History of Acne Treatment Products: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Did you know that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt struggled with acne? While it might seem that acne is a relatively modern phenomenon with greater amounts of toxins, pollutants and grime in our environment, acne has plagued people around the world for literally centuries with historical records of acne dating back as far as Egyptian and Greek civilization.

Efforts to treat acne have also been passed down throughout time as well. The methods people have turned to in the battle against breakouts throughout history are often surprising and sometimes even amusing.

How old is acne?

History of Acne Treatment Products

In addition to the Egyptians, there is evidence that ancient Greek civilizations also suffered greatly from acne. References to acne appear in the works of both the philosopher Aristotle and the physician Hippocrates. It’s been theorized that the term “acne” derives from the Greek word “akme,” meaning point or spot.

Superstitions and curses

Those ancient Egyptians, believing that acne was a punishment for telling lies, resorted to magic spells and mystical charms in their efforts to dispel breakouts. Chinese folk medicine called for the supernatural powers of peach blossoms to fight “the demon of ill health.” Wiccan religion uses a mix of dirt, water and vinegar to be applied while chanting the appropriate incantation.

The mighty Roman Empire was also the leader in developing acne treatment. They added sulfur to mineral baths to unclog and clean affected pores. This method turned out to be relatively effective, and even today sulfur is still a common ingredient in many acne treatments.

DIY treatments

People have turned to folklore and their own random experimentation seeking an effective acne solution. Some of the more unusual substances used include Pepto-Bismol, hand sanitizer, laxatives, honey and Crest toothpaste. American pioneers of the Midwest even resorted to urine as a cleanser.

Science makes a breakthrough

The bacteria-killing properties of benzoyl peroxide were discovered in the 1920s. This substance is still commonly used as one of the first lines of defense against acne. Antibiotics like tetracycline came onto the scene in the 1950s, followed by Retin A in the 1960s and Accutane in the 1980s.

Lasers and lights

Laser treatments that originated in the 1990s have proved to be extremely effective, but the high cost makes them prohibitive for many. Studies involving blue light therapy began in the late 1990’s, a treatment that involves narrow high-intensity blue light treating effected areas of the skin.

What does the future hold?

The medical community is recently now focused on treating acne as an inflammatory response in the body.  Recent research has indicated promise from a vaccine with the ability to target the irritating bacteria, rather than relying on scrubbing and cleansing treatments that may actually aggravate the problem.  Scientific advancements make it entirely conceivable that researchers will develop a cure for acne one day.  Until then, people everywhere will continue seeking the best acne treatment available, conventional or not.

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