What is topical clindamycin?

Clindamycin is an antibiotic used for treating several infections. It is effective against several types of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Propionibacterium acnes.

Why is topical clindamycin prescribed to patients?

  • Clindamycin topical (for application to the skin) is available as gels, foam, lotion, solution, and swab for treating acne.

What brand names are available for topical clindamycin?

Cleocin T, Clindagel, ClindaDerm, Clindets, and Evoclin are the brand names available for topical clindamycin phosphate in the US.

What are the side effects of topical clindamycin?

  • The most common side effects of topical clindamycin are:
    • Burning
    • Itching
    • Dryness
    • Skin redness
    • Oily skin
  • Some clindamycin topical solutions contain an alcohol base which will cause burning and irritation in the eye.
  • Possible serious side effects of clindamycin include:
  • Stomach pain and folliculitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the base of hairs) may occur during treatment with topical clindamycin.
  • Orally administered and injected clindamycin may cause severe colitis. Orally or injected clindamycin have been associated with severe colitis which may result in death. Diarrhea, colitis, and pseudomembranous colitis may begin up to several weeks after stopping oral and parenteral therapy with clindamycin.
  • Topical formulations of clindamycin may be absorbed from the skin surface, and diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and colitis (including pseudomembranous colitis) have been reported with the use of topical clindamycin.

What is the dosage for topical clindamycin?

  • A thin film of the lotion, and solution should be applied to affected areas every 12 hours.
  • A thin film of the foam should be applied to the affected areas once daily.
  • The gel may be applied once or twice daily depending on the brand.
  • The swab is used to apply a thin layer of clindamycin film to the affected area twice daily. Each swab should be used once and then discarded.

Which drugs or supplements interact with topical clindamycin?

Clindamycin given orally may act as a neuromuscular blocker. This means it can increase the action of neuromuscular blocking drugs (for example, pancuronium and vecuronium) that block the contraction of muscles. Less clindamycin is absorbed into the blood stream when given topically so the likelihood of this drug interaction is less likely.

Is topical clindamycin safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

  • The frequency of congenital abnormalities was not increased when pregnant women used clindamycin during the second and third trimesters. Clindamycin has not been properly evaluated during the first trimester of pregnancy. It should only be used during the first trimester of pregnancy if it is clearly needed.
  • Oral clindamycin is excreted in breast milk and either should not be used by nursing mothers or nursing should be stopped. It is not known whether clindamycin given topically is excreted in breast milk.

What else should I know about topical clindamycin?

What preparations of topical clindamycin are available?
  • Gel, foam, lotion, solution, swab: 1%
How should I keep topical clindamycin stored?
  • Clindamycin topical preparations should be stored at room temperature, 20 C to 25 C (68 F to 77 F).
How does topical clindamycin work?
  • Clindamycin reduces growth of bacteria by interfering with their ability to make proteins.
When was topical clindamycin approved by the FDA?
  • The FDA approved clindamycin for topical (on the skin) use in July, 1980.

Medically Reviewed on 3/27/2019


Medically reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP; Board Certified Emergency Medicine


FDA Prescribing Information