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When dealing with acne, most people hope to grow out of their awkward puberty phase of pimples at lightning speed and set themselves on the road to clear and beautiful skin. Unfortunately, not all are so lucky! Some skin types continue to have what dermatologists call acne vulgaris and can affect areas of the face, back, and chest. While there are various types of treatment, antibiotics can be an effective way to either supplement them or as a stand-alone method to help the condition. Antibiotics help internal hormonal balance as well treat skin pores dealing with the core of the problem.
Are Antibiotics Good For Acne?
Dermatologists prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to treat moderate to severe outbreak of acne vulgaris. Depending on the age, type and classification of acne antibiotics are prescribed. Mostly, antibiotics are used in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide to avoid likeliness of developing antibiotic resistance. Due to the patient’s safety, acne antibiotics is not advisable during pregnancy.
What Do Antibiotics Do?
Antibiotics treat acne by neutralizing the bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) present on the affected areas and also reduce inflammation. Depending on whether the antibiotic used is oral or topical, they can circulate through the body working internally on the sebaceous glands while regulating hormones or by tackling clogged pores, clearing them of dirt, oil and bacteria respectively.
Also Read: Best Pimple Removal Treatment
Broadly, there are two categories of antibiotics prescribed by dermatologists – oral antibiotics and topical antibiotics. Individual use of a category depends on the presence of bacteria or inflammation, although both are sometimes used in conjunction to treat more complex cases of acne.
Oral Antibiotics For Acne
Oral antibiotics (systemic) tackle the problem of acne internally by treating glands and balancing hormones while topical antibiotics (surface) permeate the epidermis and reduce inflammation and cleans the pores of the treated area. Some common antiobitics related to treatment of acne are Doxycycline, Minocycline, Spironolactone, Tretinoin, Isotretinoin, Tetracycline, Trimethroprim and Cotrimoxazole.
Things To Know
- Used for shorter periods of time to prevent the bacteria from building a resistance, the go-to choice for dermatologists is tetracycline, which may come in the form of minocycline and doxycycline. These general antibiotics treat a variety of issues but have shown more effective results with acne treatment.
- For women, acne breakouts sometimes happen due to hormonal imbalances in the body. Low doses of oral contraceptives also reduce acne due to the boost in estrogen. The aim with this form of treatment is to normalize hormonal levels to a point where the body can then take over clearing toxins.
- Anti-androgen agents for women (spironolactone) and isotretinoin are other oral methods to treat acne. While having a high effectiveness, they must be taken only under the supervision of a dermatologist due to the potential for strong side effects.
Topical Antibiotics For Acne
- Benzoyl peroxide – This is a very commonly prescribed topical antibiotic due to its success rate across skin types and for the long-term maintenance of skin. It is an antibacterial agent that is sometimes prescribed with or mixed with other antibiotics for specific treatment of acne. Common product brand names for benzoyl peroxide are Brevoxyl and Triaz.
- Salicylic Acid – Acids used for acne treatments are non-toxic, non-abrasive, and safe in the hands of an experienced dermatologist. Salicylic acid is a classic example that is used to exfoliate the skin and prevents hair follicles from being blocked. Most popular in its use in chemical peels, it has an anti-inflammatory effect while also removing the outer layer of skin at a micro level. Common product brand names for salicylic acid are Propa pH and Stridex.
- Combined with benzoyl peroxide are antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin to make effective in killing the bacteria responsible for acne and the redness or inflammation related to it.
- Retinoid medicines are very common and come in cream, gel, and lotion form. They are synthesized from vitamin A and prevent hair follicles from being blocked. Retinoid creams are used in harmony with antibiotic creams.
- Dapsone 5% gel is used in cases of inflammatory acne, which is a case-specific antibiotic cream.
Duration Of Time Of Usage
Due to the variety in acne cases, antibiotics might be prescribed for as short as a few days to weeks to even a few years. For mild and moderate cases, one can see results within 3-4 weeks and a drastic change in six weeks. Extreme cases can see progress but over a longer period of time with a combination of treatments.
Benefits And Side Effects
Antibiotics for acne, when taken under the supervision of a dermatologist, are a safe option for treatment. Essentially revolving around the principle of killing the bacteria responsible for acne and unblocking skin pores, they can effectively deal with inflammation and the spread of the same. These are also non-invasive treatments, which may be important deciding factor for some people.
As with most medication and their intensity, side effects may occur. They could include –
1) For Oral Antibiotics
– Light sensitivity
– Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, diarrhea, etc.
2) For Topical Antibiotics
– Skin irritation
– Minor discoloration
Some treatments may require specific dietary guidance for the medication to reach optimum effectiveness.
Controversies In Use Of Antibiotics For Acne
Due to its chronic nature, medication for acne treatment is sometimes prescribed over a large span of time. Being a bacterial infection, experts worry that resistance to these medications can arise making them less effective over time and potentially lead to a requirement for stronger doses. The balance between dose and side effects is always being looked into.
New and more expensive antibiotics take time to pass through quality checks with control groups and are difficult to source in many countries. The ratio of new antibiotics entering accessible markets is fairly low.
What To Expect From Your Doctor?
At the diagnosis or consultation stage, doctors will inquire about how long the condition has existed or whether a change in lifestyle has triggered a breakout. Family history in relation to acne may also be examined.
Other factors that could be discussed is medication and supplements being consumed, products being used on the affected areas prior to or during an acne condition, and if any treatment (self or by a professional) has already taken place.
For women, queries about the menstrual cycle, contraceptives, and pregnancy are common.
There is also the psychological angle that can be raised which may help with managing the stress and self-esteem issues that normally go hand-in-hand with cosmetic problems like acne.
Why Should You Take These Antibiotics After Consulting With The Doctor?
The short answer – side effects. Depending on the degree of intensity of the medication, side effects can range from none to very severe. Isotretinoin, for example, can cause serious damage to pregnancies and anyone susceptible to diabetes, asthma, liver disease, heart disease or depression.
The other cause for concern is combinations of medicines or treatments. This needs to be carefully monitored by a dermatologist as they might react with each other negatively, putting an individual in harm’s way or at the very least aggravating the acne condition.
It is important to remember that acne is not an infection and can be treated in a straightforward manner. Time is key to reviewing results and expectations should ideally be aligned with the same. Regardless of the intensity, always consult a dermatologist to prevent future issues or making acne problems worse.