Doxycycline for Acne: Everything to Know

Find out if this commonly prescribed antibiotic is right for you

Doxycycline is an antibiotic that belongs to a group of antibiotics called tetracyclines. It is used for treating acne and rosacea. It is also used to treat cellulitis and skin infections.

Doxycycline is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic in pill or capsule form, and is sold under brand names including Doryx, Vibramycin, Oracea, and Adoxa. It’s also sold as generic doxycycline.

This article looks at what doxycycline can (and cannot) do, how it should be used, and what side effects you might expect while taking it.

doxycycline for acne

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Doxycycline Uses

Doxycycline is used to treat moderate to severe inflammatory acne, or mild inflammatory acne that isn’t getting better with other treatments. This type of acne happens when bacteria grow in blocked skin pores and cause a red, inflamed bump.

As an oral medication, doxycycline is a good choice if you have back or body breakouts. Some places are hard to reach to apply topical products, which go directly on the skin.

Acne isn’t an infection and it’s not contagious. The doxycycline works by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. In this case, the bacteria is called Cutibacterium acnes.

Doxycycline also calms inflammation, so it helps to improve the red or pus-filled bumps known as pustules and cysts. It is less effective in treating non-inflamed acne sores like blackheads or milia, though. You'll need a different type of acne treatment to get those blemishes under control.

Doxycycline Dosage and How to Use

You'll need a healthcare provider's prescription to take doxycycline. Doses vary from as low as 40 milligrams (mg) once a day to 100 mg twice daily.

Most likely, you’ll use doxycycline along with a topical acne medication or two, like benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids. You'll see better and faster results this way.

That's because doxycycline does a good job on inflammation and bacteria, but these aren't the only reasons for an acne breakout. Acne is also caused by excess oil forming a plug, called a comedo, in the skin pore. This plug is the beginning of every acne blemish.

Doxycycline doesn't stop these plugs from forming, but the other drugs do. Plus, using doxycycline along with a non-antibiotic topical drug helps reduce the chance of developing antibiotic resistance.

Duration of Use

Short-term use of doxycycline is the goal, which can be about three to four months. Your healthcare provider will take you off doxycycline once your skin has improved. You’ll then stay on topical treatments long-term to keep breakouts away.

Some people, though, may need to use doxycycline for longer periods of time to keep acne under control. It all depends on your situation.

1:46

Click Play to Learn More About Doxycycline Acne Treatments

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD.

Who Should Not Take Doxycycline

Doxycycline is only prescribed for some people. It's not the answer in these cases:

  • Pregnancy: Doxycycline can harm a developing fetus. There are better acne treatments for pregnant moms, so make sure you let your healthcare provider know if you’re expecting.
  • Age: Doxycycline shouldn't be used by children younger than 8 years old. That's because it can affect growth and cause permanent tooth discoloration.
  • Allergy: Doxycycline is a tetracycline antibiotic, so you can't safely use it if you're allergic to tetracyclines.

Don't worry if doxycycline isn't an option for you. There are other antibiotics to treat acne that your healthcare provider can prescribe.

Doxycycline Side Effects

Your healthcare provider or dermatologist will give you a rundown of all possible side effects when prescribing your medication, but here are some of the most common.

Upset Stomach and Diarrhea

Doxycycline can cause nausea and stomach upset. Taking the pill with food can help, but avoid dairy. It makes doxycycline less effective, so try to wait at least an hour before having any dairy products.

Dairy may also help cause acne because of hormones in milk products. One theory is that dairy foods increase inflammation in the body, leading to worse breakouts.

Indigestion and Esophagus Pain

Doxycycline can irritate your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. It may hurt to swallow, or you may have heartburn-like pain. It's best to take your pill with a big glass of water.

Also, don’t lie down for about an hour after taking it. Plan on taking your medicine well before bedtime. 

Sensitivity to Sunlight

Doxycycline can make the skin all over your body more sensitive to the sun. While you're taking doxycycline, this photosensitivity means you're more prone to sunburn.

Always wear sunscreen and reapply it often whenever you’re spending time outside. It's a good idea to wear sunscreen daily anyway, to help keep your skin healthy and protect you from skin cancer.

Doxycycline Interactions

Doxycycline can interact with certain drugs and supplements and affect how they work. This includes antacids and supplements that contain magnesium, iron, calcium, or sodium bicarbonate. Birth control pills may also not work as well when taking doxycycline.

Let your healthcare provider know about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you're taking. This can help reduce the chance of a drug interaction while taking doxycycline.

Alternative Antibiotics

If there's a chance you might have a drug interaction or contraindication, your dermatologist might prescribe an alternative antibiotic to doxycycline. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, possible antibiotics for acne include:

Your dermatologist will work with you to determine which one would work best for you.

Summary

Doxycycline is a good choice of antibiotic for treating acne and some other skin infections, but you'll likely use it in combination with other drugs. It's not for everyone, though, and may cause side effects even in people who can take it.

If you have any questions about treating your acne with doxycycline, talk to your healthcare provider or dermatologist.

A Word from Verywell

You may be using doxycycline for awhile before you start seeing results. During this time, it's normal to continue to see new breakouts. Don't let this discourage you. Try to be patient and continue using your medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is doxycycline recommended for acne?

    Doxycycline may be recommended if you have mild inflammatory acne that doesn't respond to other treatments or if you have moderate to severe inflammatory acne.

  • How effective is doxycycline for acne?

    Doxycycline has been found to be effective for moderate and severe breakouts. However, your dermatologist will likely prescribe a topical acne medicine, such as benzoyl peroxide, as well.

  • How long does it take doxycycline to work for acne?

    It may take up to three to four months to clear up your acne. Your dermatologist will schedule a follow-up appointment with you to see if it's working or if you need a different type of treatment.

  • Can you take doxycycline during pregnancy?

    Doxycycline is usually not recommended for use during pregnancy because of concerns that it will interfere with bone growth. Your healthcare provider may recommend an alternative treatment, such as erythromycin and topical acne treatment like benzoyl peroxide.

  • What's the price of doxycycline?

    It may vary depending on the pharmacy and your insurance. Typically, 100 mg of doxycycline hyclate, the generic version, costs between $8 and $13 for 20 capsules.

  • Does doxycycline cause weight gain?

    It's possible that doxycycline can cause weight gain, especially with long-term use. Studies suggest this could be due to the antibiotic's effect on gut bacteria, which affect weight control. However, more studies are needed.

Was this page helpful?
12 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. Woo YR, Lee SH, Cho SH, Lee JD, Kim HS. Characterization and analysis of the skin microbiota in rosacea: impact of systemic antibioticsJCM. 2020;9(1):185. doi: 10.3390/jcm9010185

  2. Dréno B, Pécastaings S, Corvec S, Veraldi S, Khammari A, Roques C. Cutibacterium acnes (propionibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: a brief look at the latest updatesJ Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2018;32:5-14. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15043

  3. Martins AM, Marto JM, Johnson JL, Graber EM. A review of systemic minocycline side effects and topical minocycline as a safer alternative for treating acne and rosaceaAntibiotics. 2021;10(7):757 doi: 10.3390/antibiotics10070757

  4. American Academy of Dermatology. How long can I take an antibiotic to treat my acne?

  5. Cross R, Ling C, Day NP, Mcgready R, Paris DH. Revisiting doxycycline in pregnancy and early childhood--time to rebuild its reputation? Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2016;15(3):367-82. doi:10.1517/14740338.2016.1133584

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Can the right diet get rid of acne?

  7. Velušček M, Bajrović FF, Strle F, Stupica D. Doxycycline-induced photosensitivity in patients treated for erythema migrans. BMC Infect Dis. 2018;18(1):365.  doi:10.1186/s12879-018-3270-y


  8. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Questions and answers for consumers on doxycycline.

  9. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne clinical guideline.

  10. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Doxycycline use by pregnant and lactating women.

  11. Costco Wholesale. Doxycycline hyclate (generic).

  12. Angelakis E, Million M, Kankoe S, et al. Abnormal weight gain and gut microbiota modifications are side effects of long-term doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine treatment. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 2014;58(6):3342-3347. doi:10.1128/aac.02437-14

Additional Reading