Treating Acne with Doxycycline

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So, your dermatologist prescribed you doxycycline.  Or, you’ve heard about using doxycycline for treating acne and wondering what it’s all about?  You’re in the right place!  Let’s take a look at how doxycycline works, its side effects, and how it treats acne.

What is doxycycline?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic (it belongs to a group of antibiotics called tetracyclines.)  It’s used to treat lots of different bacterial infections, from UTIs to gum disease.

It’s also a favorite among dermatologists, and is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic for acne and rosacea.

Doxycycline treats moderate to severe inflammatory acne, or mild inflammatory acne that isn’t getting better with other treatments.  It also works for back and body breakouts.

It won’t treat non-inflamed breakouts, like blackheads or milia

Generic and name brand doxycycline is available.

Doxycycline sold under the names Doryx, Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, and many more.  It’s also sold as generic doxycycline.

(Not sure the difference?  Check out this article to get the lowdown on generic vs. name brand medications: Do Generic Acne Medications Work as Well as Name Brands?)

Here’s how doxycycline works.

Although acne isn’t an infection, and it’s not contagious, antibiotics can help clear up breakouts by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin – in this case Propionibacterium acnes.

Most likely, you’ll use doxycycline along with another acne medication, like benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids.

It can take two to three months of using doxycycline before you really start seeing results, so be patient and keep using it. 

Short-term use of doxycycline is the goal. Once your skin has improved noticeably, your doctor will take you off doxycycline (but you’ll continue to use your topical treatments).

Some people, though, may need to use doxycycline for longer periods of time to keep acne under control.

You can’t take doxycycline if…

You’re pregnant.  Doxycycline can harm a developing fetus.  There are better acne treatment medications for pregnant moms, so make sure you let your dermatologist know if you’re expecting.

You’re under 8 years old.  Doxycycline shouldn't be used by young children because it can affect growth and cause permanent tooth discoloration.

You’re allergic to tetracyclines.  

If doxycycline isn't an option for you, no worries.  There are other antibiotics that treat acne that will be more appropriate for you.

These are the side effects.

Your dermatologist will give you a rundown of all possible side effects when prescribing your medication, but here are some of the more common:

Upset stomach and/or diarrhea.  If doxycycline is hard on your tummy, it can help to take it with a meal.

Pill esophagitis.   Doxycycline can irritate your esophagus, causing heart burn-like pain and making it hurt when you swallow.

  To avoid this, take your pill with a big glass of water.  Also, don’t lay down for about an hour after taking.  Plan on taking your medication well before bedtime. 

Photosensitivity.  Here’s a side effect that you probably didn’t consider.  Doxycycline can make your more sensitive to the sun.  It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen whenever you’re going to be outside, to stave off sunburn.

It's a good idea to wear sunscreen daily anyway.  It keeps your skin looking younger and helps protect you from skin cancer.  This article will help you pick a sunscreen you’ll actually want to wear every day: How to Choose Sunscreen that Won’t Break You Out.

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, your dermatologist is always available to help you out.  So don’t be shy!  Give your derm a call.  

Next Steps:

More Oral Acne Medications

Treating Moderate Inflammatory Acne

Treating Severe Acne


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Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, et al. "Evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acne." Pediatrics. 2013;131(Suppl 3):S163–186.

Kircik LH. "Doxycycline and minocycline for the management of acne: a review of efficacy and safety with emphasis on clinical implications." J Drugs Dermatol. 2010;9:1407–1410

Titus S, Hodge J. “Diagnoosis and Treatment of Acne.” Am Fam Physician. 2012 Oct 15;86(8):734-740.

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