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Cephalexin for Acne Treatment

author image J.M. Andrews
J.M. Andrews has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. She specializes in health and medical content for consumers and health professionals. Andrews' background in medicine and science has earned her credits in a wide range of online and print publications, including "Young Physicians" magazine.
Cephalexin for Acne Treatment
Some physicians prescribe cephalexin for acne. Photo Credit Teen image by anna karwowska from Fotolia.com

Physicians have used antibiotics to treat acne for more than four decades, with great success in clearing complexions in people with moderate and even severe pimples. But in some cases, the most common antibiotics no longer work well to fight acne, and doctors are forced to try alternatives. If this is the case with you, your physician may try the antibiotic cephalexin to treat your acne.


Acne develops on the skin in places where you have oil glands, such as the face, back and chest, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When these oil glands produce too much oil, the excess clogs your pores and causes pimples to form. Once these pimples form, bacteria can infect them, leading to inflammation. Antibiotics treat this bacterial infection in acne.


The antibiotic cephalexin is part of a group of prescription drugs called cephalosporin antibiotics, which physicians use to treat bacterial infection in the body, according to Drugs.com. Cephalexin doesn't kill bacteria directly. Instead, it prevents the walls of the individual bacteria from forming properly, which causes the organism to rupture and die. If your physicians prescribes cephalexin for you, you should take it exactly as prescribed and for as long as prescribed, even if your acne starts to improve. Take each dose with a full glass of water.

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Side Effects

In some people, cephalexin can cause bloody diarrhea, which can indicate a new, different infection has formed. If you get bloody diarrhea while taking the medication, call your physician. A very few people develop a severe allergic reaction to cephalexin, with hives and difficulty breathing. If this happens to you, seek help immediately. More common side effects from cephalexin during acne treatment include sore joints, some nausea and diarrhea and vaginal itching.


Although doctors tend to prefer other antibiotics for acne, medical research shows that cephalexin can effectively treat bad acne. In one study, published in the medical journal Pediatric Dermatology in 2008, physicians reviewed the cases of 93 patients who had received cephalexin for acne. They found that 4 percent of the patients saw their acne completely resolved, 45 percent had major improvement, 29 percent had some improvement, 16 percent saw no difference and 6 percent worsened. Seven percent experienced side effects from the medication.


Acne sufferers reviewing cephalexin on Acne.org's patient forums gave the antibiotic mixed reviews, with some users noting it cleared their acne but gave them side effects such as allergic reactions or yeast infections. In some cases, people with acne whose pimples had stopped responding to other, more commonly prescribed antibiotics noted that cephalexin helped them improve their complexions.

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