Can Using Systemic Antibiotics for Treating Acne Endanger Your Health?
majority of people at some point in their lives experience acne. Acne is not confined to puberty or teenagers,
but impacts adults as well. In fact, during the past decade the average age of
the acne sufferer increased by 5 years from 21 years old to 26 years old.
options vary from a wide spectrum of topical products to systemic drugs
including broad-spectrum antibiotics. Since
there is much discussion about the over-use of antibiotics and since prescribing
antibiotics for acne sufferers is quite prevailing, we decided to explore in
more details and in a more friendly way the rationale for the use of systemic
antibiotics and the potential perils associated with wide spread use of these compounds
In order to understand the rationale for the use
and usefulness of different acne products to actually help the acne problem, a
better understanding of what causes acne is in order.
Although the clinical manifestation of acne is
quite simple, acne is actually a rather complex disease and cannot be
attributed to a single factor. What is
driving the formation of pimples is more complicated than the physical symptoms
that appear on the skin. The common
denominator in all cases of acne is the over production of sebum by the
sebaceous glands, which can lead to clogged pores. As dead skin cells
accumulate within these pores, an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria
is generated, often resulting in acne symptoms such as pimples, pustules and
The cause of this over secretion of sebum, an
oily substance, varies considerably from person to person. For instance, for women with overactive
adrenal glands, the cause of their acne can be linked to the elevated levels of
testosterone (an androgen) found in the bloodstream. Adolescents undergoing a
growth spurt have very high hormonal levels, as do menstruating women. For some, genetic variation is a large
contributing factor. If parents had acne,
it is likely their children will also have acne. There is simply no single
component to easily label the definitive cause of all acne, however, again, one
common denominator is the over production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Once pores are clogged and bacteria is
growing, this stage may represent a time when antibiotics may be helpful in
treating existing pimples but certainly has no impact on new pimples forming.
To better understand a logical approach to
treating and preventing acne, we can divide acne into several stages of
- First is the over-secretion of sebum (skin oil)
by the sebaceous glands. Under normal circumstances, sebum travels along the
hair follicle to the surface of the skin. With acne, the normal transport of
sebum out of the follicle is impeded, leading to an accumulation of the oily
substance in the pores.
- Pores in the skin become clogged with excess
sebum and dead skin cells (seen as whiteheads and blackheads.).
- Bacteria (P.acnes)
can begin to grow in these clogged pores. Excess oil, paired with dead skin
cells makes for an enriched breeding ground for bacteria.
- The body sends in white blood cells
(inflammatory cells) to kill the bacteria. Designed to fight off infection, the
immune system targets the area of the skin that is affected.
- Formation of pustules and papules with redness
surrounding the pimples. This is the physical symptom of the inflammatory acne
- Inflammation spreads outside the pore to
surrounding tissue to form cysts, the most severe form of acne. Formed under
the skin, this painful variation of acne is often the most difficult to treat.
When considering treatment options, it is important to understand what
stage of acne they impact. For certain products like the systemic
antibiotics (tetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline) along with topical
antibiotics, it is clear that they interfere with the third step which relates
to the growth of bacteria trapped in the pores. They DO NOT change the sebum production and therefore they really
address the part of the symptoms (potential inflammation resulting from the
clogging) not the original cause of acne. This also means that they need to
be most likely used for a long time – that is until such an overproduction
Unfortunately, the use of systemic antibiotics (including
some heavy lifter like Cipro) is also
associated with a growing concern of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Although the primary bacteria associated with
acne is P.acnes, the use of systemic
antibiotics can lead to the growth of other bacteria that can become antibiotic
There are additional broad-spectrum antibiotics
like erythromycin and clindamycin that are prescribed for acne, contributing to
the development of
“super bugs” that mutate and
no longer respond to standard antibiotic therapy. For individuals with severe acne
characterized by pustules and papules caused by growing bacteria, a short term use
of a systemic antibiotic might be justified, however the chronic use of antibiotics to treat acne appears to be ill
advised. The lack of rationale stems from the fact that the use of antibiotics
will not prevent new pimples from forming but rather is only effective once
acne pimples have formed. The second
reason for limiting chronic use of antibiotics is the danger of developing
antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Clearly a more rational approach to treating
acne is to prevent the over secretion of sebum and thereby prevent pores from
becoming clogged and pimples forming. The all-natural herbal ingredients present
in AcnEase help
reduce sebum production and prevent new pimples from forming. Sparse use of topicals and over the counter antibiotics,
that have antibacterial activity, represent a good combination to help with
treating existing acne pimples.
Bottom line message
is that systemic antibiotics intervene too late in the acne cascade to serve as
a reliable safe method to prevent acne from forming. A more logical
approach is to intervene earlier in the acne development process with a product
such as AcnEase that will prevent the formation of both comedones (white heads
and black heads) as well as pimples.
you been on prescriptions that just aren’t working anymore? We want to hear your story and help! Tell us in the comments.