A Comprehensive Guide to Minocycline for Acne

Published July 9th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

If you suffer from acne, there is a targeted medication for treating acne–minocycline. Minocycline is a prescription drug used to treat infections by preventing bacteria from growing and spreading. We’ll discuss minocycline’s active ingredient, how the drug works, who can use it, and where you can purchase it.  

What is minocycline?

Minocycline is a tetracycline antibiotic called minocycline hydrochloride. It was originally developed to treat a range of bacterial infections like respiratory infections, infections from lice and ticks, and other infections of the skin, eyes, intestinal system, and urinary system. But now it's also used as a treatment for acne, known as acne vulgaris with an extended-release tablet. Minocycline is available in both generic form and through a variety of brand name products. 

The main benefit of minocycline is that it kills the bacteria that can lead to acne and is helpful if you have moderate to severe acne. It also helps reduce inflammation within pores on your skin. This reduction prevents inflammatory acne from developing into more serious conditions like cystic acne, a severe form of acne, or nodules, acne that resides deep under your skin. 

What does minocycline do for you? Taking minocycline can help clear up your complexion in a couple of ways by reducing swelling around infected areas such as pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. It will also help reduce inflammation on your skin caused by acne that has already been developing.

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What is minocycline’s active ingredient?

The active ingredient is called minocycline hydrochloride. This chemical compound belongs to the tetracycline class of drugs and works by killing bacteria cells within your skin pores that can cause breakouts on your face. These bacteria inhabit your pores and over time can lead to acne. 

Minocycline, and tetracycline antibiotics in general, work by blocking the synthesis of protein. This is done by inhibiting a bacteria's ability to produce proteins that are essential for their survival and growth, although minocycline is fairly specific in its target (the bacterial ribosome). Its ability to handle most strains of bacteria has allowed these drugs to be used to fight everything from acne and rosacea to anthrax and the bubonic plague. The history of widespread use does have a drawback, as many strains of bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance to the drugs so it is important to talk to your dermatologist regarding the right medication for you. 

How does minocycline work?

Acne occurs when the glands in your skin, called sebaceous glands, produce too much oil, called sebum. This excess amount of oil can clog the pores and lead to breakouts on your face or body. The bacteria, cutibacterium acnes, naturally occurs on the skin and with excessive growth, can cause and exacerbate your acne. When this occurs, doctors may prescribe a tetracycline antibiotic like minocycline or doxycycline.

Minocycline works by reducing the production of these bacteria cells which reside within your skin’s pores. By doing this, minocycline will reduce acne symptoms while also treating other bacterial infections that may occur because it is an antibiotic medication as well. 

Who can use minocycline? 

Doctors have prescribed minocycline as an acne treatment for individuals who might not respond well to other treatments. Careful consideration should be taken before using this drug–it should not be taken for more than 12 weeks due to an association with tinnitus and odd skin pigmentation. 

Minocycline can be used to treat acne with a prescription from your doctor. You should never use minocycline without first consulting your physician, as minocycline can cause serious side effects in patients that might not go away even after you stop taking it. 

Possible side effects include, but are not limited to: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Change in color of the skin, especially the skin, tongue, lips, and gums
  • Changes in your hearing (such as tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, or hearing at a lower volume) 

Minocycline can be used if you are at least 12 years of age and older with moderate to severe acne vulgaris. Allergic reactions can occur and minocycline should not be taken if you have an allergy or hypersensitivity to minocycline hydrochloride, tetracyclines in general, or any ingredient in minocycline tablets/capsules; a history of kidney disease or glaucoma, as the drug may cause increased eye pressure or affect how well your kidneys work; or liver problems such as jaundice. Taking minocycline can also result in dizziness which can be amplified by the use of alcohol or marijuana. In very severe cases, minocycline may cause drug-induced autoimmune disorders like lupus or autoimmune hepatitis. 

Studies have shown that minocycline should not be taken during the last half of pregnancy and there is inconclusive evidence of whether you should take the drug while breastfeeding. Please consult your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking this medication. If taking birth control, you should use an alternative form as minocycline can make birth control pills less effective. 

These are only some of the side effects and considerations. If you experience these or any other symptoms please do not hesitate to talk to your physician or pharmacist right away. Please seek medical help if you experience any serious adverse effects. 

What forms of minocycline for acne are available?

Minocycline is usually taken as an oral antibiotic in capsule form or as an extended-release tablet and can be taken with or without food, usually in the morning.  

For severe acne, a doctor may prescribe injections. Intramuscular injections are typically given as two doses, with each one being injected every eight hours. 

In recent years, another attractive option available for minocycline is a topical foam. The minocycline foam is topical minocycline applied to the skin and it quickly penetrates into your pores where acne resides. You put the foam on your skin about one hour before bedtime. This form of minocycline has been shown as an effective treatment for those with moderate acne who need a quick, easy-to-use solution. 

Minocycline can take up to several months before you will notice any improvements in your acne symptoms. You should continue minocycline treatment for at least eight weeks to see if it is an effective medication for you unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

It should also be noted that your doctor may ask that you use other forms of topical treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, to help fight and control your acne in conjunction with this medication to help facilitate clear skin. 

Where can I get minocycline? 

Minocycline is available by prescription only. To purchase minocycline at a pharmacy, you'll need to go into your doctor's office and ask them for a minocycline prescription after they evaluate your condition with an examination of your skin type and symptoms. You may also order minocycline from online pharmacies to be delivered to your door if you have a prescription from your doctor. Most pharmacies in the United States should have this medication available.

Summary

Minocycline is a useful drug for treating moderate to severe acne cases if you are 12 years of age and older. The active ingredient helps fight the bacteria on your skin that can cause inflammatory acne. Although not for everyone, it can be a very useful tool in your fight against acne. This medication is NOT available over-the-counter and is only available through a prescription so be sure to ask your doctor whether this medication is right for you. 

Sources: 

Drugs.com – Minocycline Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings 

Mayo Clinic – Minocycline (Intravenous Route) 

Mayo Clinic – Minocycline (foam) 

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