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Doxycycline and Acne

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This article reviews doxycycline for acne. Doxycycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic and a popular prescription drug for acne.

While there are different triggers that allow acne to grow, acne is generally caused by bacteria beneath the skin.

Washing your face regularly with some type of antibacterial cleanser can be beneficial for relieving acne. But when that's not enough, many people switch to acne medications.

One of the most common is doxycycline for acne – a medication in the tetracycline family.

What is Doxycycline?

Doxycycline (sometimes referred to as Doxycycline Hyclate) is a broad spectrum antibiotic. It is a type of prescription medication that eliminates bacteria within the body. The term "broad spectrum" implies that it doesn't differentiate between bacteria. It simply eliminates all bacteria it comes across.

As with other antibiotics, especially in the tetracycline family, doxycycline is not specifically designed for acne. In fact, doxycycline is used for a variety of bacteria conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Anthrax
  • Lyme Disease
  • Urinary Tract Infections

These antibiotics are effective for a variety of bacteria conditions, preventing replication and removing these bacteria from your body.

While doxycycline may be indicated for a variety of serious bacterial conditions, it is useful for reducing numerous types of bacteria in the body, and that is why many doctors prescribe doxycycline hyclate for Acne.

Acne and Doxycycline

Tetracyclines are one of the most common antibiotics used to treat acne.

Doxycycline is one of the more commonly prescribed types of tetracycline medications. It is classified as a "Second Generation Cycline" rather than first generation, because it has a different pharmacokinetic (chemical) profile.

As an oral medication, doxycycline has been proven effective at relieving acne.

Doxycycline, however, is generally combined with other acne treatments. Doxycycline is generally taken orally, so most doctors recommend combining doxycycline with topical medications like benzoyl peroxide. On its own doxycycline is less effective for acne.

Doxycycline Side Effects and Acne

The bigger issue with doxycycline is the side effects.

All medications have their own risks, and doxycycline may have more side effects than other tetracycline medications.

One of the reasons that doxycycline is a popular treatment choice is that it can be taken with or without food. Many of the other tetracycline medicines need to be taken at the same time every day, and need to be taken without food. Since most people do not eat at the same time every day, this can be problematic, so doxycycline is considered advantageous because it can be taken at the same time every day regardless of whether or not you have eaten.

The problem is that many people report side effects, and these side effects appear to be worse when the medication is taken without food. Some reported side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache

It's also important to note that all broad spectrum antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. Your body is filled with good bacteria that keeps you safe and healthy. When it's gone, it's possible it can be replaced with bad bacteria.

Indigestion is always a risk when taking antibiotics since many kill off the good bacteria in your digestive tract- bacteria that processes food.

Another issue may be developing yeast infections. Good bacteria keeps the genital area protected. Without that bacteria, the bacteria that causes yeast infections has more room to grow.

Yet another problem that may occur when taking doxycycline is tolerance/antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria can learn to become resistant to antibiotics. This may present a problem for several reasons:

Problems with Becoming Resistent to Bacteria

As mentioned before, doxycycline is used to treat other bacterial infections. It's possible, although unlikely, that you can have more serious bacteria generally treated by doxycycline grow inside your body, and the antibiotic will no longer work to treat it. There are other antibiotics available, but the risk is still there.

It is possible for doxycycline to stop working for your acne. Many users report that when taking doxycycline hyclate for acne, their acne suddenly came back and the medicine stopped working altogether. This may occur whether or not the drug is taken exactly as prescribed, but is even more common if you take the drug incorrectly or stop taking it too soon. 

Both of these are problems with using any antibiotic, but they can especially be issues with doxycycline for acne.

Doxycycline for Acne – How Long Until Bacteria Becomes Resistant?

Many long term doxycycline users report that their acne became resistant to the antibiotic. The question for many is how long it takes before that occurs.

The answer is not quite that simple. It may be as soon as the first time you take it, or never. Many report that within six months their acne bacteria became resistant to doxycycline, but there are currently no known studies comparing doxycycline for acne and resistance risk.

Other Important Information on Acne and Doxycycline

Like most antibiotics for acne, doxycycline does not clear up all acne. In controlled studies, most report roughly 60% to 80% reduction of their acne, and that includes doxycycline taken with benzoyl peroxide.

Doxycycline cannot cure acne scars, which may appear like acne.

An uncommon side effect of tetracyclines is a condition known as photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is significant increase in your risk of developing sun damage or a sunburn, no matter how resistant your skin normally is to burning. It may also develop an allergic reaction to the sun.

Of all of the tetracyclines, doxycycline is the medication that carries the most photosensitivity risk. Some studies estimate that sun damage may occur in anywhere between 7% and 20% of all patients using the medication. Those that spend a lot of time in the sun without using sunscreen are strongly advised to be careful when using doxycycline.

Any rash caused by photosensitivity will usually go away after you stop taking the drug.

While doxycycline can be taken with food, many foods prevent doxycycline from working as effectively/efficiency. The following foods and nutrients decrease the effectiveness of doxycycline:

  • Dairy
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Any Antacids

If you commonly eat foods that contain anything in the above list, or you take supplements that contain heavy amounts of the above minerals, you need to discuss this with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you take some other type of medication that won’t interact with these nutrients.

Doxycycline 100mg Acne Dosing

One of the reasons that doxycycline is a popular acne treatment drug is because the dosing is generally lower than other oral acne medications.

Doxycycline is typically dosed at somewhere between 50mg to 100mg, once or twice a day. It's not uncommon to be prescribed doxycycline 100mg acne medications and take them only once a day, but your doctor will tell you if they recommend something different.

It's extremely important to follow dosing instructions exactly as prescribed by the doctor to prevent bacterial resistance. Antibiotics can metabolize quickly, and if you take them incorrectly they will be unable to kill off all of the bacteria and resistance becomes more likely.

Never take doxycycline without a doctor's prescription. Depending on body type, medical history, acne type and allergy risk, your doctor may not recommend doxycycline for acne.

Acne and Doxycycline – Modern Uses

Doxycycline hyclate for acne remains a commonly prescribed antibiotic, but due to the nausea risk and side effects, it is prescribed less often than other acne medications. It's most commonly given to those that showed problems with other tetracycline antibiotics, or those that have kidney damage (since doxycycline is the only tetracycline antibiotic that is metabolized through the liver.

Doxycycline is a useful medication for those that have mild, moderate, or severe acne. But it does have a lot of side effects, especially when taken without food, it carries a strong resistance risk, and it is generally prescribed with other topical medications. It may be in your best interests to try other options before using doxycycline. 



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