photosensitivity, and dizziness. Isotretinoin is the outlier, as its side effects can be both unique and severe. We recommend talking to your dermatologist about how your medical history may impact the side effects experienced.
All oral acne medications require a prescription, which means you will need to make an appointment with the dermatologist. If your acne has not responded to topical or over-the-counter medications, you could be a good candidate for any of these treatments.
If you are unsure whether oral acne medications are right for you, visit Zel Skincare & Laser Specialists for a consultation. We can examine your skin and provide a personalized strategy for treating your acne. Maybe oral medications are right for you. Perhaps all you need is a topical acne treatment. Regardless, a dermatologist can be very useful in figuring out the path forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.