Why Antibiotics Don't Work Long Term for Acne

October 13, 2017 0 Comments

Why Antibiotics Don't Work Long Term for Acne

By Kali Kushner



You've just gone into your dermatologist appointment and you walk out with anantibiotic prescription, the scenario is all too familiar.We are prescribed them, and because they aregiven to usby a health professional, we take them assuming they are generally safe.For many of us acnesufferer'santibiotics are the first line of defense when over the counter washes and prescription creams have failed.

Antibiotics arethe most commonly prescribeddrug to treat inflammatory acne; going by names likeMinocycline,Tetracycline,Doxycycline,Erythromycin, and more they work by killingbacteria around the hair follicle (more specifically P-acnes).They also have the ability to reduce bodily inflammation that contributes to acneand can decreasechemicalirritants that areproduced by white bloodcells.

Sounds pretty perfect right? Well, not exactly.Unfortunately, antibiotics can have varying short termandlong-term side effects ranging fromnausea(whichIhavepersonallyexperiencedfirsthand)and breaking out in a rash to candida overgrowth. Even asmall7-day course of antibiotics can show noticeabledisruption in the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gutyears later.

Furthermore, antibiotics more times than not only produce short term results, masking the underlying cause of acne and ultimately creating the perfectbreeding ground foracneto make a vengeful return. To determineoverallsafety, we must examine theeffectiveness and the side effects that can occur long term as well as short term.


Short Term Results & Relapse Rates


If you look around at acne message boards online (likeacne.org for example) you will quickly find that for most,acne returns after finishing acourseof antibiotics.Simply put, results are not long term and often times set a patient up fortheir acne tofullyreturn.Theyunfortunatelyoffer only a temporary solution without targeting the real cause.

Thereare not many studies which have been done to prove the effectiveness oflong term results of antibiotics on acne; often times the patient is prescribed the medication and sent on their way to never becheckedupon again.However, the studies we do have confirm the ineffectiveness of oral and topical antibiotics as a treatment for acne through the relapse rates.One study found that out of 200 patients, 164 experienced a relapse inreoccurring acne once stopping antibiotic treatment, a total of 82% failureformultiple courses of antibiotics.

An 82% failure rate, even after multiple courses, is enough evidence to show us that antibiotics are not an effective solution in the treatment of acne.


Long Term Side Effects


So, thenextquestion we must ask ourselves is, is it safe to take antibiotics long term? Some will argue that antibiotics are perfectly safe to take for a year or more to treat acne. I even had one dermatologist who told me she had been low dosing on antibiotics forTEN YEARS!Personally, I find that a bit extreme and hope that she was overexaggerating.

Unfortunately, antibioticsdon't have the ability to target the specific acne causing bacteria so, they tend to kill off all the good bacteria,or probiotics, thatyour body needs to function as well.This can have long term consequences when it comes to our gut flora.

Without a proper balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, there is a potential for candida overgrowth and leaky gut syndrome. Both of which can be major triggers for bodily inflammation and cystic acne (and not to mention can cause abazillion other problems).In short, theacne we are trying to treatthroughantibiotics, actually ends up coming back becauseofantibiotics.

Another big concern of using antibiotics long term is developingantibiotic resistance. A resistance can occur within a fewconsecutivemonths, but typically occurs after years of use. When an antibiotic resistance occurs the patient no longer sees results in their skin and can start to experience breakouts again due to the p-acnes bacteria changing and no longer beingaffected by the antibiotic.

Inanother study it was found that topical antibiotics like Clindamycin andErythromycin can create antibiotic resistance bacteria (hello,super acne?!) after usingitfor 6-8 weeks. What's even more interesting is that this "super acne'"then must becontinuously treated with harsher and harsher drugs until skin clarity is fully achieved. According to a report by the Department of Dermatology at theUniversity of British Columbia,


"Evidence suggests that it is the use of topical erythromycin and clindamycin – the most commonly used topical antibiotics in acne – that has contributed to the gradual increase in resistance over the last 20 years."


It has recently been reported that52% of acne causing bacteria are resistant to Erythromycin while 50% of acne causing bacteria areresistant to Clindamycin. This means thatacne hasrevolutionized into asuper acneandthatantibiotics can only treat half of the acne causing bacteria strains, whiletheother half are left untouched.I don't know about you butjust killing off half of my acne isn'tgonna work for me.

While it may be tempting to blindly take the antibiotics you've been prescribed and hope for the best,in the long run antibiotics may actually create a perfectbreeding ground for your acne to return in the future.


Short Term Side Effects


It shouldn't go without notice that there are obviousshort-term side effects from antibiotics as well. I personally am unable to take most antibiotics because they cause such an upsetstomach (even with food) that most of the time I end up getting sick from them. Antibiotics most commonly can cause:


  • Upset stomach: nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash: hives, allergic reaction
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itching


And various other effects.


Should I take Antibiotics for Acne


In conclusion, you should really only take antibiotics if you absolutely need them to fight an infection,they should not be relied on for the treatment of acne.They have proven time and time again to only be ashort-term cure for acne with possiblelong-term side effects. Do antibiotics cure acne? I'm not sure about you, my answer is going to be a flat outno on this one. They'reashort-term solution providing long term harm to your skin.