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The FDA Just Approved A Brand-New Active Ingredient To Target Hormonal Acne

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

The FDA Just Approved A New Treatment For Hormonal Acne — Without Antibiotics

As much as we wish we'd left acne behind in our teenage years, oftentimes that's not the case. Enter: hormonal acne. Not only can it stick around well into your adulthood, but it's a very frustrating condition to treat. 

Standard skin care ingredients do help—exfoliants, retinoids, and antioxidants can all keep breakouts to a minimum. But to target the actual hormone fluctuations themselves? Well, that's an area largely untapped. In fact, there hasn't been a new clinical acne drug with an innovative mechanism of action for—wait for it—40 years. That is, until now. 

This week, the FDA approved Winlevi—a topical cream to treat hormonal acne, with a brand-new active ingredient called clascoterone. Best part? No antibiotics or oral medications necessary. 

What this topical does and why it's important. 

Clascoterone is a clinical synthetic ingredient that can inhibit androgens like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone—which oftentimes are the main culprits of hormonal acne. In case you need a briefer: Testosterone can increase oil production in the skin and cause skin cells to become more "sticky," making it more difficult for the cells to shed, thus clogging the pores. 

This new ingredient, it seems, can keep those hormones from going haywire—and thus, less acne along your jawline. And in addition to demonstrating those great results, the side effects are also minimal. The only frequent reaction when using the cream twice a day, according to one study, was some redness and scaling (which is actually quite common in many prescription topicals). 

But what's most exciting about this new ingredient is the fact that it doesn't require any sort of oral medication. While there certainly are acne-fighting ingredients to try at home (retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, et al.), topicals that approach the androgens themselves are limited. As a result, oral antibiotics that can effectively target those hormones have routinely been the go-to's for this type of acne—especially in severe cases. All this is to say, a topical cream with that same clinical strength is certainly cutting-edge.

Take it from board-certified dermatologist Michael Gold, M.D., investigator and medical director of the Gold Skin Care Center and the Tennessee Clinical Research Center: "This game-changing topical drug offers a non-antibiotic approach to people with acne, by targeting the androgen receptors directly in the skin. It fills a long-standing gap in acne therapy," he says in a news release. "After 40 years, it provides a much-anticipated, complementary new approach to treat acne."


The takeaway.

This topical could be a breakthrough for hormonal acne treatment, as it limits the use of oral antibiotics and uses a totally new active ingredient. Although it might be a while before you can ring your derm for a prescription—Winlevi won't be available in the United States until early 2021. Nonetheless, the FDA approval garners excitement—especially among those at their wits' end with hormonal breakouts.

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