There are dozens, if not hundreds, of theories on preventing and treating acne. Some people swear by supplements. Others sing the gospel of giving up dairy or even drinking dog pee in order to eliminate the pesky (and sometimes painful) bumps. But even the best, most scientifically backed treatments can cause problems, such as dry skin, sensitivity to sunlight, and birth defects.
These imperfect remedies make it particularly exciting that there’s a new acne vaccine in development. But even that, as promising as it is, may fall prey to many of the same pitfalls as current treatments.
The vaccine, which if put into use would be the first of its kind, is designed to reduce the body’s inflammatory response to the toxins secreted by bacteria in the skin. So far the vaccine has only been tested in mice and human-tissue samples, but “the potential impact of our findings is huge for the hundreds of millions of individuals suffering from acne,” said Chun-Ming Huang, one of the lead researchers working on the vaccine, in a press release. (Huang and his team did not respond to requests for interviews.)
The bacteria targeted by the new vaccine are just one potential cause of acne; hormones, genetics, and certain medications can also contribute to the condition. Carlos Charles, the founder of Derma di Colore, a dermatology practice that specializes in skin of color, says that the multifactorial nature of acne makes it very difficult to treat. “People often come in and say, ‘Is it my diet?’ and I say yes. ‘Is it the cream I’m putting on my face?’ I say yes.”