After topical treatments, antibiotics are often the second stage of acne prevention. The real question when considering if antibiotics really work for acne is what happens after you finish treatment? Acne forums are filled with posts explaining how acne flared back up after the last round of antibiotics. Is this a sign that antibiotics may make us more prone to future breakouts? Recent studies have shown that acne bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotic treatment so that old medications don’t work and the risk of complications from antibiotic treatment is real. Discovering the truth about antibiotics and acne may be the solution to fighting off acne for good and maintaining clear, blemish free skin as a result.
Although the short term results are that antibiotics help kill acne bacteria and reduce inflammation, the long term effects are that they only work for about half of the population and often times only for a short period of time. Just like the body builds up an immunity to certain drugs if taken over a long period of time, acne becomes accustom to both oral and topical antibiotic treatments.
How Antibiotics Work
Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are types of medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. They are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, which are microscopic organisms, some of which may cause illness. Antibiotics shut down the metabolic machinery of bacteria and while some antibiotics kill acne on contact, others just cause them to go dormant.
There are two ways antibiotics work in our bodies:
1. A bactericidal antibiotic kills bacteria directly by interfering with the formation of the bacterium’s cell wall or its cell contents.
2. A bacteriostatic antibiotic stops bacteria from multiplying or slows their growth by interfering with bacterial protein production (DNA replication). These antibiotics must work together with the immune system to remove the microorganisms from the body.
How Antibiotics Initially Work For Acne
In the short term, antibiotics work in severals ways. The most important is to decrease the number of bacteria in and around the follicle. They also work by reducing the irritating chemicals produced by white blood cells and reduce the concentration of free fatty acids in the sebum, which decreases inflammation.
*Most frequent antibiotics used for acne: Clindamycin,Doxycycline, Minocycline, Erythromycin, and Tetracycline.
Why Antibiotics Do Not Work Long Term
The phenomenon of antibiotic resistance is the main reason why antibiotics do not work long term. Many times individual bacteria can develop a resistance to an antibiotic by whats called “random mutation”. While most times mutations kill bacteria avoiding reproduction, other times they give a single bacterium the ability to resist a medication. This wouldn’t be a problem if bacteria didn’t reproduce as often as every 20 minutes, giving the bacteria in your body the ability to swap genetic material through the horizontal gene transfer process. Since a bacterium can share its mutation with its neighbors through direct transfer of DNA, one resistant bacterium can become millions or billions and spread from person to person, unhindered by treatment with the antibiotic to which it has acquired resistance.
The Harmful, Long-term Effects of Antibiotics
Short and simple: Antibiotics kill the beneficial, or probiotic, bacteria from your gut. How do they do that? The digestive system is colonized by billions of bacteria that are call gut microflora. This type of probiotic bacteria in your gut is beneficial in the digestion and creation of nutrients. That’s why the biggest long term effect of antibiotics are that they indiscriminately kill both harmful and probiotic bacteria. The damage done in the gut varies from person to person and also the length of the treatment. However, most antibiotics are said to cause some damage to the beneficial bacteria and since most probiotic bacteria can’t resist antibiotics, it’s a very serious aspect of antibiotics to consider.
The Natural Solution To Acne
Antibiotics are effective short-term treatments, but in the majority of cases acne comes back with a vengeance. That is why Innate Skin focuses on these three main factors when preventing and fighting acne:
1. Taking care of the skin’s surface layer. Often times this can be the sole reason your skin is inflamed and irritated. One of the worst things you can do for your skin is upset the pH balance of your acid mantle when using products that are too alkaline for the healthy function of the skin. We suggest trying out the oil cleansing method (read how here) that helps balance the amount of oil on the top layer of your skin.
2. Focusing on vitamin deficiencies within your body. Taking supplements like our Clear Skin Vitamin Pack™ with a combination of vitamins, minerals, and herbs known for their benefits to the skin can fight off unwanted blemishes from the inside out. Read more about the vitamins inside our supplements here.
3. Leading a healthy lifestyle. Reducing stress levels, eating natural, unprocessed foods, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and avoiding dairy are a few areas to focus on that can have a huge impact when it comes to preventing blemishes. Read more here.
The bottom line is taking antibiotics only sets yourself up for the potential of getting more acne in the future because it increases the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the gut. Taking antibiotics are a short term cure with long term harm. Doctors prescribe antibiotics and those that suffer from acne use it until their skin is clear, not until all the bacteria has been killed. The antibiotic just wipes out the most susceptible bacteria and leaves the resistant bacteria. When the patient stops taking the antibiotic, the resistant bacteria are free to multiply unchecked by competition from other microbes, and acne can be worse than it was before treatment. Clear skin is nice for a few weeks, but after the treatments come to a halt, you’ll be faced with inflammation and infection.
*It’s important that if you are currently on a long term antibiotic prescription that you do not stop your course before consulting with your doctor. If you are taking an antibiotic do not take other medicines or herbal remedies without telling your doctor first. OTC (over the counter, non-prescription) medicines might also clash with your antibiotic.