Today, we will uncover one of the main reasons your skin may be flaring up in angry and painful pimples (known as comedones). One of the main culprits is called P.Bacteria. We’ll uncover why remedies like Vitamin A (derived from carrots, sweet potatoes) and healthy fatty acids like olive oil are so paramount to help you manage and keep the P.Bacteria at bay.
You’re here, because you’re a go getter and want to learn what you can do, to battle the monster inside that is shows itself as acne. Good on you for taking the very brave step to get it under control, instead of letting it control you.
Or maybe you want to understand skin that little bit better to help your patients, clients or loved ones through their painful journey. If this is you, I sincerely thank you on behalf of all acne sufferers.
Treating P.Bacteria (and acne) with overnight and short term solutions can be a bit like taking heroine to cure a headache – it’s a short term fix, with long term adverse health effects that leave you worse off than when you began. It may help you in the short term absolutely, but at the cost and expense of your other body organs not to mention going through the process all over again (with a substantial hit to your back pocked) if you have to relive it.
One of the best investments you can ever make in taking steps to controlling your acne, is being able to understand it so you can take steps towards treating the problem, instead of what may seem like endless attempts at treating recurring symptoms.
After finally working out a formula that led me to clear, healthy and happy skin, I ended my 16 year battle with acne naturally without destroying my insides. Not only am I proud to have had acne because it gave me the opportunity to learn about my body, but I’m even more excited to share my learnings with you so you can take back control of your skin and your life using the information and processes that work.
Here, you will learn more about yourself, your acne and how you can take charge and unleash the skin you really deserve. If you don’t have acne, but think there’s room for improvement in the texture, colour and pigment of your own skin, this information is equally as useful as there’s no reason you can’t turbocharge the quality of your skin, and your life starting today.
What is it?
Acne is an infection that sits underneath the epidermis (first layer) of your skin and can cause some of the more painful, larger cysts that appear in chronic acne.
The infection is caused by an influx of P.bacteria known as ‘P.acne’ or ‘P.bacteria’ (official term being propionibacterium acnes). We all have a certain degree of p.acnes in our neck and face area which is generally quite healthy and according to research conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine some strains of the bacteria actually works to protect and fight against viruses to keep our skin healthy. However they found that 2 particular strains of P.Bacteria were more prevalent (and particularly nefarious) in the skin of acne patients when compared to clear skinned patients.
The P.bacteria live right at the bottom of your hair follicles (your pores) and when we have healthy skin, it stays there fighting off other bacteria. So the bacteria in and of itself isn’t bad, but it can turn into an enemy when the conditions for it to flourish are ripe.
How does P.Bacteria grow in the first place?
So as we know, we all have a certain degree of P.Bacteria living in our skin. However, the damaging P.Bacteria proliferate in our skin when it is exposed to two major conditions.
Excess sebum (oil) is produced
The sebaceous (oil) gland is connected to the hair follicle by a very small duct that acts as a canal. In healthy skin, the oil flows into the follicle and through to the top layer of our skin (the epidermis). It is incredibly important for sebum to continue its normal function because it secretes particular fatty acids that deliver antioxidants, antimicrobial lipids (healthy fats) and pheromones to the skin’s surface. This is why stripping your skin of oil can be incredibly damaging as you are ridding your body of the fatty acids you need to protect your body from other pathogens (diseases).
So in normal functioning skin, the sebaceous gland secretes oil, it flows through the hair follicle then up to the top layer of the skin, delivering fatty acids (like Vitamin E) to act as a protective defence against external diseases and viruses.
Unfortunately with acne, there is a dysfunction with this process. There is an overproduction of oil which means the hair follicle gets filled with the excess oil – a bit like a traffic jam at 5pm on a Friday, there is a serious backup of oil leading to a huge build-up of oil in the hair follicle. This is better known as ‘clogging of the pore’ – this clogging is what leads to the visible pimples we see on our faces technically known as ‘comedones’.
This is where the P.Bacteria really begins to flourish because it feeds off the fatty acids that the sebaceous (oil) gland excrete. In other words, the fatty acids released from the oil in our sebaceous glands are the steak and three veg the P.Bacteria need to eat in order for it to get stronger. The oil the sebaceous glands create, are composed of four major elements according to the Journal of Lipid Research:
- Triglycerides, diglycerides, and free fatty acids (57%)
- Wax esters (26%)
- Squalene (12%)
- Cholesterol (2%)
The superfood that give P.Bacteria it’s strength is Squalene. As you can see above, Squalene comprise 12% of the fatty acids elicited from the oil.
The way the P.Bacteria digests Squalene and the other fatty acids is by releasing an enzyme called lipase. Lipase enables P.Bacteria to consumer the Squalene as its main food source, enabling it to grow stronger and stronger the more oil is created because the more Squalene is accessible.
Did you know? An enzyme is a protein. There are three main types of enzymes we have to perform core bodily functions:
- Food: helps us to break food down, from the moment we even start thinking about food our enzymes in our saliva start to work, preparing our bodies for eating.
- Digestive: these work in saliva and the gut to help break down food to transform food into energy.
- Metabolic: helps us to get up and move, or run from danger.
Low levels of oxygen
To additionally compound this problem, there is less oxygen in the hair follicle because it is clogged with the additional oil our sebaceous gland has generated, meaning we have low levels of oxygen in the hair follicle.
The reason why this is so important, is because although P.bacteria can survive exposure to oxygen, it really starts to grow and thrive the less it is exposed to oxygen. So the less oxygen the p.bacteria is exposed to, the stronger it gets.
How does P.Bacteria damage our skin?
So, now we know how the conditions of excess oil production and a low oxygen environment can give P.Bacteria a good chance at survival. Now that it is alive, surviving and kicking, it cumulatively worsens our skin conditions through a series of chain-reaction responses in our body.
The thing about P.Bacteria is that it has a plan to stay, pollinate and stand its ground without any intention of going anywhere. It multiplies rapidly meaning the bacteria can spread around your face very quickly. It cements itself into your pores by gluing itself together along with your keratinocytes (your healthy skin cells) as well as your dead skin cells. This glue is called a biofilm which results in the ‘clumpy’ flow of oil that you may experience underneath the surface of your skin when you have acne.
This is why the pimples stay stuck deep within your skin and are incredibly painful when you go in for extractions, because the clumpy biofilm is keeping the cells stuck to the bottom of the skins layer making it very tough for the dead skin cells (your pimples) to come out.
The human body’s Innate Intelligence is what has enabled us to be the most intelligent creatures walking the planet. We are technically, dinosaurs. We have survived for tens of thousands of years. Part of our Innate Intelligence is when the body sends internal signals that we are in danger, and need to keep safe. This alert system dates back to our paleolithic ancestors when internal messages were sent through the body telling us to ‘run’ from impending danger (namely a lion) or alert our system to an external invader – namely an unwanted bacteria or disease.
In the latter scenario, the body will send its best troops to combat the external invader in the form of white blood cells and cytokines to attack the bacterial invader. This is our intelligent response in the face of danger, which has enabled us to survive over time. This is known as an immunoresponse – where our immune system fires up to fight against harmful and dangerous external invaders.
Unfortunately when we experience p.acne, the cytokines and white blood cells try to firstly contain the infection within one area (main reason why our cysts are so large and segmented), and unfortunately destroy the surrounding skin insfrastructure just by nature of trying to destroy the acne
Just picture troops going into war in around a beautiful field of roses. Not only will they attack the impeding rivals, but they will destroy the integrity of the surrounding ecosystem in the process – from the soil, vegetation, landscape and environmental structure in entirety. This is exactly what happens to your skin. The immunodefense unintentionally damages your skin by unravelling the quality of your skin including damaging your skins cell walls, collagen build up (which you need for plump, rosy skin), impacting the skins cell turnover. This in itself is known as inflammation, where you will undoubtedly experience redness and pain surrounding your pimples.
It’s not the bacteria itself causing inflammation, but your body’s attempt to attack the bacteria, causing the painful inflammation as a result of trying to protect you.
Disrupting your skin’s acid mantle
In a famous study conducted at Cambridge University published in 1951, researchers found that P.Bacteria released the compound called propionic acid when actively consuming fatty acids secreted by oil.
The propionic acid is so profound as to its adverse impacts on the skin’s infrastructure that this type of bacteria was actually named after it: ‘Propionibacterium acnes’ also known as ‘P.Bacteria’ or ‘P.Acnes’.
The propionic acid creation is known as a by-product of the P.Bacteria’s enzymatic effect of consuming the Squalene and fatty acids from the oil.
The reason it is so damaging is because it can damage the surrounding structure of your skin by disrupting the integrity of the infrastructure (ie undoing the very framework that holds your skin up).