While there are plenty of over-the counter acne products readily available, sometimes those who deal with stubborn types of acne can find help in a dermatologist-prescribed oral antibiotic. Such prescriptions can be an effective form of treatment for chronic acne, but taking them for longer periods of time can potentially result in serious implications. Thankfully, researchers have been looking into alternative forms of treating acne sans antibiotics, and a new study is purporting that a drug called Spironolactone might be a viable, longterm solution.
As Allure reports, a new study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggests that spironolactone might be a safer alternative to prescribing antibiotics to treat acne. The study compared 6,600 female subjects taking Spironolactone with data from over 31,000 women taking antibiotics over a six-year period. To determine efficacy, the researchers studied how many people switched medications (as an indication that their first medication wasn't working). According to the results, 14 percent of subjects on spironolactone switched within a year, while 13 percent of those on antibiotics switched after the same period. While one percent may seem like a negligible differential, the number is significant because it suggests that spironolactone is virtually as effective as antibiotics — minus the potential side effects, which can be brutal.
"Prolonged antibiotic use can result in antibiotic resistance," John S. Barbieri, dermatology chief resident at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study told Allure. "It may even be associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease, breast cancer, and colon cancer." As such, the American Academy of Dermatology has recommended using the drugs for "the shortest possible duration" to minimize negative side effects.
A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed that dermatologists prescribe antibiotics at a higher rate than any other medical specialty. This is why spironolactone, which is typically used to help regulate blood pressure but is sometimes prescribed to combat hormonal acne, could be a game-changer.
"Spironolactone is a medication used off-label for acne, which means that it is not actually approved for [treating] acne," Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital Dr. Joshua Zeichner told Teen Vogue. "However, it has been used for decades because of one of its side effects, which blocks your hormones from binding to and stimulating your oil glands — less oil means less shine, fewer blockages within the pores, and less acne."
"I think it is actually safer and more effective than oral antibiotics, and it can be used for long periods of time safely," Dr. Zeichner adds. "It is extremely effective in treating hormonal acne that worsens with your period and occurs around the mouth and jawline. Oral antibiotics put you at risk for antibiotic resistance, can be associated with nausea, and even increase your risk of sunburn."
While Spironolactone isn't a cure-all wonder drug for acne, the study reveals that at best, it can be a great alternative to antibiotics and topical treatments. However, what works for one person might not necessarily be the best treatment for your skin needs and overall lifestyle, so consult your dermatologist to see what courses of action are available to you.