More Options for Acne Sufferers
WebMD News Archive
March 16, 2000 (San Francisco) -- Some women deal with the occasional pimple
or breakout -- others struggle for years to control acne. While many
medications are available to prevent new acne, more than half of women either
do not respond to standard treatments or build up a tolerance to frequently
used medications. Now, women dealing with this upsetting and sometimes
disfiguring condition may benefit from a new hormonal therapy.
Speaking recently at a meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology here,
dermatologist Diane Thiboutot, MD, associate professor of medicine at the
Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., discussed the options that
new medical advances have made available to women with persistent acne.
"I want to make an appeal to every woman who has not been able to
control her acne through topical treatments or antibiotics to consult with a
dermatologist soon," Thiboutot says. "There are so many new therapy
options to choose from now, [and] most cases of persistent acne can be
The basic hormonal therapy is the birth control pill. Women whose acne tends
to flare before their menstrual cycle and those women with acne on the lower
face and neck seem to respond particularly well, according to Thiboutot. Some
of the newer birth control pills are especially formulated to control acne, and
one in particular, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, has been approved by the FDA for treatment
But before resorting to hormone therapy, it's best to try conventional
therapies first, she says. Accutane (isotretinoin), for example, may provide a
lasting effect, she tells WebMD. "In a 14-year-old patient with persistent
acne, I would use [Accutane] and see what happens. She may respond. If not,
hormone therapy may be [a good optional treatment]," she says.
As with any therapy, there are risks involved in using hormone treatment.
Women using hormonal therapy should get regular breast and pelvic exams, and
work closely with their doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment and
follow-up, particularly if women are smokers.
Most acne treatments require prolonged care ranging from months to years,
depending on the women, Thiboutot says. Even after the acne is controlled,
ongoing therapy is typically required to maintain the positive results.
"Hormonal therapy is a good treatment for many teenagers and
adults," Thiboutot says. "It is used less often than it could be
because there are so many options to choose from. Patients should realize it is
a good [optional] therapy."
- While there are many medications available to treat acne, more than half of
women either do not respond to standard treatment or build up a tolerance to
- Birth control pills are a good optional treatment for acne if other
treatments fail, research shows.
- Most acne treatments require prolonged care lasting from months to years,
and ongoing therapy is needed to maintain results.