1. Clear skin can take time.
Yes, it's hard to be patient. And, yes, it's frustrating that some acne medications actually make your skin look worse before getting better. But in order to get clear skin, you must be willing to wait for improvement.
No treatment works overnight. If you're lucky, you'll see improvement quickly. But don't expect clear skin in the first week, or even the second or third. Stick with your medication anyway. Give it time, because it can take 8 to 10 weeks before really start to see results.
2. You have to use your treatments, consistently and correctly.
Want to know what really drives your dermatologist nuts? Patients who don't reliably use their medications, or don't use them correctly, but then complain that they aren't noticing any improvement in their skin.
First and foremost, make certain you know how to use your medication. How often should it be used? How much should be applied? You'd be surprised to know many people are either using too much or too little of their topical treatments. If you're not sure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Secondly, try to be as consistent as possible. Don't skip doses and try not to forget to use your treatments. Even the most effective treatment in the world won't work if you aren't using it!
3. You'll probably need to try several treatments.
Acne can be difficult to treat partly because there is no one medication that works for everyone. Just because something worked for your best friend doesn't mean it's the best option for you.
This means you'll probably spend some time trying different treatment options before you hit on the "jackpot" treatment. Frustrating, yes. But often necessary.
If you really have a treatment you'd like to try, ask your dermatologist about it but be open to other options too. There are many acne medications available that have been proven effective, and your derm probably has a good idea of what will work best for you.
4. You should come to your appointment prepared.
Are you using any other acne treatment, even an over-the-counter one? Is there a possibility you could be pregnant? Is acne affecting your life to the point you're feeling depressed or even suicidal? Your dermatologist should know all of that information.
Make a list of all medications you are using (even those not for acne), or of any questions you have. Take notes during the appointment if it helps you. And if you don't understand anything about your treatment, ask! Just a few minutes of preparation can help ensure your appointment goes smoothly.
5. You'll have to continue to use your treatments, even after acne has cleared.
This doesn't mean your treatments didn't work properly. On the contrary, they worked very well.
Acne treatments don't cure acne; they just control it. The factors that caused acne in the first place are still at work, even though the pimples are gone. So if you stop using your medications, there is a good chance your acne will return.
Although it doesn't seem fair, you'll probably have to continue to use your acne treatments even after pimples have disappeared (an exception to this rule is Accutane). But continued treatment is an OK trade-off for clear skin!