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Acne - Focus on Over the Counter products that can really help

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Acne Part 3

This is a continuation of last week’s article.


Over the counter products


Abrasive and keratolytic products

Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid unblock skin pores and speed-up the production of new skin cells e.g. Acnecide® available over the counter in pharmacies, 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. 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.


Quinoderm® Face wash is also available at Whelehans. It contains 0.15% chlorhexidine digluconate and 1.5% mytrimonium bromide. It helps remove excess facial oil, grease and dirt leaving your skin feeling clean, healthy and refreshed. It also has antibacterial action, targeting P. acnes (the bacteria responsible for most acne) and other bacteria that can lead to spots.


Consider going to a GP if:

  • The acne is severe, angry-looking, inflamed or widespread.
  • No improvement despite the (correct) use of one or more treatment products.
  • Any suspected case of medication-induced 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. I will discuss more prescription options next week.


Products mentioned here are available in Whelehans.

Thank you to Kayleigh Ready, skincare consultant at Whelehans Pharmacy and the HSE and NHS for their input

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