Does citalopram cause acne? (3+ tips)

In this article, we will discuss whether citalopram causes acne, how citalopram causes acne, what research suggests, what factors contribute to citalopram-induced acne, and what to do if citalopram is causing acne.

Does citalopram cause acne?

Yes, citalopram can cause acne in some individuals; it is not a common side effect of this medication. However, some individuals have reported experiencing acne or the worsening of existing acne symptoms while taking citalopram. (1,2)

It is crucial to note that the association between citalopram and acne may vary from person to person, and not everyone who takes the medication will experience this side effect. However, changing the antidepressant is advised if you are experiencing acne. (5)

How does citalopram cause acne?

The exact mechanisms by which citalopram might contribute to acne are not fully understood. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like citalopram work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain.

While no direct evidence suggests that increased serotonin levels lead to acne, the changes in neurotransmitters and hormones may indirectly influence skin health. (2)

Citalopram-induced acne can also result from a reaction to this medication if you are allergic to it, so it is important that you change your antidepressant to another class of antidepressants, as same-class drugs may initiate the same allergic acne. (5)

What does research suggest?

Research on the specific relationship between citalopram and acne is limited, and existing studies often focus on the broader side effects of SSRIs, but there are reported cases of citalopram-induced acne, mostly in women. (2)

A comprehensive review published in the Journal of the Lancet found that while certain dermatological side effects are associated with SSRIs, acne was not among the most commonly reported issues. (3)

What is the incidence of citalopram-induced acne?

A clinical study reported 0.32% cases of acne out of 48,212 people who reported side effects from citalopram. Despite the low incidence, individual case reports and patient experiences should not be dismissed, and further research is needed to better understand any potential connections. (3)

What are the factors contributing to citalopram-induced acne?

Several factors may contribute to the development of acne in individuals taking citalopram. These factors include:

  • Individual variation: People react differently to medications. What affects one person may not affect another.
  • Hormonal changes: SSRIs can influence hormone levels, and hormonal changes are known to impact skin health, potentially leading to acne. Hyperandrogenism in females can be the cause of acne. (6)
  • Genetic predisposition: Genetic factors may affect how individuals respond to citalopram and whether they are susceptible to developing acne.
  • Interactions: Other medications like lithium may interact with citalopram, influencing the likelihood of acne development.
  • Underlying health conditions: underlying diseases can also contribute to acne. e.g., a person already suffering from anxiety has a high risk of acne development due to increased stress hormones.

What to do if citalopram is causing acne?

If an individual suspects that citalopram is causing or exacerbating acne, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to their medication regimen. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medication can have adverse effects on mental health.

A healthcare provider may consider alternative antidepressant options or adjustments to the current treatment plan based on the individual’s needs and the severity of the acne. Your doctor might advise you to adopt the following strategies to reduce acne:

Hydration: Staying hydrated is the key to healthy skin. Ensure you drink plenty of water, as dehydration can contribute to citalopram-induced acne. Also, use a good moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

Healthy diet and exercise: Avoiding oily foods can help mitigate citalopram-induced acne. Eating healthy meals and including regular exercise can help reduce acne.

Stress management: Stress management is important in treating acne as stress increases cortisol levels in the body, which can contribute to acne.

Pharmacological ways to treat acne include:

  • Topical antibiotics: Oral and topical antibiotics are used in acne treatment. Topical antibiotics include clindamycin, erythromycin, etc. Common products are Clindamycin gel, Erythromycin gel, etc. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline are prescribed to treat moderate and severe acne cases.
  • Topical retinol: Oral and topical retinol are very effective in treating acne. Topical retinol includes tretinoin, adapalene, etc. Common products are Retin-A, Differin, etc. Oral retinoid (Isotretinoin) is prescribed to treat severe cases of acne because it has the potential for serious side effects.
  • Topical benzoyl peroxide: Benzyl peroxide has antibiotic properties and helps reduce inflammatory acne. Common products include PanOxyl.
  • Hormonal therapy: Oral contraceptives containing ethinyl estradiol and progestin can help treat acne that occurs due to hormonal fluctuations. Common products include Yaz, Estrostep, etc. (4,7)

Non-pharmacological ways to treat acne include:

  • Tea tree oil: It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It treats acne when diluted with nine parts of carrier oils. If you have sensitive skin, use it with caution.
  • Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids are chemical exfoliants used to treat and prevent acne by promoting cell turnover. e.g., glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. (7)

If you have severe or persistent acne, consult a dermatologist before starting any pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment. They can assess the specific type and severity of acne, consider individual factors, and tailor a treatment plan that is safe and effective.

Proper skin care practices, including gentle cleansing and moisturizing, are essential for acne management.

According to my knowledge, there is no definitive evidence proving a direct link between citalopram and acne. Monitoring skin changes and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers is essential for managing mental health and potential side effects.

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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Johns Creek (GA): Ebix, Inc., A.D.A.M.; c1997-2020. Acne; [updated 2019 Jul 31; reviewed 2019 Apr 16; cited 2020 Aug 30]; [about 4 p.]. Available from:


Krasowska D, Szymanek M, Schwartz RA, Myśliński W. Cutaneous effects of the most commonly used antidepressant medication, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 May;56(5):848-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2006.10.020. Epub 2006 Dec 4. PMID: 17147971.


Beylot C. Mécanismes et causes de l’acné [Mechanisms and causes of acne]. Rev Prat. 2002 Apr 15;52(8):828-30. French. PMID: 12053788.

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