What can clear severe acne? (2024)

If you wake up to find a few large pimples on your otherwise clear face, you may consider that severe acne. Likewise, a breakout of whiteheads and blackheads before a first date may seem like severe acne. But that’s not the type of acne we’re talking about here.

What is severe acne?

What can clear severe acne? (1)
People who have severe acne tend to have many breakouts, which can cover their face, chest, and back. Severe acne can also appear along the jawline and neck. Sometimes, it develops on the buttocks.

Severe acne causes breakouts that often extend deep into the skin. Called cysts and nodules, these breakouts tend to be painful. When severe acne clears, acne scars often appear.

You may also see many blackheads, whiteheads, or both when acne is severe.

Anyone who has severe acne knows how stubborn it can be. You cannot clear it with acne treatment that you buy at the store. To see clearing, you either have to wait it out or see a dermatologist. Waiting out severe acne can take years.

Benefits of treating severe acne

Living with severe acne can be tough on your psyche. Many studies have found that acne can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. People with acne may stop hanging out with friends and family. Going after a job promotion or trying out for a sport may no longer seem worthwhile.

Acne treatment can help. Many studies show that treatment for severe acne can:

How dermatologists treat severe acne

When a patient has severe acne, a dermatologist often recommends treating it with one of the following.

Antibiotic + medicine you apply to the acne:This is often the first treatment recommended for severe acne. Taking an antibiotic can reduce the redness and swelling of acne. The medicine you apply to your skin works on reducing bacteria and clogged pores.

If this treatment fails to clear your skin, your dermatologist may switch your antibiotic or talk with you about isotretinoin (eye-so-tret-eh-no-in).

Isotretinoin:This is a potent medicine that attacks all four causes of acne—bacteria, clogged pores, excess oil, and inflammation (redness and swelling). About 85% of patients see permanent clearing after one course of isotretinoin.

Due to possible side effects, you will need to carefully consider whether you want to take this medicine. If you decide to take isotretinoin, you must enroll in a monitoring program.

Birth control pill (females only):A birth control pill can be an effective part of an acne treatment plan. When treating severe acne, a birth control pill may be used along with an antibiotic or a medicine called spironolactone (spy-ren-no-lac-tone) to get the acne under control.

Give treatment time

Give your acne treatment time to work. It can take two to three months to see improvement.

What can clear severe acne? (2)

If the pill may be an option for you, it’s important to tell your dermatologist about all of your medical conditions, including heart disease. Your dermatologist must weigh the risks of using a birth control pill to treat acne against the benefits.

Spironolactone (females only):This medication can also effectively treat severe acne in women. It reduces excess oil.

If this may be an option for you, be sure to tell your dermatologist about all of your medical conditions.

Acne removal:Your dermatologist can use a few different techniques to remove a large cyst or nodule.

One way your dermatologist can get rid of a painful cyst or nodule is to inject it with a corticosteroid. This helps to quickly reduce the size and pain.

Another procedure is called incision and drainage. It’s used to drain a large, painful acne cyst or nodule that medicine cannot clear. You should not try to drain a cyst or nodule at home. The risk of infection is great when done outside of a medical office.

Dermatologists use a procedure called acne extraction to remove whiteheads and blackheads that fail to clear with acne treatment.

Low-dose prednisone:This is a super-potent corticosteroid. Dermatologists prescribe it to treat a very serious type of severe acne called acne fulminans. It’s also used to treat pityrosporum folliculitis, an itchy, acne-like rash.

Maintenance plan helps keep skin clear

After you see clear (or nearly clear) skin, you still need acne treatment. However, the type of treatment may change. Most people can keep acne away with proper skin care and medicine they apply to their skin. Without this treatment, acne can return quickly.

Skin care plays key role

Even when treating acne, the right skin care is essential. Acne-friendly skin care can make the difference between seeing clearing and an acne flare. You’ll find skin care that dermatologists recommend at, Acne: Tips for managing.

No one needs to live with severe acne

While severe acne can be stubborn, it’s not impossible to get clearing. Thanks to advances in treatment, virtually all acne can clear with a dermatologist’s help.

Severe acne:Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Acne along jawline:Image from Thinkstock

Zaenglein AL, Graber EM,et al. “Acne vulgaris and acneiform eruptions.” In: Wolff K.et al.Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 7thedition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., USA, 2008:696-700.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL,et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris.”J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74:945-73.

What can clear severe acne? (2024)


How do you make severe acne go away? ›

Some of the medications and procedures your dermatologist might use are:
  1. Antibiotics. ...
  2. Retinoid creams, gels, and lotions. ...
  3. Steroid injections. ...
  4. Oral contraceptives. ...
  5. Spironolactone. ...
  6. Laser or light therapy. ...
  7. Prescription chemical peels. ...
  8. Drainage and extraction to remove acne cysts.

What is the strongest thing to get rid of acne? ›

Isotretinoin: This is a potent medicine that attacks all four causes of acne—bacteria, clogged pores, excess oil, and inflammation (redness and swelling). About 85% of patients see permanent clearing after one course of isotretinoin.

What is the strongest acne treatment? ›

Isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a treatment for severe acne that comes in capsules. It has a number of beneficial effects: it helps normalise sebum and reduce how much is produced.

What kills acne bacteria? ›

Benzoyl peroxide.

This ingredient kills bacteria that cause acne, helps remove excess oil from the skin and removes dead skin cells, which can clog pores. Benzoyl peroxide products that you can buy without a prescription are available in strengths from 2.5% to 10%.

What triggers severe acne? ›

Greasy or oily cosmetic and hair products. Certain drugs (such as steroids, testosterone, estrogen, and phenytoin). Birth control devices, such as some drug-containing IUDs, can make acne worse. Heavy sweating and humidity.

How can I fix my acne fast? ›

  1. Apply Ice to the Pimple:
  2. Apply a Paste of Crushed Aspirin to the Pimple.
  3. Use An Over-the-Counter Acne Spot Treatment.
  4. Use Makeup with Salicylic Acid to Conceal Pimples.
  5. Apply a Face Mask for Acne.
  6. Get a Cortisone Injection to Quickly Get Rid of a Pimple.
Jul 31, 2023

What fades pimples fast? ›

If you have a pimple, using benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or a pimple patch can help it go away faster. Your dermatologist can give you a cortisone injection to make a deep, painful, inflamed pimple heal quickly. Avoid picking or trying to pop your pimple — this can lead to more inflammation, redness, and scarring.

Why isn't my acne clearing up? ›

Using only some of the acne treatment that your dermatologist prescribes could be the reason you still have acne. Wash your face twice a day and after sweating. Acne-prone skin is sensitive. Washing more than twice a day can irritate your skin, making acne worse.

What age is acne the worst? ›

Some have mild symptoms, while others can have very severe issues. Acne effects around 90% of adolescents with the prime age across all genders being the teenage years of 14-19 years old.

How to clear up hormonal acne fast? ›

Many over-the-counter treatments contain retinoids. Topical anti-inflammatories, like dapsone gel, can also reduce acne. An oral prescription medication called spironolactone can reduce the effects of male hormones. Chemical peels and blue light therapies also help if you want to clear up acne more quickly.

What is the best acne pill? ›

Antibiotics. For moderate to severe acne, you may need oral antibiotics to reduce bacteria. Usually the first choice for treating acne is a tetracycline (minocycline, doxycycline) or a macrolide (erythromycin, azithromycin).

Can acne be 100% cured? ›

Acne often goes away in early adulthood, though some people will continue to experience acne throughout adulthood. Your healthcare provider or a board-certified dermatologist can help you manage this condition. Various medications and therapies are effective forms of treatment.

Can I leave benzoyl peroxide on my face overnight? ›

A: Yes, you can get benzoyl peroxide in a lot of forms: There are topical gels that you leave on the skin all day or night and there are benzoyl peroxide washes. Wash is kind of a misnomer here, because if you rinse it off right away, it doesn't have the contact time it needs to really be effective.

How to know if acne is hormonal or bacterial? ›

One way to tell if acne is hormonal or bacterial is to pay attention to your skin. If you do not experience a flare up during periods of hormonal imbalance, and topical treatments are not improving your breakouts, you may instead be dealing with bacterial acne.

What is a natural way to get rid of acne? ›

Home remedies for acne
  1. Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which might kill P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. ...
  2. Apple cider vinegar. ...
  3. Argan oil. ...
  4. Jojoba oil. ...
  5. Aloe vera. ...
  6. Honey. ...
  7. Zinc. ...
  8. Green tea.
Feb 14, 2024

Why is my acne breaking out so bad? ›

Summary. Acne is the result of pores being clogged by excess oil, dirt, and bacteria. It can be caused by many things, including skin-care products, picking, hormones, stress, medical issues, smoking, diet, and more. Some areas of your body are prone to certain types of acne, as well.

How long does severe acne usually last? ›

On average, mild acne responds in 1-2 months, moderate acne responds in 2-4 months and severe acne can take 4-6 months to clear, granted that the most effective measures can be used.

Which acne is hardest to treat? ›

Whiteheads (closed comedones)

Whiteheads are more difficult to treat because the pores are already closed. Products containing salicylic acid can be helpful. Topical retinoids give the best results for comedonal acne. Currently, adapalene (Differin) is available over the counter as a retinoid.

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