Acne: How medication fails, and why naturopathic strategies are often best suited to solve it.

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

I have been helping my patients to resolve acne for the past 15 years, without the need for medication. Many have come to see me because conventional medicine failed to resolve it, or made it worse, or caused unacceptable side effects. And I see others who are seeking my help for gastrointestinal concerns, including inflammatory bowel diseases, who often have had a history of acne treatment. Both isotretinoin/Accutane use, and systemic antibiotic use in acne treatment are correlated with increased risk of development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) later in life.

Other common side effects of isotretinoin include: fetal damage in pregnancy, inflammation, dryness and cracking of the skin, lips and nostrils; changes in blood sugar levels; inflammation of the eyelids; conjunctivitis; and blood in the urine. More rarely, it can cause hepatitis, pancreatitis, and kidney disease. Concerns with prolonged antibiotic use include intestinal problems, obesity, increased risk of breast cancer, development of allergies, and antibiotic resistance. Prolonged use of antibiotics affects the microbiome (the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit our bodies) in areas other than just the gut and skin, resulting in disease. A new report notes that people who use topical and oral antibiotics were three times as likely to show an increase of bacteria in the back of their throat and tonsils compared with non-users. Long-term use of antibiotics in acne treatment also is associated with an increase in upper respiratory infections and skin bacteria, and was shown to affect a user’s blood-sugar level.

Hormonal strategies can be helpful for some women with acne, especially when contraception is desirable anyway. But the benefits of hormonal therapies must always be weighed against the potential for increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and a slightly increased potential for anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.

My preference is therefore to help patients resolve their acne troubles before they begin interventions that are potentially harmful to their bodies. This goes back to, “First, Do Not Harm.” Even better, the strategies I use often have side benefits, instead of side effects! The combination of weeding out aggravating factors, offering individually-developed nutritional strategies, topical care, and naturopathic strategies that help to “balance” hormone function also often address side concerns a patient might have- such as focus, fatigue, PMS, mood, and/or period concerns. When considering the best approach, whether for yourself, or a child who is having concerns with acne- please begin by setting up an office visit with me.

Questions? Complimentary 10 minute “Meet and Greets” by phone are always welcome for prospective patients, and they can be scheduled online here.


Cora Rivard, N.D., is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Derry, NH. Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC. She specializes in non-medication-based approaches for solving health and wellness concerns, which includes nutrition, stress management, lifestyle and natural medicine.

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