Updated February 25, 2013.
Question: Is There a Cure for Acne?
Acne can be successfully treated and controlled with the right treatment routine. Medications that may be recommended don’t cure acne, though, so even after your skin is clear and breakouts are a thing of the past you must continue to use your medications regularly to keep acne from returning. There is no cure for acne, and
products that promise a cure can’t live up to this claim.
Some people maintain that acne can be cured through dietary changes. In fact, this idea has become very popular lately. Some “acne cure” diets suggest replacing highly processed junk foods with fruits and vegetables — a healthy change whether you have acne or not. But other diets may have a laundry list of forbidden foods that make the diet nearly impossible, or even unhealthy, to stick to.
A few small studies have shown a correlation between certain food groups (such as
high glycemic index foods and dairy) and acne severity, but no foods actually cause acne. If this were true, everyone who ate a slice of pizza or a candy bar would break out in pimples. Cutting specific foods from your diet is not going to cure your acne.
The same goes for those skin care products, vitamins, and facial masks, that claim to cure acne in just days, or even overnight. No products can cure acne, and it’s disappointing to purchase these products with high hopes only to have them not live up to their promises.
There is one treatment, however, that comes pretty close to an acne cure. That treatment is isotretinoin (formerly sold as Accutane). The vast majority of people who take isotretinoin no longer have to worry about breakouts, even after treatment is stopped. Not everyone can take isotretinoin (for example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding), and it is usually prescribed only for those with severe acne. Your dermatologist can tell you if isotretinoin treatment is an option.
For most people, acne will spontaneously resolve itself after a period of time. But until that happens, your best approach is to use proven over-the-counter products or
prescription medications, and stick with your treatment even after pimples are cleared.
Clear skin is what you are ultimately after anyway, and not the label of “cured.”
John S. Strauss, James J. Leyden, Anne W. Lucky, et. al. “A randomized trial of the efficacy of a new micronized formulation versus a standard formulation of isotretinoin in patients with severe recalcitrant nodular acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2001; 41(2):187-95.
Smith R., Mann N., Braue A., Mäkeläinen H., Varigos G. “A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007); 86:107-115.
Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, Danby W, Rockett HH, Colditz GA, Willet WC, Homes MD. “Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls.” Dermatology Online Journal 2006; 12(4):1.
Thiboutot, D. “New Treatments and Therapeutic Strategies for Acne.” Archives of Family Medicine 2000: 9:179-187.