Antibiotics (topical or orally) is the first choice of dermatologists when treating acne. If the first choice does not work, more than likely, patients will be prescribed another and they are now on the “antibiotics merry-go-round”. Antibiotics are not always the best approach in treating acne because they do not address the root of the problem and they have side effects (Cooksey, 2013).
1) One of the main reasons doctors prescribe oral medications for treating acne is because acne is technically a staph infection. Doctors do not want patients to develop MRSA (which is resistant to most antibiotics).
2) Individuals have become so over-medicated with antibiotics that acne is becoming drug resistant.
3) People who use antibiotics on a regular basis are twice as likely to catch colds because they have weakened immune systems.
4) Women who are heavy users of antibiotics have problems with yeast infections and cystitis and some studies believe women may also run the risk of developing breast cancer .
Patients who are prescribed clindamycin for topical use may experience the following: diarrhea, bloody diarrhea and colitis.
Retinoids & Isotretinoin
Retin A is prescribed for many individuals, but it leaves the skin extremely dry and sensitive and many stop using the medication before it has an opportunity to be effective. It also makes the skin sun sensitive.
Isotretinoin (Accutane) which was used for many years was pulled off the market in 2009 (long overdue) because of the following side effects: Crohn’s disease, liver damage, cardiovascular injuries, muscle loss, ulcerative colitis, Pancreatitis, birth defects and immune system disorder. Patients also had to have their liver checked monthly. A person has to wait 9 months to a year before they can have some traditional skin care treatments (chemical peels or laser resurfacing), which could lead to overstripping the skin and secondary hyperpigmentation.
Alternatives to Antibiotics
1) Find a skin care therapist who specializes in working with acne.
2) Use products with mandelic (from bitter almonds), glycolic, lactic (from milk) or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide can also be used for those who do not have a sensitivity to it.
3) Get on a good skin care regime with good products. It may take 3-6 months of getting regular skin care treatments and home-maintenance before the skin is completely clear. A good at-home maintenance is critical. Consistency is key!
4) Some lifestyle changes may be necessary (nutrition, no picking, stress reduction, cosmetic use, water intake, etc.).
The skin will go through a transition as the body cleanse itself of prescription drugs (more breakouts and dryness), so be patient. The skin did not get this way over night and it will take time to get it under control.
To read more on this topic, check out the following sources:
Cooksey, L. (2013, February). Les Nouvelles Esthetiques & Spa, “Alternatives to acne prescriptions”, pp. 101-102.
Strain of Acne-Causing Bacteria Found to Actually Preserve Skin. (2013, February 28). Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/257040.php