By: Dr. Anatoli Freiman , Jun 20, 2013

What are the treatment options for acne?

Controlling acne takes time and patience, but with a little care you'll see results

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), inflamed pimples (pustules), and deeper lumps (nodules). Acne occurs on the face, as well as the chest, back, and upper arms. Control of acne is an ongoing process and improvement takes time. The treatment your physician recommends will vary according to the type of acne.

It is best to wash the face with a mild cleanser and warm water daily. Oil-free, water-based moisturizers and make-up should be used. Choose products that are “non-comedogenic” (i.e. should not cause whiteheads or blackheads).

You can use topical creams, gels, or lotions with vitamin A acid-like drugs, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics to help unblock the pores and reduce bacteria. These products may cause some drying and peeling. For more severe acne, antibiotics taken by mouth, such as tetracycline, doxycycline or minocycline, are often prescribed. In cases of unresponsive or severe acne, isotretinoin may be used. Women may also use birth control pill or medications that decrease the effects of male hormones, e.g. spironolactone, to help their acne.

It is important not pick, scratch, pop, or squeeze pimples yourself. When the pimples are squeezed, more redness, swelling, inflammation, and scarring may result. Microdermabrasion may be used to remove the upper layers of the skin improving irregularities in the surface, contour and generating new skin. Light chemical peels with glycolic acid or salicylic acid help to unblock the pores, open the blackheads and whiteheads, and stimulate new skin growth. Injections of corticosteroids may be used for treating large red bumps (nodules).  Laser resurfacing and soft tissue fillers can help improve acne scars.

Dr. Anatoli Freiman completed dermatology training at McGill University and University of Toronto and obtained further specialized education at Harvard and New York University.  He is a Fellow of the Canadian and American Boards of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery and is a member of various dermatology societies and journal editorial teams.  Dr. Freiman is a lecturer at medical conferences, a media spokesperson, and is an author of over 200 presentations, publications, book and book chapters in dermatology. 

Dr. Freiman combines expertise in medical, pediatric, surgical, laser and cosmetic dermatology.  He teaches dermatology at the University of Toronto and is a consultant dermatologist on staff at the Women’s College Hospital & the York Central Hospital in Toronto.  Dr Freiman runs vibrant dermatology practices in downtown Toronto & in Richmond Hill. To learn more, visit