Though "super acne" may sound like some sort of acne blasting superhero, we regret to inform you that's sadly not the case. It's actually a new term for acne could be caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to research that BBC reports was released at the British Association of Dermatologists' Annual Conference back in July. Intriugied, and obviously worried, we spoke to a couple dermatoligists to get all the details.
First, we should note that not everyone treats their acne with antibiotics, as there's a ton (and we mean a TON) of products designed to treat and help control acne-prone skin, and you can get 'em at your local Sephora or even at the drugstore. However, a trip to the dermatologist is never, ever a bad idea, as the pros can help you make educated decisions on what you should really be using on your skin.
"Over the last several decades, we have been treating acne with oral antibiotics and we have seen patients becoming resistant to the typical antibiotic treatments," says Dr. Ben Behnam, a dermatologist based in Santa Monica, Calif, of the term. "Over treatment with oral antibiotic has created a resistant form of P. Acne and this is what is referred to as super acne."
Got it. So who would this affect if this does happen?
"Bacterial resistant acne can affect anyone acne prone that becomes colonized with resistant strains, but will occur more commonly in those who have been off and on antibiotics, or have been treated for longer than the recommended course which is typically under 90 days," explains Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou, a NYC-based dermatologist.
How would you treat something that could potentially be resistant to treatment? Strategically, and on a case-by-case basis.
"When treating acne, we like to incorporate topical treatments which help reduce the risk of developing drug resistance and this can be achieved by using a cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide," says Dr. Papantoniou. "Benzoyl peroxide is bacteriocidal, which means it kills bacteria, and in conjunction with an oral antibiotic, it can reduce the chance of developing 'super acne.'"
She says that if acne is severe and not responding, another antibiotic class may be used. It's also possible that the problem isn't an antibiotic resistance at all. For example, if acne is caused by hormones, then it's not going to react to an antibiotic in the first place. In those cases, Dr. Papantonious says that the acne can be successfully treated with oral contraceptives or spironolactone.
Ultimately, anyone dealing with moderate to severe acne could benefit from a very tailored skin-care regimen. Call up your derm and get the ball rolling.