How Much Does Acne Treatment Cost in 2021?
Topical acne gels and creams typically cost between $36-$336 a year; oral acne medications cost between $72.53-$1,304.09 for a normal prescription cycle and cost between $167-$2,509 for common acne procedures. There is also an additional cost for visiting the dermatologist, which on average, is around $221.
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Cost of An Acne Treatment in 2021
Acne is a skin condition that over 50 million Americans struggle with. Several different treatment routes depend on the intensity and type of acne, including gels and creams, medical procedures, and even oral medications. Acne treatments can cost up to $2,509.
Average Price of Common Acne Treatments
Type of Treatment
Average Cost Per Year
Sources: aafp.org, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, sciencedirect.com
*Per 90-179 day period (recommended time of taking oral acne medications)
Acne Gels & Creams
Topical acne treatments, such as gels and creams, are part of the solution for moderate acne in almost all patients. Many people solely rely on the use of topical medications for their treatments as well. Examples of gels and creams used include topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide. The average cost per year when utilizing this kind of acne treatment is $24-$336 but varies depending on the product being used and how successful it is.
Cost of Common Topical Treatments for Acne
Avg. Yearly Cost
Typically, gels, creams, and lotions are applied to the face twice a day after washing your face. They can be purchased over the counter, but some may require a prescription if they prove not to be strong enough. Depending on the type of insurance you have, the cost of the prescriptions may not be covered. You may experience increased sun sensitivity when using topical medications.
Oral medications are typically used in combination with topical acne treatments. Unlike gels and creams, prescription antibiotics cannot be used long-term to treat acne. The typical cycle is 90 to 179 days. Many doctors recommend taking an oral antibiotic for about 3 months and then treating acne with a topical medication. The average cost is about $72.53-1304.09. Below is a breakdown of a few common oral medications prescribed for the treatment of acne.
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Cost of Common Oral Medications for Acne Treatment
Sources: math.dartmouth.edu and MiraRX
These medications are only accessible through a prescription from your doctor. The above prices are out-of-pocket costs without insurance, but most insurance providers will cover the cost of prescription acne treatments. Typically, they will fall into one of 3 categories: antibiotics, birth control pills, or isotretinoin (commonly known as Accutane). There are side effects associated with each, and especially with isotretinoin.
There are a few procedures that can be done to help treat acne as well. They are typically performed in a dermatologist’s office and are not always covered by insurance. The cost of the procedure will come separately from the visit to the derm, which on average costs $221. Examples of procedures include chemical peels and laser therapy.
Cost of Common Procedures for Acne Treatments
Average Cost Per Treatment
Sources: plasticsurgery.org & ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
These treatments will often be performed once topical treatments and oral medications have not worked. Previous treatments may also cause acne scarring, which can be treated with any of the above procedures. Additional treatments your dermatologist may recommend are steroid injections or deep pimple extractions.
What Causes Acne and How to Prevent It
To avoid costly procedures and medications to treat acne, prevention is a great way to maintain healthy and clear skin. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in the greater Kansas City area. We spoke to him about the root causes of acne and healthy habits to maintain a clear complexion.
“Acne appears when tiny skin flakes and oil clog pores, causing the buildup of Cutibacterium acnes bacteria. Then, the skin becomes red and swollen. The swelling closes nearby pores resulting in the spreading of acne. About 8 out of 10 American teenagers suffer from acne, but with various severity. The severity of acne depends on a complex interplay of genes and the environment. We cannot do much about our genes, but at least we can control our environment.
To maintain healthy skin means keep taking care of your overall health- eat real food, drink water, sleep, and exercise. The primary step to having healthy skin is to do the best to maintain and improve your general health. That is achieved by:
- Getting a good night's sleep of about 8 hours.
- Avoiding smoking.
- Avoiding vaping and exposure to polluted air.
- Avoiding sugary and processed foods.
- Eating foods that are closest to its form that is found in nature.
- Eating more calories from vegetables and fruits than from meats.
- Drinking much more water than any other liquid.
- Exercising at least 4 times a week.
The next important step in keeping skin healthy is to use a gentler and consistent skincare regimen. The cornerstone of every skincare regimen is twice daily, gentle skin cleansing with any mild skin cleanser. That is important because any pollutant that sticks to the skin can damage skin, cause breakouts, and age skin much faster.”
Acne Treatment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Dr.Tonkovic-Capin weighed in on some frequently asked questions about acne treatments as well.
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How do I know which acne treatment is right for me?
“If your acne is composed of blackheads and small pimples and blemishes, but without obvious scarring, then the best would be to start with over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments. I recommend those with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and adapalene as active ingredients. You will need to give OTCs a good 2-3 months of use before deciding if that works for you.
Many OTC acne treatments will cause mild to moderate and transient 1-2 -week-long skin irritation in most users, which should not be the reason to stop it. If irritation is severe and lasts more than 2 weeks, you will need to change your acne regimen. However, if you are developing deeper scars or deep-seated nodules, it is best to see your dermatologists ASAP. You certainly can continue OTCs together with prescription acne medications as long as your healthcare provider agrees.”
What are some low-cost over the counter acne treatments?
“For acne that does not cause permanent scarring, I recommend the following OTCs:
- Acne BLU pads with salicylic acid and antioxidant resveratrol because they clear and prevent acne spots and blemishes, but at the same time do not cause dryness or irritation and can be used with almost all other acne regimens.
- Clearasil pads are similar to Acne BLU pads but cheaper because they do not have resveratrol and may cause irritation.
- Differin 0.1% gel- excellent acne treatment which should be applied before sleep on dry skin. It is used as preventative treatment- i.e., it will not affect the current breakout but will prevent new ones. However, it frequently causes dryness and peeling, which can be reduced by applying non-comedogenic moisturizers.
- Creams containing benzoyl peroxide 2.5%-5 % (e.g., Neutrogena) or washes containing 10% benzoyl peroxide (e.g., Equate brand in Walmart) because no acne bacteria is resistant to benzoyl peroxide. However, it frequently causes irritation, which can lessen within 2 weeks, or you may try to reduce it by avoiding exposure to sun and ultraviolet radiation (tanning beds) and by applying non-comedogenic moisturizers.”
How long until I see results from my acne treatments?
“All acne regimens take about 2-3 months to see good but not yet perfect results, except for the most effective acne treatment, oral isotretinoin that usually shows good results in 6 weeks (it may take 5-6 months for perfect results).
Therefore, all acne treatments claiming rapid results in a few hours or days are very misleading and can severely damage the self-confidence of their users that fell for that marketing gimmick. When the users do not get the promised rapid results, they start thinking that their acne is beyond repair and start blaming themselves, causing a depressive mood.”
There are several types of treatments that are used to treat acne that range in price. Topical treatments, like gels, creams, and lotions, topical treatments typically cost $36-336 per year. Oral medications, like antibiotics, Accutane, or birth control, cost about $72.53-1304.09 per normal prescription cycle. When neither of these prove effective, procedures can be performed by the dermatologist. A typical visit to the dermatologist will cost $221, and the procedures can range from $167-2509. It's important to maintain a good skincare routine to avoid these costly treatments.
If your doctor prescribes you a topical treatment or oral medication, you may be worried about the high costs. Mira can help you out at a low cost of $45 per month. A Mira subscription gives you access to up to 80% off on over 1,000 different prescription medications. Avoid the worry and the cost; sign up for Mira today.
Talor graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health, and minors in Spanish and Diversity & Inclusion in May of 2022. She has a passion for health equity and diversity in health. In the future, Talor hopes to work in public health policy reform to help eliminate health disparities. She enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to podcasts in her free time.