Oral Antibiotics for Acne

What is Oral Antibiotics for Acne?

Antibiotics used to be a common treatment for acne, and while there is still a role for antibiotics in certain acne cases, its use has largely been superseded by other topical treatments, Isotretinoin medication and other light-based treatments such as lasers.

Some common antibiotics used to treat acne include: Doxycycline, Minocycline, Tetracycline and Erythromycin.

At SL Aesthetic Clinic, we offer Doxycycline as an antibiotic to treat acne in suitable patients. While Minocycline is a comparatively more effective antibiotic for the treatment of acne, its potential side effects are more serious than Doxycycline.

How Do Antibiotics Work to Improve Acne?

Antibiotics have two main beneficial effects on acne:

  1. They reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria called Proprionibacter acnes on the skin surface and in the follicles.
  2. They exert an anti-inflammatory action.

How Effective are Antibiotics?

The effectiveness of oral antibiotics are limited in treating acne. Several clinical studies show that oral antibiotics may reduce symptoms by approximately 50%, but are not more effective than other acne medications.

When Is Antibiotics Useful for Acne Treatment?

Generally, we prescribe antibiotics for acne in 2 situations:

  1. Mild pubertal acne for children above the age of 12, who may outgrow their acne and just need a little help in the interim to control their acne better.
  2. If a heavy bacterial load on the skin is suspected, evidenced by substantial inflammation and/or pus formation.

FAQ

How Long is a Course of Antibiotic Treatment?

Antibiotics are usually prescribed for 1 – 3 months. Antibiotics do take a few weeks to work and usually not continued for more than 3 months to reduce the risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

What are the Problems with using Oral Antibiotics for Acne?

  • Success rate is not the best: often, antibiotics fail to work and even if they do, they do not produce impressive results. This is why we also prefer a combination of treatments for a more holistic effect.
  • Temporary benefit: even when they do work, the benefits can be temporary since antibiotics should not be prescribed for more than 3 months.
  • Side effects: Different antibiotics have a different list of potential side effects which may range from just an irritation to life threatening reactions.
  • Antibiotic resistance: prolonged treatment with antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is becoming a universal problem, leading to infections which become more and more difficult to treat.

What are the common side effects of Doxycycline?

  • The most common side effect is gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, bloatedness and diarrhoea. This can be reduced by taking the medication with a glass of water after meals.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight resulting in itch, redness and being prone to sunburns.
  • Itching of the genital areas or a sore mouth/tongue. This may indicate a yeast infection which will require treatment.
  • Stop the medication if you develop a rash when you first start taking Doxycycline.

What Precautions Should I Take with Antibiotics for Acne?

  • For women who are pregnant, planning for pregnancy or breastfeeding, do inform your doctor as these antibiotics may affect the bones and teeth development of your baby.
  • Antibiotics should not be taken in children less than 12 years old as it can cause discolouration of teeth and affect bone growth.
  • Antibiotics may affect the effectiveness of oral contraceptive pills taken concurrently and increase your chance of unwanted pregnancy.
  • Inform your doctor if you are taking over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, minerals and herbal products.

What other acne treatments are there?

Acne has many causes and underlying reasons, which means a whole arsenal of solutions are ready to tackle these causes. These include photodynamic therapies, chemical peels, acne injections, and isotretinoin medication.