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Do I Need a Prescription Acne Treatment?

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Updated February 19, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Do I Need a Prescription Acne Treatment?
I want to get my acne cleared up. How do I know if I need a prescription acne treatment?
Answer:

When you start breaking out, the natural inclination is to head to the store and buy some over-the-counter acne treatments. And many of these OTC products work really well, for some people.

But OTC treatments don't always work. Many people need a prescription acne treatment to get pimples under control.

Should you stick with an over-the-counter acne treatment, or is it time to try a prescription medication?

You need a prescription acne treatment if:

  • You've used OTC products (correctly and consistently) for several months and your acne hasn't improved.
  • Your acne is very inflamed, deep, or severe.
  • Your acne is leaving scars, or you are very prone to scarring.
  • You break out on large areas of your body.
  • You are overwhelmed and unsure what to do about your acne, or you just need help devising a treatment plan.

In these cases, it's best to see a doctor for prescription acne medications. Prescription topical treatments, and possibly oral medications, may be needed to get your acne under control.

It's better to start with an appropriate prescription medication than waste valuable time and money on OTC products that just aren't effective for you. So although it may seem like a bit of a pain to have to make an appointment with a dermatologist, it will be worth it in the long run.

Read more: Getting Help From Your Dermatologist

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