We totally understand that on days when you have a major breakout, it feels like you're alone in a troubling saga where the whole world is staring at you and your pimple. But the reality is that you're completely not the minority: According to researchers at UC San Diego, 85% of people experience acne at some point in their life, so we're all in this together. (Except for the 15% that have somehow bypassed acne—you're just showing off.)
Over time, science has made huge strides in treating acne with remedies like Accutane, antibiotics, and topical retinoids like Differin, but as the researchers point out, "There are no appropriate therapeutic modalities that are long-lasting and systemically effective" at reducing P. acnes bacteria, the causative bacterial agent in acne vulgaris. Most of these treatments are also reactive and are used after acne lesions are already present, and when treatment is discontinued, acne has the potential to come back in full force.
That is until the aforementioned researchers revealed that they're working on quite possibly the most revolutionary acne solution to date: an acne vaccine. Take a minute to recover from this incredible news—we had to ourselves.
P. acnes secrete a toxic protein on the skin that causes inflammation, but this vaccine would serve as an antibody to the protein, Allure reports. The vaccine won't kill the bacteria itself, as one of the lead researchers, Eric C. Huang explains. In some ways, P. acnes is beneficial—It's the gram-positive bacteria found in your hair, neck, face, and intestines, and some strains even destroy viruses trying to enter the skin.
Surprisingly enough, the acne vaccine will be able to do much more than prevent pimples: It will also help with endocarditis, endophthalmitis, osteomyelitis, as well as joint, nervous system, and cranial neurosurgery infections.
We asked Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and associate clinical professor, department of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, for her thoughts on the vaccine, and it was met with mixed feelings: "Acne is a multifactorial condition, meaning that it is usually caused by a multitude of things: hormones, excessive sebum, bacterial overgrowth, clogged pores, inflammation. And since not all acne is caused by each of these issues, it will be difficult to have a vaccine that treats all forms of acne." However, if proven to be successful, Tanzi is on board for recommending it: "Acne causes severe psychologic stress to millions of young people every year (not to mention the lasting effects of the scars).
If it can be avoided, that would be an amazing gift to millions of people who would otherwise have to suffer."
So far, the acne vaccine has been successful in animal trials and skin biopsies from patients with acne, but it still needs to be tested on actual patients in clinical trials, and the remainder of its development will take up to two years. Still, we're pretty excited and envious of today's adolescents who may get to grow up with clear skin. Le sigh.
In the meantime, try some of our favorite acne remedies below.
Next up, read about the fascinating island where no one gets acne.