Why Aren't My Acne Treatments Working?

Updated January 01, 2014.

Question: Why Aren’t My Acne Treatments Working?

I’ve been using my acne treatments consistently for over two weeks, but I’m still getting new breakouts. Why aren’t my acne treatments working?


We all want our skin to clear up quickly, and for our acne treatment to start working right away. But two weeks isn’t long enough, in most cases, to see a real improvement of the skin.

Does this mean your acne treatment isn’t working? Not at all! It takes at least eight weeks before you really start to notice a difference in your skin, and that improvement can often take as long as 12 weeks. This is assuming, of course, that you are using your treatments consistently and as directed.

Many people expect pimples will stop forming immediately after beginning treatment. In reality, you will still get new breakouts even after beginning treatment for a period of time. Again, this doesn’t mean your treatment isn’t effective. Over time, you’ll probably notice your breakouts are getting smaller and healing more quickly. This is a sign that your treatments are starting to work.

With certain treatments, like Benzamycin or Retin-A, your skin may actually go through a period of worsening breakout activity before clearing begins. Although this is annoying and somewhat disheartening, understand that this is part of the clearing process.

Of course, not all acne treatments will work for everyone. If you have given your skin at least 10 to 12 weeks and still haven’t seen any change, you may need to try a different medication. If you are using over-the-counter acne products, you may need to ditch them in favor of a prescription. If you’re already using a prescription product, you may need a different medication.

It’s not uncommon to try several medications before finding the one that works. It can be a frustrating process, but just know that each treatment you try will ultimately get you closer to your goal of clearer skin.

And, as always, you can talk with your dermatologist about your treatment questions or concerns.

In this fast-paced world, we often expect instant results. But the human body works at its own pace, so your skin will take some time to heal. Try to be patient, be consistent, and wait for the results.

Read More
What To Do When Your Prescription Medications Aren’t Working
Should You Go Back to the Dermatologist?