Acne Treatment Revolutionized by 25 Years of Research
Acne is definitely not treated the same way it was 25 years ago — or
even 10 years ago. Scientific research has greatly increased our
knowledge of how acne develops, leading to many new acne therapies
and changes in existing treatment options.
Newer products include acne treatments made for different skin types
and less-irritating topical (applied to the skin) retinoids.
Retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A. Newer topical
retinoids have dramatically changed the way acne is treated.
Twenty-five years ago, use of topical retinoids was commonly
accompanied by side effects, such as redness, stinging, and peeling.
With the advent of newer topical retinoids and patient-tailored
dosing regimens, topical retinoids are now the first-line treatment
for most patients with mild to moderately severe acne. Research
shows that topical retinoids can effectively reduce blackheads,
whiteheads, and the inflamed or red acne lesions. Early treatment
with retinoids also can reduce scarring.
When a topical retinoid is prescribed along with a topical
antimicrobial, such as benzoyl peroxide, or an oral antibiotic, such
as doxycycline, most patients’ skin clears faster and the results
last longer. This combination also allows patients to stop taking
oral antibiotics sooner and eliminates the need for long-term use of
oral antibiotics, which was common 25 years ago.
In recent years, combination treatments have become common. Most
acne treatments work on only one cause of acne. Combining two or
more medications allows the different factors causing the acne to be
attacked simultaneously. Today, dermatologists often combine
medications to give patients faster clearing and better resolution.
Another significant change made during the past 25 years has been
the acceptance of oral contraceptives as an effective form of acne
therapy for women. Today’s low-dose oral contraceptives are
generally a well-tolerated and effective way to treat acne.
Research continues to produce new acne therapies. Recently, several
light and laser therapies have been introduced. While much is still
unknown about using these therapies to treat acne, such as long-term
effects, lasers and lights are being used as an alternative
treatment when traditional methods fail.
Today, there are a number of very effective acne therapies, and
virtually every case of acne can be resolved. Sometimes the help of
a dermatologist is needed. If over-the-counter treatments have not
worked for you, be sure to see a dermatologist. Acne treatments are
definitely not what they were 25 years ago.
Harper JC. “An update on the pathogenesis and management of acne
vulgaris.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2004
content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Due to possible side
effects, over-the-counter acne medications should not be
combined unless directed by a dermatologist.