6 Life-Changing Acne Products You Can Only Get From A Dermatologist

As everyone knows, there was a point in my life when I would have done anything–anything–if it meant I would have clear, flawless skin. I would have given up sugar. I would have drank a gallon of water a day. I would have skinned a young starlet and worn her skin as my own, if doing so provided me with the complexion of my dreams. But, as turns out, getting clear skin wasn’t actually that difficult. All I needed to do was go to a dermatologist.

I visited a dermatologist for the first time a few months ago when, as I saw it, I simply had no other choice. My skin had never been particularly great in the first place, but the few pimples I’d get a month steadily increased until one day, I realized that my face was covered with painful, hard-core cystic acne that only got worse, no matter what I did–washing my face more, washing it less, wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, rubbing literal bacteria all over my face. (I told you: I tried everything.) When I visited home for the first time in a few months, my family was aghast that there was a flesh-eating parasite that appeared to have taken residence in my dermis and was fighting to work its way out, and my mom suggested, gently, that I might seek medical assistance. I did. My dermatologist prescribed some pills and a few creams and, a month later, my skin was almost completely clear.

I have always been leery about the idea of taking pills as a knee-jerk reaction to everything, but in this case, modern medicine extremely had my back. If you are also at the point where over-the-counter and DIY acne cures just aren’t working for you anymore, you just might want to turn to a derm for some prescription-grade products. Obviously, you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to visit a doctor unless you absolutely have to–dermatologists and products they prescribe can be expensive–but if you want a preview of what might be offered to you, check out these acne products you can only get from the dermatologist:


Isotetinoin--which you probably know by its commercial name, Accutane or Absorica--is an oral medication that reduces your skin's oil content and is used to treat cystic acne that hasn't responded to other medications. It is, if I may use the medical term, "extremely hard-core," in that its side effects include extreme dry skin and difficulty moving. Still, it's supposed to work really well, so if you've tried literally everything else, this could be the product for you.

Image source: iStock


If there is one person in this world for whom I might consider myself a "stan," it is my dermatologist, for she is the one who prescribed me spironolactone. Really! Shouts out Marmur Medical! Spironolactone is a pill that was originally used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, but more recently has been used as a cure for adult and cystic acne. It's a diuretic (AKA it makes you pee a lot, which is Bad News Bears for me, since I already have a tendency to pee at least seven thousand times a day, I think because I drink a lot of water and coffee and am also nervous most of the time, probably because of the coffee), and also contains a lot of potassium, so you can't, as my dermatologist told me, go "crazy with the bananas." (I really do love her.) In return, you get clear skin. Anyway, I'm a fan. (A real one--this is not some spironolactone #sponcon.)

Image source: WebMD

Oral Antibiotics

When you first visit, your dermatologist may prescribe an oral antibiotic like Tetracycline or Doxycycline to reduce swelling, inflammation and bacteria. These work well! Just be aware that antibiotics also kill the good bacteria in your gut, so you should take a probiotic pill or eat some yogurt to combat it.

Image source: iStock

Topical Antibiotics

You can also get some topical antibiotic creams through a prescription, which basically work the same way as over-the-counter lotions and spot treatments--AKA you rub them on your face--but contain a higher amount of antibiotics to kill bacteria in your skin. If your acne is severe, a topical cream probably won't be enough on its own, but it can be a great way to kickstart any medication you're taking.

Image source: iStock

Topical Retinoids

A retinoid is a cream that can unclog pores and allow other acne medications to work better. Retinoids can be pretty intense--they can cause redness, dry skin, and sun sensitivity--so make sure to introduce them into your regimen gently, moisturize, and wear sunscreen so you don't burn. Some brand-name retinoids you might come across are Differin and Retin-A.

Image source: WebMD

Birth Control

You don't have to go to a dermatologist to get a birth control prescription, but if your acne is hormone-based, chances are good that your derm will prescribe an oral contraceptive as well. Birth control is effective as an acne treatment because it reduces the amount of sebum--the type of oil that can cause acne--in your skin, meaning that it can help it clear up in a month or two.

Image source: iStock

Have you ever tried any of these products? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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