Combination Treatments for Acne

Acne is caused by several different factors all coming together to create one annoying skin problem. So, it only makes sense that the best treatment plan will address each of those factors. Combination acne medications are one way to help you do just that.

Young woman applying face cream in the mirror
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What Are Combination Acne Medications?

Combination acne medications are prescription treatments that combine two acne-fighting ingredients. For example, you can get benzoyl peroxide and a topical antibiotic in one medication or tretinoin and an antibiotic.

You apply these medications topically and most come in either cream or gel form.

Although the concept itself isn’t new, combination acne medications are, relatively speaking. Dermatologists have long prescribed multiple medications for their acne patients to help them get on the fast-track to clear skin. This is called combination therapy.

All combination medications are prescription-only, so the only way to get them is from your dermatologist. And, as effective as they can be, they do take some time to work.

Expect to use your treatment for 8-12 weeks before really hoping for results. Make sure you’re using them consistently too.


A lot of people really like these types of medications because they’re very easy to use. Instead of applying several different creams to your skin, you save a step and need just one application with combo medications.

Some studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with treatment when using combo medications, most likely because they streamline acne treatment.

Another big benefit of combination acne medications is that using different acne treatment ingredients together can boost the effectiveness of each. Long term, you'll get better results—and clearer skin—when using multiple acne treatments.

To be clear, combination treatments aren't necessarily any more effective than using two separate treatments. You can get the same type of results using, for example, a benzoyl peroxide lotion plus a separate clindamycin gel. It's just the ease of use that's appealing. You get both medications with just one application.


Combination medications are great, but they don’t fit into everybody’s treatment plan. They might not be the best treatment choice for your acne. If you're interested in a combination medication, you’ll have to talk to your dermatologist and ask if they're a viable treatment option for your acne.

These types of medications work best for mild to moderate acne. They typically aren't strong enough for severe nodular breakouts or cystic acne. These types of severe acne respond best to oral medications.

Also, you pay for convenience. These medications tend to be pricier than other options, which may or may not make a difference to you, depending on insurance.

Available Combination Medications

If your dermatologist decides combination medications are the right acne treatment for you, there are lots of options available.

Benzamycin: Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient that probably doesn’t need an introduction. It’s available in so many acne medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. This medication is a blend of erythromycin (3%) and benzoyl peroxide (5%). It helps reduce the acne-causing bacteria called propionibacteria acnes, or P. acnes. This acne-fighting treatment also helps to unclog pores and dry the skin (good news if you’re super oily). Erythromycin, on the other hand, is an antibiotic that also helps kill P. acnes. It’s especially good for inflammatory acne.

Acanya: Erythromycin isn’t the only topical antibiotic that is blended with benzoyl peroxide. The combination of benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin is another option. Again, because clindamycin is an antibiotic, it helps reduce acne-causing bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide is helpful in treating inflamed pimples, as well as non-inflamed blackheads and breakouts.

Acanya isn’t the only combination medication that contains these specific ingredients. You can find the clindamycin/benzoyl combination in these medications too:

  • BenzaClin (clindamycin 1% and benzoyl peroxide 5%)
  • Duac (clindamycin 1% and benzoyl peroxide 5%)
  • Onexton (clindamycin 1.2% and benzoyl peroxide 3.75%)

Epiduo: Yes, benzoyl peroxide is a popular acne treatment. Here, it’s blended with the retinoid-like compound adapalene. You may know this acne-fighting ingredient by the brand name Differin. Adapalene is not technically a topical retinoid, but it works in the same way. Instead of killing acne-causing bacteria, adapalene helps keep pore blockages from forming in the first place. Added to benzoyl peroxide, which reduces bacteria and inflammation, you get a medication that treats several causes of acne.

Ziana: This is a combo medication that doesn’t contain benzoyl peroxide. Instead, it is a blend of clindamycin and tretinoin. So, if you're allergic to benzoyl peroxide or your skin just can't handle the ingredient, this is a combination medication option for you.

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