Antibiotics for Acne? Why Not?
Reading over the questionnaires of our acne clients reveals some disturbing trends. Most have seen dermatologists and most dermatologists prescribed antibiotics as the first course of action. I have clients, previous to being treated at my clinic, who took antibiotics for years! My question to them is, if it was going to work to control your acne, don’t you think it would have worked by now? I understand the desperation of wanting clear skin and the dearth of information about getting clear skin, so I hope that this article will help those of you currently on antibiotics to consider other options.
The first thing I want to say is that antibiotics do not get your acne under control in the long term. Acne is not a bacteria problem. It is an inherited tendency of too many dead skin cells within the pores. Antibiotics do NOTHING to address this underlying cause of acne. According to Dr. James Fulton, co-developer of Retin A, even if you had an antibiotic that killed 100% of the bacteria, you would still have an acne problem. (This doctor was a dermatologist and the father of acne treatments. I studied under this wonderful man.)
So, now that you know why they don’t work, let’s also explore why it is not a good idea to take them.
MRSA. If you haven’t heard of the superbug MRSA, you need to know that this is a very dangerous type of staph infection. One main reason MRSA is so dangerous is that it is resistant to most antibiotics. Doctors run out of options for treating it and the result is death. Experts believe that MRSA evolved because of the overuse of antibiotics, and dermatologists treating acne primarily with antibiotics is a prime contributor.
Now acne bacteria is becoming drug-resistant. Resistant acne bacteria won’t kill you, but it will be much harder to control and achieve/keep clear skin.
People who use antibiotics are more than twice as likely to catch colds according to a study in the September 2005 Archives of Dermatology. The common cold is a virus not directly affected by antibiotics; but antibiotics not only attack the harmful bacteria, but also the beneficial bacteria that are part of the body’s defence system. This results in increased frequency of viral infections.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, heavy use of antibiotics may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The study looked at 10,000 women over eight years and found that those that took the highest amounts of antibiotics the longest, faced twice the risk of developing breast cancer than those that didn’t.
The results of a study published in The Lancet asserted that several prescription antibiotic regimens for facial acne vulgaris were not better than over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide.
Toxic side effects such as:
a.) recurring nausea and heartburn
b) interference with the useful bacteria in the digestive system.
c.) frequent vaginal yeast infections for women.
d.) possible permanent staining of the teeth.
The best way to treat acne is with an at-home regimen that includes the topical use of an alpha or beta hydroxy acid that is strong enough to exfoliate but not so strong as to irritate or burn the skin, and an antibacterial product that delivers oxygen into the pores. Because skin types and conditions vary greatly, different topical products need to be tested on the individual to check for sensitivity and efficacy. Some skin types and conditions can get noticeable results in just several days and get totally clear in just a couple of weeks. Some will take several weeks and need to have their regimen changed as their skin adapts, but less than 10% of the cases are difficult to treat and may take 6 months or more to really get under control.