Azithromycin for Acne

Did you know that acne vulgaris (commonly referred to as acne) is the most common skin disorder in the world? While it usually starts in adolescence (it affects an estimated 79-95% of teens), it also affects lots of adults.

People used to think that acne was caused by poor personal hygiene or eating the wrong foods. It actually involves a complicated pathway involving many biological factors.

If you are one of the many people suffering from acne, don’t give up hope!

Even though effective treatments can seem hard to come by, studies show that people have positive outcomes when using azithromycin for acne.

What is azithromycin?

Azithromycin is a prescription-grade antibiotic that works by stopping the growth of bacteria. You can buy it as a generic drug, or under its brand name Zithromax.

It is available as a tablet and as regular or extended-release liquid forms. It is also administered intravenously in hospital settings to treat systemic bacterial infections.

Dermatologists started prescribing azithromycin after bacteria were becoming resistant to another antibiotic called erythromycin. People with persistent or severe acne have achieved clearer skin by taking azithromycin.

How does azithromycin help with acne?

You may wonder how an antibiotic can be used to treat acne. It turns out that acne is worsened by a microbe (bacteria) called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). This little germ is part of your normal skin bacteria. When it overruns your healthy skin flora, it causes inflammation and gets trapped in your follicles, intensifying the pesky (and painful) eruptions we know as pimples.

Enter azithromycin.

Azithromycin fights acne in two ways:

  • It stops the growth of P. acnes.
  • It reduces inflammation.

This antibiotic can be a powerful addition to your arsenal against acne.

Are there any side effects from using azithromycin for acne?

One common side effect of azithromycin is stomach upset. As the medication kills the bacteria that cause severe acne it also kills helpful gut bacteria. The symptoms usually go away after a few days. Some studies have also shown a link between the use of azithromycin for acne and a higher incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.

Long term use of azithromycin can lead to antibiotic resistance of skin flora, however this side effect may be reduced when azithromycin is used in conjunction with other therapies such as:

  • topical benzoyl peroxide
  • other topical or oral antibiotics
  • topical or oral retinoids
  • hormonal medications

While these side effects may affect some people, you may not experience any of them. After discussing this medication with your doctor, you may decide that the benefits outweigh the possible risks.


Almost everyone will experience acne at some point in their life. Azithromycin has been shown to provide relief for sufferers of persistent or severe acne. This skin disorder is caused by many factors and sometimes requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. Although this drug has some side effects, you may only experience a few or none of them.

If other acne therapies have not given you the results you want, don’t give up hope! Talk to your doctor. Adding azithromycin to your regimen may have you smiling before you know it.