From time to time, I have been asked about acne medications and what I think about pharmaceuticals for acne. I think that every family has to do what is right for their family and that if you are making the best decision you can with the information that you have, then you are probably right on with your action items and decisions. Every person is different and something might work for someone that does not work for someone else. It is personal journey that has infinite routes.
That said, as a person who was medicated for acne since my teens through my early adulthood, I have thoughts on what I wish I had done. I hope that, by sharing these thoughts, you will have additional information that you may consider when choosing whether you take pharmaceuticals for you acne or whether you choose to put your teen on acne medications and if so, which ones.
Teen acne, in particular, is a really hard thing. It can be a massive deal for the person suffering with it on both an external level but often more importantly, on an internal level. Acne can play into self esteem, personal choices, friendships, and more. My heart goes out to anyone with it and I can understand why our first thought is – what can we take to get rid of this condition immediately? If there is a pill we can pop or a cream we can apply that will make it go away, then we jump on that proposition. This is exactly what I did. I didn’t want the acne and I was willing to take any medication to get it to go away. What I didn’t realize was that those medications may be effective, or may not be in many cases for me, but either way, those medications would have an effect on other parts of my body no matter what. The most telling example of this was when I went on Accutane, twice, both times for the full six month period. Neither time healed my acne, at yet both times my body experienced many side effects, that were not very joyful. I didn’t realize at the time that Accutane was originally a chemotherapy drug used in cancer treatment and only later was used for acne. If my dermatologist had started the conversation with that fact, then maybe I would have researched it more thoroughly. Perhaps? At the time, I just knew that it might get rid of my acne and my thought process stopped there. I had this same approach when I took Minocycline, Tetracyline, and birth control or when I used Retin-A and Benzoyl Peroxide.. and more. I did not realize the greater impact that these would have. I was laser focused on my acne and my surface level.
I took these medications for many years and I never cleared my acne. During those years I experienced gut issues, joint issues, stomach aches and more. I never realized that these could be connected, but I did feel that I was not living optimally. My acne finally started to clear when I got off of these medications and I began to focus on healing my damaged gut, stomach, and joints. So to answer my original question as to what I tell people who ask me when they are considering pharmaceuticals for themselves or their loved ones… I challenge them to pause and consider the greater ramifications that they might cause by going for the quick fix, that may or may not actually fix anything, and I encourage additional exploration into further ideas for healing the acne, in particular, I say to look into functional medicine.