Understanding Acne

follicle detail

Understanding the Biochemistry of Acne:

Testosterone (an androgen hormone) targets the skin and sebaceous glands where sebum is produced. Testosterone combines with the enzyme, 5alpha-reductase, to produce dihydrotestosterone, which stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce increased volumes of sebum. Sebum is expelled out of the follicular tube.

Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) and other bacteria on the skin and within the follicles produce bacterial lipases (enzymes) that move into the follicle openings and convert sebum into free fatty acids, which irritates the follicle linings. This irritation causes excessive production of cells and cellular debris, which blocks the follicles and traps P. acnes inside. The P. acnes bacteria inside the blocked follicles breed and produce acne infections. Infections grow and inflame the skin. Macrophage cells produce inflammatory histamines that cause the skin to become red, puffy and painful. This causes more follicle blockage and promotes more acne infections. In the case of cystic acne the infections are very deep in the follicles and the infections may not rise to the surface where the infection and its waste can be expelled. This causes the healing process with cystic acne to be slow.

Most Other Acne Products:

Most acne products attempt to kill P. acnes with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. They do not address the other issues that cause acne, such as excessive sebum production. Benzoyl peroxide can cause premature skin aging, slow healing and is associated with increased skin cancer risks. In 1995 the FDA issued warnings regarding the use of benzoyl peroxide and changed its status from safe to uncertain. (See the Acne Tips and the Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Damage pages for additional information on this subject.)

Skintactix Acne Products:

Skintactix acne products kill P. acnes and a variety of other undesirable bacteria (such as E. coli, staphylococcus, salmonella, etc.) that produce lipases that promote acne. In addition to very small amounts of salicylic acid Skintactix products use unique antibacterial ingredients such as cinnamon extract, sage extract, turmeric extract and wild marjoram extract. In addition to very effectively eliminating P. acnes, these ingredients were selected because each of them has multiple functions. Cinnamon extract, for example, also blocks the action of 5alpha-reductase, as does green tea. These ingredients reduce sebum production and prevent the development of new infections. Green tea and wild marjoram down-regulate the production of interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha which cause the inflammation that promotes new acne infections.

Zinc (contained in the mineral clay used in several Skintactix acne products) blocks 5alpha-reductase as well as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-a. Since zinc is absolutely essential for healing and repair it is an essential ingredient to promote quick and complete healing.

More Biochemistry:

Linoleic acid is a normal component of sebum. It is an "essential fatty acid" required by the body and we are more familiar with this bio-chemical as omega oil (omega 6), such as safflower oil (as contained in Green Tea Poultice) or a number of other terms. Essential fatty acids are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents and sebum made with linoleic acid is calming to the skin. Modern foods have avoided these essential oils in favor of "designer" lipids like trans-fats and research has found links suggesting trans-fats may break down the body's supply of essential fatty acids. When linoleic acid is not available in the skin, the sebaceous glands produce sebum with oleic acid and this form of sebum is irritating to the skin and promotes acne. It has been suggested that oleic acid sebum is drier, firmer and more prone to cause blackheads, whiteheads and promote follicular plugs that lead to acne infections. There is more information on this aspect of acne and acne related conditions (cystic acne, whiteheads or milia and blackheads) in the Acne & Essential Fatty Acids page.

Skintactix acne products contain linoleic acid to ensure it is available for production of non-irritating sebum and to act as a powerful antioxidant and reduce skin inflammation. People with continual follicle blockage (blackheads, whiteheads and/or acne) may benefit from increasing their consumption of foods rich in linoleic acid/omega 6 oils or taking supplements.

Chronic Moderate to Severe Acne:

People who have had moderate to severe acne for several years and have tried multiple forms of prescriptive and non-prescriptive treatments without success should review the Acne & Wheat, Acne & Essential Fatty Acids and Acne & Milk pages to determine if these factors may be involved. People with chronic moderate to severe acne may also benefit from the use of Inhibiting Gel to correct the chemical imbalances in the skin's chemistry that have resulted from chronic infections.