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Acne cream

Woman rubbing white cream onto spots on her face
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For people with acne there are a variety of different treatment options available, most of which involve some form of acne cream or gel.

What is acne cream?

An acne cream is a treatment applied to areas of the skin affected by acne. It’s a term that can be used to describe any topical paste, liquid or gel (i.e. one that you apply directly to the skin).

If your acne is mild, you might be able to treat it using over-the-counter acne creams. If it’s more severe you may need a prescription for stronger acne creams from your doctor.

What types of acne cream are available?

There are three categories of acne creams and gels:

  1. Skincare products that can be bought without needing to speak to a pharmacist or doctor
  2. Over-the-counter products that can be bought after a short conversation with a pharmacist
  3. Prescription products that must be obtained through a doctor

The type of acne cream that is right for you will depend upon the type of acne that you are experiencing. You can find out more about the differences here, you can also speak to a healthcare professional about possible creams that may work for you.

Skincare products

Visit any high street pharmacy or your local LloydsPharmacy and you’ll find an assortment of beauty and skincare products tailored towards people with acne. These often contain ingredients such as:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Azealic acid
  • Nicotinamide/niacinamide

These ingredients are known to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and exfoliating properties, which means they can be very effective in treating acne-prone skin.

However, because these types of products are available without the need to consult a pharmacist or doctor, the concentration of the active ingredient is relatively low. For a more effective treatment, you’ll usually need to obtain products containing these ingredients over the counter, or with a prescription.

Another type of acne cream you can buy without speaking to a medical professional is dermalex acne treatment. This product is designed to moisturise and protect the skin, while reducing redness, swelling and spots. Dermalex acne treatment is hypoallergenic and designed for use on skin that might react to harsh chemicals.

Over-the-counter products

Over-the-counter acne creams can only be purchased after talking to a pharmacist; they should be thought of as medication rather than skincare. These acne creams will often contain the same ingredients as the skincare products described above, but in a higher concentration.

Two popular over-the-counter acne creams are acnecide 5%, which contains benzoyl peroxide, and freederm, which contains nicotinamide.

  • Acnecide 5% – actively treats spots by attacking bacteria on the skin
  • Freederm – Effectively reduces inflammation

To obtain these acne creams you need to speak to a pharmacist in person, or fill out a short form if you’re ordering them online from LloydsPharmacy. This is so we can ensure that this treatment is right for you.

Prescription products

Certain acne creams are only available with a prescription. These include creams and gels containing benzoyl peroxide (such as duac once daily) and azealic acid (such as finacea). Two other ingredients commonly found in prescription-only acne creams are retinoids and antibiotics.

Retinoids are a group of chemicals that remove dead skin cells and prevent the hair follicles in the skin from becoming plugged. This in turn helps to prevent spots forming on the skin. If you have moderate or severe acne, you might be prescribed a gel containing a retinoid called tretinoin.

Acne creams containing antibiotics such as erythromycin or clindamycin work by killing the bacteria on the skin and preventing spots from becoming infected. They are typically used for six to eight weeks – if used for longer than this there’s a risk that the bacteria on your skin could become resistant to the antibiotic.

Acne treatment at Online Doctor

Which is the best acne cream?

The right treatment for you will depend upon the type of acne you are experiencing. What might work for one person may not be suited for another. We suggest that you talk to your GP or your local LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist if you are concerned about your skin and would like some more advice.

How is acne cream used?

Some acne creams must be applied only to affected areas of the skin, while others are designed for use across the whole face. Before applying any topical treatment you should wash your face with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water.

If in doubt, consult the information provided with the product, or ask a pharmacist or your doctor.

Is there cream for acne scars?

There is no specific acne cream that doctors recommend for acne scarring. However, if you do have acne scars, keeping your skin moisturised will help prevent them from drying out. A product like bio oil can purportedly diminish the appearance of acne scars, as well as treat uneven skin tone. There are also skin serums and oils available, such as rosehip oil that can help to reduce the appearance of scaring.