Different trends in acne treatment
Just like any discipline, skin care sees different trends in how conditions are treated. These trends are a testament to how complex the condition is. One of the skin disorders that is yet to have a definitive solution is acne.
The National Library of Medicine defines acne as ‘a chronic disorder associated with an increase in sebum secretion. It is characterized by open comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads).’
One of the things that make the search for a conclusive solution to acne a frustrating one is the fact that there is no consensus on the cause of acne.
Broadly speaking, there are 4 commonly accepted causes of acne:
Teenagers go through a dramatic period of hormonal changes during puberty. Both boys and girls produce high levels of androgens. This in turns results in an increase in the production of sebum.
Hair follicles (on the face, chest, back) that get clogged by the sebum provide a breeding ground for bacteria. This leads to the formation of blackheads, whiteheads and pimples.
This is a disorder where dead skin cells do not leave hair follicles because of an excess in keratin (a natural protein found in skin). This keratin results in “bonding” of dead skin cells, which then leads to clogging the sebaceous glands, which then leads to P. acnes bacteria growing.
Inflammation ‘happens when the immune system fights against something that may turn out to be harmful.’ Some of the signs include redness, swelling, heat etc. Inflammation is actually a beneficial thing up to a point. However, if it becomes chronic that’s when it becomes problematic because the chemicals (example – cytokines) will damage the surrounding pores.
New research suggests that it’s not only the bacteria but inflammation plays an crucial role in the growth of acne and scars.
The treatment of this condition ranges from traditional & natural modalities to pharmaceutical options. Usually the different treatments gain popularity at different times.
Following is a brief exploration of the major trends in acne treatments over time:
Fight sebum with drying products
Using products that have a drying effect for the skin was the considered the norm at one point. In fact, those options are still widely available and popular. Some of the options that fall under this are Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid. Both serve to slow down sebum production and break down black heads and white heads.
Alcohol is also another common drying ingredient found in these products.
Fight oil with oil
There was a time when products would advertise their cleansers or creams as ‘oil-free’. However, natural plant based oils is now back in vogue. Although it may seem counterintuitive to fight excess oil with more oil, it makes complete sense if we try to understand the mechanism of our skin.
The sebum produced by our glands actually plays an important role in protecting our skin from outside environmental factors. It’s only when there is excess sebum does the hair follicles get clogged which leads to the growth of bacteria.
This then leads us to the question of how to remove the excess sebum. Many cleansers generally end up removing not only the excess sebum but even the protective layer that we all need. This then gives a signal to our glands to produce even more sebum than it normally would.
Moreover, many tried to fight any by trying to “cleanse” the pore by using harsh surfactants, scrubs which leads to more barrier impairment, which then leads to inflammation.
It is here that botanical oils have an advantage. This follows the logic that ‘like dissolves like’. In the case of cleansing, the oils can attract the oil that is clogged in our skin. As a moisturizer, it contains properties that will lock in the moisture after cleansing. The right oils will balance the sebum production which will prevent an excess in production.
Given that new research considers inflammation to cause acne and acne scars, treatments should emphasize on providing products that anti-inflammatory properties. Several plant based oils and essential oils provide this benefit. Some examples include thyme, rosemary, helichrysum etc.
Antibiotics can be taken orally or topically. Their main function is to kill the bacteria on the skin and in the pores. Some of them also helps in reducing hyperkeratinization. This is generally used for moderate to severe types of acne.
There are other treatments nowadays that use technology, for example, laser treatments that directly target the bacteria. These treatments are generally very expensive and not easily accessible.
Given the complexity of this condition, we won’t be surprised if a new trend will come in the future. Meanwhile, at Skin Dewi we are firm believers that the right botanical oils can tackle the disorder. To further understand how these modalities work, our next blog post will discuss about the different types of acne. Knowing this can help in choosing the kind of products that you’d apply on your skin.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Skin Dewi is not liable for the decisions you make based on this information.
Acne. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0025360/
Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072482/
Kircik, H. Leon. Reevaluating Treatment Targets in Acne Vulgaris: Adapting to a New Understanding of Pathophysiology.
Nordqvist, Christian, Acne: Causes, Diagnosis and How to Get Rid of Acne. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/107146.php
Toyoda M1, Morohashi M. Pathogenesis of acne. [PubMed]