Why Is Everyone Talking About Winlevi For Acne?

If you've experienced acne, you're probably familiar with the host of oral medications and topical products that promise to treat breakouts. There are the more common prescription-grade options — like spironolactone, tretinoin, and isotretinoin (commonly known as Accutane) — but there is also a relatively new treatment that everyone seems to be talking about right now: Winlevi.

"Winlevi is a prescription topical cream approved to treat acne," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD, tells PS. "It is structurally in the same family as steroids, but it does not have the same steroid effects that cortisone creams have, and it also does not have those side effects."

Since Winlevi was only approved in 2020 for the treatment of acne, it's still less widely understood. Ahead, dermatologists break down everything you should know about the acne-fighting cream, including how much it costs, how it helps with acne, and potential side effects.

What Is Winlevi?

Yes, Winlevi helps to stop the development of acne, but how exactly does it work? "[Winlevi] is an antiandrogen," Dr. Zeichner says. "This means that it blocks the effects of androgen hormones on the oil glands." When it comes in contact with the skin, Winlevi blocks sebaceous-gland activity (these are tiny glands in your hair follicle that secrete sebum, or your skin's natural oil) and decreases oil production as well as inflammation that can cause acne.

As you might have gathered, this prescription acne treatment is applied topically. "It comes in the form of a moisturizing base; for most people, an additional moisturizer is not even needed," Dr. Zeichner says.

What's more, Winlevi is so highly regarded by dermatologists because of its ease of use. "Winlevi is a very important medication for acne patients because we are finally able to target oil production, which is one of the root causes of acne, with a very tolerable and easy-to-use cream," dermatologist Ted Lain, MD, FAAD, tells PS. One of the biggest barriers to results in dermatology is patients not sticking to their prescribed routines, so the cream's ease of use is one of its biggest selling points.

Winlevi Side Effects

Though Winlevi is technically similar to a steroid, it doesn't have some of the side effects that they do, like topical steroid withdrawal or rosacea. Instead, "the most commonly reported side effects [of Winlevi] in clinical trials were skin peeling, redness, and itching," Dr. Zeichner says. "However this was not common and I find the drug to be very well tolerated. As always, it's best to talk with your dermatologist if you notice any adverse reactions."

On the flip side, experts say Winlevi can safely be combined with other acne-fighting formulas. "The best way to treat acne is to combine medications that address as many of the causative factors as possible," Dr. Zeichner says. "In practice, I am combining drugs like Winlevi with other prescription medications that contain ingredients like topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, and topical benzoyl peroxide for the most efficacious results."

Winlevi Cream Price

It's important to note that Winlevi is only available via prescription from your dermatologist, and prices may vary. "When covered by insurance, Winlevi usually costs around $20, but in some cases, there are rebates that bring down the copay to zero dollars." However, if your insurance does not cover the cream, it can cost upward of $200.

Winlevi Before and After

Now that you know all there is to understand about Winlevi, if you're still on your journey with acne, make sure to mention it to your dermatologist the next time you go in for a visit.

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for POPSUGAR Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.