Topical therapy involves directly applying a cream or gel solution onto the skin.  Some topical medications work by killing the bacteria P.acnes, and others decrease the amount of oil produced.

Retinoids, also called tretinoin, are a type of topical therapy that decrease inflammation and promote the removal of dead skin cells.  They are applied in a very thin layer over the entire face.  A pea-sized amount is enough- using more will aggravate the skin.  Other products such as astringents or toners should not be used at the same time as retinoids.  Side effects of topical retinoids include irritation, dryness, and redness. These side effects occur mostly during the first month of treatment, and decrease with time.  Also, during the first few weeks of treatment, your acne may get worse before it gets better.

Tazorac is another topical medication used for acne.  Tazorac works by speeding up turnover of the skin so that dead skin cells are replaced faster by newer, healthier cells.  It may take 8 to 12 weeks of using Tazorac until you see optimal results.  As with other topical medications, never use more than a pea-sized amount.

Topical medications can be combined with laser therapy for faster, more dramatic improvement of acne.