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Pharmaceutical Skin Care Products

By Rachel Nall ; Updated July 18, 2017

When your problem skin requires stronger medicine than over-the-counter treatments, prescription products can help. These medications contain ingredients or higher concentrations that are not otherwise available. Because these must be used with caution, discuss proper use and expected results with your physician.

Pharmaceutical Skin Care Benefits

In the cases of retinol, alpha hydroxy acids and bleaching creams, pharmaceutical skin care products often are stronger versions of over-the-counter products. Because the products can cause damage if used incorrectly, a physician must prescribe them to those whose skin conditions merit them. Also, prescription topical medications are regulated more strictly than over-the-counter creams and lotions, according to CNN Health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must test prescription products for safety and effectiveness. However, over-the-counter products are not always subject to the same testing levels.

Acne Therapies

Mild to severe acne that does not respond to nonprescription treatments may require pharmaceutical skin care products. Topical treatments include retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. These medications are prescribed to reduce oil in the pores that can lead to acne blemish development, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Retinoid examples include adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin. If your acne is severe, your physician may prescribe oral antibiotic medications to clear acne-causing bacteria. Examples include erythromycin and tetracycline, which includes doxycycline and minocycline.

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Wrinkle Fixes

Because medications utilized to treat acne encourage cell turnover and exfoliation, similar medications are prescribed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Examples include tretinoin cream, according to CNN Health. Because vitamin A creams contain antioxidants, the creams can fight the molecules that lead to premature wrinkling. Your physician also may prescribe alpha hydroxy acid-containing products, such as glycolic, lactic or citric acids. These may be for a one-time use, such as for an at-home glycolic chemical peel, or for daily application.

Bleaching Creams

As you age, collections of melanin pigments called age spots, melasma or sun spots begin to develop on the skin. While not medically dangerous, these spots can be a cosmetic concern. To reduce their appearance, your physician may prescribe bleaching treatments that inhibit pigment production in your cells, reducing the spots' appearance. Hydroquinone, a bleaching cream, is available in concentrations higher than 2 percent by prescription only. Other prescription bleaching treatments include kojic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin A creams, azeleic acid, ascorbic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid. Prescription creams may be a combination of these ingredients, such as hydroquinone and tretinoin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Potential Side Effects, Dos and Don'ts

Because pharmaceutical skin care products contain stronger medicine concentrations than over-the-counter products, they may cause more severe side effects. For example, vitamin A creams and bleaching creams can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, increasing the ease at which you burn. Wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher can help. Redness, flaking, irritation and peeling are often side effects of skin creams. These should, however, subside with regular application as your skin becomes more accustomed to the medication.

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