OTC Medications for Acne Treatment – Dallas Dermatologist

Dallas dermatologist Dr. Christine Brown

By Christine Dunham Brown, MD

Dallas, Texas 75246

Physician (MD, DO), Dermatology


In my view, over-the-counter acne medications may work for mild acne, however, many of these formulations are harsh. Under the expert care of a dermatologist, skincare regimens may be customized according to skin type. Thus, patient compliance is much greater by maximizing treatment results and minimizing side effects of acne treatment.

There are certain physician-dispensed acne treatment protocols that include highly effective products that cannot be obtained through prescriptions or pharmacies. Use of these specialized acne treatment protocols along with oral or systemic therapies frequently yields superior patient outcomes. Also, when medicines are not sufficient alone, the dermatologist is there to intervene with more effective adjuvant procedural management of more stubborn acne.

About Over-the-Counter Medications for Acne

A recent Los Angeles Times article, “Come on, it’s just acne” by Dr. Valerie Ulene covered her experience seeking acne treatment for her teenage daughter.

First she described their efforts with at-home and over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments and pointed out that Americans spend $330 million a year on nonprescription acne remedies.

The article stated that most dermatologists think that non-prescription topical acne medications might be advised for the first line treatment of mild acne, but that only benzoyl peroxide has sufficient evidence to support its claims as an acne treatment. (Others, such as sulfur, resorcinol or “natural” remedies, are lacking this evidence).

Dr. Ulene concluded that in order to combat acne, her daughter needed a dermatologist. Her acne had progressed beyond what over-the-counter products (even good ones) could manage, and that a combination of prescription medications was required to clear up her skin.

“When it comes to anything beyond mild acne, doctors hold the cards. The most effective medications all require a prescription.”