We recently found a bunch of empty labelled 8oz. benzoyl peroxide bottles at one of our manufacturers. It was one of those moments where you have to think about what to do–should we practice what we preach regarding environmental stewardship and use them, even though most people, myself included, prefer the tube for the 8oz. BP? In the end, we decided to go ahead and use them.

We did something similar last year when we came across some extra blue bottles from when the products used to be blue. You guys seemed to agree that it was fine to use those blue bottles, even though it meant your products might not all match for a while.

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A quick rundown of our thinking:

Throwing the bottles away:
Benefits:  Continuity of packaging. Less customer service issues.
Drawbacks:  Costs money to haul them away and dispose of them. Guilt; it feels wrong not to use what we have.

Reusing the bottles:
Benefits
:  Possibly save a bit of money by using everything we have. Less guilt.
Drawbacks:  Lots of people prefer the tube for the 8oz. size.

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To me, the decision isn’t very hard. It feels best to use what we’ve got, and it may save us a bit of money (we hope to at least break even once you account for extra customer service and other expenses involved in using the bottles). Thanks for supporting us with stuff like this when it happens. If you absolutely can’t stand the 8oz. BP bottles, let me know, but if you can stomach them for a little while, I think we can all feel pretty good about it.

An article released this month in the British Journal of Dermatology took a look at the evidence scientists have boldly gathered from 1950 through 2010 regarding when and where acne bacteria tends to exist and in what amounts. The patterns they found are intriguing and seem to suggest that acne bacteria, known as P. Acnes, may not cause clogged pores.

Over the past 60 years, various researchers have taken biopsies of “normal” skin, acne prone skin, and inflamed and noninflamed acne lesions, and then counted the bacteria they found. It turns out that across the vast majority of the 14 studies of this nature, acne bacteria is not always present, even in active acne lesions. A small but compelling percentage of acne lesions are “sterile” and contain no bacteria whatsoever.

Faced with this kind of consistent evidence, the authors hypothesize that acne bacteria does not initiate acne. How could it, they seem to ask us to ponder, if it doesn’t exist in all acne lesions?

However, the authors go on to state that after a pore has become clogged, acne bacteria can make the situation worse through a number of means, including increasing the skin’s cell production, causing stickiness inside the pore, and kicking inflammation into higher gear, amongst others.

So what causes acne? Is it our body’s immune response? Inflammation? Genetics? Vitamin/Mineral deficiency? The search continues…but as we move forward, let’s keep this evidence regarding bacteria in mind.

In 2004, Dale F. Bloom wrote an interesting article which was published in the journal Medical Hypothesis. Mr. Bloom contends that acne may be evolution’s way of preventing us from reproducing before we are physically and mentally ready to take care of our offspring. My summary:

The brain: Our pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brain which makes us uniquely homo sapien, is only finished maturing in our early 20s. It develops last and is responsible for good judgement, impulse control, planning, and danger response–all of which help us raise healthy and safe children.

Adolescence: Our ancient ancestors needed to learn the tricky skills involved in hunting and gathering, and it is more than likely that the adolescent years were ground zero for learning these important life strategies. Once learned, a person would be much better prepared to raise his or her young.

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Acne’s role: Acne shows up at the onset of adolescence, and Bloom argues that unhealthy appearing skin may make a person less desirable to the opposite sex. Acne thus does the job of preventing conception. As acne subsides with the end of adolescence, a person is psychologically ready to raise children and has learned the skills needed to provide for his or her young.

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But what about adults with acne? Bloom hypothesizes that certain physical diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome, various substances such as steroids, or chronic stress may result in hormonal imbalances which cause adults to suffer with acne. He goes on to entertain the notion that perhaps humans evolved adult signs of acne as a physical sign of chronic stress, thus reducing the likelihood that a chronically stressed individual would reproduce.

Today’s Hunter/Gatherers: Anthropologists have reported zero incidence of acne in two modern hunter/gatherer tribes from Papua New Guinea and Paraguay. Interestingly, the Paraguayan girls the anthopologists visited don’t get their first period until they are on average 16 years old. The average age in the U.S. is 12. The Peruvian girls, Bloom says, therefore have less need for acne in order to prevent early pregnancy.

Fascinating stuff to ponder. Thanks Mr. Bloom.