Antibiotics are drugs that are used to treat diseases caused by various bacteria. So, it makes sense that they would work on acne – a skin problem that’s caused by, among other things, bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes). And yet, we don’t think of antibiotics as the typical acne treatment. However, it’s 2019 and no acne treatment option surprises us anymore. Perhaps there’s a reason for that.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this unorthodox treatment among doctors and dermatologists. Some dermatologists seem to prescribe them as freely as giving out a piece of gum, and others use them as a last resort. This makes us question whether they’re really worth the effort using them as a prolonged treatment. Let’s explore this dilemma in great detail and find out.
There’s a reason why antibiotics are used more and more frequently. And that’s because they have the unique capacity for decreasing the number of bacteria in and around hair follicles. An overgrowth of P.acnes causes damage to the lining of the hair follicle. That way, all the acne-causing stuff enters the skin and causes inflammation.
Another way in which antibiotics work on acne is by reducing some of the chemicals which are made by white blood cells.
Here are the most common antibiotics which are used to treat acne.
Tetracycline is, without a doubt, the most commonly used antibiotic for acne. It’s classified as a broad spectrum antibiotic and it works by stopping the protein synthesis of acne-causing bacteria. On top of that, it also stops the metabolism of bacteria, which lowers the chances of them spreading to other areas on the face.
The usual dosage is around 500 mg twice a day, taken on an empty stomach. Once a few months of treatment have passed, the dosage is either lowered to 250 mg twice a day or the treatment is completely stopped.
However, it’s not only used for acne.tetracycline has been around for quite some time, and it’s often used to treat and stop certain infections from spreading, such as malaria and chlamydia.
When it comes to combining other drugs while being on tetracycline, there are a few things you should be aware of. Firstly, be wary of ingredients or supplements containing magnesium, iron, aluminum or zinc. There’s usually an instruction manual that comes with the antibiotics, so in order to get a more detailed description of which other oral medicine you should avoid while you’re on them, read the information carefully. Sometimes, the names of oral medicine will vary depending on where you’re from. So, in order to be on the safe side, you should always consult that manual. The best thing you could do is talk to your dermatologist about the supplements or medication which you’re currently on, and they’ll hopefully be able to advise you on whether or not you should stop using any of them.
Also known as minocin, this particular antibiotic is the second most commonly used for treating acne. It belongs to the class of antibiotics called tetracylines and it’s been used to treat this skin condition for decades. Although it can work on several types of acne, it’s mostly used to treat pustules. Your doctor will also prescribe minocycline if you haven’t had a positive reaction to other types of antibiotics.
The dosage is typically around 50 to 100 mg a day, so quite lower than tetracycline. You can take it any time of day you want, and it doesn’t have to be right after or during a meal. Other than acne, it can also treat pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use minocycline if you’re currently on Accutane since a combination of the two would lead to many serious consequences.
Erythromycin is another antibiotic that’s often used as an acne treatment. The dosage of erythromycin is similar to that of tetracycline, 250 mg to 500 mg a day, depending on the severity of your condition. Unlike the others, you can take it along with your meals.
What’s interesting to note is that it has some benefits which tetracycline lacks. Other than the ability to kill off acne-causing bacteria, erythromycin also contains some anti-inflammatory properties which really speed up the treatment and increase its effectiveness.
Often used as a final resort, this type of antibiotic is also found to be a great option for treating acne. If all else fails in terms of antibiotic types, your dermatologist will likely prescribe doxycycline to you in order to avoid further antibiotic resistance.
The dosage can vary from 50 mg to 100 mg a day, twice a day. Just like erythromycin, it should be taken with food in order to avoid some of the side-effects such as nausea.
If your doctor does decide to put you on doxycycline, pay special attention to the potential side effects because this type of antibiotics can increase your photosensitivity.
If you’re thinking about using antibiotics as a part of your treatment for acne, then you must’ve wondered about what happens to your acne once you get off them. Is it a permanent solution that makes your acne go away forever or is it just a temporary mask for a bigger problem, one that’s unsolvable by antibiotics? Let’s find out.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that anyone who’s ever had to go on strong oral medication for acne eagerly awaits for the day they’ll have to stop taking them. But what if that leads to an acne relapse?
If you do break out after going off antibiotics, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t work, it just means that you have a bigger problem that needs addressing. If you don’t do that, the acne will just keep coming back, regardless of what treatment you undergo.
One of the biggest concerns for people who go on antibiotics is probably that they might develop antibiotic resistance which will prohibit the continuation of the treatment, or, worse, dissolve any results which might have occurred.
But in order to answer this question in great detail, we must be aware of what antibiotic resistance actually is and who is prone to getting this peculiar condition.
The truth is, antibiotic resistance can affect just about anyone, regardless of their age, background and medical history. Unfortunately, it might be a bigger problem than we’d like to admit, and it’s definitely a threat and not just for people who are eager to put an end to their acne.
What are the results of antibiotic resistance, you might ask? Well, on a global level, it makes certain infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia harder to treat since the antibiotics which we’ve been using for decades are no longer as effective as they once were.
If you do decide to get on antibiotics, it’s important to choose the right doctor. A good dermatologist can make all the difference and cause you to be less susceptible to antibiotic resistance. Getting the right dosage, type and treatment plan is crucial in order to avoid any complications. Never use antibiotics without getting a prescription for them. Useless treatments are one of the biggest threats to this ever-emerging problem. It’s a fact that nowadays antibiotics are overused, so make sure you avoid that.
So, how do you prevent an antibiotics resistance from occurring when you’re taking them for your acne? There are a few guidelines that you can follow in order to minimize the chances of developing antibiotic resistance.
Firstly, always make sure that they’re prescribed by a competent professional. Don’t insist on getting on them just for the sake of it. It’s a serious treatment and it should be approached that way. Check the inspiration date and follow closely the advice that you’re given by your doctor. Also, don’t stay on antibiotics longer than you should. You can use probiotics while you’re on them so that your digestion doesn’t suffer.
Consult your doctor about any concerns that you might have regarding this problem. With the right doctor, the right approach and treatment plan, you shouldn’t worry too much about developing a resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotics for acne is one of the most popular methods of dealing with pimples, so don’t be discouraged.
Other than the pill form, antibiotics also come as a topical treatment for acne. The most popular version is topical clindamycin and erythromycin, which, in addition to killing bacteria, also have an anti-inflammatory effect. They usually come in toner form, which you use right after you wash your face and before applying moisturizer. Be careful to put it only on the affected area, since these toners can dry up your face. For best results, they’re often combined with benzoyl peroxide, which helps you to avoid getting antibiotic resistance.
Most of the time, the patients have been prescribed antibiotics that they have to take anywhere from 12-18 weeks. How long you’ll be on antibiotics depends on a couple of factors: your age, the severity of your acne, how well you’re responding to treatment and many others.
If you don’t respond to the treatment after 18 weeks, then your doctor will probably switch you to another treatment option. It’s best to avoid using antibiotics for a longer period of time since you can develop antibiotic resistance or experience digestion problems.
Usually, oral antibiotics take around six to eight weeks to work. After that, the condition should keep improving. Unfortunately, it’s not one of those treatments which give you results straight away. This might be bad news for those of you who are impatient for a cure and trust me, I know what it’s like. But keep in mind that those few weeks will pass regardless of whether or not you’re on antibiotics. So, it’s best to continue the treatment even when you don’t see results straight away. If you don’t see an improvement in six to eight weeks, talk to your doctor about it.
If this does happen, you might be suffering from antibiotic resistance. Don’t worry though, your doctor might prescribe a different antibiotic to you, one that isn’t from the same family as those that you’re currently on, or they might put you on completely different acne treatment, depending on the severity of your situation.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should stick to the treatment even when the acne isn’t going away. That way, you can figure out what exactly the problem is once those initial few weeks pass. On the other hand, if you give up the treatment prematurely, you might regret it later and wonder what would’ve happened had you stuck to the treatment plan. It’s going to be worth it in the end.
We’ve discussed how antibiotics work on acne, how long it takes them to work and what the usual duration of the treatment is. Now let’s talk about how most dermatologists go about stopping antibiotic treatment.
After those three months of treatment are over, you’re usually advised to go to the dermatologist’s office in order for them to see your improvement. If they decide that you’ve had at least 90% improvement in acne, then they discontinue the antibiotic but they tell you to use the same topical treatments as you did when you were on the antibiotic.
Once this initial check-up is over, you will go to the dermatologist’s office in a few weeks’ time so that they see how well you’re doing. Depending on the condition, they might put you on another topical treatment or tell you to continue with the old one.
There are a couple of side effects which you might experience if you go on antibiotics. These side effects include:
The abovementioned side effects are milder and more common. There are, however, some more serious side effects that can happen such as:
All oral antibiotics can potentially lessen the effects of oral contraceptives or birth control pills, so make sure you talk to your doctor about this issue.
When it comes to topical antibiotics, the side effects are not as serious. You might experience some irritation, itching or dryness in the area on which you’re applying it. If this happens too frequently, talk to your doctor about potentially switching to another brand or form of oral antibiotics.
There is also a risk of developing contact dermatitis, which requires topical corticosteroids in order to improve.
As we’ve already mentioned before, there’s always a risk of developing a resistance to antibiotics, but that’s a chance you have to take if you or your doctor decide that oral antibiotics are the best treatment option for your specific condition.
If you experience any of the symptoms call your doctor immediately.
Having all of this information in mind, it’s important to remember that acne medications aren’t always an ultimate cure for acne. In some cases, they just control the symptoms or mask the acne temporarily. This is why relapses happen. With any medication, there is a chance of relapse. But if antibiotics don’t work for you, there are other options out there for you to try out such as Accutane, birth control pills or spironolactone, so don’t despair.
The best thing you can do is be honest with your doctor so that they can accurately diagnose you. That way, you will be undergoing the right treatment for the specific acne condition that you have.
The treatment doesn’t end once you stop taking antibiotics. One of the most common reasons why relapses happen is because patients relax after coming off them and they get lazy with their skincare routine. It’s crucial to keep using the gels, face cleansers, topical antibiotics or Retin A creams or benzoyl peroxide that your doctor has prescribed you. That way you won’t have to worry about dealing with acne again.
Speak to your dermatologist regularly about any concerns that you might have during the treatment. Once it’s finished, talk to them about a long-term plan which will keep the acne off for good.
Antibiotics can be very useful for treating certain types of acne. They kill the acne-causing bacteria named P. acnes and they have an anti-inflammatory effect. The type of antibiotic that you’ll be prescribed, as well as the duration of the treatment, will depend on your specific condition.
Even if you don’t have successful treatment, there are other options available. The best thing you can do is keep a positive mindset, choose a skilled professional that will guide you through the process and keep looking for a cure without losing patience or desire. The cure is out there somewhere for you to find.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.