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.

17 Responses to “What causes acne? It might not be bacteria.”

  • HTX_2008

    I made a thread about how trigger points are linked to acne a while back, but i didnt receive a response…i know it seems far fetched, but i think this can help support it.

  • Sierra117

    I too was wondering today how the spot treatment is coming along. I could really use it.

  • Emmaleigh

    hmmm…interesting research. I was thinking though, if the P. Ances bacteria does not cause acne then why is BP so effective in healing the acne?

  • Vegan with acne

    ^
    I would have to say that, assuming this study is correct, they’re only saying the bacteria doesn’t *initiate* acne, though it certainly appears after the acne has developed. BP then not only kills new acne bacteria, but also oxidizes what our immune system has done to counteract outbreak. Not only can bacteria not survive the oxidation, but the immune system-induced swelling, sebum, and leukocytes (the pimple) are dried out by the BP also.

  • Vegan with acne

    Has everyone asking for the spot treatment used the acne.org regimen? I began the regimen, to the T, last September, my severe acne was cleared in four months, and now I’ve been in the clear stage (still on regimen) for four more months. I’m pretty sure the key to this program is clearing up your acne completely, not spot-treating. And the AHA, once you’ve correctly introduced it to your skin, works in conjunction with BP to eliminate any little pimples that start trying to make it through.

  • tr222

    I hypothesize that the co-evolutionary purpose of P. Ances bacteria in humans is actually to cleanse the pores of blockage. They certainly do not cause the blockage (anyone with non-inflamed, comedonal acne knows this…) they simply migrate into the pore and feed on the blocking agents. It’s actually incredibly logical if you think about it: the skin does not want its pores clogged. When it’s natural detoxification and exfoliation methods are incapable of loosening a tightly blocked pore, the symbiotic P Acnes bacteria permeate the pore, and via their metabolic byproducts literally push the blockage to the surface. It’s not a nice process to look at… but it’s sort of impressive. The bacteria cleans out the clogged pore. I’ve never heard this theory before, but I’d love to see it discussed… It just seems so obvious when you think about it. And the logical therapeutic question becomes: how do we keep pores from becoming blocked?

  • Rachel

    That’s interesting…so then why is BP effective for some acne cases?

    This might be why BP is NOT effective for hormonal causes of acne…I suffer from hormonal acne, and BP does nothing for me, even though I followed Dan’s regimen to the T.

    Good post.

  • Acneboy4u

    Really I dont If it’s a bacterian or not coz sometimes it’s for life i think the skin is too mistery to know excatily.

  • Robin

    I thought this info was already understood. I understood the main cause of acne was overproduction of sebum and related inability of the skin to shed quickly enough to process the oil and clean the pores. It seems inflammation could be present with or without acne.

  • Remedies For Acne

    It may not be AIDS, but still, like it, there is also no total combat for what causes acne. But one thing is for sure, a clogged pore results to acne development. You should know that because of this clogging, the inside of the pore can be sticky and increase the inflammation of your acne.

  • David Pascoe

    This discussion has an interesting parallel in the rosacea world.

    The involvement of demodex mites in the cause of rosacea has been controversial. Despite a lot of research only weak statistical links have been found between the presence of demodex mites and rosacea symptoms. It has never been clear whether the mites cause rosacea, or just love the inflammed environment of rosacea sumptoms.

    The fact that demode mites are found in normal healthy skin also confuses the issue.

    *links edited out*

    So it is interesting to compare the role of P. Acnes in acne and Bacillus oleronius in rosacea. A similar chicken and egg story?

    David Pascoe.

  • rapierr

    tr222
    You have discovered what i have been preaching for awhile now. my acne is bad, with or without treatment, because i am genetically prone to imperfect skin and blocked pores. But the day I Stopped cleaning and let my skin become moisturized with my own sweat and oils between showers, i neveR had pops or scars again.

  • spiroteatreeoil

    It’s because the cause of acne is HORMONES— excess androgens or a sensitivity to angrogen/testosterone

  • Brenkgirl

    I am no scientist or wiz by any means. I’m just a female who has sensitive skin and I agree completely with this article that acne is not cause by bacteria. With all the crap that I’ve tried over the years, I’ve come to believe strongly that it’s because of an imbalance of nutrients in your body.

    Any sort of medication you take into your body will more than likely cause a disturbance in your body whether it be big or small. All that I know is, when I don’t eat right, or I am taking a medication, or even birth control (anything that is unnatural) I break out in painful cystic acne-

    For the longest time, I would try acne washes and use them religiously every single day without ever being completely clear. A little better maybe, but never clear.

    I have ADD so I have taken medication for that since I was in highschool. All through highschool I struggled with Acne- When I got out of highschool and I moved away from home, I couldn’t afford medication so I stopped taking it. Around the same time, I started taking birth control. Still had painful cystic acne.. .. After trying different birth controls out for about 3 years (side effects sucked for me) I finally hit my breaking point to stop taking them, when they started to make my hair fall out dramatically.

    So now I come to a point in my life where I wasn’t taking birth control and I wasn’t taking meds for my ADD and my mom started to get on me about being healthy and taking my vitamins. She suggest prenatals because people with ADD and ADHD tend to burn thru their bodies nutrient supply a little more than people without.-

    I started taking NOW Prenatal vitamins from a nature food store and all of a sudden I was completely clear of any acne. I was at a busy point in my life and not on meds so I have the tendency to not wash my face religiously because I’m always in a rush and I forget. I could be sweaty, I could be covered in dirt, I could go a few days without washing my face, and still no acne!! I did some researching of my own and I found out that a Vitamin B-complex is crucial as well as many other vitamins. I learned the hard way that you can’t just take more of one vitamin and not others because that causes an imbalance. I tried taking just biotin and I got cystic acne. I tried taking another form of vitamin B and I broke out in cystic acne again… I went back to taking my prenatals and cleared up completely within days.

    So here is where I get convinced- I’m living my life chemical free, (eating right, not taking meds or birth control) clear skin and now I’m about to get married. I’m stressing out constantly forgetting things. My ADD is really starting to show and my bright idea? I have insurance now and I can buy meds that will help me to be calm and focused so I go buy me some. Within 2 days, I had that annoying cystic acne. I counteracted it with adding a little more to my vitamin supplement and it sort of helped out. Then! I realized that I was going to have my period the week of my wedding and I did not want this at all so I decided I would go back on the pill for just a little while so I can skip it until after the wedding. Instantly! The next day I had breakouts and I’ve been taking it for about a week now and it’s painful. NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT!

    So I sit back today an think about it- The hormones in BC affect the metabolism of certain vitamins and nutrients in your body and so does the meds for ADD. Alot of non-natural products do.

    I’m not saying throw all acne remedies out the window because everyone’s skin is different, but I do believe that a chemical imbalance in the body is what causes most acne and not bacteria. Some people say its hormonal but as I said, that would mean its nutritional. People metabolise things differently obviously, otherwise BC wouldn’t make one person break out and the other clear up. I’m just saing, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on all this acne bullcrap that they have you buy into, take some time to do a little research about yourself and your lifestyle and find out how to balance your body out before resorting to calling the doctor. The majority of the human population is vitamin deficient in some way or another- It’s just a matter of finding out where you are deficient.

    And that’s the end of my really long comment. To all those people who actually took the time to read this, I hope this was helpful or that you have similar stories and agree!

  • Jayden Arthur

    Acne occurs when the natural oils that the skin produces gets clogged in the pores of the skin. Normally, acne is prevalent in the onset of puberty when the body starts to produce hormones.

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