Prescriptions for acne medications should be accompanied by the following disclaimer:  “This medication will not be effective unless applied directly to the face.”  A new study from the University of Michigan (reviewed at explains why:

The researchers found that less than 12 percent of patients were adherent to acne medications on average.

Adherence rates were linked to a patient’s age, gender, side illnesses, number of medicine refills and the number of medication classes used.

“Intuitively, we might expect a condition which has such a visible manifestation to have very high adherence to the prescribed therapy,” said Jason Poquette, BPharm, RPh, a registered pharmacist and dailyRx Contributing Expert. “This, however, did not turn out to be the case as less than 12 percent of the patient population in this study were adherent.”

In general, boys adhered more to acne medications than girls, though researchers said that the differences might vary across medicine classes and formulations.


Acne — whether very mild, moderate, or severe — should not be ignored.  A child’s passage through puberty and adolescence is hard enough, and acne (a very “public” problem) just makes it even more difficult.  Acne often affects not just the outward appearance, but also the inward self-esteem.  Teenagers may not be able to express themselves in a way that motivates their parents to seek prompt treatment.

Everyone gets some acne at this stage of life.  Having a plan to handle acne — with topical retinoid or antibiotic creams, oral antibiotics (or both), or visits to a dermatologist — and sticking to it, is so important for teens.  No one should go through their teen years distressed about their acne.