Acne, as we’re all probably aware, is a right old pain in the butt. Acne affects people of all ages, though, teenagers tend to suffer more readily. Approximately 85% of people between 12-25 years of age develop acne. This has been shown to seriously impact the self esteem of teenagers, potentially leading to depression (1).
Its causes are wide and varied, but did you know that stress worsens or even triggers acne. According to researchers at Wake Forest University, teenagers who are under high levels of stress are 23 percent more likely to develop acne (2).
23%. More likely.
So, being a teenager causes acne and so does stress. An having acne causes depression and stress – which causes acne. Head spinning. If you’re feeling the pressure of study, exams, work, or just life; calm down to avoid potential breakouts.
But if you’re past that point. We’ve done the research for you.
Used commonly for treating acne, antibiotics can be applied topically, or consumed as capsules; reducing the amount of bacteria on the skin, and acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Topical antibiotics can cause dryness, skin irritation, and bacterial resistance to antibiotics – not overly helpful.
Oral antibiotics not only disturb gut bacteria, they also lower immunity, potentially leading to a host of other health issues. Photosensitivity can occur, making skin more sensitive to the sun; as well as gastrointestinal disturbance (3). The extended use of antibiotics for acne can again, lead to antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that causes acne (4).
Our verdict: Ok for short term ‘nip it in the bud’ type scenario; but unlikely to cause a long-term change in acne.
Known most famously as Roaccutane, Isotretinoin is a powerful drug used to treat severe acne, according to WebMd; (hyperlink @ https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/severe-acne) this medication targets your acne by stopping the production of oil and decreasing inflammation. It’s made synthetically, though naturally, found as a derivative of Vitamin A.
Side effects can range from dry flaky skin and eyes, to be as extreme as stunting of growth, depression or high-tone deafness. Note, isotretinoin must not be taken during pregnancy due to a very high risk of congenital birth abnormalities and must not be taken while breastfeeding. The risk of birth defect is so high, that blood donations by males or females on isotretinoin is strictly prohibited to avoid the possibility of it being given to a pregnant woman (5).
Our verdict: Acne will clear up, that’s a given, but the result of losing your skin’s natural oils means dry, flaky skin all over. As well as the psychological side effects. No thanks.
Anti-inflammatory steroids (cortisol) are injected to treat cysts; which generally shrink 2-5 days after the injection. As miraculous as that is, the injections can result in lipoatrophy – or what is commonly referred to as “acne scars” or skin depressions – and these can be permanent. Possible white or brown spots appearing at the site of the injection or spreading from the site of the injection, as well as the possibility of dilated blood vessels or increased hair growth (6). Great.
Our verdict: The possibly of permanent scarring is enough to turn us away.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
PDT uses light to destroy the bacteria that causes breakouts.
A topical treatment with 20% Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA) is applied to acne, left on for 15-60 minutes, this then ‘activates’ the laser, which ‘drives’ the ALA treatment into the blemish. Possible side effects may include, burning or stinging at the site of application, swelling and redness, dry and crusty skin, itchiness, peeling and blisters, and potential skin infections. Wonderful.
Our verdict: PDT leaves your skin sensitive to light for 48 hours following treatment, can leave skin red, and is a treatment only for current, existing blemishes. It is not preventative.
All in all, these treatments work short term by treating the symptoms of acne. However the side effects are so great and varied, we prefer a more natural, alternative method, and to treat acne from the root of the issue; not just the symptoms. For information on our preferred treatment, Skin Magic Tea, read this blog written by a TCM expert.
- DermNet NZ “Psychological Effects of Acne.” .
- Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. “Link Found Between Teens’ Stress Levels And Acne Severity.”
- DermNet NS “Antibiotics for Acne.”
- American Society For Microbiology. “Treating Acne With Antibiotics Leads To Resistance.”
- DermNet NZ “Isotretinoin.”
- DermNet NZ “Systemic Steroids.”
- DermNet NZ “Photodynamic Therapy.”
Yours in skin care,