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Drug Induced Acne (Everything You Need to Know)

Acne is a skin condition many associate with their turbulent teenage years. But what happens when acne appears suddenly and you are well past adolescence?

More importantly, what if your acne results from medication for unrelated conditions? Welcome to the realm of drug-induced acne. This guide delves deep into the complexities of this condition, shedding light on the symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Drug-induced acne is a specific form of acne caused by medications and may require specialized treatment.
  • Various medications, including steroids and certain drugs used for bipolar disorder, can cause or worsen acne.
  • A well-rounded understanding of acne, its triggers, and its mimickers is crucial for effective treatment.
  • Exposed Skin Care offers comprehensive solutions for various types of acne, including drug-induced acne, and improves overall skin health.

Cut image of woman taking drug pill

Understanding Drug-Induced Acne

What Is Drug-Induced Acne?

Drug-induced acne is a skin condition that occurs as a side effect of certain medications. Unlike acne vulgaris, which is largely hormonal and occurs commonly during puberty, drug-induced acne is directly linked to the intake of specific drugs. It often comes on suddenly, appearing as acneiform eruptions on the skin.

How Is It Different from Standard Acne?

Though drug-induced acne may look similar to common acne, key differences exist. Acne vulgaris often forms from clogged follicles from dead skin cells and sebum. Drug-induced acne, however, can appear even in the absence of these factors. The primary distinguishing feature is the direct correlation with a medication.

Identifying the Culprits: Medications that Cause Acne

A wide array of medications can cause drug-induced acne. Understanding which medications you are taking can provide insight into the cause of your acne-like eruptions. Here are some medications known to cause acne:

  • Lithium: Often used to treat bipolar disorder
  • Testosterone: Hormone treatments
  • Isoniazid: An antitubercular drug
  • Halogens: Bromide and iodides
  • Anticonvulsants: Used to treat seizure disorders
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors: Used in cancer treatment
  • Steroids: Including anabolic steroids and corticosteroids

Muscular man taking steroid by injection

This is not an exhaustive list. Individuals may react differently to medications, so it is important to consider all possibilities.

Symptoms of Drug-Induced Acne

Drug-induced acne manifests as various types of skin lesions, including:

  • Papule: A small, raised bump
  • Pustule: Similar to a papule but filled with pus
  • Comedones: Blackheads and whiteheads
  • Cyst: A deep, filled, and often painful bump under the skin
  • Gram-negative folliculitis: Infection in the follicles

Symptoms can also include more severe acneiform eruptions, which are more widespread and may resemble acne but are not true acne.

Diagnosis and Dermatology

Dermatology experts often rely on patient history and physical examination to diagnose drug-induced acne. Various dermatological tests may be conducted to differentiate between acne and acneiform eruptions.

One major aspect often examined is the pattern of the lesions—drug-induced acne is often monomorphous, meaning the lesions are similar in appearance.

Mechanism: How Do Drugs Cause Acne?

Understanding the biological mechanisms behind drug-induced acne can be complex. Certain medications, such as steroids, influence hormone receptors, like the androgenic receptor, leading to increased sebum production.

Other drugs may interact with Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), thereby inflaming the skin. Some other medications could trigger a rise in hormones called androgens, which can worsen acne.

Woman with severe acne on her face

Treatment Options for Drug-Induced Acne

The treatment for drug-induced acne can be challenging, given that stopping the medication is not always an option. Here are some general treatment options to consider:

  • Topical Treatments: Retinoid creams and certain topical medications can be helpful
  • Oral Medications: Isotretinoin may be used in certain severe cases
  • Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes, simply altering diet or daily habits can help
  • Non-inflammatory Approaches: Focusing on treatments that reduce inflammation can be beneficial

It is essential to note that drug-induced acne often improves once the medication is stopped, but that is not a choice everyone has the luxury to make.

Acneiform Drug Eruption: A Special Mention

Acneiform drug eruptions resemble acne but are not the same. They are typically caused by various drugs and present as sudden onset of acne-like eruptions. However, unlike acne, these eruptions do not involve the formation of comedones, which are typical of acne vulgaris.

Does Drug-Induced Acne Scar?

Like any form of severe acne, drug-induced acne can lead to scarring. Scarring often occurs when cysts or deep lesions heal, leading to uneven skin texture.

Exposed Skin Care: A Comprehensive Solution for Managing Acne

If you're grappling with acne, whether it's common acne, steroid acne, or acne due to medications, Exposed Skin Care offers a comprehensive line of products tailored to your skin.

Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit

The benefits of Exposed Skin Care are:

  • Targeted Treatment: Our products are designed to address various forms of acne. From acne due to certain drugs to steroid acne, we have a range of treatment options.
  • Proven Efficacy: Endorsed by clinical professors of dermatology, our skincare line is backed by years of research and over 400,000 satisfied customers.
  • Natural and Scientific Ingredients: Exposed Skin Care uses a unique blend of advanced scientific ingredients and natural extracts. This ensures minimal drug reactions and cutaneous side effects on the skin.
  • Complete Skin Health: Not only are acne and acneiform eruptions treated, but the overall health of your skin is also improved. Our Derm-X cloth, for instance, promotes new skin formation by exfoliating clogged follicles.

Whether you're dealing with lithium-induced acne or worsening acne symptoms due to other factors, Exposed Skin Care offers a well-rounded solution to manage and improve your skin condition.


Understanding the complexity of acne, especially when drug-induced or influenced by other medical conditions, is crucial for effective management. These eruptions on the skin could be a cocktail of acne, acneiform eruptions, or even skin issues that merely look like acne.

With the myriad factors that can make acne worse, from medications that can cause acne to lifestyle choices, gaining control over this skin condition often requires a multi-faceted approach. The role of medication in affecting skin health is especially noteworthy.

Drugs can have various effects on the skin, causing or exacerbating conditions that require targeted treatment plans. For instance, medications can mess with the t-cell functions, contributing to more complicated dermatological issues.

While we've delved deep into the intricacies of acne and its various forms, it's important to note that there are comprehensive skincare solutions like Exposed Skin Care that can offer relief. These products focus on addressing the root causes of acne, from unclogging the follicles to providing effective treatment for medication-induced symptoms.


What is drug-induced acne? 

Drug-induced acne is a form of acne that arises due to the side effects of certain medications. It often resembles standard acne but may require different treatment approaches.

Is steroid acne the same as drug-induced acne? 

Steroid acne is a subtype of drug-induced acne, specifically caused by corticosteroid medications.

What are acneiform eruptions? 

Acneiform eruptions are skin conditions that resemble acne but are not true acne. They are often caused by medications, cosmetics, or other external factors.

What role do medications play in worsening acne? 

Certain medications can exacerbate pre-existing acne conditions or induce new forms of acne, including acneiform eruptions.

How do clogged follicles contribute to acne? 

Clogged follicles trap sebum and dead skin cells, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive and acne can develop.

Is Exposed Skin Care effective in treating acne? 

Yes, Exposed Skin Care offers a range of products that effectively treat various forms of acne, including those caused by medications.