Prescription acne ointment and and over-the-counter acne ointment can contain different active ingredients that fight acne in numerous ways. Some ointments kill acne-causing bacteria, some exfoliate the skin, and others help reduce oil. Common types of acne ointment could use active ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol antibiotics and retinoids.
One of the most common types of acne ointment is made with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid works by unclogging pores and reducing acne redness and swelling. These ointments also can help break down whiteheads and blackheads and keep new pimples from forming. Salicylic acid is commonly found in over-the-counter acne treatments and is available in some prescription medications. The medication could cause some stinging and skin irritation.
Another readily available type of acne ointment uses benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that kills P. acnes, the bacteria that is responsible for acne. These ointments usually are available from 2.5 percent to 10 percent strength. The 2.5 percent medication typically works as well as the higher strength ointments and causes less irritation. Benzoyl peroxide ointments are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
Some people might experience an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide, and it can cause redness, dryness and peeling. Acne ointment containing this active ingredient can increase sensitivity to the sun. Individuals who use this medication should be aware that it could bleach hair and clothing.
One less common type of acne ointment contains sulfur as its active ingredient. Sulfur works by drying and peeling the skin. These ointments often have an unpleasant odor and can cause some skin discoloration. Sometimes sulfur ointments also contain resorcinol, which helps by removing dead skin cells that can clog pores. Sulfur and resorcinol ointments can cause dryness and redness.
Numerous antibiotic ointments to treat acne are available by prescription, including clindamycin, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide. They can help prevent bacteria from growing and causing acne, and they can reduce inflammation. These ointments also can cause redness, dryness, itchiness and peeling.
Another common type of prescription ointment uses retinoids to treat blemishes. Retinoids work by unclogging pores and rapidly exfoliating the skin. These ointments can cause sun sensitivity, redness and irritation.
When using any acne ointment, it’s a good idea to start with the lowest strength available and only one application a day to prevent skin irritation. As the skin becomes more accustomed to treatment, an individual can increase the number of applications and the strength, if necessary. Most acne ointments can take four to six weeks to show results, so patience is necessary.