Acne Pills Treatment: Antibiotics and Retinoid Medications
Pills for acne help women, men, and teens; but can these treatments cause side effects?
Do Antibiotic Acne Treatment Pills Help Breakouts?
Antibiotics aid in the treatment of pimples by decreasing bacteria and inflammation in the skin. The antibiotics that are prescribed are Tetracyclines which are broad-spectrum antibiotics that fight numerous types of bacteria. These drugs are also similar to Isotretinoin (Accutane) which is popularly prescribed by dermatologists for severe pimples.
Antibiotics are prescribed by a dermatologist for the treatment of severe acne. Severe breakouts include cysts, nodules, pimples that are highly inflamed, and comedones which are blackheads and whiteheads.
History of Tetracyclines
Tetracyclines were discovered in the late 1940s by an American plant physiologist named Benjamin Minge Duggar from soil bacteria called actinomycetes. In this bacteria was chlortetracycline which became the first tetracycline antibiotic. It was shown in studies in the 1950s that tetracycline had powerful antibacterial properties (1) which led to multiple derivates of the antibiotic.
PRESCRIPTION ACNE MEDICATION LIST
Antibiotics can be taken orally or applied topically to the skin. They may come in the form of capsules, acne treatment pills, gels, or creams. Each type of medication for severe breakouts is used for different types of blemishes or if a person is allergic to one of the other antibiotics.
Oral and Topical Antibioitcs For Acne
There are different types of Tetracycline acne antibiotics including Doxycycline, Lymecycline, and Minocycline. Although they are all in the same class of antibiotics, the acne pills names are different because they have different chemical structures and may be prescribed for different reasons as one may be more effective for fighting a certain infection than the other. (2)
Dosing and Miligrams
Each Tetracycline antibiotics have different dosages and miligrams.
50mg once or twice daily
50mg once or twice daily
250mg twice-four times daily
100mg once or twice daily
100mg once or twice daily
500mg twice-four times daily
Dryness in area where antibiotic was applied
Contact dermatitis (rash)
Photosensitivity which increases the risk of sunburn
Upset stomach; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
Headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision
Sores inside mouth or lips
Decreases the amount of gut flora which is the "good bacteria" inside our body.
Birth control may be less effective when taking prescription acne pills antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance: medication may stop working as effectively and breakouts may reoccur
OTHER TOPICAL MEDICATION CREAMS
Brexoxyl or Triaz which is a stronger form of Benzoyl Peroxide
Roaccutane Acne Pills
The main ingredient in Roacctuane is Isotretinoin which is a synthetic retinoid that is a derivative of Vitamin A (retinol)
Isotretinoin can be taken as an oral medication for acne and comes in capsule form. It can also be applied topically as you can use a Vitamin A gel for acne. The topical versions of Isotretinoin are called Isotrex or Isotrexin which contains Isotretinoin as well as Erthyromicin.
History of Retinoids
Natural retinoids are found in all living things as they are necessary for important processes such as cell growth and vision. In ancient Egypt, liver was used to treat night blindness as it contains retinoids.
In 1943 the first study using retinoids for pimples was published and in 1959 tretinoin was first used topically for skin issues. (3)
WHAT IS ROACCUTANE USED FOR?
Roaccutane and the acne medication Accutane are the same drug, but the pimple tablet name varies where it is prescribed. For example; Accutane is more commonly prescribed in the United States and Roaccutane is prescribed in different countries. (4)
It is used to treat severe nodules by helping to reduce sebum production from the sebaceous glands in the skin. Sebum is the oil that our body naturally produces to lubricate our skin, but when too much oil is produced it can lead to pimples.
Dosing & Miligrams
The recommended dose of Isotretinoin is 0.5-1.0mg per day. It should be split up throughout the day and taken with food. After 15-20 weeks the dermatologist will observe the progress or lack thereof and adjust the dosage accordingly.
ROACCUTANE ACNE TABLETS SIDE EFFECTS
Common Side Effects:
Muscle and joint pain
Increased triglycerides (fat cells) in the blood
Rare Side Effects:
Depression, anxiety, mood swings, psychotic episodes
Keratitis which is the inflammation of the surface of the eye
PROS AND CONS
Decreased oil production
Prevents scarring from severe breakouts
More powerful than any OTC acne treatment pills
Covered by insurance
Extensive side effects
Should not be taken during pregnancy as it may cause serious birth defects
Must be prescribed by a doctor
If you plan to pay out of pocket it can cost $300-$400 per month
Most people need 5-6 months of daily treatment
What type of antibiotics work best for each type of severe breakout?
ANTIBIOTIC PILLS FOR CYSTS AND NODULES
Topical and oral acne medications like erythromicin, clindamycin, and tetracylcine are the most commonly prescribed for cysts and nodules. These two types of severe breakouts are not the same, but many times people can experience both kinds at the same time.
Cysts and nodules are both deep within the skin, but cysts are softer as they contain pus whereas nodules are harder and tend to hurt more. (5)
Using just one type of treatment pills for cysts and nodules may eventually become ineffective as antibiotic resistance may occur which means that the body will stop responding to the treatment. For this reason it may be beneficial to also use a topical retinoid like Isotretinoin in conjunction with an antibiotic. (6)
ANTIBIOTICS FOR COMEDONES
Isotretinoin (Accutane, Absorica, Zenatane) is a prescription acne medication for adults which is prescribed for comedonal blemishes.
Comedones are not known as an inflammatory type of breakout as it is characterized by open comedones (blackheads) which contain oxidized melanin.
Melanin is the pigment made by skin cells and when it is exposed to oxygen it turns black. It is not dirt or bacteria from poor hygiene as most people are lead to believe.
It is also characterized by closed comedones (whiteheads) which are skin colored and occurs when the follicle is completely blocked by sebum which is the oil in our skin. Another type of closed comedone is milia.
The reason why comedones are not considered inflammatory is because they do not appear red and they do not hurt.
Birth control is used to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant, but can also be prescribed for breakouts if antibiotics and topical creams have not worked to clear up the skin.
WHICH BIRTH CONTROL PILLS REDUCE BREAKOUTS?
Three different birth control brands are approved by the FBA for the treatment of acne.
They are all "combination" pills meaning that they contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
They all contain a low dose of estrogen, but they are different in that each pills contains a different dose of progesterone.
Birth control pills that only contain progesterone can actually exacerbate pimples.
Names of Birth Control Acne Pills
These birth control pills help by decreasing testosterone which is the androgen that causes pimples to form.
Spironolactone was originally prescribed for hypertension, but was found that at a low dose it can help with hormonal pimples in women. It is only prescribed to women because it is an androgen blocker which means that it blocks male hormones like testosterone.
Decreases sebum production
Does not cause your body to lose potassium
Diuretic effect helps you lose bloat
Takes months to kick in
Does not cure pimples as you may still experience flareups
May cause irregular menstrual cycle
Not FDA approved for the treatment of breakouts
Acne Pills and Alcohol
Drinking alcohol while taking prescription antibiotics for acne is not prohibited, but it is not recommended as alcohol can decrease the effectiveness of the antibiotics. It decreases the effectiveness because your body excretes it faster when you drink alcohol.
Isotretinoin has the potential to cause liver toxicity and drinking alcohol can increase your chances of experiencing that side effect.
You can have the occasional one or two drinks, but binge drinking is not a good idea.
Why are Acne Pills Making Me Break Out?
There are a few reasons why these pills may make a person break out.
1. You may be allergic to the ingredients in the product.
2. An initial purging effect may occur especially with products that help detoxify the body.
3. Your body has become resistant to antibiotics so your breakouts reoccur. This can happen with over the counter pills as well, however you can cycle supplements so the effectiveness will be greater next time you take them unlike antibiotics which are more harmful to the body to take all of the time.
4. It may not be the acne pills or antibiotics that are making you break out as it could be the diet that you are eating and lifestyle choices that you are making which are important for fighting pimples.
Home Remedies for Acne Treatment
There are also alternatives to pills for acne and medicine for pimples and dark spots in remedies that are more natural and less expensive. Most of us already have these ingredients in our homes, but they are also inexpensive to buy if we don't already have them.
Apple Cider Vinegar- ACV helps to balance the pH levels in our body which is a factor in the development of pimples if our body is too acidic or too alkaline.
Simply dilute a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in water and drink it once a day. You can also apply it directly to your skin after diluting it in water as it can help dry out your skin and existing blemishes.
Aloe Vera- Aloe contains many different nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which help are healthful for our skin. It also contains salicylic acid which helps to dry out our skin and kills bacteria. Like ACV, you can apply it to your face or drink it.
Coconut Oil- By now you may have heard of all the wonderful benefits of coconut oil.
Along with cooking with it or putting it in your Bullet Proof Coffee, you can also apply it to your skin as a moisturizer if your skin is dry and it is also effective for preventing breakouts.
It contains Lauric Acid which has antimicrobial properties that help fight inflammatory blemishes. (7)
Lemon Juice- Many people look for tablets for pimples and dark spots when in actuality you may be able to help these issues by using lemon juice on the skin.
The citric acid in lemons have been used as a natural remedy for bleaching the skin which is why it may help with dark spots. Simply squeeze some juice out of a lemon, dip a cotton ball in it and then apply it to the dark spots.
Lemons also contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which help with killing bacteria in our pores which may cause breakouts.
CONCLUSION: CAN ACNE BE CURED?
In general, breakouts are an inflammatory response to hormonal issues going on in our body. Once we address the hormone fluctuations we may see a reduction in acne, oily skin, and overall inflammation.
Acne treatment tablets have shown to be successful for most people, but the best acne medication is determined by the type of breakout you have.
Acne pills side effects may occur with any type of treatment so it is important to speak with your dermatologist to figure out what is the best treatment for your specific breakout and skin type.
What has worked best to help you with your breakouts? Please leave a comment below and let us know!
The content, information, and advice in this article is solely for educational purposes only. It is not meant to treat any disease or medical conditions. Always speak with your doctor if you have any questions regarding your health.