Topical Clindamycin Acne Treatment

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Topical clindamycin is an antibiotic. It is used to treat inflammatory acne.

The oral form of clindamycin is also sometimes used to treat acne. It is more commonly used as a topical treatment, though.

Topical clindamycin works by reducing the number of bacteria that cause acne. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. This helps pimples become less red and swollen.

Young woman in bathroom applying face cream - stock photo

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You'll usually start seeing improvement in your skin within four to six weeks after starting this treatment.

This article looks at topical clindamycin as an acne treatment. It also discusses how to use it and what some of the side effects might be.

Topical Clindamycin Uses

Topical clindamycin can be used to treat severe acne. It can also be used to treat inflamed pimples that are stubborn but mild. It can be used in teens and adults.

Like oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics inhibit the growth of bacteria.

A chief cause of acne is the bacteria Propionibacteria acnes. Reducing this bacteria's numbers can prevent breakouts.

Clindamycin is not really effective against comedonal acne. This is the more typical kind of acne that causes blackheads and pimples that don't become inflamed. Clindamycin doesn't keep pore blockages from forming. In fact, when it's used alone, topical clindamycin isn't very effective.

Topical antibiotics alone aren't the best way to treat acne. They work slowly compared to other topical acne treatments. If you use topical clindamycin with another acne treatment, you'll boost its effectiveness.

Your dermatologist will likely prescribe another acne treatment medication to use with topical clindamycin. This might be something like benzoyl peroxide or a topical retinoid.

You will get faster results if you use two acne medications. This will also help prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria from developing.


You will have better results if you combine topical clindamycin with other medications like benzoyl peroxide.


Clindamycin is sold under different brand names. It's also known as:

  • Cleocin-T
  • ClindaMax
  • Clinda-Derm
  • Clindagel
  • ClindaReach
  • Clindets
  • Evoclin
  • Z-Clinz

Clindamycin is also used in many combination acne medications. These medications are a blend of two acne-fighting ingredients. Some of these include:


Clindamycin is available under a number of different brand names. It is also included with other medications in combination acne treatments.

How to Use Clindamycin for Acne

Topical clindamycin comes in a variety of forms. These include:

  • Lotions
  • Gels
  • Foams
  • Medicated pads called pledgets
  • Toner-like solutions

Your dermatologist will help you decide which form is right for you. The form you receive may also depend on the brand you're prescribed.

Woman applying face cream

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Different forms have different instructions for use. Most are applied once or twice a day.

Topical clindamycin is simple to use. There are a few things you can do to ensure you're getting the best possible results.

Don't just spot treat individual pimples. No matter which form you're using, apply it over the entire area affected by acne. If you break out on your face, for example, apply it to your whole face, not just to existing blemishes. If you break out on your chest, apply it to your entire chest.

Try to apply your medication at the same time every day. The time of day isn't important as long as you're consistent. If you apply your medication in the morning, do so every morning. Ideally, it should be done at the same time each day. If you're using your medication twice a day, apply your evening medication 12 hours after your morning medication.

Be consistent. Don't apply it at different times of the day or skip days. When treating acne, consistency is important. You may get new pimples during the first few weeks of treatment. Don't let this discourage you. Just keep using your treatment.


Your acne medication will work better if you are consistent about how and when you apply it. Try to put it on at the same time of day each day. Cover the whole affected area, not just individual pimples.

Side Effects of Clindamycin

All acne medications can cause side effects. The side effects of topical clindamycin aren't usually serious. The most common include:

  • Dryness
  • Flakiness
  • Minor peeling of the skin

Your medication may burn or sting slightly when you apply it. You might also have some mild skin irritation. Serious side effects from topical antibiotics are very rare. 

Most people tolerate topical clindamycin fairly well. Tell your doctor if side effects make you uncomfortable or seem excessive. Painful burning, cracking of the skin, or severe redness should be brought to your doctor's attention.

Tell your doctor at once if you have any of these very rare side effects:


Topical clindamycin is an antibiotic used to treat severe acne. It works by reducing acne-causing bacteria. It works best when combined with other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide.

Clindamycin is available under different brand names. It is also available as a combination medication. It comes in different forms such as lotions, gels, and foams.

Be consistent about when you apply your medication. Apply it to the affected area, not just individual pimples.

Side effects are usually mild. You may have dryness or flakiness. If you have more serious side effects like painful burning, headache, or stomach problems, call your doctor.

Topical clindamycin isn't the right treatment for everyone. If it doesn't work for you, don't worry. There are plenty of other acne treatment options that will help you get clearer skin. Ask your doctor to help you find the right one.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is clindamycin used for?

    Clindamycin is an antibiotic. It prevents bacteria from growing. A dermatologist or other healthcare provider may prescribe a topical clindamycin cream to help to get rid of bacteria that cause acne.

  • How long does it take for clindamycin to work?

    It can take four to six weeks for noticeable skin improvement after you start using clindamycin.

  • What are the side effects of clindamycin?

    Side effects can include:

    • Dry, flaky skin
    • Minor peeling
    • Mild skin irritation
    • Slight burning when the medication is applied

    Severe side effects are very rare. They may include:

    • Intense headache
    • Diarrhea
    • Bloody stool
    • Stomach cramps.

    If any of these occur, call your healthcare provider.

4 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. MedlinePlus. Clindamycin topical.

  2. Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et. al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

  3. Gold LS. Efficacy and tolerability to fixed-combination acne treatment in adolescents. Cutis. 2013;91(3):152-9

  4. University of Michigan Medicine. Benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin topical.

Additional Reading

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