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Acne health centre

Antibiotic gels and creams

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria. Using an antibiotic gel or cream helps to get rid of the bacteria that make your spots red and inflamed.

You can get antibiotic gels or creams from your doctor. You'll need to use your treatment once or twice a day.

Some antibiotics that come as gels or creams are:

There's good research to show that antibiotic gels and creams get rid of spots. [20] But they're better at getting rid of red or inflamed spots. They don't help as much with whiteheads and blackheads.

It may be several weeks before your treatment starts working. In studies, it took between four weeks and 12 weeks for people to have fewer spots.

In some studies, researchers asked people if they thought their acne was getting better. People who used an antibiotic cream or gel were more likely to say their acne had improved. [40] [41] [42]

You can get a gel that combines clindamycin with benzoyl peroxide. The brand name is Duac Once Daily. One large study found that people who used this combination of treatment said their acne had improved after two weeks. It seemed to work better than using either treatment on its own. [32]

You can also get erythromycin gel combined with zinc. The brand name is Zineryt. The idea is that zinc helps your skin absorb the antibiotic. But there's no research to say whether it's any better than an antibiotic on its own.

The research on antibiotic creams doesn't give much information about side effects. [20] A few people who used clindamycin got a burning feeling in their skin, and others got diarrhoea. But we don't know how common this is. Erythromycin doesn't seem to cause any more problems than a dummy treatment (a placebo).



Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.

Placebo effect

People who are ill sometimes improve even though they've been given an inactive treatment. This is called the placebo effect. We don't know exactly why it happens. It might be that expectations about treatment help you feel better, or even lead to physical changes in the body. It's also possible that seeing a doctor or other kind of therapist is reassuring, even if the treatment itself is inactive.

For more terms related to Acne


For references related to Acne click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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