Getting the right combination for your skin

Doctors will sometimes combine treatments for acne. This is because different treatments have different methods of action – some unblock pores while others reduce oil production or bacteria. A common combination is topical treatments (creams or lotions) and tablets.

Fixed combination treatments

A fixed combination treatment is where two treatments have been formulated into one. They work most effectively once a day rather than using several separate products to treat your acne. 

Getting the right combination for your skin can help to reduce the risk of other problems such as irritation or dryness. 

Fixed combinations with proven benefits include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide + retinoid. Epiduo® gel with the topical retinoid, adapalene, is the only example of this fixed combination
  • Benzoyl peroxide + an antibiotic. Duac® gel is the only example of this which includes the antibiotic clindamycin

The active ingredients in both combinations work fast to control visible lesions of acne and prevent new pimples forming. 

How to use

As with any acne treatments, using more is not better – in fact, it is more likely to irritate rather than help. Maximum benefits occur with a thin smear of these treatments. 

While these products work quickly to improve acne within days, maximum benefits may take a few months so be patient and give your treatment time to work. 

During the first days to weeks of starting combination treatments, those with sensitive skin may develop skin dryness. 

There are simple ways to minimise the risk of dryness: 

  • After cleansing with a soap free cleanser allow your skin to dry and settle for 10-15 minutes before applying the treatment
  • Apply a light moisturiser around the eyes, mouth and nostrils plus neck (sensitive skin areas)
  • Use the treatment on all acne affected areas of the face while avoiding the sensitive areas
  • If you do encounter dryness or irritation, use the treatment every second day / night for the first three to four weeks. After four weeks the skin usually adapts and you can then move to daily use. If your skin still won’t tolerate the treatment every night, using it every other night will still provide benefits but more likely, to a lesser degree.

As with all acne treatments, good sun protection remains essential. 

Combination treatments + the contraceptive pill

Your GP or dermatologist may also recommend a combination treatment when starting the oral contraceptive pill. This is because hormonal therapies (such as the pill) take three to six months to show significant improvement in acne while topical combination therapies start working within the first week.

Find out more about how to manage your acne