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Nowadays there are many effective over-the-counter acne treatments that do not require seeing a doctor to get a prescription.  You may want to try some of the approaches below before you make an appointment with one of our dermatologists.

When I trained as a resident in dermatology 35-plus years ago, I was taught that diet did not affect acne.  Now the story is changing.  More and more research is being published that indicates that what we eat does affect the health of our skin.  Foods that may fuel acne are dairy, processed foods, and foods with added oil and sugar.  If you would like to learn more about how your diet might be the cause of your acne, I highly recommend reading The Clear Skin Diet by Nina and Randa Nelson.

Along with making healthier food choices, there are over-the-counter medications that may help.  Benzoyl peroxide cleansers and gels have been used for many years to inhibit the P. acnes bacteria that over proliferate and cause inflammation in the oil glands in acne.  You don’t need to get a high concentration of it to be effective.  Products in the 2.5% to 5% range work well with less irritation than the stronger percentages.  Good brands to look for are PanOxyl® and Neutrogena®.

Another very effective product which used to be available only by prescription but is now over the counter is Differin® gel.  It is a vitamin-A derivative like Retin-A which helps to unplug clogged pores.  Because it causes exfoliation of the skin, it also helps clear dark spots left over from the inflammation caused by acne.  If you use Differin, be sure to apply a moisturizing sunscreen every morning to counteract the dryness and sun-sensitivity which are possible side effects.  I recommend EltaMD® Clear which is available in our office and through our online store ($35).

Photobiomodulation is a favorite method of mine to treat acne.  The reason I love it so much is that it has no side effects and it improves the appearance of pores and skin texture in addition to controlling the acne.  If you want to delve deeply into the science behind how it works, you can read more about it on Wikipedia.  Simply put it uses blue and red wavelengths of light to heal acne.  Blue light inhibits the acne-causing bacteria. Red light quells inflammation as well as stimulating collagen production which helps texture and pores.  Neutrogena sells an inexpensive light therapy mask which is used 10 minutes a day.

If you try these approaches and your acne does not improve, call us to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists to get you on the path to clearer skin.  We also do clinical trials testing new acne therapies. So, if you are interested in participating check out the research section of our website for currently enrolling studies.


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About Suzanne Bruce, M.D.

Founded SBA in 1997

Dr. Bruce is President of Suzanne Bruce and Associates, P.A. She has been practicing dermatology since 1985. A graduate of Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, she completed her dermatology residency training at Baylor. She is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She is a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Texas Dermatological Society, and Houston Dermatological Society. She is also a member of the Leaders Society of the Dermatology Foundation. Dr. Bruce is a former Vice President of the Texas Dermatological Society and a former President of the Houston Dermatological Society.

Dr. Bruce serves as a consultant and trainer for leading drug, cosmeceutical, and laser companies. She has been recognized for excellence by many organizations and publications, including Texas Monthly (voted a Super Doctor, 2005-2019), Houstonia (voted a Top Doctor, 2013), H Texas (voted a Top Doctor, 2014-2015, 2017, 2019), Living Magazine Ful-shear Edition (Best Dermatologist 2017) and Houston Woman Magazine (one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women in 2009).

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