Pimple treatments pocked with poor supporting science

Bad back-to-school news for self-conscious teens: While there are a number of acne treatments from which to choose, there have been very few studies to determine whether they work or are safe. Furthermore, the use of antibiotics to treat pimples might actually contribute to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to an article published by a U.K. researcher in The Lancet.

"The large number of products and product combinations, and the scarcity of comparative studies, has led to disparate guidelines with few recommendations being evidence-based," lead author Hywel Williams of the University of Nottingham says in a statement. Current recommendations by bodies such as the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne and the American Academy of Dermatology are based on expert opinion without much evidence--potentially leading to problems with conflicts of interest.

Everybody and their mother has an opinion about what causes acne, and how to prevent it--diet, sunlight and skin hygiene are all suspects--but without the science to back it up, lifestyle changes might be futile.

"Almost half of recently published acne trials contain serious flaws that could be overcome by better reporting," the authors say. "The absence of trials with active comparators is a significant handicap to shared clinical decision making. Clinical trials of cost-effectiveness of different strategies for initial treatment and maintenance therapy of acne are needed."

- read the release from The Lancet
- and the summary from the article, aptly named "Acne vulgaris"