What Is Cephalexin? Can It Treat Acne?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Are you tired of searching for an effective treatment for your acne? Then your search could potentially end at cephalexin. Several skin care enthusiasts consider cephalexin to be the ultimate drug to treat and prevent acne. Many dermatologists are also prescribing cephalexin as an alternative treatment for acne. But how effective is cephalexin? How does it treat acne? Let us take a deeper look here.

What Is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin is also known as cephalosporin antibiotic. It is a broad-spectrum oral medication used for treating bacterial infections. It interacts with the synthesis of the bacterial cell walls. It causes these cell walls to rupture and ultimately kills the bacteria.

Cephalexin is available as a tablet, capsule, and oral suspension. It is usually available as a drug called Keflex.

Cephalexin is typically used to treat bacterial infections like:

  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • Bone infection
  • Skin infection
  • Urinary tract (genitourinary) infection
  • Infected post-operative wounds

Cephalexin, however, is effective only against bacterial infections and may not be effective against viral conditions like cold, flu, etc. So, can cephalexin help treat acne?

Can Cephalexin Help Treat Acne?

Cephalexin is not a novel anti-bacterial drug. Dermatologists often prescribe it for treating skin infections without resorting to surgeries. But can cephalexin be used for acne treatment?

There is a lack of significant research in this regard. But some preliminary trials shed some light.

For instance, a study published in the journal of Pediatric Dermatology analyzed 93 subjects administered with cephalexin for acne treatment. About 84% of the participants in the study had tried various oral medications previously but saw no results. After the trial period, a staggering 78% of the patients displayed at least some improvement in their condition with the use of cephalexin. However, the results in this study took about 8 to 9 months to show.

Skin experts recommend the use of cephalexin for acne treatment in the following situations:

  • When the patient is intolerant to other common antibiotics like minocycline and doxycycline.
  • For treating inflammatory acne that is marked by cysts, pustules, and red, angry bumps.
  • For those planning to start a family, as traditional drugs are often not recommended during these times.
  • Some women experience acne breakouts during pregnancy, and cephalexin could be ideal for them.
  • To treat moderate to severe acne breakouts and the subsequent scarring caused by them. Cephalexin can alleviate symptoms of acne while promoting wound healing.

Cephalexin is useful for treating acne and can be an excellent option for users who are not responding well to other medications. The drug can also effectively manage severe breakouts. In the next section, we will review how to safely use cephalexin.

How To Use Cephalexin?

You need to ingest cephalexin orally, generally after every 6 to 12 hours. The medicine may be taken with or without food. Continue the course for 7 to 14 days or as advised by your dermatologist.

In case you are using a cephalexin-based suspension, shake the bottle thoroughly before each use. Measure the dosage carefully with a measuring cup or spoon. Consume the liquid after every 6 to 12 hours. Follow these directions for 7 to 14 days or until the prescription lasts.

Special Precautions To Be Followed While Taking Cephalexin

As with any antibiotic, you need to practice care and caution while using cephalexin. Now that you know how to use the drug, follow the precautions shared below:

  • Complete your entire course as directed, even if the symptoms are alleviated. Discontinuing the medication too soon may cause the bacteria to grow back and cause a resurgence of acne.
  • Space out every dose of the antibiotic. Follow a schedule to have the medicine at the same time daily.
  • Remember that administering antibiotics when not necessary can increase your chances of contracting an infection that is antibiotic-resistant. This can eventually lead to further complications.
  • If you miss taking your cephalexin once, do not double the dose for the next schedule.
  • While obtaining your prescription, inform your physician about the vitamins, minerals, and nutritional or herbal supplements that you may be taking.
  • Inform your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to cephalexin or related drugs. Also, share details about any other allergies and chronic conditions that you may be experiencing.
  • Follow a regular diet unless your physician has specifically instructed you to change it.
  • Store the liquid medicine in the container in which it originally came. Keep it out of reach of children. Keep the lid tightly screwed and store it in the refrigerator. Store the pills at room temperature and away from excess heat or moisture.
  • The use of cephalexin for prolonged periods may cause yeast infection or thrush. Hence, consult your doctor if you notice any white patches around your mouth.
  • Cephalexin may interact with BCG or typhoid vaccinations. Avoid using cephalexin for a couple of days before and after vaccination if you plan to get vaccinated. However, there is limited information in this regard. Consult your doctor for more clarity.

It is very unlikely that you may develop any side effects to cephalexin if you follow the precautions. That said, it is important to be aware of the side effects of cephalexin.

What Are The Side Effects Of Cephalexin?

Allergies to cephalexin are extremely rare. It also does not cause any major side effects when taken as per the recommended dosage. Typical side effects of cephalexin (as per anecdotal evidence) include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Genital or rectal itching
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain

These side effects usually may subside on their own. But consult your physician if they persist. Further, discontinue the use of cephalexin and seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Watery or bloody stools
  • Fever and stomach cramps
  • Swelling of the throat, face, tongue, eyes, or lips
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Recurring fever, chills, sore throat, and other signs of infection
  • Wheezing
  • Hallucinations

It is possible to overdose on cephalexin, which may cause intense nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, red/pink/dark brown urine, and debilitating pain in the stomach. Be mindful of the dosage.

Cephalexin Vs. Doxycycline: Which Is More Effective In Treating Acne?

While cephalexin is a relatively new drug, doxycycline has been the go-to medication for a while. One may consider switching to cephalexin as it is getting popular for treating acne. But you must weigh the pros and cons of each medication before committing to any. You may consider the following factors.

  • Use And Applicability

Cephalexin is used to treat bacterial infections and as a preventive treatment for individuals without adequate wound healing capabilities. Doxycycline is also an anti-bacterial drug, but it can cover a broader list of conditions beyond acne and infections. It also may help treat conditions like anthrax, chlamydia, relapsing fever, yaws, typhoid fever, Lyme disease, and more.

  • Drug Type

While they may have the same function of killing bacteria, both the drugs perform different functions. Cephalexin belongs to the cephalosporin group of antibiotics. On the other hand, doxycycline is a tetracycline antibiotic. Consult your doctor to better understand the functions of each drug before making your choice.

  • Medication Types

While cephalexin is available as a tablet, capsule, and an oral suspension, doxycycline is available in the pill, delayed-release pill, and liquid suspension forms.

  • Dosage

While the regular dosage of cephalexin for adults is 250 mg for six hours, in severe cases, cephalexin 500 mg may be prescribed for treating acne and severe infections. Dosage for children is limited to 25 to 100 mg for every kilogram for their body weight.

The recommended dosage of doxycycline is about 100 grams twice for the first day, followed by 100 to 200 mg per day twice daily. The dosage depends on the individual’s condition. Consult your doctor for more information.

  • Side Effects

Cephalexin poses fewer side effects, which may take the form of diarrhea, vomiting, or cramping. In contrast, doxycycline may have more far-reaching effects. It may make your skin sensitive, interfere with the performance of barrier-based birth control methods, cause diarrhea to the effect of watery or bloody stools even two months after the completion of the course, and lead to teeth discoloration.

  • Drug Interactions

Cephalexin does not majorly interact with other drugs. But it can reduce the effect of typhoid and BCG options. Doxycycline, on the other hand, interacts with a variety of medicines ranging from antacids (aluminum-, calcium-, or magnesium-based), warfarin-based blood thinners, barbiturates, phenytoin, penicillin, carbamazepine, contraceptives, etc.

  • Safety During Pregnancy

Cephalexin is generally considered safe during pregnancy. However, it is secreted by the milk ducts, and hence, lactating mothers should not consume it while breastfeeding their children. Consult your doctor for more information as research is limited in this regard.

Doxycycline may have toxic effects on fetal development. It also may affect the well-being of both the mother and the child.


Cephalexin is an anti-bacterial drug whose uses for acne treatment are yet to be proven extensively through scientific research. Whatever preliminary studies are available state that cephalexin could be a promising acne treatment. Despite its many advantages, it is an antibiotic drug and the user must practice caution while consuming it. Be wary of its side effects and use it as prescribed by your dermatologist.


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  1. Oral cephalexin for acne vulgaris: clinical experience with 93 patients
  2. Cephalexin
  3. Doxycycline
  4. Cephalexin

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).