Erythromycin skin solution for acne (Stiemycin)

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Use erythromycin solution twice daily, in the morning and the evening.

Apply it to all of the affected area of skin, not just to individual spots.

You may need to use the solution for 6-8 weeks before you notice the full benefit.

Type of medicineAntibacterial
Used forAcne (spots)
Also calledStiemycin®; Zineryt® (erythromycin with zinc acetate)
Available asTopical skin solution

Acne is the common cause of spots. Most people with acne are aged between 12 and 25, but some older and younger people are affected too. Small sebaceous glands lie just under your skin surface and make an oil (sebum) that keeps your skin supple and smooth. Tiny pores on your skin allow the sebum to come on to the surface of your skin. In acne, some of these pores become blocked, causing inflamed spots.

Antibiotics, like erythromycin, work by killing bacteria that can contribute to acne. They also reduce inflammation. Erythromycin usually works well to clear acne spots which are inflamed and any surrounding skin inflammation. One brand of erythromycin skin solution (Zineryt®) also contains zinc acetate. This is thought to aid skin healing.

There are also other skin preparations available which contain erythromycin and are prescribed for acne. These gels/solutions combine erythromycin with a topical retinoid agent. See separate medicine leaflets called Isotretinoin gel for acne and Tretinoin for acne for more information about these products.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using erythromycin solution it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding. (Although erythromycin is not known to be harmful to an unborn baby, you should let your doctor know if you think you are pregnant.)
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine or a skin preparation.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about erythromycin solution and how to use it.
  • Apply erythromycin solution exactly as your doctor tells you to. Wash and gently dry your skin, and then apply a thin layer of solution to the area where your spots occur. Use the solution twice a day, preferably in the morning and the evening. Wash your hands well after you have finished using it.
  • Do not use the solution on any areas of skin which are sunburnt or sore. Also, try to avoid getting it on the sensitive areas of your skin in or around your nostrils, your eyes and your mouth. If you have been using a preparation for your acne that has caused your skin to peel, allow your skin to recover for a few days before you start using the solution.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. A full course of treatment may last for 3-6 months.
  • You may have to use erythromycin solution for 6-8 weeks before you notice the full benefit. If after this time you still do not think your skin has improved, discuss it with your doctor.
  • It is recommended that you use a mild soap and lukewarm water to wash with, as very hot or cold water may worsen acne. Do not wash more than you normally do. You cannot clean off blackheads. The black tip of a blackhead is actually a skin pigment and cannot be removed by cleaning or scrubbing.
  • You may use make-up and moisturisers, but wait until your face has dried completely after using the solution, before you apply them.
  • During your treatment your doctor may ask you to use another skin preparation for a short while from time to time. It is important you follow your doctor's advice, as it will help prevent your spots from becoming resistant to treatment.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Skin irritation or itching, redness, dry skinIt may help to use a fragrance-free, water-based moisturising cream. Do not use ointments or oil-rich creams, as these may clog pores

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this preparation, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Zineryt® solution should only be used for eight weeks after it has been made up by your pharmacy. Check the expiry date on the bottle and do not use it after this date.

This preparation is for external use only. If someone swallows some of it, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This preparation is for you. Never give it to other people, even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Zineryt®; Astellas Pharma Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated January 2013.
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Stiemycin® 2.0% w/v; Stiefel, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated October 2012.
  • British National Formulary; 65th Edition (Mar 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3278 (v24)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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