Prescription Acne Creams

Retinoid Creams

Retinoids are medications which are specifically designed to enter into your skin pores and help keep them open. In this fashion, they help prevent new clogged pores. They may occasionally irritate the skin (burning, redness and peeling). These creams need to go on acne-prone areas (not “spot”-treating).

Benzoyl Peroxide

Works by killing acne bacteria and helping to dissolve clogs near the surface of the skin. May be combined with clindamycin (an acne-killing antibiotic). On occasion, benzoyl peroxide may cause skin irritation and can bleach clothing and sheets.


Cosmetic and therapeutic. The non-prescription part of your acne care can make a big difference in your complexion. It is very important to use a cleansing and moisturizing system that will not irritate your skin and not adversely interact with your prescription. An individualized acne skin care approach can be recommended for you at

Acne Oral Medications

Deep active acne is cannot typically be treated with creams or peels and a short course of oral prescription medication may be required. This lessens the chance of scars. Common options include:


This is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medication. Doxycycline is safe and effective for many people with deep acne bumps. The most important side effect is sun-sensitivity; this can be minimized by taking doxycycline in the evening. Occasional patients report gastrointestinal upset which goes away when the drug is discontinued. Should not be used in pregnant or nursing women or in children.


This is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medication. It is very effective for many people with deep acne bumps. Like doxycycline, sun-sensitivity and gastrointestinal upset may occur. Minocycline has important but rare side effects including headache, dizziness, skin pigmentation, liver toxicity and drug-induced lupus. Should not be used in pregnant or nursing women or in children.

Sulfa Medications

Several different sulfa (sulfonamide) medications exist which have excellent anti-acne properties. Rare but important side effects including skin rash, bone marrow suppression and liver toxicity may occur. Should not be used in pregnant or nursing women.

Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP)

This is an excellent treatment option for many females with deep-bump acne – especially acne that worsens just before or during menstrual periods. Not all OCPs are equally effective, however. OCPs have rare but important side effects including a risk of blood clots (this is more likely in people with a personal or family history of blood clots, in smokers and in patients over 35 years of age)

Isotretinoin (Accutane)

The following is not meant to replace a physician consultation. Accutane is extremely effective for treating severe deep acne. It has well-described side effects, however and thus routine visits to the doctor are required, as is bloodwork. Essentially everyone on this medication experiences dryness of the lips and skin (and occasionally dry eyes as well). Accutane typically causes a temporary elevation in cholesterol and triglycerides. Accutane is associated with severe birth defects if you become pregnant while taking this drug. At least two forms of contraception are required for sexually active females on this medication and males on this medication should use condoms.

Does Accutane cause depression?

A firm, convincing association has never been substantiated (although this controversy shows no sign of going away any time soon). Patients with acne severe enough to require Accutane therapy appear to have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than those without severe acne. Still, it is prudent to discuss any significant mood change with the doctor before or during Accutane therapy.

Schedule A Complimentary Consultation

If you have issues with acne, whether you are a teen or an adult, book a complimentary consultation by calling us at (403) 202-4038 or completing the submission form on this page.

One of our acne specialists will assess your condition, and provide treatment options.

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