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The new way to treat acne

Women should try this before turning to antibiotics.

THE SCIENCE
Oral antibiotics that treat severe acne get lots of criticism because they can cause antibiotic resistance. In a new study done on women, researchers found that spironolactone (a steroid) relieves blemishes just as well, with fewer side effects. The findings were published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
EXPERT INSIGHT
Spironolactone is typically used to ease high blood pressure and edema. But when topical acne treatments fall flat, derms often give the drug to women because of “its potential to address the hormonal drivers of acne,” says study author John Barbieri, MD, dermatology chief resident at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Men can’t take the medication because it blocks the effects of male hormones like testosterone.

The side effects associated with oral antibiotics include stomach pain, yeast infections, and sun sensitivity in the short term and things like inflammatory bowel disease in the long term. Spironolactone's side effects are less extreme by comparison. (The most common is irregular periods, Barbieri says.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
When topical acne treatments aren't doing the trick, women should consider asking their doctors about spironolactone before turning to antibiotics.