Clindamycin Cleocin Acne


The Basics

Type of Treatment: Rx MedicationAntibiotic (Oral and Topical) – Lincosamide Family

How It Works: Clindamycin is an antibiotic. Antibiotics can improve acne symptoms by limiting the growth of bacteria that contribute to Acne Vulgaris.

When is this medication used? Clindamycin is is used for the treatment of all types of acne, from very mild to severe (Acne Types: 1-4).  In cases of moderate to severe acne (Acne Types: 3-4), clindamycin is often combined with complementary treatments.

Frequency of clindamycin Resistant P. acnes Bacteria: Common. (What does this mean?)

Official Name: Clindamycin
Popular Brand Names: Cleocin, Dalacin, Duac (Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide) and Zindaclin.
Related Medications: Lincomycin, Novobiocin, Erythromycin, Azithromycin, Clarithromycin.

Important Note: The information provided on this site is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. The Science of Acne strongly encourages you to consult a qualified medical professional before making any treatment decisions. For the complete disclaimer, click here.

Clindamycin and Acne

Topical clindamycin is one of the most popular topical antibiotics for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Oral clindamycin is also available, but is not commonly used for the treatment of acne.  For individuals with macrolide-susceptible P. acnes infections, topically applied clindamycin can be an effective treatment.

Topical antibiotics are generally more effective against mild to moderate acne vulgaris (Acne Types: 1-2), and are less effective in treating severe or inflammatory acne (Acne Types: 3-4).  Topical clindamycin is often combined with additional medications (topical retinoids, oral retinoids and benzoyl peroxide) or treatments (light and laser therapy) to improve the overall outcome of treatment.  Topical clindamycin treatments tend to have few side effects and are generally well tolerated by patients.

Patient Reviews of Clindamycin

Clindamycin is one of the most commonly used medications to treat acne vulgaris.  Clindamycin is generally well reviewed by acne patients. Clindamycin can be very effective against mild to moderate acne.  However, bacterial resistance to clindamycin is common, and increasing.  Clindamycin-resistant P. acnes bacteria are involved in many cases of acne vulgaris. Topical clindamycin is generally not completely effective as monotherapy (used alone) against moderate to severe inflammatory acne.

Additional Patient Reviews of Clindamycin:, WebMD,,,,, and

Cost and Availability of Clindamycin

If possible, Clindamycin should be obtained through consultation of a physician.  Most doctors and dermatologists are comfortable with this medication and it is commonly prescribed as a topical treatment for acne vulgaris.  The use of oral clindamycin to treat acne vulgaris is less common.  Both the oral and topical forms of clindamycin are widely available in both brand name and generic formulations.  In generic form, both the topical and oral forms of clindamycin are moderately expensive.  Compound formulations that combine clindamycin with other medications are also common, but are often available only in brand name formulations.  These compound medications are often significantly more expensive than basic clindamycin.

Clindamycin Side Effects

Topical clindamycin has relatively few reported adverse effects.  Some patients may experience skin irritation or allergic reaction.  In rare cases, patients may experience severe allergic reactions.

Oral clindamycin has many of the same potential side effects as oral macrolide antibiotics, like azithromycin and clarithromycin.  The most common problems are gastro-intestinal upset.  Allergic reactions are also possible.  These reactions often include symptoms like fever, skin rash, joint pain, nausea and headaches.  The extended use of certain oral antibiotics, like clindamycin, increases patients risk of certain opportunistic infections by opportunistic pathogens, like Clostridium dificile bacteria.

For more in-depth information about potential side effects of clindamycin treatment, refer to the physician’s insert for topical clindamycin and oral clindamycin, or consult a medical professional.  For more information about contraindications in general, refer to Avoiding Negative Drug Interactions.

Clindamycin Background

Clindamycin (Cleocin) Molecule

Clindamycin is a lincosamide antibiotic that is structurally and functionally similar to the macrolide family of antibiotics (eg. erythromycin, clarithromycin, azithromycin).  The antibiotic inhibits bacterial growth by preventing susceptible bacteria from synthesizing new proteins.  Clindamycin is most effective in treating infections caused by Gram-positive bacteria and anaerobic Gram-negative bacteria.  It is active against Propionibacterium acnes, as well as many forms of Streptoccocus and Staphyloccocus bacteria.

Clindamycin is available in both oral and topical formulations.  Topical clindamycin is used to treat several types of skin infection, including acne vulgaris.  Oral clindamycin is not frequently used to many bacterial infections.  Oral clindamycin is rarely used in the treatment of acne vulgaris.  Oral clindamycin is sometimes used as a treatment for malaria (caused by a protozoa).

Bacterial resistance to clindamycin (and resistance to macrolides in general) is becoming a major problem in many parts of the world, particularly in the highly developed countries of North America and Europe.  Bacteria that are resistant to clindamycin are usually resistant to most macrolide antibiotics, and vice versa.

Additional Names for Clindamycin: Acanya (Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide), Acnestop, Aknezel, Basocin, BenzaClin (Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide), Borophen, Chlorodeoxylincomycin, Chlorolincomycin, Cindac-A, Clidacin, Clidamacin, Clidets, Clinacnyl, Clincin, Clinda-Derm, Clinda-saar, Clindac, Clindacne, Clindacin, Clindagel, Clindahexal, Clindamicin, Clindamicina, Clindamycin Hydrochloride, Clindamycin Phosphate, Clindamycine, Clindamycini, Clindamycinum, Clindamyl, Clindasol, Clindesse, Clindoxyl (Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide), Clinimycin, Cutaclin, Dalacine, Dalagis, Danatrol, Evoclin, Handaramin, Indoxyl, Klimicin, Klindamicin, Lindan, Lintacin, Midocin, Myclin, Paradis, Prolic, Sobelin, Toliken, Topicil, Velac (Clindamycin and Tretinoin), Ziana (Clindamycin and Tretinoin) and Zindacline.

Related Articles from The Science of Acne

Clindamycin User Reviews (Comprehensive)
Avoiding Negative Drug Interactions
A Guide to Buying Prescription Medications on the Internet
Prescription Medications Used in Acne Treatment
What causes acne?

References and Sources


PDR Staff Writers. 2011. 2011 Physicians’ Desk Reference
Gallagher. 2011. Antibiotics Simplified, Second Edition
Habif. 2009. Clinical Dermatology
Goodheart. 2006. Acne For Dummies
Bartlett. 2012. Johns Hopkins Antibiotics Guide 2012

Online Resources

PubMed Health – The National Institute of Health (US)
Clindamycin @ Wikipedia
Physician’s Inserts for Topical Clindamycin
Physician’s Inserts for oral Clindamycin

Scientific Research Articles

  1. Becker, et al. 1981.  Topical clindamycin therapy for acne vulgaris. A cooperative clinical study.
  2. Tucker, et al. 2006. Erythromycin 2% gel in comparison with clindamycin phosphate 1% solution in acne vulgaris.
  3. Lleyden, et al. 1987. Treatment of acne with a combination clindamycin/benzoyl peroxide gel compared with clindamycin gel, benzoyl peroxide gel and vehicle gel: Combined results of two double-blind investigations.
  4. Lookingbill, et al. 1997. A randomized, double-blind comparison of a clindamycin phosphate/benzoyl peroxide gel formulation and a matching clindamycin gel with respect to microbiologic activity and clinical efficacy in the topical treatment of acne vulgaris.
  5.  Cunliffe, et al. 2002.  A multicentre, single-blind, randomized comparison of a fixed clindamycin phosphate/tretinoin gel formulation (Velac®) applied once daily and a clindamycin lotion formulation (Dalacin T®) applied twice daily in the topical treatment of acne vulgaris.
  6. Zouboulis, et al. 2003.  Two randomized, double-blind, controlled trials of 2219 subjects to compare the combination clindamycin/tretinoin hydrogel with each agent alone and vehicle for the treatment of acne vulgaris.
  7. Leyden, et al. 2005.  An aqueous gel fixed combination of clindamycin phosphate 1.2% and benzoyl peroxide 2.5% for the once-daily treatment of moderate to severe acne vulgaris: Assessment of efficacy and safety in 2813 patients.
  8. Thiboutot, et al. 2008.  Efficacy of fixed low-dose isotretinoin (20 mg, alternate days) with topical clindamycin gel in moderately severe acne vulgaris.
  9. Sardana, et al. 2009.  Comparison of efficacy of Azithromycin vs. Clindamycin and Erythromycin in the treatment of mild to moderate acne vulgaris.