Is Clindamycin Right for You as an Acne Treatment?

Published July 8th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

Clindamycin is an antibiotic that was first developed in 1966. It treats bacterial infections as well as acne, also called acne vulgaris. There are a myriad of different treatment options when it comes to acne and it can be difficult to sort which ones can be the most effective. Learn more as we discuss clindamycin for acne, how clindamycin works, the different forms of treatment, and whether it is the right form of acne treatment for you. 

What is clindamycin?

Clindamycin is a type of antibiotic that belongs to the lincomycin group and has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used on everything from joint pain to strep throat and malaria. In all of these different infections, clindamycin helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria which makes it perfect for fighting acne. We will explain how inhibiting this bacteria growth can reduce your acne. 

How does clindamycin work on acne?

Clindamycin is a topical medication that fights the bacteria that cause acne. Although it can help mitigate future outbreaks, it does not unclog pores and other medications should be reviewed or discussed with your dermatologist to possibly take in conjunction with clindamycin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help lessen redness and discomfort from an acne breakout. Clindamycin works by reducing the overgrowth of bacteria called Cutibacterium acnes, (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) which causes acne. While acne itself is called acne vulgaris, the bacterium on your face that can help cause it is Cutibacterium acnes and by helping to eliminate this bacteria with an antibiotic you reduce the chance of getting acne.  

Who can take clindamycin? 

Clindamycin is a treatment for mild to moderate acne. It is only recommended for patients 12 years of age or older. Women should be aware that although taking clindamycin while pregnant or breastfeeding is viewed as generally safe, there have been some differing opinions among leading health organizations. According to the World Health Organization, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should "avoid if possible" clindamycin altogether. Other groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics classify clindamycin as compatible with breastfeeding. Clindamycin can be passed into breast milk, so you’ll want to talk with your doctor before taking this medication. 

It should be noted that clindamycin isn't always recommended as a first-line therapy option because its efficacy may wane after long-term use, which could lead to bacteria antibiotic resistance. However, clindamycin can be used when other treatments have failed or if other topical medications aren't tolerated.

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What forms are available to take for clindamycin?

Clindamycin comes in a topical solution of a lotion, gel, foam, medicated pad, or tonor solution. It can also be taken orally by pill, injected with a solution, or taken intravaginally with a cream or suppository. Topical solutions will need to be applied sparingly on affected areas of the skin once or twice daily according to instructions from your doctor. The topical antibiotic forms are the most common and popular. 

The clindamycin lotion, cream, or foam should be applied in a thin layer, and the clindamycin gel must only be used once per day as directed. The topical clindamycin medication will need to stay on your skin for an extended period of time before being washed off which could range from three hours to eight hours depending on what form you apply it with. 

What are the side effects of clindamycin?

There are a range of potential side effects for clindamycin but they are typically mild to moderate. These side effects include: 

  • Dryness of the skin or lips 
  • Rash/itching that may not be related to acne breakouts
  • Burning feeling with the use of clindamycin solutions on your face (typically goes away after one week)
  • Skin peeling
  • Redness 
  • Oily skin
  • Diarrhea 
  • Hair loss  

One of the more serious side effects is Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff,  which is a bacteria that grows in the intestinal lining producing inflammation.

The most common side effect of antibiotic use is diarrhea and colitis, which can lead to C. diff. Colitis and diarrhea are not common with use of the topical solution and typically seen using the oral medication. Some individuals do report some abdominal disturbances with topical use, although this is not typical. 

If clindamycin use is discontinued, acne may come back.

Should I take other medicines with clindamycin?

When taking clindamycin along with other medications you should be aware that it can increase the effects of some antibiotics and decrease how quickly others are broken down in your body so they may last longer than expected. 

If you are taking clindamycin, you may also desire to take other medications like birth control pills, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, HIV antiretroviral therapy medicines, seizure medicines (e.g., phenobarbital), blood thinner medicines (e.g., warfarin), or chemotherapy drugs but should be advised against it because clindamycin can react with some of these drugs in a negative way. You'll need to wait until you finish treatment with clindamycin before you can resume taking these medications. Always tell your doctor or dermatologist any other medications you are taking to avoid these possible adverse effects from drug combinations.

That being said, it is common to use clindamycin with other over-the-counter medicines like benzoyl peroxide or prescribed medications like erythromycin. Please discuss these further treatment options and if you plan to use other skin products with your doctor. 

Where can I get clindamycin?

Clindamycin is only available through a prescription in the United States. You can schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss treatments for your acne or use one of our sites below to see if you are eligible to receive clindamycin through a certified doctor's prescription directly to your mailbox. 

All the websites we list below offer a way to meet a medical professional online and discuss your condition with them. Should you be eligible for treatment, you will then be offered a way to order clindamycin (and other acne or skincare products, both over-the-counter and prescription if eligible) via their website. Each online retailer offers the convenience of getting the prescription from your couch along with discreet shipping right to your front door. It couldn't be any easier so check them out below!

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Clindamycin is one of the most popular prescriptions for acne today but is only available through a prescription. We hope by researching information regarding its use and possible side effects that you have discovered whether it is worth talking to your pharmacist or dermatologist about it. If you do believe you should be taking it, we offer a safe, discreet way to get a prescription and have it arrive at your door. 

Remember, when you obtain a prescription (or any prescription, not just clindamycin) from your doctor, you can also check to see if you are eligible for up to 80% off the retail value of your medications. It's as easy as uploading the coupon to your phone and having the pharmacist swipe it at any of our 33,000+ participating pharmacies nationwide!


Clindamycin - MayoClinic

Clindamycin - RxList

Breastfeeding and maternal medication - World Health Organization

The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals into Human Milk

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