Health Makes More Healthy


New Acne Treatments – The Acne Drugs, Creams and Therapies that Could be Coming to a Shelf Near You

My first encounter with acne medicine, if you will, happened when I was twelve. My grandma just spotted a huge, swollen bubble of a zit on my cheek. Ached by the sight of my gruesome facial growth, grandma gestured me over to her medicine cabinet and pleaded, “Put some turpentine on that soar to suck that poison out”. And follow that backwoods prescription I did.

Certainly, turpentine is not an FDA approved acne drug, but by the next morning, that swollen nodule had somehow flattened into healed skin.

Not all zit tales end in such swift bliss.

Many people tormented by pimples find no reprieve with trusted pustule terminators like benzoyl peroxide or antibiotics. And so researchers toil away in labs and challenge the stamina of pimple prone skin with yet another acne preventative. However, this summer, the entourage of novel acne therapies could make blemishes retreat from the skin.

Reduced dosage isotretinoin

For starters, doctors may soon prescribe the acne drug typically reserved for the most severe cases of cystic or nodular acne, isotretinoin, for mild to moderate cases of acne. This past June, a study published in the Expert Review of Dermatology found that an intermittent, low-dose regimen of isotretinoin could mitigate potentially caustic side effects of isotretinoin, like liver damage and extreme skin dryness, while still effectively treating acne.

Bio-identical acne preventing agents

While isotretinoin effects acne control by reducing facial oil secretion and bacterial counts, a recently patented bio-product called phytosphingosine (PS) may combat pimples by mitigating pain inducing inflammation.

Phytosphingosine (PS) is a fat that exists in upper layers of the skin called the the stratum corneum. According to a report in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, a skin-identical version of phytosphingosine exhibited antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties in the skin. Researchers suspect that this novel anti-acne fat may soon complement topical pimple treatments.

Less menacing contraceptives

If such fat laden topical acne creams prove insufficient to tame blossoming blemishes, woman can bolster their skin care regime with contraceptives. And with the arrival of a new hormonal agent called drospirenone, women may enjoy less pimples and a more pleasant period.

Doctors may prescribe an oral contraceptive blend of spirolactone and ethinyl estradiol to female acne patients over age 35.

Like spironolactone, drospirenone helps control acne by reducing androgenic hormonal activity like excess facial oil production. Yet when drospirenone displaces spirolactone in such contraceptives, women experience better acne control and less menstrual weight gain and pain, while enjoying the same level efficacious birth control.

While I don’t foresee pine derivative like turpentine stealing the acne controlling spot light from isotretinoin, phytosphingosine, or birth control pills, I do predict that in a generation from now, the multifaceted causes and contributors to acne lesions will continue to baffle scientists and continue to crowd our cabinets with test-worthy acne antidotes. In the mean time, “Thank you grandma.”


Pavicic, T; U Wollenweber, M Farwick & H Korting.. Anti-microbial and -inflammatory activity and efficacy of phytosphingosine: an in vitro and in vivo study addressing acne vulgaris. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2007; vol 29, no 3, pp 181-190.

Ramos-e-Silva, M; C da Silva & S Coelho. Oral isotretinoin: intermittent and low-dosage regimen in acne. Expert Review of Dermatology, June 2007; vol 2, no 3, pp 267-269.

Rapkin, A & S Winer. Drospirenone: a novel progestin. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, May 2007; vol 8, no 7, pp 989-999.