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Clindamycin Gel for Acne

By Shelley Moore ; Updated December 05, 2018

Cleocin T is a topical treatment containing the antibiotic clindamycin phosphate. Cleocin T is not an over-the-counter medication, meaning you'll need a prescription to buy it. Doctors usually prescribe topical clindamycin to treat severe cases of acne. The medication can be effective, but you should be aware of possible side effects.


Clindamycin gel works by killing bacteria that cause acne, and by decreasing the amount of free fatty acids that irritate the skin. Oral clindamycin can have more powerful results, but it is also more likely to cause negative side effects. Physicians usually prefer to try topical therapy first.


To use Cleocin T, clean and dry the affected areas of your skin, then apply a thin film of medicine twice a day, or as directed by your doctor. You can expect best results if you apply the gel at the same time each day and don't miss any doses.


You may not see improvement for several weeks, and it's important to continue using the medicine and not become discouraged. Additionally, once your acne improves, you should continue to use Cleocin T until your doctor recommends stopping. If you stop applying clindamycin gel too soon, the medicine may not clear up your acne completely. The bacteria causing your acne could also become resistant to this or other medication, making it more difficult to treat in the future.

Side Effects

Cleocin T can cause skin dryness, redness, itching and stinging. Using more than prescribed will not clear up your acne sooner or more effectively. You should avoid using excessive amounts because most other possible side effects are caused by the body absorbing some of the drug. Be careful not to get clindamycin gel in skin abrasions or cuts. Side effects caused by absorption can include dizziness, headache, diarrhea, upset stomach and nausea.


Although rare, clindamycin gel can cause pseudomembranous colitis, a serious intestinal condition that requires medical attention. The condition may occur while taking the medication or even months later. Symptoms include chronic or severe diarrhea, blood or mucus in the stool and abdominal pain and cramping.

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