Traditional at-home light therapy, which must be performed daily with tabletop red and/or blue light, produces very few side effects but also tends to produce disappointing results. However, dermatologists are now using light therapy on patients in their offices in a different way with better results but with more pronounced side effects. The procedure is called photodynamic therapy (PDT). The first step is what makes PDT different from at-home light therapy. A photosensitizing agent is applied to the skin. This primes the skin to react to the light that is applied. Next, red and/or blue light is shone on the skin for 15-20 minutes. Due to the power of photosensitizing agents, the reaction with the light creates more side effects and can include severe pain during the procedure and a full week of downtime afterward. The entire procedure is repeated 3-5 times at 2-4 week intervals, and is normally reserved for moderate to severe acne.
Results tend to be far better and longer lasting than light therapy alone when the procedure is done correctly. What is “correct” is up for debate, but science is pointing us more toward red light, which penetrates the skin more deeply. Other considerations are also important. Check out the new Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) page of acne.org for the full story on this new therapy.
I read three studies recently on Sodium L-Ascorbyl-2-Phosphate (SAP), which is a topically applied vitamin C derivative. It is an antioxidant which is showing statistically significant acne clearing over time. It seems to clear the skin about as much as other topical prescriptions. This sounds impressive, but keep in mind that most topical prescriptions only clear the skin 40-50%. This is why The Regimen is so important because it completely clears the skin, which is what people really want. But I digress…
The three studies I read were in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Cosmetic Dermatology, and the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. They all used 5% SAP and show around 40-50% clearing of acne after 8-12 weeks with very few side effects. SAP has a good safety profile. Only a very small percentage of participants in the studies withdrew because of adverse effects even at a relatively high 5% titration.
Why might it work? Squalene is the most abundant fatty substance in the skin. Some scientists hypothesize that acne may be partly due to squalene oxidation. SAP is an antioxidant. Next, it may help reduce inflammation, which can not only help calm acne, but may also help prevent scarring to some degree and also help clear hyperpigmentation a bit faster.
I am always trying new ingredients in Acne.org products, and this is on my list to also try. I’ll let you know if and when it makes it into one of our products.
- Ikeno H, Ohmori K. “Open Study Comparing Sodium L-Ascorbyl-2-Phosphate 5% Lotion Versus Adapalene 0.1% Gel for Acne Vulgaris.” Cosmetic Dermatology. 2007; 20(6): 368-372.
- Ruamrak C, Lourith N, Natakankitkul S. “Comparison of clinical efficacies of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, retinol and their combination in acne treatment.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2009; 31: 41-46.
- Woolery-Lloyd H, Baumann L, Ikeno H. “Sodium L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate 5% lotion for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2010; 9: 22-27.
I recently found out about a group of students at the University of Pittsburgh who wanted to work on acne bacteria in an attempt to get it to the point where we can experiment with genetic engineering on these bacteria that have a hand in acne.
When I first pledged money they were only about half way there. As of yesterday I found out they are fully funded! Fantastic guys. Rock it out!
You can view more about this research here.
The question, “Is acne an autoimmune disease?” has always lingered in the back of my mind. An article in Swiss Medical Weekly recently looked into how an over-active immune response could be the culprit in chronic skin inflammation. Since we know that acne is largely an inflammatory disease, could this play a part? The authors state, “The skin is our largest organ, which is exposed to and protects the body from microbes, pathogens and several irritants. However, the skin can…be a site of excessive immune responses resulting in chronic inflammation, autoimmunity or autoinflammation.”
Our skin, like other organs of our body, is pretty amazing. It provides defense against a multitude of pathogens. However, in the case of acne, might it be overreacting to perceived pathogens and creating an unjustified inflammatory response in the form of excess oil and/or hyper-proliferation of skin cells? The key may be in researching inflammasomes that detect pathogens and the cytokines that these inflammasomes activate, specifically interleukin 1 (IL-1).
I have not come across much research on acne and autoimmunity, but if any of you come across some good hard science on this topic, please send it my way.
Also, have any of you gone on immune suppressing medications (i.e. Humira) and seen your acne symptoms change? I’d be curious to hear from you.
I noticed there is also a thread on the forum discussing this as well. Feel free to add your comments there as well.
- Contassot E, Beer HD, French LE. “Interleukin-1, inflammasomes, autoinflammation and the skin.” Swiss Medical Weekly. 2012; 142:w13590.
When it comes to acne, cold beats hot.
Hot: The power of heat at this time is limited in acne care. Lasers and radio frequency devices use targeted heat to kill bacteria in the skin, which can improve acne, but only to a moderate degree and for a high cost. For these reasons, I don’t advocate for these methods, especially lasers. I am intrigued by radio frequency devices and will keep my eye on them as more research comes out, but so far I don’t see much good science when it comes to radio frequency and acne. Spot treatment devices which claim to use heat to stop a pimple from forming tend to disappoint in both their efficacy and cost as well.
Cold: Cold on the other hand, has a long standing history of helping to treat acne. According to a review article published in Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology, “Cold is…a useful treatment modality. In dermatological care, cold is often used for angioedema (under the skin swelling)…” We can see the power of ice in spot treatment. If you feel a zit forming, put a piece of ice in a Ziploc bag and hold it very gently on the spot for 5 minutes. This simple treatment can work wonders, especially when combined with proper topical treatment and anti-inflammatory agents. While less convenient, ice can also be used all over the face. If you’d like to try it, simply fill up a styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. Then peel back the styrofoam and VERY GENTLY move the ice over your entire face. This can get messy but can be fun from time to time. Just be certain to remain ultra gentle to reduce any unwanted irritation.
Cold can help, but there is no substitute for properly treating your skin. First, get on The Regimen and get cleared up. Then, feel free to use ice on occasion when you need it for spot treatment or when you just feel like adding in something for a change of pace.
- Bayata S, Turel EA. “Thermotherapy in dermatology.” Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology. 2012; 31(3): 235-40.
Researchers at UCSF Medical School recently published a review article in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment which took a look at all available evidence on the dosing of benzoyl peroxide. They took a look at 8 studies in all. The authors concluded:
“There appears to be insufficient data…to document use of a higher concentration than 5% or even 2.5%.”
Regarding side effects, the authors note:
“There does appear a difference in the number of side effects according to the dose titration. The 2.5% formulations had a significant lower rate and lower severity of burning, erythema (redness) and peeling…”
They go on to further conclude:
“To increase compliance and thus the efficacy of the therapy, a lower titration of 2.5% should be preferred.”
Those of us who use benzoyl peroxide regularly have noticed this first hand. 2.5% works just as well or better than higher percentages because it does the same job as higher percentages without all the unnecessary irritation that can perpetuate acne cycle.
For best results, stick with 2.5%, and use it within The Regimen.
- Brandstetter AJ, Maibach HI. “Topical dose justification: benzoyl peroxide concentrations.” Journal of Dermatologic Treatment. 2013; 24(4): 275-7.
I try every razor that comes out in the futile attempt to find something that comes close to the Gillette Trac II, which is by far the least irritating razor on the market and the best for people who are acne-prone.
The commercials are so compelling. A FlexBall! It hugs the contours of the face! Well, not really. This razor is much like any other 3, 4, or 5 blade razor. It is much more irritating than the Trac II and doesn’t provide as good of a shave. For 3 days each, I tried both the manual version of this razor and the “power” version which vibrates when you press the button, and neither version seems to hug my face at all. To be honest, the FlexBall for me was just a gimmick and did nothing special. The same goes for the power vibrating version. It feels no different from the manual version and seems completely unnecessary.
Take it from me…save our money and go with the Trac II.
All the info you need for shaving: Acne.org’s complete guide to shaving
Acne rosacea is a different disease from acne vulgaris (run-of-the-mill acne). However, since symptoms often overlap, I like to keep on top of rosacea research as well. A few years ago I read a truly fascinating study which found that the guts of people with rosacea had a much higher incidence of bacteria colonization with a type of bacteria called H. pylori (helicobacter pylori), the same bacteria that is responsible for the majority of stomach ulcers. Of the people who had this bacteria, 20 of 28 of them appeared to be cured by using a powerful antibiotic to specifically kill the helicobacter pylori bacteria. I got so jazzed from the possibility that perhaps H. pylori could also affect acne vulgaris that I went to the doctor and had him order an H. pylori test for me. The test took hours and involved me blowing into a detector every few minutes. My results: Negative. I didn’t have any H. pylori in my gut.
Another study has since been conducted in Nepal. The researchers found that 17 out of 26 rosacea patients they studied had colonies of H. pylori in their gut.
This evidence is so compelling that rosacea researchers are starting to look at the possibility that rosacea is simply a skin manifestation of an internal disease of the gut.
Might another existing or still undiscovered gut bacteria cause or aggravate acne vulgaris? I would so love to know.
- Parodi A, et al. “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2008; 6(7): 759-64.
- Ghattarai S, et al. “The study of prevalence of helicobacter pylori in patients with acne rosacea.” Kathmandu University Medical Journal. 2012; 10(40): 49-52.
We just started selling new Travel Sized products in 3.4 oz. bottles. Airport security (TSA) in the United States sets the limit for carry on products at 3.4 ounces, so we went right up to that legal limit. These Travel Sized products should last you for about 12-13 days which should be plenty even for a longer trip.
The new labels are going out on almost all of the products now. I’m super curious what you guys think of them once you have them and are using them. Please let me know.