So funny and so true:
Posts By: Dan
Prevalence: Acne is prevalent in Asians. According to an article in Pediatric Dermatology, “Acne remains one of the most common dermatologic diagnoses in children of all races.” The authors of this article found that the most common reason that Caucasians visit the dermatologist is acne, while the most common reason that Asians visit the dermatologist is dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), with acne not far behind. Another study in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica looked at people of all ages in six cities around China and found not suprisingly that younger people experience more acne, and that males had more acne than females. However, they also found that prevalence of acne was lower in Asians than in Caucasians and far lower in Asian adults than Caucasian adults (1% vs. 13%).
Hyperpigmentation: The literature echoes what I have always said, which is that prevention is key when it comes to the dark/red spots that acne leaves behind. According to authors of an article in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, “The primary treatment of PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) is prevention and treatment of the underlying inflammatory condition.” The Regimen is the best way to topically prevent acne and it works remarkably well in people of Asian heritage. The authors go on to note, “In addition to prevention, there are a variety of medication and procedures used to treat PIH. Although topical skin-depigmenting agents remain the treatment of choice for PIH, lasers and light sources may be an affective adjunctive therapy or alternative for treatment failures. When treating PIH, any treatment options selected should be optimized and utilized carefully because the treatments itself may worsen the PIH.”
Accutane: A 4-year retrospective study in The Journal of Dermatologic Treatment looked at how well Accutane (isotretinoin) worked for Asian skin. They concluded: “This study reaffirms the overall safety and efficacy of oral isotretinoin in Asian patients with acne vulgaris.” “Safety” is a relative term here since we know that Accutane can and will cause severe birth defects if taken when pregnant. If you are Asian and considering Accutane, do it only in close contact with a trusted physician.
- Eimpunth S, Waniphadeedecha R and Manuskiatti W. “A focused review on acne-induced and aesthetic procedure-related post inflammatory hyperpigmentation in Asians.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2013; 27(1): 7-18.
- Henderson MD, et al. “Skin-of-color epidemiology: a report of the most common skin conditions by race.” Pediatric Dermatology. 2012; 29(5): 584-9.
- Gan EY, et al. “Isotretinoin is safe and efficacious in Asians with acne vulgaris.” Journal of Dermatologic Treatment. 2012; 24(5): 387-91.
- Kundu RV and Patterson S. “Dermatologic conditions in skin of color: part 1. Special considerations for common skin disorders.” American Family Physician. 2013; 87(12): 850-6.
- Shen Y, et al. “Prevalence of Acne Vulgaris in Chinese Adolescents and Adults: a Community-based Study of 17.345 Subjects in Six Cities.” Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 2011; 92(1): 40-4.
Leading medical journals have published two articles recently on the potency of glycolic acid to clear acne. It’s nice to see this hard evidence come in after so many years of all of us realizing first hand that glycolic acid helps keep us clear.
The first article in The Journal of Dermatology attempted to gauge if glycolic acid peeling helps improve acne, and if it does, whether it is through its ability to kill acne bacteria (P. Acnes). The researchers found “significant improvement of inflammatory eruptions from the first application.” They also found that glycolic acid kills acne bacteria: “Each treated side (of the person’s face) had much lower numbers of colonies compared with the untreated side…”
The second article in the Journal of the German Dermatological Society summarized what we are now seeing in the medical literature when it comes to glycolic acid and acne: “Patients assess their skin as more tensile, firmer, smoother and more youthful looking after the use of AHA containing products. For mild acne, the efficacy has been proven by double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials.”
For more on how to use glycolic acid with acne, see this video:
To order Acne.org 10% Glycolic Acid (AHA+) go here.
- Takenaka Y, et al. “Glycolic acid chemical peeling improves inflammatory acne eruptions through its inhibitory and bactericidal effects on Propionibacterium acnes.” The Journal of Dermatology. 1012; 39(4): 350-4.
- Babilas P, Knie U, and Abels C. “Cosmetic and dermatologic uses of alpha hydroxy acids.” Journal of the German Dermatological Society. 2012; 10(7): 488-91.
Researchers published a very interesting study recently in The American Journal of Clinical Dermatology to gauge how accurate data from crowdsourcing is when it comes to the efficacy of acne treatments. The researchers asked 662 online acne patients to tell them how well their treatments were working and then compared this to results from clinical studies. I found a few interesting things.
Responses from the crowd seemed to vary quite widely with clinical studies. For instance, only 46% of respondents from the crowd reported any improvement from tretinoin (Retin-A) compared with 80% of subjects in clinical trials. 64% of the crowd reported improvement from Accutane (isotretinoin) compared with upwards of 90% of subjects in clinical trials. 41% of the crowd reported improvement from tetracycline oral antibiotic therapy compared with 57% of subjects in a clinical trial. 38% reported improvement from doxycycline oral antibiotic compared with 50% of subjects in a clinical trial.
You may be noticing a trend here. As the authors of this particular study note, “For most…treatments, medication with high efficacy in clinical trials did not produce high effectiveness ratings based on the crowdsourced online data.” Why might this be? Could it be due to the inaccuracy in respondent responses outside the parameters of a clinical setting? Or could it be because the people funding the vast majority of clinical trials are the companies who make the products? Lest I get too high on my high horse, I do not think it is always the case that data is skewed in favor of corporations and profits. For instance, over the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of pieces of input from people here at Acne.org show Accutane (isotretinoin) producing improvement for way more than 64% of people.
Something I very often find disturbing from results of acne medications, whether the data comes from the crowd or clinical trials, is the poor efficacy of the medications themselves. Who wants to use a medication which only helps 50% of people improve, and only improve somewhat? This is why I want the world to know about The Regimen here at Acne.org. It reliably gets almost everyone completely clear. That’s the kind of results people want.
So where do we go from here? I firmly believe that the future of pretty much everything is in crowdsourcing, and medicine is no exception. We know from Wikipedia that when enough people get together to share their knowledge, crowdsourcing can be incredibly accurate and valuable. I think the same can be true for medical information as long as we achieve a critical mass of people inputting their data. That’s one of the big goals of Acne.org and I hope we see more of this in the future across the medical spectrum. Join Acne.org if you haven’t already and add your voice!
- Armstrong A, et al. “Harnessing the power of crowds: crowdsourcing as a novel research method for evaluation of acne treatments.” The American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2012; 13(6): 405-16.
Lots of people will try a new skin care product and be sure it broke them out. They assume it is something in the product itself–a bad ingredients of some kind. However, people often miss a stealthy cause of breakouts: irritation.
Let’s say you are sensitive to acne on the back of your neck. You don’t normally use a sunscreen there but now that it’s getting sunny you started applying some sunscreen there each morning for the past week. Boom, you broke out. You are certain it is the sunscreen. What else could it be!? Well, it could be the irritation when you applied it. Your neck has been accustomed to being left alone. And acne-prone skin loves being left alone. Then whamo, for the past week you have been slathering on sunscreen and not being gentle at all. What you don’t realize is that you have been irritating your skin on a daily basis.
The moral of the story: Consider irritation as a potential cause of breakouts, not just products themselves. And always apply any product with a featherlight touch.
Now go have some fun in the sun
For those of you who have tried The ZIIT Method, you know it works as long as you catch the zit early in its lifecycle. But why does it work? Is it the Zinc, Ibuprofen, Ice, or Treatment that is doing the most?
In order of ability to stop a zit in its tracks I would rank them like this:
1. [Tied for first place] Ice and Treatment (2.5% benzoyl peroxide followed by 10% glycolic acid)
2. Ibuprofen (or other NSAID)
We know that early application of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and 10% glycolic acid will usually stop a pimple from forming. However, ice is often overlooked for its anti-inflammatory prowess. Try and and you’ll see. Next time you feel a zit forming, even if it seems like it’s going to be a big painful one, try The ZIIT Method, and don’t forget the ice component.
A tip for how to apply ice:
Put a piece of ice in a ziploc bag:
Get yourself an eye patch from your local drugstore. They are cheap. I got this one for about $2.49.
Then hold it on the pimple for 5 minutes.
Do this twice a day along with the rest of The ZIIT Method and you will be surprised how much power you have over a menacing zit–as long as you catch it early.
Probiotics are bacteria which inhabit the intestines and help maintain a healthy balance. They are known to interact with bodily tissue which comprise the immune system. Probiotics could also be helpful in lessening systemic inflammation. We also know that people with acne tend to have more constipation, and, excuse the frankness, their poop has less healthy bacteria in it. So it’s intriguing to think that maybe probiotics could help.
At least two studies have been performed so far regarding probiotics and acne. The first found a significant decrease in total acne lesions when people were taking probiotics alongside minocycline vs. taking minocycline or probiotics alone. This is marginally interesting, but not groundbreaking. The second study had people applying probiotics topically to the skin and those applying 5% topical solution exhibited “an effective reduction in acne lesion size and (redness).” Again, this is somewhat interesting, but not earth shattering.
Lastly, since doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics for acne, even though I can see absolutely no reason why they continue to do this, these patients may benefit from probiotic supplementation post-treatment to get their gut back in check.
My bottom line with what we know so far is that probiotics probably can’t hurt and may help somewhat.
- Bowe WP, Patel NB, Logan AC. “Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis: from anecdote to translational medicine.” Beneficial Microbes. 2013; 25: 1-15.
- Jung GW, et al. “Prospective, randomized, open-label trial comparing the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of an acne treatment regimen with and without a probiotic supplement and minocycline in subjects with mild to moderate acne.” Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2013; 17(2): 114-22.
- Muizzuddin N, et al. “Physiological effect of a probiotic on skin.” Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2012; 63(3): 385-95.
I remember when I first got acne. I tried to scrub it away by using a washcloth several times a day and rubbing as hard as I could. This resulted in what were probably hundreds of tiny pimples, on my forehead and hairline especially. It didn’t take me long to realize that harsh scrubbing was getting me nowhere.
I have never seen a scientific study specifically attempting to gauge how physical irritation of the skin can cause acne, however. It’s abundantly clear that it does, both from my own personal experience, and the experience of hundreds of thousands of us on acne.org. If you’re not convinced, just wear a face mask for a sport and you will see how hard it is to keep this area clear.
In a recent article published in the journal Dermatology, authors observe three female patients who presented with severe inflammatory acne “due to the association of two factors: facial friction with cosmetic agents.” These young women were rubbing their faces in a “compulsory manner” with their cosmetics.
The authors conclude: “Because cosmetic face friction as a cosmetic care becomes more and more fashionable, dermatologists should be aware of this severe clinical condition, which can occur in patients without a person history of acne.”
Hey, at least this is something. It would be cool to see some sort of controlled clinical trial performed on the effects of physical irritation alone on the severity of acne in the future. In the meantime, if you want to clear up your skin, stay gentle!
- Seneschal J, et al. “Exogenous inflammatory acne due to combined application of cosmetic and facial rubbing.” Dermatology. 2012; 224(3): 221-3.
I recently finished pouring through the last 2 years of acne scar research and have updated the scars page. It’s an evolving field. Here’s what I found:
Lasers are becoming more and more the go-to treatment for acne scarring. Fractional lasers, which treat only a fraction of the skin at once, are also becoming more popular for their ability to reduce side effects while still producing results.
Scientists are incorporating radiofrequency devices along with lasers and data is promising, while not earthshattering, that radiofrequency could help a bit.
Scar revision specialists have treated scars with fat injections for years with lots of success. However, recently, they are trying what they call autologous fibroblasts, which are cultured connective tissue cells from the person’s own body. This is also showing lots of promise.
Despite the advances, a person embarking on scar revision should not expect miracles, but should instead expect improvement. As always, data is showing that a combination of treatments (i.e. laser combined with subcision and augmentation) produces the best outcomes especially in more severe scarring. According to an article in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, “Severe grades of scarring often require a combination of filling agents for volume deficit, injectable agents for hypertrophic disease, neurotoxins to effect movement, and fractionated and ablative resurfacing for surface changes.”
Lastly, there appears to be vast confusion amongst dermatologists in the classification of acne scars. This highlights the need to carefully select a scar revision expert who is dedicated to and experienced in this specific area of surgery. If you decide to embark upon acne scar revision, do your homework and make sure you go with someone who specializes in acne scars.
A recent article in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies discusses herbal sunscreens and sun protectants. Of specific interest is an herb called golden serpent fern (Phlebodium aureum). Several studies have been performed, and an extract from the plant, when taken orally, appears to help protect the skin from damage. In one particularly intriguing clinical trial, people were able to stay in the sun almost 3 times as long with golden serpent fern than without. According to the authors of the article, “The data on golden serpent fern extracts look very promising for counteracting negative effects of UV exposure in healthy people wishing to avoid sunburn…”
I think it would be great to have something oral that could help protect against the sun. This would limit the amount of stuff people need to put on their skin, thus eliminating potential breakouts. The only problems is I cannot find a single place anywhere online to buy golden serpent fern.
1) Have any of you tried golden serpent fern? If so, did it work?
2) Any ideas on where I can get my hands on some?
- Yarnell E and Abascal K. “Herbal Sunscreens and Ultraviolet Protectants.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2012; 18(3): 141-144.