New Acne Treatment Guidelines Suggest a Whole New Approach

Acne is not a fun thing to talk about. Any time we're in conversation about oozing pustules, it's gross. But we're going to talk about it now, because the American Academy of Dermatology just updated their "let's deal with all the pimples on your face" guidelines. (Fine: They didn't call it that. They called it "Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris," but doesn't that make it sound way worse than it is??)


So here's what we learned: Nothing is guaranteed and you might be dealing with your acne long-term. But that said, the AAD thinks it found the key to fighting acne, and it say it's all in the combination attack.

Basically, it thinks you should come at it from two angles. Here's its list of approved attacks. You choose two.

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  • Topical therapy: This is the over-the-counter or prescription stuff you put right on your face. The fighting ingredients you'll see in these are BP, salicylic acid, retinoids, azelaic acid, or sulfone agents.
  • Antibiotics: You'll need a prescription for these, and you'll probably get something with tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), trimethoprim, erythromycin, azithromycin, amoxicillin, or cephalexin. Did any of those words mean anything to you? Didn't think so. Let's move on.
  • Hormonal agents: By this we mean your run-of-the-mill birth control pill. The estrogen and progestin in women's contraception has been shown to ease acne for women because it's designed to control hormone production. Hey! That's cool. Birth control is the best.
  • Isotretinoin: This medication gets business done, but at a cost: It comes with a high risk of birth defects so you gotta be reeeeally careful you don't get pregnant while on it. You also have to enroll in the federal iPledge program if you're taking it.

The AAD guidelines recommend trying different combinations of the first three, and only choosing isotretinoin as a last-ditch effort. But it thinks doubling up on medications will give you the best chance at clearing acne, and it says all of these options are safe to use together.

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The new guidelines also listed three popular treatments it said they couldn't recommend: in-office procedures like laser treatment and chemical peels, alternative therapies like tea tree oil, and diet changes to cut out skim milk.

It said that while all those routes seem to work for some people, not enough research has been done for it to officially endorse any of them. Still, as long as you're aware of potential risks, they're options.

Talk to your doctor, ladies! What we're hearing is that there's hope for us all yet.


Image via BeautyBlowFlow/Shutterstock

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