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Combination Acne Medications

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Updated December 05, 2012

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

Acne is caused by several different factors all coming together to create one annoying skin problem, so it only makes sense that the best treatment plan will address each of these factors.

Although the concept itself isn't new, combination acne medications are, relatively speaking. Dermatologists have long prescribed multiple medications for acne patients to help them get on the fast-track to clear skin (it's called combination therapy).

Combination medications take that idea one step further by putting two acne-fighting ingredients into one treatment. Using different acne treatment ingredients together can boost the effectiveness of each.

A lot of people really like these types of treatments because they're easy to use. Instead of applying several different acne medications, you save a step: just one application of one of these combo medications, and you're done. Some studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with treatment when using combination medications.

Combination medications are great, but they won't fit into everyone's treatment plan, so you'll have to talk to your dermatologist about them. Also, you pay for the convenience: these medications tend to be pricier than other options (which may or may not make a difference to you, depending on insurance coverage).

Still, for many people, they are a good choice. And you have lots of options available:

Benzamycin (Benzoyl Peroxide 5% and Erythromycin 3%)

This medication is a blend of erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient that probably doesn't need an introduction. It's available in so many acne medications, both prescription and over-the-counter treatments. Benzoyl peroxide helps reduce the acne-causing bacteria called propionibacteria acnes, or P. acnes. This acne-fighting ingredient also helps to unclog pores and dries the skin (good news if you're super oily).

Erythromycin, on the other hand, is an antibiotic that also helps kill those irksome P. acnes. It's especially good for inflammatory acne.

Acanya (Clindamycin 1.2% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5%)

Erythromycin isn't the only topical antibiotic that is blended with benzoyl peroxide. The combination of benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin is another option.

Again, because clindamycin is an antibiotic, it helps reduce acne-causing bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide is helpful in treating inflamed pimples, as well as non-inflamed blackheads and breakouts.

BenzaClin (Clindamycin 1% and Benzoyl Peroxide 5%)

Acanya isn't the only combination medication that contains these specific ingredients. You can find the clindamycin/benzoyl combination in BenzaClin, too (although the active ingredients are in different percentages than in Acanya).

Benzoyl peroxide can bleach out clothes, towels, pillowcases — basically anything it comes in contact with. So you'll want to make sure the medication is completely dry before dressing or lying down for the night. And this goes for any medication that contains benzoyl peroxide, not just BenzaClin.

Duac (Clindamycin 1% and Benzoyl Peroxide 5%)

Duac is another combo medication that is a blend of clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide.

Wait? Aren't some of these medications exactly the same? Sort of.

These medications may have the same active ingredients (the hard-working, acne-fighting ingredients). But the vehicle (all the other "stuff" in the medication that delivers the active ingredients) is different.

So the medications are similar, but not exactly the same: they have different brand names, made by different companies. (The article Is There a Difference Between Generic and Name-Brand Medications? has more info about this.)

Epiduo (Adapalene 0.1% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5%)

Yes, benzoyl peroxide is a popular acne treatment. Here, it's blended with the retinoid-like compound adapalene. You may know this acne-fighting ingredient by the brand name Differin.

Adapalene is not technically a topical retinoid, but it works in the same way. Instead of killing acne-causing bacteria, adapalene helps keep pore blockages from forming in the first place.

Added to benzoyl peroxide, which reduces bacteria and inflammation, you get a medication that treats several causes of acne.

Ziana (Clindamycin 1.2% and Tretinoin 0.025%)

Here's a combo medication that doesn't contain benzoyl peroxide; instead, it's a blend of clindamycin and tretinoin.

You're probably familiar with the name Retin-A, the brand name by which tretinoin is more commonly known. Tretinoin is a topical retinoid that speeds up cell turnover and unclogs pores. Ziana is good for blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed pimples.

All of these combination medications are prescription only, so the only way to get them is from your dermatologist. And as effective as they can be, they do take some time to work. Expect to use your treatment for 8-12 weeks before really hoping for results, and make sure you're using them consistently, too.

More Resources:

How To Choose the Right Dermatologist

Find a Dermatologist through the American Academy of Dermatology

Sources:

Feneran AN, Kaufman WS, Dabade TS, Feldman SR. "Retinoid plus antimicrobial combination treatments for acne." Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011; 4:79-92.

Fu LW, Vender RB. "Newer approaches in topical combination therapy for acne." Skin Therapy Lett. 2011 Oct; 16(9):3-6.

Gold LS. "Fixed-combination products in the management of acne vulgaris." Cutis. 2010 Mar; 85(3):160-7.

Simonart T. "Newer approaches to the treatment of acne vulgaris." Am J Clin Dermatol. 2012 Dec 1; 13(6):357-64.

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