Acne is a dermatological condition that serves as an umbrella term to a wide range of acne problems, including rosacea, folliculitis, acneiform eruptionm and acne vulgaris (more commonly known as cystic acne). Acne can manifest itself as pimples, blackheads, white heads, or even scaly red skin that tends to be itchy and flaky. Acne usually begins to show around puberty, marking a transition into adolescence for a young adult. While it only usually causes minimal physical damage to the dermis, acne can be hard on the psyche and morale of adolescents. In adolescents, acne is usually caused by an increase in androgen levels that happens with puberty.
While testosterone and androgen in general are referred to as the “male hormones,” they are found in both males and females. Still, some people can be afflicted by acne more severe than others. Genetics tend to influence the severity of acne, as those with a family history of the condition are genetically predisposed to suffer from it more severely. For almost 30 years, pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche sold the Isotretinoin based anti-acne drug Accutane, which has been used by more than 13 million patients to treat cystic acne. In 2009, however, Hoffman-La Roche pulled the drug for business reasons, after a myriad of law suits alleged that Accutane had caused Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other incurable conditions in patients. While studies continue to link the drug and these conditions, Isotretinoin based Accutane derivatives continue to be sold in the United States and abroad.
For some parents, the risks associated with Accutane and other Isotretinoin derivatives discount their use immediately. Acne is usually a temporary condition, and does not pose enough health issues to warrant risking Crohn’s, inflammatory bowel disease, or the other side-effects of Accutane. Some choose instead to undergo different acne treatments. Alternative acne treatments can have the some of the benefits of the stronger Isotretinoin-based drugs without their associated risks. Thyme, a common herb used for seasoning, has recently been discovered to be an effective means to combat acne associated bacteria and inflammation. Thyme tinctures proved to be more powerful than industry-standard benzoyl peroxide anti-acne medications, suggesting that the herb can be eventually developed for use as a safe and natural alternative to more irritating medications.
Another alternative remedy consists of changing dietary habits. Some studies suggest that decreasing the intake of foods like soft drinks and high-sugar artificial fruit juice, high-starch foods like pasta, potatoes and fries, and dairy products can have a positive impact in the fight against acne. Changing one’s diet, however, will not combat the naturally occurring hormonal activity often associated with puberty. However, controlling one’s glycemic intake and keeping it low, as well as keeping the androgen and growth hormone intake associated with dairy products low, may help reduce the effects of acne. It is important to consult a physician, nutritionist, or dermatologist before changing the dietary habits of a young adult, but their advice may help you decide what acne treatment is best for you or a loved one.