Sponsored Links


Acne is commonly known as pimples and is the most common skin disorder in teenagers. Various medications in the form of gels, creams and solutions are available over-the-counter (OTC); but before using one should assess his/her skin type and choose the type of medication to be applied. In case of doubt (especially pregnant women and women planning to get pregnant), it is better always consult with a dermatologist (skin expert) before applying the medication.

Some of the common points to be noted while using OTC medications are: 1–3

  • Creams are best suited for individuals with sensitive or dry skin
  • Gels and solutions are appropriate for oily skin
  • Lotions can be used on any kind of skin

OTC Medications

Most of the medications contain certain specific agents such as follows:1–4

  • Salicylic acid.
  • Benzoyl peroxide.
  • Sulfur.
  • Resorcinol.

These medications work by various mechanisms such as killing the bacteria, decreasing the oil content in the glands or causing the skin to peel. These medicated creams or lotions may have to be applied regularly for a period of 4–6 months for maximum benefit. The medications are available as a single ingredient or a combination of 1 or 2 drugs.

Benzoyl Peroxide (Clearasil maximum strength)

Benzoyl peroxide is available as

  • 2.5/5/10% liquid.
  • 5/10% lotion.
  • 5/10% gel.


To be applied to affected areas once- or twice-daily.


Drying of skin.

Salicylic Acid (Clearasil maximum strength cleansing pads)

Salicylic acid is available as

  • 2% cleansing pads.
  • 2% cream.


To be applied to affected areas once- or twice-daily.    


Skin dryness and irritation.

Sulfur (Clearasil Adult Care)

Sulfur is available as 5% lotion.

Sponsored Links


To be applied to affected areas once- or twice-daily.    


  • Skin discoloration.
  • Displeasing odor.

Resorcinol (Clearasil Adult Care)


Apply small amount once daily before bedtime.


  • Redness/peeling of skin.
  • Skin irritation.

When to Seek Medical Help for Acne

Propmt medical care should be sought if:

  • Over-the-counter medicines have not cleared the acne after several months of treatment.
  • If acne is severe and is getting worse
  • Scars develop.


1.Federman DG, Kirsner RS. Acne vulgaris: Pathogenesis and therapeutic approach. Am J Manag Care. 2000; 6(1): 78–89.

2.Russell JJ. Topical therapy for acne. Am Family Physician. 2000; 61(2): 357–366.

3.Purdy S. Acne. BMJ. 2006; 333: 949–953.

4.Cheung MJ, Taher M, Lauzon GJ. Acneiform facial eruptions: A problem for young women. Can Fam Physician. 2005; 51: 527–533.

Written by: team
Date last updated: March 26, 2016