Acne Treatments Lack Science

Common acne treatments aren’t backed by sufficient comparative studies on their safety and efficacy.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Sep 7, 2011

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GEORGE HENRY FOX

We’ve all seen the late-night infomercials for Proactive and other “miracle” acne products, but there’s actually very little evidence that they work, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The lack of studies that compare available acne treatments have forced agencies such as the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne and the American Academy of Dermatology to issue guidelines based purely on expert opinions, not data, which hold the potential for conflicts of interest.

“The large number of products and product combinations, and the scarcity of comparative studies, has led to disparate guidelines with few recommendations being evidence-based,” lead author Hywel Williams from the University of Nottingham said in a press release. As a result of the dearth of clinical information available for both over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academies, has...

Furthermore, the use of antibiotics to treat acne raises concerns about the rising frequency of antibiotic resistance. Acne treatments tend to use low doses for extended periods of time—ideal conditions for the evolution of resistance among microbes. (Hat tip to Fierce Biotech.)

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