How Topical Clindamycin Treats Inflammatory Acne

Updated May 27, 2014.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See’s Medical Review Board.

Topical Clindamycin Basics:

Clindamycin is a topical antibiotic used to treat inflammatory acne.

Topical clindamycin comes in many different forms: foam, gel, lotion, toner-like solution, and pledgets (or pads). You’ll need a prescription from your doctor to get this medication.

Oral clindamycin is also used to treat acne, although less commonly.

Also Known As:

Cleocin-T, ClindaMax, Clinda-Derm, Clindagel, ClindaReach, Clindets, Evoclin

How It Works:

Topical clindamycin works by killing the bacteria that cause acne. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. Usually, you’ll start seeing improvement of your skin within 4 to 6 weeks.

Topical Medications That Contain Clindamycin:

Other Topical Antibiotics Used to Treat Acne:

Common Usage Directions:

Depending on which form you’re using, this medication will be applied once or twice daily to clean skin.

Clindamycin is often used in conjunction with other medications, like benzoyl peroxide or a topical retinoid. Your doctor may prescribe an oral acne medication as well.

Possible Side Effects:

  • Redness
  • Skin irritation
  • Dryness or flaking

Most people tolerate topical clindamycin fairly well, but do tell your doctor if you are noticing uncomfortable side effects.

Tips for Using Topical Clindamycin:

  • Don’t just spot-treat individual pimples. No matter what form of clindamycin you’re using, make sure you apply it over the entire area affected by acne.
  • With any antibiotic, bacterial resistance can become a problem. Follow the usage directions exactly to reduce this possibility. Using topical clindamycin with benzoyl peroxide is another option, and can help acne clear up faster, too.
  • Try to apply your medication at the same time every day, and be as consistent as you can.

More About Treating Acne with Topical Antibiotics