"Given the complex variables that influence skin oils, bacteria and inflammatory response in different patients, it is nearly impossible to control all variables except the treatment in order to get good, high quality, evidence-based comparative research on acne," said Messmer.
Messmer said there is not a suitable objective measure when studying the effects of acne, "but in the end, it's the impression of the observer that makes the determination."
But that impression on the person can have lasting impact -- study authors discussed the psychological and social impact that also comes along with blemished skin.
"Psychological morbidity is not a trivial problem, and it is compounded by multiple factors: acne affects highly visible skin—a vital organ of social display; popular culture and societal pressures dictate blemishless skin; acne can be dismissed by health-care professionals as a trivial selflimiting condition; and acne peaks in teenage years, a time crucial for building confidence and self-esteem," authors wrote in the report.
While the choices for acne treatments abound, Cooper encouraged consumers to use FDA-approved treatments for acne.
"Such treatments have to do better than the lotion base alone in order to be approved," said Cooper. "Plus their basic formulation and the ingredients are proven to be stable and safe, again in order to [go] through the rigorous FDA approval process."
Dr. Josh Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in N.Y., took it one step further, encouraging patients with persistent acne to visit a dermatologist.
"[They're] single best resource for patients with acne," said Zeichner. "Frequently, combinations of various topical and systemic medications are used. Regimens are tailored to fit patient preferences and their disease."