Expert advice on acne treatment

Acne is a common skin condition that can occur any time from pre-adolescence to adulthood, but according to Sydney dermatologist, Dr Jo-Ann See, it is a very manageable condition, with a range of treatment options available.

Writing in the December edition of Australian Prescriber, Dr See says that most cases of acne are mild to moderate in severity, and many can be managed with over-the-counter products. For more severe cases, prescription treatments may be needed.

Using the correct treatment is vital to achieving the best outcomes, says Dr See. Topical therapies are not spot treatments and need to be applied to the whole affected area.

“If topical therapy doesn’t improve the acne after 12 weeks, oral treatment such as an antibiotic or the contraceptive pill (for females) can be considered. Some treatments can only be prescribed by a dermatologist."

“Oral isotretinoin is a medicine reserved for severe acne. It has serious adverse effects so people using isotretinoin should be monitored regularly. It can cause birth defects so effective contraception is essential.”

Dr See warns that all acne treatments come with potential adverse effects and may also have drug interaction warnings. It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what else you are taking, as they can offer advice on how to minimise potential harmful effects.

Dr See reminds us that patients need to persevere, as acne treatments may take several weeks or months to work.

Other articles in this issue look at injectable antibiotics at home, and Parkinson’s disease. To read the full article and others visit


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published every two months and distributed to health professionals free of charge, and is also available online at