Acne Treatment Revolutionized by 25 Years of Research


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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 July:51(1):S36-8.

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