Clindamycin For Acne: How To Use, Benefits, And Side Effects

Learn the best ways to use this prescription medicine for treating acne-prone skin.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Meena Konada, MBBS, DDVL Dr. Meena Konada Dr. Meena KonadaMBBS, DDVL facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
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If you have struggled with acne and used prescription medicine, chances are high that you have used clindamycin for acne at some point in time. This topical antibiotic is used as the first line of treatment for mild to moderate acne and cysts. It works topically by reducing inflammation and acne-causing bacteria and is often combined with other drugs.

Clindamycin is available in foams, gels and solutions. You can use any of them based on your preference and tolerability. This article discusses the effectiveness of clindamycin, how to use it to treat acne, and potential side effects. Keep reading!

protip_icon Did You Know?
Clindamycin was first developed in the year 1966 from lincomycin. The first people to synthesize it were Barney J. Magerlein, Fred Kagan, and Robert D. Birkenmeyer.

Benefits Of Using Clindamycin For Acne

Woman applying Clindamycin on acne
Image: Shutterstock

A 2007 study showed that clindamycin was more efficient than other topical antimicrobials like erythromycin and tetracycline in treating acne (1). Another study suggested that a nano gel emulsion made with 1% clindamycin was more effective in treating acne than other conventional gel formulations (2).

Research has also evaluated the effects of topical clindamycin hydrochloride and clindamycin phosphate (2% concentration for both) in treating acne. They were compared with two non-prescription, anti-acne hydroalcoholic products (3). After eight weeks, the clindamycin formulations proved to be better for patients with moderate to severe acne. However, the study highlights the possibility of a placebo effecti  A state where the mind convinces the body that a pseudo treatment is valuable and real and, thus, stimulates healing. in this regard.

Topical clindamycin reduces the count of bacteria, like propionibacterium acnes, in sebaceous folliclesi  Glands around the hair follicles that produce a waxy and oily substance called sebum to protect the skin’s surface. by disrupting their growth. Pairing a topical antibiotic, like clindamycin, with benzoyl peroxide reduces resistance in the bacteria. These antimicrobials suppress the growth of propionibacterium acnes that is known to cause acne (1).

Panna, a blogger, shared how she deals with oily and breakout-prone skin and her hesitation to use products that might worsen the condition. Her dermatologist recommended using a product that contained clindamycin. She writes, “It is not too thick nor too thin, it has the perfect gel-like consistency and is quickly absorbed in the skin. By far this is the best product that I have used and it has worked really well on my skin… I have been using this product for the past month, and I can see the effect myself (i).”

protip_icon Trivia
Cleocin, clinacin, dalacin are the trade names of Clindamycin.

Clindamycin is thought to show better results when used in combination with other drugs. We have discussed them below.

Combination Therapies Using Clindamycin

A combination treatment of 1.2% clindamycin phosphate paired with 3.1% benzoyl peroxide and 0.15% adapalene is fast acting and can reduce both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne in people with moderate-to-severe acne. The graph below displays the decline in inflammatory and noninflammatory lesions brought on by the topical use of this triple combination gel over a period of 12 weeks.

Least-Squares (LS) Mean Percent Reductions In A Inflammatory Lesions And B Noninflammatory Lesions

Source: Garlic alters the expression of putative virulence factor genes SIR2 and ECE1 in vulvovaginal C. albicans isolates- Scientific Reports

Clindamycin can be used differently depending on the severity of acne. However, it cannot effectively treat acne by itself. Using it with another antimicrobial treatment may bring desired results.

Variations of topical clindamycin paired with benzoyl peroxide have shown promising results in treating acne. This combination treats inflammatory and anti-inflammatory acne. A study showed that using an aqueous gel made with 1.2% of clindamycin phosphate and 3.75% of benzoyl peroxide proved effective in treating moderate to severe acne (3).

The topical application of 1 to 4% of clindamycin and erythromycin, in combination, with or without zinc, could effectively treat inflammatory acne (4). Clindamycin phosphate (1.2%), paired with 0.025% of tretinoin and applied as an aqueous gel, had also shown to be effective (5). The combination may also reduce acne lesionsi  Abnormal growths in tissue within or on the skin caused by trauma or disease that changes the appearance of the affected area. more effectively than clindamycin monotherapy (6).

Clindamycin is clearly beneficial in acne treatment. But how exactly do you use it once prescribed by your doctor?

How To Use Clindamycin For Acne

Woman pumping out foam face wash for acne
Image: Shutterstock

Be aware that some formulations like topical foams may contain alcohol that might sting or burn when applied to the skin. Wash your face and apply the foam with clean hands on all acne spots and blemishes.

As mentioned above, there are many combination therapies that a doctor might recommend for treating acne (such as pairing clindamycin with benzoyl peroxide or with a topical retinoid). The doctor may prescribe any of the combinations depending on the severity of acne breakouts.

Do not discontinue using clindamycin even if the acne starts to improve. Complete the full course as prescribed by the doctor. Once the course is completed, the doctor might ask you to stop using topical clindamycin and continue other medications.

Sometimes dermatologists prescribe oral clindamycin, an antibiotic that reduces the number of acne-causing bacteria on your skin. The dosage and duration depend on specific instructions of the healthcare provider. It is usually taken as a capsule or tablet. However, oral antibiotics are typically reserved for more severe cases of acne. They can be effective, but they also come with potential side effects. Moreover, their long-term use can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is not desirable.

As with any treatment, the possibility of side effects after using clindamycin cannot be ruled out. We discuss the potential adverse effects of clindamycin in the next section.

Side Effects

Woman scratching itchy facial skin
Image: Shutterstock

Clindamycin is considered safe. However, in some cases it may cause side effects like (4).

  • Erythemai  Mild skin redness caused by an infection or certain medicines in some parts or all over the body.
  • Peeling
  • Itching
  • Dryness
  • Burning
  • Pseudomembranous colitis (inflammation of the bowel’s inner lining)

While the safety of chronic use of clindamycin during pregnancy still needs to be determined, its short-term use is considered safe. Research shows that it can be used in combination with other medications for treating acne in pregnant or lactating women (7). Pregnant women can use topical clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide to treat mild to moderate acne. However, clindamycin gels, lotions, solutions, foams, and swabs are not recommended for use as monotherapy.

A combination of 1% clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide gel (of either 1%, 5%, 1.2%, or 2.5% concentration) may be used in patients with gastrointestinal diseases after consulting the doctor. Clindamycin may cause clostridium difficile diarrhea (colon inflammation) in such individuals.

Clindamycin may rarely cause side effects in some individuals. Hence, the doctor may prescribe alternatives like antibiotics and retinoidi  A chemical compound derived from vitamin A that is used in cosmetics because of its anti-wrinkling and anti-aging properties. creams. Keep reading.

Alternatives To Clindamycin

Woman taking antibiotic with a glass of water
Image: Shutterstock

Antibiotics are normally prescribed for treating mild to moderate acne. Topical retinoidi  A chemical compound derived from vitamin A that is used in cosmetics because of its anti-wrinkling and anti-aging properties. creams may be used for blackheads whiteheads, or pimples. Combination therapies of antibiotics and retinoidi  A chemical compound derived from vitamin A that is used in cosmetics because of its anti-wrinkling and anti-aging properties. creams may be suggested for treating moderate to severe acne breakouts.

You can also try skin peeling for acne to clear your skin as an alternative to clindamycin. Treatments like chemical peels remove dead skin, unclog pores, and reduce acne, making your skin smoother. Consult a dermatologist to find the right peel for your skin type. After the peel, remember to take care of your skin and use sun protection to get the best results.

Many home remedies are often suggested on various blogs. But they may not be as effective as medication. Certain home remedies might not work on particular skin types, and may instead cause further breakouts by accumulating sebum into the pores.

While a few over-the-counter medications can also be used, make sure to consult a doctor first.

When To See A Doctor?

Dermatologist inspecting acne on the face of a woman
Image: Shutterstock

If the existing treatment is not working or causing breakouts, the solution may lie in other treatments informed by dermatology, and you should consult a dermatologist immediately. It might be because of a bacterial infection in which the microbes may have developed antibiotic resistance.

According to the 2019 Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report by the CDC, Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterial strain that can lead to serious illnesses, including skin infections. In 2016, there were approximately 31,000 severe GBS infections, resulting in 1,700 deaths. Alarmingly, over 40% of these GBS infections were caused by strains resistant to clindamycin (43% in 2015 and 42% in 2016), which restricts the treatment options for individuals with a severe penicillin allergy.

Consult a doctor before using any creams or oral supplements to treat acne. Inform your doctor about your regular skincare routine and the frequency of your breakouts. They will accordingly suggest a plan of action.

You might notice an improvement in your skin condition once you start using the medication. Use the medication as prescribed. Do not discontinue it beforehand.

Infographic: How To Use Clindamycin To Get Relief From Acne

Whether you are a skin care newbie or a seasoned enthusiast, clindamycin is one name everyone interested in the beauty industry is familiar with. Its high efficacy in treating acne has made it quite popular. But what is the proper way to apply it to reap maximum benefits? Check out the infographic below and learn about all the right steps!

how to use clindamycin for acne (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Clindamycin is a popular antibiotic used in the treatment of mild and moderate acne. Studies show that clindamycin is more effective than tetracycline and other medications. Clindamycin reduces the growth of propionibacterium acnes, the bacterium responsible for causing acne. While clindamycin is an effective drug, it cannot treat acne on its own. Usually, doctors recommend topical cream such as benzoyl peroxide with clindamycin for acne management. Consult a doctor before using clindamycin or any other medication for treating acne as it may cause adverse effects such as peeling, erythemai  Mild skin redness caused by an infection or certain medicines in some parts or all over the body. , or itching.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take clindamycin to work for acne?

It may take 8 to 12 weeks for clindamycin to work for acne. However, you will start seeing improvement in your skin within 4 weeks.

How often should you use clindamycin for acne?

It is recommended to use topical clindamycin two times a day. You may also consult your doctor for the correct dosage.

Can I put moisturizer over clindamycin?

No, for better results, it is recommended to apply clindamycin over moisturizer.

Can I use clindamycin every day?

Yes, you must use clindamycin every day to treat acne issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Clindamycin is found in different forms: lotions, solutions, gels, and foams.
  • If clindamycin is combined with medications or therapies like benzoyl peroxide, it works as an effective treatment for acne.
  • Some side effects of clindamycin are erythemai  Mild skin redness caused by an infection or certain medicines in some parts or all over the body. , peeling, itching, dryness, burning, and pseudomembranous colitis.

Clindamycin for acne

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team


Clindamycin is an antibiotic that can be very effective in the treatment of acne. Click on this video to learn how it works and what it can do to help clear up your skin.

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References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Topical clindamycin in the management of acne vulgaris
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17931096/
  2. Clindamycin 1% Nano-emulsion Gel Formulation for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: Results of a Randomized, Active Controlled, Multicentre, Phase IV Clinical Trial
    https://www.jcdr.net/article_fulltext.asp?issn=0973-709x&year=2014&volume=8&issue=8&page=YC05&issn=0973-709x&id=4769
  3. Profile of clindamycin phosphate 1.2%/benzoyl peroxide 3.75% aqueous gel for the treatment of acne vulgaris
    https://www.dovepress.com/profile-of-clindamycin-phosphate-12benzoyl-peroxide-375-aqueous-gel-fo-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID
  4. ACNE VULGARIS TREATMENT: THE CURRENT SCENARIO
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3088940/
  5. Clindamycin Phosphate–Tretinoin Combination Gel Revisited: Status Report on a Specific Formulation Used for Acne Treatment
    https://cdn.mdedge.com/files/s3fs-public/CT099003179.PDF
  6. Topical clindamycin preparations in the treatment of acne vulgaris
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1586/edm.09.3?journalCode=ierg20&
  7. Treatment of Acne in Pregnancy
    https://www.jabfm.org/content/jabfp/29/2/254.full.pdf
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Dr. Meena Konada
Dr. Meena Konada is a board-certified dermatologist with 9 years of experience. She is a public health nutrition graduate from New Jersey, USA. She specializes in aesthetics and trichology and is a practicing consultant in one of the internationally renowned skin clinics in Hyderabad, India.

Read full bio of Dr. Meena Konada