Treating Acne With Oral Minocycline

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Minocycline is an oral antibiotic that is commonly prescribed for acne. It belongs to a group of antibiotics called tetracyclines (doxycycline and tetracycline also belong to this group, and are also used to treat acne).

Of all the tetracyclines, minocycline is the most expensive option. But it can be effective against acne when other oral antibiotics have failed.

Minocycline has been used for decades and is especially effective against inflammatory acne, although it's rarely used as a solo treatment. It nearly always is prescribed along with a topical acne medication. This will give you much better results than just using minocycline alone.

Minocycline is also sold as Minocin, Dynacin, Vectrin, and Solodyn (extended-release minocycline).

Tips for treating acne with oral minocycline
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell.

Uses

Minocycline works to treat acne in two ways. First, it stops the growth of bacteria that cause acne breakouts. Second, minocycline reduces inflammation. If you have red, inflamed pimples, this is good news.

On the other hand, minocycline won't do much for blackheads and other non-inflamed blemishes. A better choice, in this case, would be topical retinoids.

Other Oral Antibiotics for Acne

Minocycline isn't the only oral antibiotic used to treat acne. Other options are:

Contraindications

Minocycline shouldn't be used if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, so let your doctor know if either of these applies to you.

Also, kids under 8 years old shouldn't use minocycline, although some sources recommend waiting until after age 10 or even age 12. Talk to your doctor to find out what's right in your case (or your child's).

Dosage

A common starting dosage is 50 to 100 milligrams (mg), one or two times a day. You'll slowly taper off minocycline treatment once acne is under control. At this point, acne can often be kept in check by topical treatments alone. Sometimes, though, oral antibiotics have to be taken long-term to keep acne from returning.

Although it's recommended to be taken on an empty stomach, minocycline can be taken with food. Unlike some other oral antibiotics, minocycline is absorbed really well, even with food. Not having to take it on an empty stomach is a big plus, especially for teenage boys.

Tips for Using Minocycline

Follow this advice:

  • Try to take your medication at about the same times every day. It helps it work better when there is a constant amount in your bloodstream.
  • Take the entire course, even if your skin is looking better.
  • Don't lie down immediately after taking minocycline. Otherwise, it can irritate the esophagus, which is really painful.
  • Give it time. It won't happen instantaneously, but gradually you'll notice less redness and fewer breakouts altogether.

Side Effects

Side effects can happen, although for most people they aren't too uncomfortable. Just make sure to check in with your doctor if you notice any. Some of the more common side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness

A blueish discoloration of the gums and mouth can also happen with minocycline use. It generally occurs only with long-term use and it is reversible. Tooth discoloration (again, of bluish nature) can happen too. It's extremely unusual, but this one can be permanent.

Very rarely, taking minocycline can cause drug-induced lupus. Again, this is very rare and it usually goes away after stopping treatment.

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