Clindamycin phosphate is a topical antibiotic that may be used to treat a variety of infections within the body, including different types of acne. It can be beneficial for patients with mild to moderate acne.
When used with supervision, after an acne breakout, clindamycin topical acne treatment can help to rebalance the skin and clear up stubborn, mild to moderate cases of acne.
Clindamycin may be used topically or taken orally as an acne treatment for acne lesions and acne scars.
Clindamycin protocols are usually short-term or paired with another acne medication to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.
After undergoing a clindamycin regimen, you’ll need to assemble an acne-fighting skin routine with other types of medication to keep your skin healthy and pimple-free.
Clindamycin for Acne
Clindamycin is a type of antibiotic oral or topical treatment that healthcare providers use to treat infections in the abdomen, lungs, gynecological organs, bones, and skin—but it can also be a powerful topical acne medication for mild acne to moderate acne.
Acne patients may use clindamycin either orally or topically, on its own or in combination with other over the counter products, as well as tretinoin, to combat inflammatory acne and lesions, hormonal acne, cystic acne, and more. Clindamycin gel can be applied directly to the skin as a lotion, gel, or liquid solution, as a topical solution to acne causing bacterium. Oral antibiotic clindamycin can also be taken in pill form .
Clindamycin is effective at treating acne vulgaris, the most common type of acne, but it’s considered a strong medication and requires a prescription to use. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to what it’s like to use clindamycin for acne, who it’s best for, and whether it may be the right acne treatment for you.
Is clindamycin good for acne?
Dermatologists have been prescribing clindamycin as an acne treatment protocol for the past 40 years. When used correctly, this topical antibiotic can have powerful skin-clearing benefits, among them:
Reduction in the severity of acne flare-ups
Restored balance to the bacteria naturally found in skin
Fewer pimples, whiteheads, inflamed acne, and other acne-related skin lesions
As an antibiotic, clindamycin is not recommended as a first option for people looking to bring their acne under control. However, if your stubborn flare-ups still won’t budge after trying other acne medications, a short-term course of clindamycin gel may help to bring acne under control.
How does clindamycin work to treat acne?
To understand how clindamycin works, it’s important to understand why acne arises.
Acne vulgaris is a condition wherein the skin’s hair follicles (those little pockets where a hair stem grows) become chronically inflamed. Researchers agree that there are four main contributors to this inflammation:
Bacterial buildup in the pores
An overproduction of sebum, the oil your skin produces to keep it hydrated
Abnormal growth patterns of the micro-hairs embedded in your skin
The resulting inflammation when these three factors coalesce
The spots, pimples, and whiteheads typically seen in acne vulgaris are known as lesions. Lesions are a sign that your skin is trying to quell an active (though minor) infection in your skin’s microbiome—the culture of microscopic “flora” that live in your skin.
Normally, your skin has no problem hosting these microorganisms. When the balance is disturbed or if your immune system is impaired, your skin goes into overdrive trying to restore the equilibrium, resulting in acne flare-ups.
Topical antibiotics, such as Clindamycin, work by interacting with the skin’s microbiome to placate bacterial takeovers, foster balance in your skin flora, and reduce the incidence of inflammation (i.e. zits!).
Who should use clindamycin for acne treatment?
Clindamycin is considered too strong to be the first line of defense for persistent, mild to moderate acne. Before seeking out a clindamycin prescription from your healthcare provider it’s recommended you try out gentler solutions to address any acne lesions, as these solutions can be highly effective when used consistently. These include:
If you haven’t experienced less inflammatory acne and clearer skin with the use of acne treatments like these, or if you’ve already tried tretinoin for acne with no results, a short-term clindamycin regimen may be right for you.
How to use clindamycin for acne
Because clindamycin is a heavy-hitting antibiotic, it’s crucial to use it exactly as prescribed. Oral clindamycin treatments may vary, so follow the precise instructions recommended by your healthcare provider.
As for topical clindamycin, there are some general guidelines for applying it properly. People prescribed clindamycin usually apply a thin veil of the treatment solution to the entire affected area (most commonly the face) two times per day. If you wear makeup, you can still use it while on clindamycin, but use it sparingly and use water-based formulas.
To prepare the skin for topical clindamycin, you’ll need to start with freshly-washed skin. Before you break out your medicine, be sure to steer clear of the following mishaps:
Overwashing – Washing the skin too often can lead to dryness, which can yield more acne and make for an irritating, even painful application process. To avoid dehydrating the skin, use a mild cleanser or soap as your usual cleanser.
Areas to avoid – Keep your clindamycin medication far away from your eyes, mouth, nose, or mucous membranes around your body. Clindamycin should only be used on the area it’s prescribed for. Some clindamycin vehicles (e.g. foam) contain alcohol, which could cause stinging—particularly around your eyes. If you contaminate a non-prescribed area with your medicine, flush with water immediately.
Post-shave application – If you shave a part of the body where you’ll be using clindamycin, try not to apply it directly after you’ve used your razor. Wait at least 30 minutes before using your medication to avoid agitating tender skin.
Medication vehicle type – As we’ve mentioned, there are multiple ways clindamycin may be administered, from liquid solutions to foams. If you’re prescribed a foam solution, apply it directly to the affected area and then work it in. Foam vehicles will dissolve as soon as they come into contact with touch-temperature skin.
Because there are many ways of administering clindamycin topically, it’s critical to read the instructions included with your medication. Not only will misuse of clindamycin yield poorer results in clearing up acne, but it could lead to more severe side effects that could affect your overall health.
Is clindamycin safe to use for acne?
Topical and oral clindamycin can both be effective at bringing bacterial imbalance back to normal and improving the acne it stems from. However, it must be used in appropriate doses and in the short term to lower the risk of antibiotic resistance:
Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria treated by a medication develop immunity to the medication that targets them.
One strain of bacteria in particular, P. acnes, is targeted in many clindamycin treatments. Research shows that around 52% of people with acne carry a P. acnes strain that has become antibiotic-resistant.
Not only can antibiotic resistance make clindamycin less effective at treating acne, but it can also lead to other related bacterial health problems.P. acnes overgrowth has been linked to infections in the bones, joints, mouth, eyes, and brain—which means that it’s essential you use it properly if prescribed.
To use clindamycin safely, protocols usually adhere to the following clinically recommended timelines:
Topical clindamycin – When applied directly to the skin, clindamycin may be used for a maximum of 16 weeks. It is usually used alongside other acne treatments, most commonly benzoyl peroxide or retinoids. Research shows that combining clindamycin with these treatments is effective at both treating acne and preventing skin flora’s resistance to antibiotics.
Oral clindamycin – When taken orally in pill form, clindamycin is usually used for 6-8 weeks. It is strongly inadvisable to take clindamycin for a period longer than 12 weeks.
Skin researchers agree that clindamycin should only be prescribed if your other acne treatment options have been exhausted. When used as a short-term regimen, and in combination with other acne medications, your likelihood of developing antibiotic resistance decreases and clindamycin may be used safely. It’s important to do your research when choosing an acne treatment that works best for you
How effective is clindamycin?
When used correctly, clindamycin can have remarkable skin-clearing effects on persistent acne. Coupled with medications like benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin can work to placate both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne cases.
That said, it should be emphasized that clindamycin is not an acne cure-all.
When prescribed, it is intended to improve the condition of your skin’s microbiome in the short term—like wiping your skin’s slate clean. To maintain clear skin, you’ll still need to use other non-antibiotic acne medications in your skincare regimen.
What are the potential side effects of using clindamycin for acne?
There are some potential side effects when using clindamycin to treat acne. The most common ones are:
Erythema (skin redness; rash)
Burning sensation on the skin
While topical clindamycin is applied to the skin, there are some cases where the oral medication can cause diarrhea. If you get diarrhea after starting clindamycin, or if it worsens with time, you may need to discontinue your regimen.
Clindamycin for acne recap
All in all, clindamycin can make a big difference for your skin by tackling the root cause of acne—a bacterial infection in the skin. If the other acne-fighting approaches you’ve taken haven’t gotten you results yet, it may be worth your while to ask your health care provider about clindamycin.
As one of the most common skin conditions in the world, acne can be agonizingly difficult to treat—but if you have the right care team in place, it’s certainly not impossible.
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