A couple of decades back, a joint US and Venezuela team studied acne on more than 1,300 people in remote areas of Paraguay and PNG. The results were published in a JAMA Dermatology paper and they were, according to the authors, “astonishing.”
So what was so astonishing?
The research found virtually no acne among rural men and women. The contrast between the complexions of the people studied and the high levels of acne in the modernized world was striking.
The study authors wrote that the discrepancy “cannot be solely attributed to genetic differences among populations but likely results from differing environmental factors.”
In the West, acne pimples are the norm among teens. They are also increasingly common among grown ups. In the US, Some estimates estimate that almost every kids have had a zit problem. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in three women in their thirties has acne, and 20% of men.
“Acne is not just for teens — there are extraordinary numbers of adults with acne, and the numbers seem to be going up”
It's difficult to find historical studies of acne prevalence, but what evidence we do have suggests acne rates are on the rise among both young people and adults. A 2016 study from the University of Colorado found that, between 1990 and 2010, acne rates increased 11% among U.S. teens. Recent research on adult acne has also turned up evidence that it’s an “emerging issue,” especially among women.
Dr. Adam Friedman, a professor and interim chair of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences says “Acne is not just for teens — there are extraordinary numbers of adults with acne, and the numbers seem to be going up,” says . “I treat more adult acne patients than teens, and it’s mostly women in the thirty to fifty age range.”
The cause.. is not that simple to find.
Some researchers speculate that our SAD “Western diet” packed with meat, dairy, refined grains and sugar might be producing a surge in hormones that contribute to acne.
Obesity and diabetes, which remain at epidemic proportions in the U.S., are also associated with acne-promoting hormone shifts, so could help explain rising rates.
Acne treatments the problem rather than the solution?
Dr. Friedman says it may be that acne treatments are to blame by unbalancing the skin’s bacteria — A.K.A. the skin microbiome — ths promoting pimples and breakouts.
“It’s only during the last 50 years that teenagers started using all these acne products” — antibacterials, but also benzoyl peroxide creams and salicylic acid treatments, to name just a few — “and now we’re seeing massive numbers of adults with acne,”
What do these treatments do? They certainly do help dry up or clear away zits in the short term, but it’s also possible they “dysregulate” the skin’s microbiome in ways that persist into adulthood and promote acne.
“What we put on our skin can improve or disrupt the survival of these microorganisms. This is something we didn’t know before, but we’re paying attention to now.”
A study released in 2018 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology demonstrated that a popular acne treatment called Isotretinoin — a derivative of vitamin A — may actually cause a drop in some potentially acne-causing bacteria while bolstering the populations of others that may protect against acne. And that's good, right?
Big name antibacterial acne treatments like clindamycin and macrolides may also wipe out bacteria indiscriminately, and this might be the problem rather than any sort of long term solution.
“Antibiotic treatments are still the first line of prescription drugs used for acne treatment, but they kill all strains similarly, bad ones and good ones as well,”
Huiying Li, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
In one example, research found a link between bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, to the development of acne. According to some of Li’s work, P. acnes is more or less equally common among people with acne and those without.
It just depends on the “strains” of P. acnes that are present on a person’s skin. “Not all the P. acnes are bad,” Li says.
She suggests that beneficial strains of P. acnes help keep the skin appropriately acidic, which bolsters its defenses against pathogens and could, at least in theory, guard against acne. These theories require more exploration. “But in general, you want to maintain balance among the microbes on your skin.” Avoiding products that may affect this balance could be helpful.
What Else Do I need to know about what my kids are doing wrong?
Acne treatments aren’t the only thing that could be messing with your skin’s microflora. “Over-washing can definitely disrupt the skin’s microbiota,” says Friedman. Beauty masks, makeup, and UV rays can also influence the bacterial population.
The science of microbiomes is in its infancy, but Friedman recommends a less-is-more approach to skin care. He says that unless advised otherwise by a dermatologist, using a gentle cleanser once or twice a day, coupled with a non-comedogenic moisturizer, is the way to go. Mild cleansers and many moisturizers act as “prebiotics,” meaning they tend to foster an environment that allows healthy skin microbes to thrive.
“Acne is not normal or healthy physiology,” says Friedman. “It is chronic inflammation in the skin that can have long-lasting consequences. But there’s a lot about it we still don’t understand, especially when it comes to the microbiome.”
Summary and a Possible Answer
It's pretty clear that like the other biomes we acknowledge affect our wellbeing (the gut, the soil's biome) there is a direct and possibly underestimated or under-researched relevance to our immediate health. In the skin biome, it's acne. In our gut biome it's a swathe of symptoms. In the soil biome, chemicals fertilizers and pest control kill the bacteria nd render the soil dead.
Here at AlkaWay we've been deeply into the use of molecular hydrogen for general health support for over 5 years, but until a Taiwanese company contacted us with a simple to use H2 spray product, we'd never considered the use of molecular hydrogen for healthy skin. The advantage of H2 is its extreme minuteness. It's the smaller molecule on earth and probably beyond, so it sees the skin as no barrier. Spraying H2 rich water on the skin allows the molecular hydrogen to easily enter the skin and infuse the biome with billions of molecular hydrogen molecules.
Why is that good?
Because alongside the other 1000+ studies of the health effects of H2, there is a study that demonstrates its ability to seek out the ultra=nasty hydroxyl free radical, turning it on contact, to H2O. Acne is all about inflammation, and inflammation causes the creation of free radicals, which go on to attack our bodies. So it makes great sense to me that a chemical-free, totally non-toxic spray a day maybe the undiscovered hero for the many, many kids scarred with acne.. and often scarred psychologically for life through the experience.
The Q-Mist costs less than $100.. which is about the same price as some of those nasty acne meds. Be an angel. maybe you'll change a kid's life.