How Duac Treats Acne

1.2% Clindamycin Phosphate and 5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Duac is a topical prescription acne medication used to treat mild to moderate inflammatory acne. It’s a combination of two acne-fighting medications: clindamycin (1.2%) and benzoyl peroxide (5%). It can be used by both teens and adults. 

A young man applying acne cream to his face
AzmanL / Getty Images

How Duac Works

Benzoyl peroxide is a common acne treatment. You’ve probably seen it in over-the-counter and prescription acne products. Why is it so popular? Because benzoyl peroxide helps keep the pores clear of blockages while making it a less hospitable home for acne-causing bacteria.

Clindamycin, an antibiotic that in this case is used topically, works a bit differently. It reduces the amount of acne-causing bacteria found on the skin.

Combination products tend to get a better result than benzoyl peroxide or topical clindamycin alone.

Similar Medications

Duac isn’t the only medication with the benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin combination. Acanya, BenzaClin, Onexton, are other combo treatments with the same active ingredients. The percentage of medication is different in each. For example, Acanya contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide compared to Duac’s 5%.

How to Use It

Generally, Duac is applied just once per day, usually in the evening. Your dermatologist may have a different plan for you, though, so make sure to follow their instructions.

Before using this medication, gently wash your skin, rinse with warm water, and pat dry. The package insert recommends that you apply a thin layer of DUAC Gel to the face, avoiding the eyes, mouth, lips, mucous membranes, or areas of broken skin.

You'll need to apply it over the entire face and not just on individual pimples. Duac will help keep new pimples from forming, but only if it's applied over the entire area.

Be Patient

Duac won't work overnight, or even over several nights. Expect to use it consistently for up to six weeks before really noticing an improvement in your skin. It may take up to 12 weeks to see the full benefit.


If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, Duac may not be the right acne treatment choice for you. Ditto if you have ever had severe diarrhea when using antibiotics.

You can’t use Duac along with any erythromycin medication.

There are currently no good studies demonstrating the use and safety of Duac during pregnancy, therefore, it’s unclear how it may affect a developing fetus.

It's important to let your doctor know if you are pregnant or are nursing. There are other acne treatment choices that are a better fit for pregnant moms.

Side Effects

Side effects are usually mild. They’re similar to what you’d experience with other acne medications.

Most likely are:

  • Dry skin
  • Peeling or flaking
  • Redness or irritation
  • Burning

These usually aren't too bothersome, but let your doctor know if they become severe.

More serious (but much less common) side effects include diarrhea, bloody stools, and stomach cramps. You’ll want to tell your doctor right away if you develop any of these.

Don't Forget the SPF

Duac can cause photosensitivity. The added benefit of regularly using sunscreen is that you’ll protect your skin from premature aging. No better time to start than now. Stay away from tanning booths and sunlamps.

The Benzoyl Peroxide in Duac Can Bleach Your Linens

Wash your hands with soap right after applying your medication. Don’t let the gel get on your clothing, pillowcases, towels, etc. or you’ll end up with orange stains.

If you're applying just before bed, you'll probably want to use a white pillowcase. Other colors have a tendency to bleach out, even if the medication is fully dry before you go to bed. And pajamas may become stained, so wear pajamas that you don't mind getting discolored.

Ask Your Dermatologist

Your dermatologist has a wealth of information, so take advantage of this resource. Ask questions, make sure you know exactly how to use your Duac, and if you have any concerns, let your dermatologist know.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Duac: clindamycin phosphate and benzoyl peroxide gel. Highlights of prescribing information.

  2. Guerra-Tapia A. Effects of benzoyl peroxide 5% clindamycin combination gel versus adapalene 0.1% on quality of life in patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized single-blind study. J Drugs Dermatol; 11(6):714–22.

  3. Grove G, Zerweck C, Gwazdauskas J. Tolerability and irritation potential of four topical acne regimens in healthy subjects. J Drugs Dermatol; 12(6):644–9.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.