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It seems strange that with all the incredible developments in modern medicine, we haven't yet found a cure for acne. Sure there are treatment options out there, but for those of us looking for the most natural approach, these options—like antibiotics, the pill, and Accutane—just don't quite satisfy.
If you can relate to this, then listen up! Because researchers at the University of California, San Diego, seem to be on the verge of changing acne treatment options forever. They've been working on both a vaccine and an acne probiotic treatment that might just wipe acne off the face of the earth and the faces of the 40 million people (in the United State alone) who suffer from it.
How would an acne vaccine work?
According to scientists on the project, developing a vaccine has been pretty complicated. It's suspected that acne is often caused by the bacteria P. acnes, but you can't just wipe P. acnes altogether because bacteria are also beneficial for your skin—acting as antioxidants and helping prevent disease. So what's the solution? These researchers are working to develop a treatment that would "educate the immune system of acne patients in order to allow their body to naturally control the growth of P. acnes." Essentially, the vaccine would target the inflammation and acne it causes without harming the bacteria itself, possibly providing the first long-term cure.
Dr. Cybele Fishman, an integrative dermatologist and mbg skin health expert, says she's a bit skeptical of the vaccine—mostly because there are so many other factors contributing to acne like abnormal skin barrier function, overproduction of sebum, and immune dysfunction. She recommends a holistic approach that includes "changing diet, taking the right supplements, decreasing stress, increasing sleep, and using conventional medicines when they are needed."
So is this the miracle solution we've been waiting for? Maybe not. But for those of us suffering from severe acne or mild to moderate acne that just won't quit despite our lifestyle changes and hard work—this could be an interesting new option.
What does the future of acne treatment look like?
The short answer: very different. Many current treatments for acne focus on killing bacteria on the skin, but the future of acne treatment is looking a lot more holistic, centering around the skin microbiome. The same lab in California is also working to develop an acne probiotic treatment that would work a lot like our oral probiotics. The theory is that by supporting beneficial bacteria, which will antagonize the bad, acne-causing bacteria, it will restore balance to our complexions. This is a huge step up from taking oral antibiotics for acne—which wipe out both good and bad bacteria, disrupt the microbiome, and contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Dr. Fishman has long thought that the skin microbime plays a role in acne, rosacea, perioral dematitis and other skin conditions. "I have been using kefir masks for years to treat the conditions I mentioned above and for many patients, it really helps. So I think developing topical probiotics makes a lot of sense. Why is the gut microbiome getting all the love and attention?"
Before you jump out of your seat, these new treatments still have to be tested in clinical trials, which can take a couple of years. But, they've worked in mice and in human acne tissue—so our fingers are crossed that we see them put to good use in humans in the near future.