Antibiotics for Acne May do More Harm than Good!

old message Antibiotics for Acne May do More Harm than Good! Darrell Miller 09/19/11

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Date: September 19, 2011 06:17 PM
Subject: Antibiotics for Acne May do More Harm than Good!

Antibiotics for acne may have side effects that cannot be ignored, although because of the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance developing in bacteria of all kinds, your physician will not prescribe an antibiotic unless your acne is severe enough for you to really need one. Because of these facts, the reasons why some antibiotics are thought necessary in treating acne should be considered.

Acne is basically the product of the action of bacteria on a mixture of dead skin cells and skin oil (sebum) that plug the follicle pores of sebaceous glands. This has no connection with the excessive consumption of chocolate, fats, or of any other foodstuff, and neither is it connected with a lack of personal hygiene. These are myths than cause a great deal of distress as well as prompt the use self-remedies that have no likelihood of having any effect.

At certain times in your life the adrenal glands go into warp drive and secrete much larger quantities of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, than normal. This hormonal surge normally occurs during puberty, and at pregnancy, menopause and just before menstruation. Another effect of androgens is to interrupt normal skin loss, so that skin cells within the pores are shed in large amounts sporadically.

This mixture of dead skin cells and sebum can plug the pores, and anaerobic bacteria living deep in the same pores can act upon the plug to produce toxins that activate the immune system and the inflammatory response. This leads to the formation of pus and inflammation that is known as acne. The action of light on the top of a pustule can activate the melanin in the cells and turn black, forming a blackhead. Hence, blackheads have nothing to do with dirty skin as some people believe. Neither has acne, since the bacteria involved normally live quite happily in the pores of your skin.

There are ways to resolve this problem that involve killing the bacteria, unblocking the pores or promoting desquamation so the dead skin cells are removed in a more timely fashion. Since most treatment is provided after infection has occurred, it tends to focus either on cleaning the pores or treating the infection. The latter is where antibiotics come into the picture.

Antibiotics for acne kill the bacteria and reduce the inflammation. They are normally used in medium to serious cases of acne, involving numerous pustules and lesions, while topical treatments such as acne scrubs are effective in mild cases where they unblock the pores. Antibiotics can be topical or internal, and surface bacteria can be removed by scrubbing with benzoyl peroxide. There are several types of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor for acne, including:


Tetracyclines are the most frequently prescribed antibiotics for acne, including oxytetracycline, lymecycline, doxycycline and minocycline, and are taken as tablets on an empty stomach between meals since milk and food affect their absorption. This can be difficult for teenagers who eat and snack a lot. Minocycline is used particularly for pustular acne, and is slightly more tolerant of food, whereas doxycycline should be taken with food since otherwise it can cause severe nausea.


Erythromycin is also a commonly prescribed antibiotic for acne, and offers a number of advantages over tetracycline, particularly in its anti-inflammatory effect on lesions. It can also be taken with food, so is preferred for teenagers and, unlike tetracyclines, are suitable for use by pregnant women. Not everybody can tolerate it, and doxycline is used where intolerance to this and tetracycline exists.


Clindamycin is most frequently prescribed as a topical antibiotic even though it can be used orally. It is a lincosamide, effective with the anaerobic bacteria that cause acne. It is more effective when used in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide, and both are frequently prescribed together for topical use.

Side Effects

All antibiotics have side-effects, and all, particularly tetracyclines, can cause a vaginal yeast infection known as candida. Oral antibiotics can also reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, so women being given oral antibiotic treatment for acne should use additional contraception.

Antibiotics for acne work in a number of ways. First, they kill off most of the bacteria that are active in the follicle, and so reduce the degree of infection, thus making it easier for the immune system to do its work. They also reduce the inflammatory response by reducing the concentration of free fatty acids in the sebum that make it easier for the sebum to set to a firm fatty consistency and hence easier to block pores. Antibiotics also have an effect in reducing some of the chemicals that white blood cells produce during their activity on bacteria.

However, another thing that antibiotics do, which can also be described as a side-effect, is to reduce the population of friendly bacteria in the gut. If your personal ecosystem is upset, not only will candida infection be made more likely, but also the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The normal balance of bacteria in your bowel is essential for a healthy digestive system, and hence your overall health and immune system in general.

Antibiotic-induced diarrhea is believed to be caused by the destruction of your natural population of gut bacteria such as the Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus strains, but there are more serious effects than that. It makes sense, therefore, to supplement your friendly bacteria that can be significantly reduced for over eight weeks during acne antibiotic treatment.

A probiotic supplement is essential for anybody prescribed antibiotics for acne, since over 99% of gut bacteria are believed to be anaerobic, and acne antibiotics are focused on anaerobes. Probiotics can replace the lost bacteria. The supplement introduces these bacteria to your body, and they then grow into a healthy population to replace that which was lost.

Although taking antibiotics for acne can help to clear up the condition fairly rapidly, there are some side-effects that should not be ignored, particularly if there are some such as this that can be solved by the simple act of taking a probiotic supplement.

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