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How Effective Is Ampicillin for Acne?

By Debra Barnhart
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ampicillin is usually considered effective for acne, but in most cases it isn’t given unless other treatments have failed, and even then it is typically combined with other remedies to get the best results. Like most antibiotics, ampicillin is generally administered orally. It works by targeting bacterial growth from the inside out. Persistent acne is almost always caused by bacteria, and antibiotic drugs are often one of the only effective remedies for people with really serious or wide-ranging breakouts. It can take quite awhile to become effective, however, and most care providers will also prescribe a medicated topical cream to be used at the same time. Ampicillin for acne is usually considered a rather drastic and intensive treatment, and it has a number of side effects. People usually only take it when there aren’t many other options left.

Common First-Line Treatments

Acne is an often embarrassing and sometimes serious skin problem. In most cases it happens when the body produces an overabundance of sebum, or oil, which combines with dirt and dead skin cells to clog pores, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands. Mild cases of acne are usually treated with over-the-counter cleansers and astringents first. People who don’t see any change often consult dermatologists or other health experts.

Care providers usually approach acne with as gentle an approach as possible, at least in the beginning. Skin that is already inflamed and irritated usually needs a sensitive touch. Medicated creams are a common starting place, as are medicated skin cleansers. Doctors usually only prescribe antibiotics like ampicillin for severe cases of acne when it is obvious that a bacterial infection is making the condition worse.

Introducing Ampicillin

Antibiotics work by targeting bacterial strains inside the body, then slowly but completely eradicating them. A variety of different antibiotics are prescribed for acne. In most cases care providers look for those capable of both killing bacteria and minimizing the irritating effects of overactive white blood cells that commonly cause the skin inflammation so characteristic of acne Most of the time, antibiotics like tetracycline, erythromycin, minocycline, doxycycline, and clindamycin are prescribed before ampicillian. Tetracycline and erythromycin in particular are popular, since these are often available in a topical cream form.

Ampicillin is widely seen as a powerful antibiotic, though it’s used more often to treat things like sinus, respiratory and urinary tract infections than acne outbreaks. Ampicillin can also be prescribed for more serious infections like meningitis. In order for a care provider to recommend it for acne, he or she would usually have to be convinced that other options wouldn’t work.

Importance of a Layered Approach

Oral doses of ampicillin for acne are often prescribed along with a topical antibiotic cream, and sometimes it’s given in conjunction with other more targeted drugs. Though it can be effective all on its own, by the time a nurse or physician is considering it, the patient likely needs more immediate and quick relief. Using ampicillian in conjunction with other faster-acting medications can help speed results and can ensure that the problem is cured completely.

In addition, acne on the chest and back often responds better to oral medication than to topical creams alone, so ampicillin for acne in these cases may be recommended along with a topical antibiotic cream. Patients should be aware that it can take a few months to gain the full benefits of an antibiotic treatment for severe cases of acne.

Possible Side Effects

The development of resistance to antibiotics is a recurring problem when treating acne, which is often a reason care providers are hesitant to prescribe ampicillan unless absolutely essential. The drug also comes with its own risks and side effects. People who have a known allergy to penicillin should definitely inform their physician before taking ampicillin, because this drug is a member of the penicillin family. Patients should also watch for signs of a serious allergy by taking note of symptoms like hives and rashes, shortness of breath, swelling of the mouth and tongue, and difficulty swallowing.

Other side effects of ampicillin include vaginal discharge, nausea and diarrhea. Anyone taking ampicillin for acne should report any severe side effects to a physician immediately, but in most cases should continue taking the drug unless expressly told to stop. Like most antibiotics, this drug needs its entire course in order to be effective. Stopping treatment part way through, either because of a negative reaction or because the problem seems to have resolved itself, can actually make things a lot worse.

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Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Sep 18, 2012

I was prescribed ampicillin after I developed a resistance to other antibiotics. I thought once I became an adult, I wouldn't have to worry about acne, but I started breaking out when I was in my 30's. My doctor told me that adult acne is not all that uncommon.

I was just as frustrated to deal with this acne as an adult as I was when I was a teenager. I know that many antibiotics have side effects, but I think they are worth the risk for a short time if they can clear up the acne.

I take ampicillin as needed if I break out with acne. I am thankful that it works quickly and I don't have to stay on it for a long period of time.

By golf07 — On Sep 18, 2012

@Mykol-- You are fortunate you didn't develop a yeast infection while taking this antibiotic. I can never take any kind of antibiotic for very long before I end up with one of these.

I found that ampicillin was no different than any of the others. It worked to help clear up my acne, but I had to stop taking it because of other complications.

By Mykol — On Sep 17, 2012

Ampicillin is one of those antibiotics that has been around a long time. I took this years ago when I was a teenager and had bad acne flare ups. In addition to taking the oral antibiotic, I also used an antibiotic cream.

I first started out with the cream, but that wasn't controlling the acne, so I started on the oral medication. It took a few weeks, but my acne cleared up and I remember how wonderful it felt to have clear skin again.

I took the ampicillin off and on for a period of a couple of years. Taking an oral antibiotic was really the only thing that worked for me.

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