"Compliance:" The Biggest Mistake People with Breakouts Make and How to Avoid It

Posted on May 07, 2015 by Rachel Duran

woman buying a skincare product at a pharmacy

Rachel DuranIf you struggle with breakouts and blemishes, a visit to the dermatologist most often concludes with a treatment plan and a prescription in hand. The obvious next stop is the pharmacy. But according to a recent study, more than a quarter of patients skip picking up their meds altogether. 

Whether you use prescription drugs, over-the-counter products like our Acne Control Complex, or a combination of the two, the struggle to get people to use products consistently is old news.

"Compliance" Is Key to Clearing Skin

Acne treatments are known to test patience and require solid commitment, but it’s no surprise that effectiveness depends heavily on adherence to the prescribed routine. Using them is key, yes, but step one is getting the goods.

Researchers with JAMA Dermatology found that of the 143 acne patients they studied, 27 percent did not fill their prescriptions or pick up their over-the-counter products. Those prescribed two medications had an even higher rate of nonadherence at 40 percent. 

 Keep Your Treatment Plan Simple, Affordable

Why are so many people quitting before they start? Bruce Katz, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology and director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mount Sinai Medical Center, doesn’t find these statistics surprising.

“We see this in our practice all of the time. People forget to fill the prescriptions, or lose them, find them too expensive, or are just not that motivated to clear up their skin.” 

The research also proved that the easier the skincare regimen, the more likely people are willing to give it a shot. Topical meds were less likely to be filled than oral treatments. People were even more likely to visit the pharmacy if they received an electronic prescription versus a slip of paper.

Adherence proves to be best when only one treatment is prescribed. Being told that it's necessary to take three medications a day sounds overwhelming and for many, out of their budget.

Cost is a major factor in noncompliance. High deductibles force many to pay out of pocket and handing over cash for one med versus three is a lot easier on the wallet.

Understand What You're Getting

Dermatologists also need to do a better job at helping patients understand what each of their prescribed medications do and why they’re important. Acne is a result of so many factors and therefore it’s often recommended that patients try a multifaceted approach at treatment: from creams and toners in the morning, to washes and salves at night, knowing what goes where and why may inspire more patients to follow through.

 Smart Tips for Clear, Healthy Skin
  1. Be proactive with your acne care. Learn what each prescription and topical product does and how to use it. If you're working with a dermatologist or doctor, ask lots of questions. That's what they're there for. 
  2. Keep your treatment plan realistic. If your doctor suggests several products and you don't think you'll use them all as directed, speak up and see if she can simplify your treatment plan. If cost is a concern, mention that, too. 
  3. Seek multi-tasking products. If possible, check to see if products that combine ingredients are appropriate. Duac and epiduo, for example, combine prescription acne drugs with benzoyl peroxide. Our Acne Control Complex is an over-the counter option. By minimizing the number of products you need, you're more likely buy the products needed for your treatment plan—and you're more likely to use them. 
  4. Create a plan for using products as directed. Once you have a treatment plan, set yourself up for success. Remember, it takes time to get breakouts under control. Give some thought to when you'll use products: morning or evening? And it may take several months to work, so when you travel, stay with a significant other, or shower at the gym, make a plan to continue using your products when you're away from home.  


  • Rachel Duran is an editor at Arithmetic
  • About Us: Arithmetic is a new skincare company focused on helping adults achieve clear, healthy skin

Posted in acne control complex, compliance, consistency



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