Researchers finally think they’ve cracked the code on why one particular bacteria causes acne in some people but not others, despite the bug being a common skin-dwelling microbe. This discovery could lead to more effective treatments for acne within a year or two, researchers say.
A bacteria that lives on our skin most of the time, Propionibacterium acnes, can cause acne breakouts, but the reason this occurs has been elusive. Researchers tested the bacteria in mice to see what was going on, and discovered that when P. acnes was trapped in an airless hair follicle with sebum, the bacteria turned the sebum into fatty acids that caused an inflammatory response in the hair follicle and nearby cells.
Usually enzymes turn this inflammation off, but the fatty acids deactivate this natural stopper, leaving inflammation unchecked. This causes the redness and soreness of an acne lesion.
The triggers for excess sebum production include androgens, like testosterone, that stimulate sebum production in skin. Sebum converted to fatty acids is food for P. acnes, causing a vicious cycle. The results of the study are still only in mice at the moment, however, so further human studies are expected.
Why you can’t wash P. acnes away
P. acnes is a bacteria that creates a sticky biofilm, which is a matrix produced by bacteria that keeps the bacteria inside, all safe and sound. This locks the bacteria into your follicles and allows them to colonise your skin more effectively, preventing removal by normal methods.
Why you don’t want to live without P. acnes
P. acnes is also – ironically – a bacteria that helps keep our skin healthy, which is why antibiotic treatments can actually make acne worse.
We have a range of effective treatments to help eradicate problematic follicle infections and inflammation associated with P. acnes using light and wave-based treatments. Acne can also be tackled from different angles, including managing hormones that can contribute to problem skin.