New Treatments Help Adult Acne

If diligent use of over-the-counter acne products isn’t bringing relief to troubled skin, see your dermatologist about the newest prescription acne fighters. But do it sooner rather than later. Most prescription acne treatments take about six weeks before they start showing any effect-a long time if your outbreaks leave scars. What follows are the most recent innovations that may hold the key to clearer, more luminous skin.


Long a favorite with dermatologists, the retinoids are usually among the first treatments of choice for most types of acne. They are thought to battle blemishes via a comedolytic action: They loosen and expel what’s blocking pores and prevent new pimples from forming. The three newest entrants are tretinoin in a Microsponge delivery system (Retin-A Micro), adapalene (Differin), and tazarotene (Zorac). These products offer another avenue of treatment for people who haven’t responded well to what was previously the only available retinoid, Retin-A gel or cream. (Tazarotene, currently undergoing FDA review, is not yet on the market.)

Sodium Sulfacetamide

Most acne medications leave the skin dry and irritated. Sodium sulfacetamide lotion (Klaron) contains an antibacterial agent that inhibits bacterial growth while also moisturizing the skin. Some studies show it may also reduce the inflammation involved in acne. As it’s a previously existing drug that has been reformulated and relaunched, it’s still a little early to determine its effectiveness for acne. Dr. Shalita believes it’s particularly suited for adult women because it can go on under makeup without difficulty. He also recommends using it in conjunction with other acne treatments.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is thought to work both by inhibiting bacterial growth and by comedolytic action. “Azelaic acid (Azelex) seems to take longer to work than the retinoids, but might cause less skin sensitivity,” says Dr. Shalita. He suggests that you might obtain better results if you use it in conjunction with other acne products. Since azelaic acid can lighten skin, darker-skinned individuals may need to watch out for hypopigmentation.

Acne drug chart

TRENTINOIN (retin-a-micro)comedolyticonce daily6 weeks
comedolyticonce daily6 weeks
Not yet available, but should be comparable to trentinoin and adapalene.
antibacterial, anti- inflammatory2x daily, or 1x in conjunction w/ retinoidtoo new to tell
antibacterial, possible comedolytic2x daily, or 1x in conjunction w/ retinoidslowest onset of action; could take up to 6 months

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