Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Acne treatments

Treatments for acne

Acne will usually go away on its own, but it can take many years. There are treatments that can help clear acne more quickly.

Over-the-counter treatments can help with mild acne. Ask a pharmacist for advice on which treatment could help and how long you will have to use it. You should not expect to see results for several weeks, even a couple of months.

If over-the-counter treatments don't help, treatments are available on prescription. Your doctor can assess how bad your acne is and discuss the options with you. Don't be afraid to tell your doctor how your acne affects your life and how it makes you feel.

Mild, non-inflammatory acne consists of whiteheads and blackheads. Treatments include gels or lotions that can contain retinoids (vitamin A), topical (applied to the skin) antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide (which is antibacterial) or azelaic acid, which has antibacterial, antinflammatory and exfoliating properties.

These medications, or a combination of them, can also be used to treat mild-to-moderate inflammatory acne, which has some pustules and nodules. It can take up to eight weeks before you see a difference in your skin, and treatment may need to be continued for six months.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommend that oral antibiotics for acne should be avoided where possible. If prescribed, combine with a topical antiseptic, which may reduce antibiotic resistance. For more information, speak to your doctor or visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

In women, contraceptive pills that contain oestrogen can help reduce acne.

If acne is severe, your doctor can refer you to a dermatologist who may prescribe a stronger medication called 'isotretinoin' (Roaccutane). Some light and laser therapies also claim to help get rid of acne.

Self care for acne

If you have acne there are a number of things you can do to help to manage the condition. Here is some self-help information:

  • Do not squeeze spots and try not to touch them because this can lead to an infection.
  • Acne is caused by blocked skin glands. You can help to keep these glands unblocked by using a gentle cleansing product to clean your face once or twice a day. Cleansers can be bought from supermarkets and pharmacies.
  • When washing your face you should clean it gently rather than scrubbing the skin. Pat your skin dry rather than rubbing it.
  • If you wear make-up, removing it before going to bed will also help to keep the skin glands unblocked. Water-based make-ups are better for your skin than other products. Don’t go to sleep without taking your make-up off.
  • If you use hair products such as gels, sprays and waxes, you should make sure they don’t come into contact with your face, especially your forehead. You may also find keeping your hair away from your forehead can help improve spots on your forehead. Washing your hair more regularly also helps improve spots.
  • Sunbeds and sun bathing increase the risks of skin damage that can cause melanoma and other skin cancers and should be avoided.
  • If you notice that spots increase after you eat certain things you should try to avoid them.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your acne, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 369 results

Acne treatments - myDr.com.au

There are a number of acne medications available through your doctor or pharmacist that can help treat and prevent acne.

Read more on myDr website

Treatments for acne scars | All About Acne

Laser and non laser treatments for acne scars | Independent, evidence-based information about acne causes, skin care and treatments

Read more on All About Acne website

Combination treatment - All About Acne

The All About Acne team are a group of health and medical experts who have an interest in the management of acne. They include several dermatologists, a psychiatrist, a pharmacist and a cosmetic medical practitioner. These people donate their time and expertise in order to provide the most up-to-date, practical and relevant information on acne-related matters. All dermatologists on the All About Acne team are Fellows of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

Read more on All About Acne website

Acne FAQs - All About Acne - All About Acne

Acne FAQs - All About Acne Q I have mild acne. Should I see a beauty therapist?

Read more on All About Acne website

Managing acne with medicine - All About Acne - All About Acne

Managing acne with retinoids - All About Acne Retinoid creams and gels or capsules Treatments using retinoids can be very effective at unblocking pores of acne spots and preventing new blockages from developing. Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A.

Read more on All About Acne website

Healthy habits for teenagers with acne | All About Acne

Skin care, sun protection & healthy lifestyle important for teens with acne| Independent, evidence-based information about acne causes, skin care & treatments

Read more on All About Acne website

Acne scars (acne scarring) - ACD

Acne scars are permanent textural changes and indentations that occur on the skin as a result of severe acne.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Emotional effects of acne - All About Acne - All About Acne

Dealing with depression caused by acne | All About Acne provides independent, evidence-based information about acne causes, skin care and treatments

Read more on All About Acne website

Hormonal treatments - All About Acne

The All About Acne team are a group of health and medical experts who have an interest in the management of acne. They include several dermatologists, a psychiatrist, a pharmacist and a cosmetic medical practitioner. These people donate their time and expertise in order to provide the most up-to-date, practical and relevant information on acne-related matters. All dermatologists on the All About Acne team are Fellows of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

Read more on All About Acne website

Acne scarring | Treating acne scars | All About Acne

Do acne scars make you want to hide? | Independent, evidence-based information about acne causes, skin care and treatments

Read more on All About Acne website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback