Dangerous Side Effects of Traditional Acne Treatment Products

Traditional topical acne treatments have a well-documented list of relatively minor side effects that include dryness, redness, peeling, tingling, or stinging.  Topical medications usually contain one (or a combination of) one of these 3 ingredients: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or a form of retinoic acid.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a long-standing topical medication treatment ingredient that breaks down into benzoic acid and oxygen, penetrating pores and killing bacteria.  Maximum strength products contain as much as 10% benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide in creams and lotions can be helpful in clearing up skin in cases of minor acne. Most products recommend starting with one application each day working up to three times a day.

Hypersensitive skin can become red, itchy and even inflamed when using benzoyl peroxide and skin surrounding the acne often times will peel. Other hypersensitive reactions include dizziness, severe rash, upset stomach and breathing difficulties. These reactions are rare, but you should see a doctor immediately if these symptoms occur.  Benzoyl peroxide can also bleach hair, fabrics and carpeting.

Vitamin A and Tretinoin

Dangerous Side Effects of Acne Treatment ProductsTretinoin is retinoic acid in pharmaceutical form and is the carboxylic acid form of vitamin A .  Commonly referred to as Retin-A, tretinoin speeds cell turnover rates and removes dead cells. It may take several months to work and the acne may look worse before it gets better.

Dry skin, peeling and flaking are common with this medication. It is available as a cream or gel with the most common strengths being 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%.  Tretinoin is a prescription topical treatment that should not be used by pregnant women because of the potential for causing birth defects.

A daily dosage of 10,000 units of water-soluble Vitamin A may be prescribed for teens and adults with moderate to severe acne. Anti-inflammatory Vitamin A is found in carrots, squash and other vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, good for heart health, are also recommended for people with acne.

A concentrated form of Vitamin A or 13-c retinoic acid known as isotretinoin is available only through prescription for treating cystic acne. The drug actually lowers the level of oil released by your sebaceous glands.  The side effects of isotretinoin, however, are severe.  In fact, women of child-bearing age using this medication must sign an FDA-mandated IPLEDGE agreement that they will not become pregnant because of the potential for severe birth defects. Women must be tested for pregnancy before, during and after treatment.

Both men and women using this drug must agree to the IPLEDGE and use two forms of birth control if engaging in sexual activity when either one is using this oral medication.


Topical medications should be kept away from nose and mouth. They should be used only on the areas with acne. People using retinoic acid products must follow doctor’s directions to the letter.

Consult a dermatologist for additional information on how to to get rid of acne fast.

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