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Ask the Pharmacist - Acne Part 2

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Over the counter products

Abrasive and keratolytic products

“Clear Complexion” products are available over the counter, but be careful of using anything which has a lot of Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid as they are harsh on sensitive skin and often make the problem worse. Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid unblock skin pores and speed-up the production of new skin cells e.g. Acnecide®. Many harsh benzoyl peroxide containing products like Panoxyl® and Quinoderm® are gone off the market in recent years and many skincare experts are advising against their use due to their harshness and irritation of the skin. Acnecide® is the only type of product still readily available in pharmacies. Acnecide® can be beneficial but use in moderation and not long term. Use Acnecide® after washing with a mild cleanser and water, apply once or twice daily.

Benzoyl peroxide causes your face to be more sensitive to sunlight, so avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and ultra-violet (UV) light, or wear sun cream. Avoid contact with hair, clothes, towels and bed linen, as benzoyl peroxide may bleach these. Wash hands after applying Benzoyl peroxide products like Acnecide® as it can irritate them.

Benzoyl peroxide works in two ways:

  • prevents dead skin plugging hair follicles.
  • kills bacteria on the skin that cause plugged follicles to become infected.

Drying and peeling of the skin can occur; drying and peeling can be adjusted by reducing amount used. It is recommended to initiate treatment with Acnecide® Gel 5%. If adequate results are not achieved with the 5% gel, try the 10% gel. Those with sensitive skin should apply the gel once daily before going to bed. A six-week course of treatment with benzoyl peroxide is generally required to clear acne.


Consider going to a GP if:

  • The acne is severe, angry-looking, inflamed or widespread.
  • The condition shows no improvement despite the (correct) use of one or more treatment products.
  • Any suspected case of medication-induced acne.


There are prescription medicines available from your doctor for severe acne.


Prescription Medicines

Referral to a dermatologist (an expert in treating skin conditions) is usually required for severe acne. A combination of oral antibiotics and topical treatments (creams, gels) are usually the first treatment option. If this proves to be ineffective, a medication called isotretinoin (Roaccutane®) may be prescribed.


Topical retinoids

Topical retinoids work by reducing production of sebum while also preventing dead skin cells plugging hair follicles. Tretinoin (Retin A®) and adapalene (Differin®) are available in a gel or cream and usually applied once a day before going to bed. Apply topical retinoids sparingly and avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and UV.

Topical retinoids should not be used during pregnancy as they carry risk of causing birth defects. Topical retinoids can cause mild irritation and stinging of the skin. A six-week course is usually required but you may need to continue medication on a less frequent basis.


Free acne skincare consultation at our acne clinic

May is acne awareness month at Whelehans Pharmacy we are offering free acne skincare consultations at our Acne Clinic with skincare expert Trish Wallace. Learn how to remove dead cells and impurities, unclog pores and reduce redness and blemishes. Whelehans offer a range of effective products that give clearer skin in a safe and effective way. Book your free appointment; call Whelehans at 04493 34591 to discover clearer skin.


To be continued….next week I discuss treatment of more severe acne


Products mentioned here are available in Whelehans.

Thank you to Trish Wallace, skincare consultant at Whelehans Pharmacy and the HSE and NHS for their input into this article

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