Doxycycline for Acne: The Essential Guide

GoodRx /  Maryann Mikhail, MD

Key takeaways:

  • Doxycycline is a common antibiotic healthcare providers prescribe for acne.
  • It works by killing acne-causing bacteria and lowering inflammation.
  • Bacteria on the skin’s surface can become resistant to antibiotics. So it’s best to take doxycycline for no more than 3 to 4 months. 

Acne can be stubborn and frustrating to treat. If you’ve been to the dermatologist (skin specialist), you may have heard of — or even been prescribed — doxycycline as part of a skincare regimen. Doxycycline is a popular treatment option for acne, so let’s talk about what you should know while taking it.

What is doxycycline?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic, meaning it is a medication used to kill bacteria. It belongs to a group, or class of antibiotics known as tetracyclines. Two other medications in this class, include tetracycline and minocycline.

We don’t know for sure yet if one antibiotic works better than the other, but your provider will work with you to find the best treatment. Minocycline and doxycycline usually cause fewer side effects (like an upset stomach) and don’t have to be taken as often — so they are prescribed more commonly than tetracycline.

Brand names for doxycycline include Vibra-TabDoryx, and Oracea, among others. Generic versions include doxycycline hyclate and doxycycline monohydrate.

How does doxycycline help acne?

Doxycycline treats acne by killing off bacteria on the skin, so they can’t cause inflammation. Doxycycline also improves acne by lowering inflammation in the skin.

It’s normal to have bacteria on the skin — everyone does. In fact, there are around 1,000 types of bacteria that call your skin home. In normal circumstances, these bacteria don’t cause any trouble. But, from puberty onwards, the bacteria that live in the skin’s pores can become problematic. 

That’s because around puberty, oil glands start producing more oil. When extra oil in the pores mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells, it clogs your pores and causes inflammation in the surrounding skin (acne). And that’s why doxycycline’s antibiotic and anti-inflammatory actions help improve acne.

How long does it take doxycycline to start working for acne?

Like other acne treatments, doxycycline needs some time to start working. Your acne might start improving within 2 weeks, but it can take up to 12 weeks (3 months) to see the full benefit of the treatment. 

You’ll know doxycycline is working for you when you see less acne forming, and your skin starts to look clearer. Many treatments can make your skin look worse when you first start them, but this is generally not an issue with doxycycline. 

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