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How Long Does Acne Treatment Take?

If you have acne-prone skin, then you may feel like the condition of your skin is out of control. No matter what steps you take at home, you still have acne breakouts! Fortunately, professional guidance from a dermatologist can help you find the acne treatment in Pittsburgh that is most effective for you. Learn more about your treatment options before your first appointment at Prizant Dermatology in Pittsburgh, PA.

How Long Does Acne Treatment Take?

In general, it can take most acne treatment in Pittsburgh four to 12 weeks to show any significant results. But there are several factors that will determine how fast you can enjoy results, such as the type of acne you have, your hormones, your skin type, and the acne treatments that are recommended for you. Some of the most common treatments for acne include:


Accutane is one of the most effective treatment options for acne, particularly cystic acne and inflammatory acne. This medication is usually reserved for patients who have not been able to successfully treat moderate to severe acne with other treatment methods. Accutane is formulated with powerful vitamin A that shrinks the oil glands in your skin to prevent oil over-production, clogged pores, and inflammation.

Typically, Accutane starts to work about 10 days after starting treatment, but patients may not see visible results for one to two months, with peak results visible around eight weeks after starting the medication. Accutane is taken short-term for about four to five months; however, most patients will only ever need one course of treatment to control breakouts in the future.


Sometimes, antibiotics are prescribed as part of a treatment plan for acne. Oral and topical antibiotics can remove the acne-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin that contributes to breakouts. Most people will notice marked improvements in acne breakouts about two weeks after starting antibiotics, but the results may not peak until up to twelve weeks after starting the treatment. Antibiotics for acne are also a short-term treatment with long-term results.


Dermatologists often prescribe prescription-strength retinol for people who have moderate acne. While retinol is best known for reducing visible signs of aging, this unique ingredient can also unclog pores and turn over new skin cells to treat most types of acne. However, the potency of retinol will influence how quickly you will be able to see results. Prescription-strength retinol will usually produce results in about three to six weeks.

One of the reasons it takes longer to see reduced acne on a retinol regimen is that retinol treatments must start slowly. While other topical medications can be applied daily immediately, it takes time for your skin to adjust to retinol. Prescription-strength retinol should be introduced to the skin three nights a week at first until your skin can tolerate the medication daily.

Chemical Peels

People who have mild acne may find chemical peels beneficial. A chemical peel is an exfoliation technique that can help reduce clogged pores and oil over-production in the skin. A light peel every four to six weeks can regulate the skin to reduce acne breakouts, and you may notice results after at least two to three appointments.


People who have acne-prone skin may also benefit from regular HydraFacials. This treatment cleanses, exfoliates, and extracts impurities from the skin. As an aesthetic treatment, this can be a highly effective option for people who have mild inflammatory acne. Most people will see a marked reduction in acne breakouts after a few treatments, which are generally scheduled one month apart.

LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy is an advanced treatment option that can significantly improve acne-prone skin. LED treatments can kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin and can reduce inflammation that makes acne worse. Typically, the best results are seen after a series of treatments that are scheduled once a week or once every two weeks. After optimal results are reached, monthly or bi-monthly maintenance appointments can keep acne at bay.

Salicylic Acid

When it comes to traditional topical acne treatment in Pittsburgh, salicylic acid is a very effective option for people with mild to moderate acne. Products with salicylic acid are formulated at different strengths, but most people will seek skin improvement when using a product between 2% and 5%. Most wash-off treatments have a higher percentage of salicylic acid, while topical lotions or gels may be formulated with very low percentages.

Salicylic is an effective choice for acne-prone skin because the chemical exfoliant dissolves dead skin cells to unclog the pores. Most people will be able to see results from salicylic acid acne products in about six to eight weeks.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another standby favorite for treating acne. Although benzoyl peroxide is not ideal for all skin types, it has been used topically to treat acne for decades. Benzoyl peroxide is typically formulated at around 5%, although a dermatologist may recommend a higher percentage for more severe acne. The results of benzoyl peroxide may not appear for about two to four months.

Azelaic Acid

One of the newer topical remedies for acne-prone skin is azelaic acid, which is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and considered safe to use during pregnancy. Low percentages of azelaic acid can reduce hyperpigmentation, keratin production, and acne-causing bacteria. It can take six to eight weeks to see results from prescription-strength products, and 12 to 16 weeks to see results from over-the-counter products.

Is Using a Combination of Treatments More Effective?

Everybody’s skin is different and everyone will respond differently to treatments for acne. As a general rule, if you aren’t seeing results from any treatment for acne in about eight to twelve weeks, then you may need to revisit your treatment plan with a dermatologist. It’s possible a different acne treatment in Pittsburgh will meet the needs of your skin better, particularly if you have stubborn acne-causing bacteria.

Because it can be hard to predict how well your skin will respond to a single treatment, many dermatologists recommend a combination of treatments for acne to tackle breakouts head-on. It’s common to combine topical products like salicylic acid and azelaic acid with professional treatments like LED light therapy. Some people may also use a combination of antibiotics and prescription-strength retinol.

Why Accutane Has Special Rules

Unlike other treatments for acne, Accutane is a medication that does not pair well with other topical and oral treatments. When you are taking Accutane, it’s recommended to stop using products that contain retinol, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or any other ingredient that can cause dry skin. People who are using Accutane should focus on moisture in every step of their skincare routine, as well as consistent SPF during the daytime.

Why Consistency Is Key for Effective Treatments

When it comes to treating acne, consistency is vital. Acne-prone skin requires more maintenance than other skin types, particularly for people who continue to experience breakouts. Consistency is important because many ingredients used to treat acne will turn over new skin cells and reduce bacteria production. If you miss a few days, you could set back your progress or delay your results.

When you’re ready to build your at-home skincare routine to reduce acne, you will need to incorporate your prescriptions one to two times a day. Be sure to ask a dermatologist about the best products to use with your prescriptions. People with acne-prone skin should wash and moisturize their skin twice a day for the best results.

Important Lifestyle Habits for Acne Reduction

While factors such as your hormones and genetics may be out of your control, there are certain lifestyle habits that can reduce acne breakouts. Drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and avoiding touching your face are all crucial habits. Some studies also suggest a diet rich in fresh vegetables, whole fruits, and healthy proteins can also be the key to balancing skin health.

If you wear make-up, it’s also important to select products that will allow your skin to breathe so you can avoid clogged pores. Likewise, you will want to be sure the sunscreen you wear every day does not contribute to clogged pores or acne breakouts.

Take Control of Your Acne-Prone Skin Today

Acne doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence! If you’re tired of cycling through clear skin days and breakout days, it’s time to find the acne treatment in Pittsburgh that is most effective for your acne type and skin type. Professional treatments and high-strength prescriptions can be the key to finally unlocking consistently clear skin. Contact Prizant Dermatology in Pittsburgh, PA to schedule your acne consultation today.

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