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You’ve tried over-the-counter acne treatments without success. So you went to a dermatologist, got a prescription for acne medication, and were excited to start your new treatment and finally get rid of your acne.

However, months after your initial dermatologist visit, your skin is no better than it was before. You’re annoyed with your skin, frustrated with the lack of results from prescription acne treatments, and even irritated with your dermatologist.

Why didn’t you get the desired results? What should you do if you’ve seen a dermatologist but still have acne?

It’s extremely discouraging to use acne medications prescribed by your dermatologist and still not see the results you’d hoped for. Take a few minutes to troubleshoot your treatments before completely giving up and throwing them out. You might be able to determine what isn’t working, make changes, and get your treatment back on track.

Here’s a quick list of things to check before abandoning your treatment.

1. Take an Objective Look at Your Treatment Routine

When you’re not getting the results you want, the first thing you should do is examine your treatment regimen. Have you given your medications enough time to take effect? Did you use your treatments on a regular basis? Did you use them properly?

It is critical that you take your acne medication exactly as directed. Even something as simple as forgetting about your treatments for a day or two can cause them to fail.

Reread the usage instructions to ensure you understand what to expect from your acne treatment, and contact your dermatologist’s office if you have any questions.

Once you’re confident that you’re using your medications correctly, the next step is to wait for them to take effect, which can be difficult! While prescription acne medications are more potent than over-the-counter alternatives, they do not work immediately. Many take at least three months to cause effects, so use them consistently for at least that long before concluding that they aren’t working.

2. Don’t Stop the Use of Your Treatments Until Your Dermatologist Tells You to 

When you start experiencing unwanted side effects, such as dry, peeling skin, you may be tempted to discontinue your medications. Side effects are often unavoidable, and they are an unfortunate reality of acne treatment. You just have to put up with it for a while longer and keep taking your medications. The good news is that most side effects subside after the first few weeks of treatment.

Make treatment your top priority. If you need refills, make sure you get them. If you need a new prescription, don’t put it off until you’re completely out. Instead, contact your dermatologist right away.

Because the effects of acne medications are cumulative, it is critical to use them on a regular basis.

3. Keep an Open Dialogue and Regular Visits to Your Dermatologist

Your dermatologist will most likely advise you to stick to the treatment plan. This does not necessarily imply that he is dismissing you; rather, he would like to give the treatments a little more time to work. Keep in mind that treating acne takes time. You owe it to yourself (and your dermatologist) to give those medications the time they require to be effective.

Continue to return for follow-up appointments, especially if your acne isn’t improving. If the first round of treatment fails, your dermatologist will most likely adjust your treatment and possibly prescribe a different medication or two. It may take several tries to find the right combination for you.

4. If All Else Fails, Consider Switching Dermatologists

If you’ve been diligent in using your treatments, given them plenty of time to work, and had a few candid conversations with your doctor, but you’re still no closer to clear skin, it’s time to find a new dermatologist. You might get better results if you work with someone else. This is especially true if you believe your dermatologist is not addressing your questions or concerns; there is likely someone else who will be a better fit for you.

The Bottom Line 

When you don’t see results as quickly as you’d like, it’s easy to become dejected, depressed, and discouraged. We’ve all been there, and it’s not a pleasant place to be. Just don’t give up on treatment after one bad experience.

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