A winning combination: oral + topical treatment

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A winning combination: oral + topical treatment
A winning combination: oral + topical treatment

by Kathleen Morrison, Lead Writer

July 24th, 2019

By the time most of us are willing to spend time, energy, and money to see a dermatologist for acne we’ve likely exhausted drugstore options, over-the-counter “systems,” and maybe even tried a diet change or two. One prescription strength treatment is powerful stuff, but sometimes more really is... more. For busting persistent breakouts, dermatologists will often prescribe a combination of topical and oral medication: one tackles inflammation, bacteria, and oil at the surface while the other works on the systemic root causes of your acne. These treatments work in harmony to get breakouts under control.

There are a few reasons why approaching your acne from different angles can be a good idea:

  • Preventing antibiotic resistance: The development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a big concern amongst doctors and scientists (meaning we should all be concerned about it!). Both topical antibiotics like clindamycin and oral antibiotics like doxycycline can cause antibiotic resistance if taken alone for long periods of time. One way to minimize this risk is by taking using a topical and an oral treatment together since it is more difficult for germs to become resistant to two treatments at once.
  • Avoiding the “purge:” Ok, ok, you may not be able to avoid the dreaded purge altogether, but using a combination of an oral and a topical treatment can help take the edge off. For instance, our doctors may prescribe tretinoin along with a short-term oral antibiotic. Tretinoin is a very effective treatment that can address acne as well as fine lines, texture, and dull skin. An oral antibiotic helps to curb initial breakouts that can occur when you begin tretinoin so you can be on your way to clear skin faster.
  • Address all the causes: Using an oral and topical medications together can ensure you address all the causes of your acne. Hormonal roots can be addressed with spironolactone or contraceptive pills while topical antimicrobials tackle any acne-causing bacteria on the surface of your skin. Most topical antibiotics also reduce inflammation to help your skin heal from existing bumps and breakouts. Covering your bases with a mix of topicals and orals makes for more effective and efficient treatment.

At the end of the day, your Apostrophe dermatologist will provide you with the routine that is best for your skin’s unique needs! Whether it’s one treatment or four, it’s always smart to follow the advice of your doctor and stick with your treatment plan. Getting completely clear can take time, but with prescription treatment and a derm on your side, you can’t go wrong!

Have any burning questions about acne treatment? Ask us on Twitter @hi_apostrophe or send an email to!

Welcome to the fine print! Just so you know, this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor for that stuff.

Prescription medication should only be used according to doctor's instructions. Do not use medication if you are allergic to one of its ingredients. Full list of safety information can be found at:

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