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Acne Treatment for Severe Forms of Acne

The most severe forms of acne, cystic acne and nodular acne, often have different forms of recommended treatment from other acne types. The reason is that severe acne, particularly cystic acne, may result in permanent scarring.


If left untreated for a long period of time, serious scarring bordering on disfigurement may develop. As a result, medical professionals are willing to recommend more serious treatment with a higher risk of side effects in order to prevent this scarring from occurring.

OTC Methods

Just as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are commonly used for regular forms of acne, these can be beneficial for those suffering from severe acne. While these may not be enough to completely clear up severe acne, these treatments may be just enough to reduce acne to the point where scarring does not occur or at least is minimized.

However, these OTC methods are not always enough. When they are not enough, prescription means may be recommended by a doctor.

Prescription Method #1: Retinoids

A class of chemicals known as retinoids is commonly used to get rid of acne. These chemicals are derived from vitamin A and in high doses can help beat even the most severe forms of acne.

Due to the potential for side effects and overdose, the most powerful retinoids are only available via prescription.

Prescription Method #2: Accutane

Accutane, also known as the generic isotretinoin, is a prescription medication that can be used to get rid of even the most severe acne. It is very effective at getting rid of very bad acne, but it is also very harsh on the liver and has a variety of side effects including depression and suicidal thoughts.

Since Accutane has such harsh side effects, it is reserved for being used to treat the most severe acne. Many people decide that they are willing to risk the side effects in order to prevent the permanent, life-long scarring that coincides with very bad acne so it is hard to fault hem for such a decision.

Prescription Method #3: Antibiotics

Severe acne can be characterized as a broad infection of the skin by bacteria. Sometimes even with the right acne treatment regimen, it is hard to clear up this initial infection. In this situation, sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to help clear up the initial infection with the hope that a follow-up treatment regimen will be enough to prevent the skin from breaking out in the future.