Help yourself remember to take your medicine

Place your acne medication where you can see it every day. Keep it in plain view on the bathroom sink next to your toothbrush, or in a portion of your purse or backpack that you use daily.

Use your acne medicine as directed

Using more than the recommended amount of acne medicine or applying the medicine more frequently will not make your acne go away faster, but may lead to irritation and dry skin.

Apply the medicine to the whole area (not just the spots)

Apply your medicine to the entire acne-prone area. This prevents new acne lesions from forming on clear skin.

Be patient

Give your acne medicine time to do its job. It can take several weeks for pimples to fully heal, and they may look worse before looking better.

Meanwhile your acne medicine is hard at work preventing new pimples from forming so it is important that you continue to use your medicine.

Ongoing use of your acne medicine may be required for several months, even after the initial acne lesions cleared up, to keep acne under control.

Gently wash your face before applying your medicine

Gently washing your face with soap or a mild cleanser removes dirt, excess natural oils (sebum), bacteria, cosmetics, and prepares your skin for the medicine.

Use warm water and a mild cleanser instead of soap. Wash your face with your fingertips or a very soft cloth instead of an abrasive washcloth. Limit washing to twice a day, or after heavy perspiration.

Try waiting 10-15 minutes before applying the medicine to reduce skin irritation.

Avoid skin care products that dry out your skin

If your skin feels dry while using your acne medicine, consider changing your skin care routine. Astringents and "skin toners" can lead to excessive dryness.

Avoid skin care products that contain alcohol or alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid).

Use a moisturizer immediately after applying the acne medication. This may be especially helpful during dry winter months. Use a moisturizer labeled "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic", if possible. This means it won’t clog your skin pores.

Protect your skin from UV light

Everyone should protect themselves from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (UV rays), but sun protection is especially important if you are using a topical retinoid medication. This means avoiding sun exposure and the use of tanning salons or sun lamps.

If you can't avoid sun exposure:

  • Apply a sunscreen to all exposed skin. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or heavy perspiration. Look for brands labeled as noncomedogenic.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible.

Reference: Vivacare, American Academy of Dermatology

Last updated: January 7, 2017

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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