September 5


Bye Bye Antidepressant Acne: Your Ultimate Guide to Treating the Unwanted Side Effect

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages and can be caused by various factors. One of the lesser-known causes of this skin issue is the use of antidepressants.

While antidepressants can be incredibly beneficial for many people, they can also cause unwanted side effects, including acne. Understanding the link between antidepressants and acne and how to treat it can help those struggling with this frustrating condition.

Acne caused by this type of meds can be challenging to treat, as it often requires a multifaceted approach. Professional topical and chemical peels can be effective, but lifestyle changes and home remedies can also significantly manage symptoms.

Dietary considerations and emerging treatments such as light therapy and probiotics may offer relief. Exploring the various treatment options available, those struggling with this skin issue caused by prescribed meds for mental health can find a solution that works for them.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Acne and Antidepressants

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, forming pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. While there are many causes, one lesser-known culprit is the use of antidepressants.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), are commonly prescribed medications that work by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. However, these drugs can also affect other parts of the body, including the skin.

One way they can cause acne is by increasing the production of sebum, an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin. This excess sebum can clog pores and lead to the formation of pimples. Some prescribed meds can cause changes in serotonin levels, which can also contribute to the development of acne.

If you are experiencing a skin condition as a side effect of antidepressants, talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your medication or prescribe a topical treatment to help manage your symptoms. In some cases, switching to a different type of medicine may also be an option.

Symptoms of Acne Caused by Antidepressants

Acne caused by antidepressants can manifest in various ways, including redness, whiteheads, blackheads, inflammation, and scarring. The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the individual and their medication. Some people may experience mild acne, while others may develop severe and painful breakouts.


Redness is a common symptom that occurs when the skin becomes inflamed due to the clogging of pores. This can lead to the formation of white and blackheads, which are small bumps on the skin’s surface.

Inflammation is another symptom that can cause the skin to become swollen, red, and painful. In some cases, the inflammation can be severe enough to cause scarring.

Whiteheads and blackheads are also common symptoms. Whiteheads occur when the pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, while blackheads occur when the clogged pores are exposed to air and turn black.

Scarring is a less common symptom that can occur when it is severe and not treated properly. Scarring can be permanent and can affect the appearance of the skin.

The Link Between Mental Health and Acne

Research has shown a strong correlation between anxiety, depression, stress, and acne development.

For those with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, managing these conditions can take a toll on the body. This stress can lead to increased oil production in the skin, which can clog pores and lead to this skin problem. Medications used to treat mental health conditions such as major depression, social phobia, and OCD can also cause this skin condition as a side effect.

Not everyone with a mental health condition will experience this skin issue, and not everyone with this skin issue has a mental health condition. However, if you are experiencing both, it’s worth considering the link between them and discussing it with your healthcare provider.

There are also steps you can take to manage this specific skin issue. This may include adopting a gentle skincare routine, avoiding harsh products that can irritate the skin, and making dietary changes to reduce inflammation in the body.

How Antidepressants Can Cause Acne

Specific prescriptions can cause an increase in hormones, such as cortisol, which can lead to a rise in oil production in the skin. This excess oil can clog pores and lead to the formation of acne.

Some can cause a buildup of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, clogging pores and leading to this specific skin problem.

Professional Treatments for Acne

If over-the-counter treatments and lifestyle changes haven’t improved your skin, it may be time to seek professional help. Dermatologists are experts who can provide a range of treatments, including prescription medications and procedures.

One common prescription medication is topical retinoids, which can unclog pores and reduce inflammation. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce bacteria and inflammation. In severe cases, isotretinoin (Accutane) may be prescribed, but this has potential side effects and requires careful monitoring.

Dermatologists can do procedures that include chemical peels, laser therapy, and extractions. Chemical peels use acids to remove the top layer of skin, while laser therapy can target and destroy acne-causing bacteria. Extractions involve eliminating blackheads and whiteheads manually.

In some cases, therapy may also be recommended to address the underlying emotional factors contributing to the specific skin issue. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychodermatology, which involves a dermatologist and mental health professional collaboration.

Medications Used in Treating Acne

Most commonly used are antibiotics, tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, isotretinoin, retinoids, sulfur, adapalene, azelaic acid, oral meds, and corticosteroids.

Topical treatments such as tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid are often recommended for mild to moderate acne. They work by unclogging pores, reducing inflammation, and preventing the formation of new acne. Oral meds such as antibiotics, isotretinoin, and corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe skin disease.

Retinoids, such as adapalene, can be used to treat both the skin problem and signs of aging. They work by increasing cell turnover, which can help unclog pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Sulfur works by reducing inflammation and killing bacteria on the skin’s surface. Azelaic acid is another one that can be used to treat this specific skin condition. It works by reducing keratin production, which can help unclog pores and reduce the formation of new acne.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Some lifestyle changes and home remedies can help. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Diet: Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help improve your skin’s health. Avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive alcohol can also help reduce inflammation and promote clearer skin.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help improve blood flow and reduce stress, benefiting your skin. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Water: Drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin hydrated and flush out toxins. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day.
  • Meditation and Yoga: Practicing meditation and yoga can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can benefit your skin. Consider taking a class or using a guided meditation app to help you get started.
  • Relaxation Techniques: In addition to meditation and yoga, there are other relaxation techniques you can try, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or aromatherapy.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Managing stress is critical for overall health and can also help improve your skin. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor, practicing mindfulness, or finding other stress management methods.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Small changes to your daily routine can help improve your skin’s health, such as getting enough sleep, taking breaks throughout the day, and avoiding smoking,
  • Self-Care Education: Learning more about how to care for your skin and what products to use can also be helpful. Consider talking to a dermatologist or esthetician for personalized recommendations.

Dietary Considerations for Acne Treatment

Eggs and dairy products contain hormones that can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, leading to breakouts. It’s best to avoid or limit your intake of these foods.

Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the skin and can help reduce inflammation associated with acne. Foods like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and should be included in your diet.

Alcohol can dehydrate the skin, leading to dryness and irritation. It can also increase inflammation, making it worse. If you’re experiencing skin breakouts, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether.


Antioxidants are vital for healthy skin. Foods like berries, spinach, and kale are rich in antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation and prevent breakouts. Including these foods in your diet can help improve your skin’s health.

Emerging Treatments and Studies

One study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that an integrative approach that combines topical tea tree oil and oral zinc supplementation can effectively reduce the severity of the skin disease.

Tea tree oil has been found to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pimples and inflammation associated with the skin condition. Zinc, on the other hand, has been shown to regulate sebum production and reduce inflammation.

Several products can be incorporated into a treatment regimen to help manage it caused by prescribed meds for mental health. These include topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. However, these products should be used under the guidance of a dermatologist to avoid any adverse effects.


In conclusion, treating these skin issues caused by mental health meds can be a challenging task. However, it is possible to manage the condition with the right approach. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Always consult with a dermatologist before trying any new treatments.
  • Be patient with the treatment process; it may take several weeks or months to see results.
  • Consider adjusting your medication regimen with the help of your healthcare provider.
  • Maintain a healthy skincare routine, including gentle cleansing and moisturizing.
  • Avoid picking or squeezing acne lesions, as this can lead to scarring and further breakouts.

Acne caused by antidepressants is a common side effect and can be managed properly. Working with your healthcare provider and taking steps to care for your skin can minimize the impact of this condition on your daily life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent or treat acne caused by antidepressants?

You can try using topical medications like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. You can switch to a different type of meds or adjust your dosage.

What are some common acne treatments that can be used alongside antidepressants?

Common treatments that can be used alongside prescribed medications for mental health include topical medications like retinoids, antibiotics, or azelaic acid. Talking to your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment is vital.

Are there any specific skincare routines that can help with acne caused by antidepressants?

A good skincare routine includes washing your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser, using non-comedogenic moisturizers, and avoiding harsh scrubs or exfoliants. It’s also important to avoid picking or squeezing pimples.

What are some non-prescription remedies for acne caused by antidepressants?

Non-prescription remedies include over-the-counter topical medications like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and natural treatments like tea tree oil or aloe vera.

Can adjusting my antidepressant dosage help with acne breakouts?

Adjusting your dosage may help with breakouts caused by antidepressants.

What are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce acne caused by antidepressants?

Lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. Avoid touching your face or wearing tight-fitting clothing.

You might also like