If all the folklore surrounding the subject of acne were piled in one place, it would make a landfill large enough to pave over New York Harbor. Because 70% to 85% of people have acne to some degree, for some duration, at some stage in their lives, acne has long been a magnet for well-intended and ill-informed advice.

Some amateur solutions can be effective to some extent. From the teenager scraping together enough allowance to purchase an expensive over-the-counter lotion, to the professional model who dabs a dollop of toothpaste on the spot the minute she feels a “zit” coming on, people get a degree of relief in many ways. Mostly they get a sense that they are doing something about it. When you study the ingredients of these answers and their relative effectiveness, it looks as if even a hit-or-miss approach would have come to better answers, sooner.

The Value of a Professional View

Particularly for parents of young persons dealing with puberty, a visit to the family physician can be of tremendous value when acne appears. Knowing you care, knowing their concerns are taken seriously, knowing that what is happening is not some mysterious curse, all these are immediate benefits to the young person approaching what might range from a few weeks of social discomfort to a lifetime of doubt and a hesitant self-image.

Prescription approaches to acne treatment used to begin, in many cases, with tetracycline, an antibiotic. Because infection is only a complication of acne, and not its cause, and because over-prescription of antibiotics is leading to resistant forms of bacteria, effective acne treatment extends closer to the causes than this.

More comprehensive prescription protocols work by reducing oil production, speeding up skin cell turnover, and reducing inflammation to help prevent scarring. Even effective protocols can take four to eight weeks to begin showing results, and this delay is part of the confusion that surrounds acne – it is hard for patients to feel that they know what is actually working.

The Goals of Effective Treatment

A key benefit of consulting a family physician about acne is to arrive at an approach to treatment that is truly your own, based on your heredity, your age, the kind and severity of acne, and what effort you are prepared to devote to the treatment.

For most people, the treatment goals include controlling the severity and extent of acne. Limiting skin damage to avoid scarring – and to make scarring less noticeable – is also an important goal that professional help can facilitate. The duration of a person’s acne has much to do with heredity, and adult acne is becoming more common. Still, professional treatment can help with these aspects of acne, too.


To schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine, call us at 843.815.6468.