Troubleshooting Acne: What Is It? And How Can Plant-derived Ingredients Help?
People are leading quite busy lifestyles these days. As a result, we sometimes forget to properly take care of our health in general, and, well, the skin is no exception. Sadly, this is pretty important. In fact, your skin protects you from pollutants, harmful microbes, UV radiation and dehydration plus regulates your body temperature — via sweat and capillary expansion, or restriction within its surface. Your skin also harbors nerve endings to help you feel pain, heat, cold and other sensations.
And, if that hasn’t piqued your interest, consider that your skin is also the body’s largest external organ making up the majority of its integumentary system (organ system that includes skin, hair, nails, and glands). In fact, it even protects your internal organs and bones from damage in addition to keeping you safe from getting sick. 🤮
Last, but very far from least, this amazing organ photolyzes Vitamin D3 in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) when exposed to sunlight, or ultraviolet radiation. This is quite astonishing considering estimates show up to 42% of Americans are deficient in these fat-soluble secosteroid compounds . Without going into too much detail, let us just say vitamin D3 plays an important role in the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Let’s just take a moment to thank this awe inspiring and amazing organ for all its wonders. Thank you, friend! Thank you!
So, why do so many of us forget about the health of our skin? Why do we sometimes slight this amazing companion? Is it because it always demands our attention? Is it really THAT clingy (pun intended)? Either way, ignoring our skin’s needs may beget problems over time (some severe and some minor). For the purpose of this article we’ll cover some of the less severe, more common skin disorders. We’ll learn how to treat them using plant derived ingredients that actually work. Ready to begin? Here is a list of some of the most common problems we will learn to address in our series of seven articles:
- Periorbital dark circles and eye bags
- Fine Lines and Wrinkles
- Blackheads (type of acne)
- Oily Skin
- Dull Skin
- Dark spots/Age Spots
These are among the most common skin problems that are often treated with conventional harsh chemicals and/or other harmful methods. Sometimes traditional skincare modi operandi do more harm than good, which is why more and more people are opting for plant-derived solutions to their dermatological needs.
Let us now find out how we can tackle the 7 most common skin problems listed above with plant-based ingredients, backed by science, that actually work. Let’s distance ourselves from those other “friends”…err, toxic relationships.
We will begin with Acne in our first of 7 articles.
Onward we go...
Acne, the most common skin problem. What is it?
Common acne (found mostly in teenagers and young adults) is medically termed acne vulgaris (vulgaris, meaning “common”). It is a skin condition characterized by the formation of comedones (e.g., pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, etc.), papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts due to obstructions and inflammation within our pilosebaceous units (hair follicles and their associated sebaceous glands). This condition usually appears on the face, forehead, upper back, chest, and shoulders. There are 4 major factors that contribute to these pestiferous, obstreperous little follicular pests listed below:
- Excess sebum (oil produced from sebaceous glands in skin)
- Follicular clogging with sebum and keratinocytes (primary cells in epidermis)
- Cutibacterium acnes (bacteria formerly known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes)
- Release of inflammatory response/mediators
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting over 50 million Americans each year .
In teenagers, acne is often caused by excess production of sebum (oil) in the sebaceous glands located near the hair follicles as a consequence of elevated androgen levels. However, in older age (especially in women), it is mostly attributable to other hormonal fluctuations and yes, even some skincare products (well, kind of…I’ll explain in a later article).
To simplify things, acne is formed because of blocked pores. This is due to increased division and accumulation of skin cells, oil, bacteria, and inflammation within our hair follicles. Due to heightened oil production, these dead skin cells (which normally shed) adhere to each other and end up clogging the pore of the follicle.
Lastly, you may be surprised, but poor skincare is not a prerequisite to acne formation; however, acne formation may require proper skincare. Ok, ok, enough of the P’s, C’s, bumps, how’s, what’s, where’s and when’s of acne. Let’s just get straight to the point…
How can we tackle Acne?
Since there is accumulation of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria in acne, we will recommend two exfoliating agents plus a non-comedogenic anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial oil to remove or absorb bacteria infested buildup and debris from your skin. Some of these ingredients can be found in cleansers, toners, masks, creams, etc., so depending on your skin care routine you may want to incorporate the following: Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Fruit Enzymes and Tea Tree Oil. Whatever products you choose, it is important to select those suitable for your skin type (e.g., oily, dry, combination, all, etc.) and that work well together. Without further ado let’s jump right in...
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): “Fruit Acids”
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) are a group of chemical exfoliating agents present naturally in plant sugars such as Papaya, Pineapple, Lemon, Tomato, Sugarcane, etc. These acids “unglue,” or dissolve the “gel-like” substance which holds our keratinocytes (skin cells) together, therefore helping to loosen and unclog those pores.
One of the most frequently used AHA’s is the water-soluble Glycolic Acid (most often derived from sugarcane), and for good reason. Glycolic acid gently breaks the lipid bonds on the outer most layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum (layer of protective cells containing keratin and lipids), thereby removing and or freeing up many dead cells responsible for clogging your pores. This exfoliating action will promote new cell turnover, or proliferation; as a result, a new layer of skin will emerge, yielding fewer and less severe breakouts.
If you must use glycolic acid everyday you should start with a product that contains no more than 1%-2% of this AHA. Also, before starting any treatment it is recommended that you speak with a dermatologist first, as some people may not tolerate glycolic acid and other products well. In addition, always make sure you use AHA’s with compatible products and sunscreen for best results and safety (very important). This may be a product best used at night.
The benefits of this AHA do not stop here, however. Glycolic acid also has potent anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties in addition to creating a protective barrier (via proliferation of dense and healthy new cells) that help retain natural levels of moisture in your beautiful skin. If that’s not enough to give this fruit acid a try, it has also been shown in research to penetrate deep into your dermis (due to its small size) to help boost collagen production via fibroblast stimulation.
For most people AHA’s are an excellent and safe option for many reasons, including acne reduction, but as mentioned before, consult with your dermatologist before use to rule out any contraindications or possible side effects. And please, please, please follow the directions carefully when using this or any other skincare product for that matter. With that said, reactions are rare and when used correctly glycolic acid is extremely safe and effective.
A few other naturally sourced AHA friends to consider are Lactic, Tartaric, Citric, Malic, and Gluconic Acids to name a few. We will discuss these in future articles along with BHA’s (mainly Salicylic acid), which are also great for acne and other skin disorders.
For safety and/or efficacy do not mix unless directed by a dermatologist:
- AHA / BHA combination with retinol.
- AHA’s + Retinol (vitamin A).
- AHA’s + Vitamin C.
- AHA’s + Niacinamide.
How to use AHA’s:
- For beginners use sparingly (every other night at most)
- Apply after cleanser and toner (make sure cleanser and/or toner do not already contain high concentrations of AHA’s, any incompatible ingredients, or is strongly astringent – always speak to a dermatologist if unsure)
- Apply with cotton pad if it is a liquid and use clean fingertips if it is a cream, serum or lotion.
- Leave on skin for recommended time as specified on package instructions.
- Apply appropriate moisturizer post application.
- Use caution in the sun by wearing SPF.
- Follow ALL instructions exactly as described on packaging.
- Do not overdo it.
- Fruit Enzymes:
Fruit Enzymes — or proteolytic enzymes — such as Bromelain (found in pineapple) and Papain (found in Papaya) are part of a group of enzymes called proteases, which hydrolyze peptide bonds of proteins (breakdown of bonds via proteolytic degradation). When applied to acne these fruit enzymes help exfoliate by facilitating the break down of keratin protein from dead epithelial skin cells, thus unclogging our pores resulting in the proliferation of new and supple looking skin.
What does this mean? Well, first we need to understand what an enzyme is and what it does. Enzymes are proteins (protein catalysts) that help facilitate a reaction when combined with a substrate (the molecule in which an enzyme acts upon) without becoming a part of the reaction itself. In other words, enzymes precipitate, or speed up the formation of a product when combined with a substrate without being used up or destroyed in the process. They are often used to reduce the amount of energy required to produce an outcome, or yield a by product. Scared? Confused? Hold on…
Enzymes used in skincare are gentle and have two main functions: 1. exfoliation and 2. anti-inflammation and they are here to help you — it’s as simple as that. The outer layer of your skin is made up of a mix of living and dead cells that contain keratin protein (remember keratinocytes?). These fruit enzymes are hungry little protein critters, and they love to breakdown keratin (the substrate) into smaller, easily removed, amino acid chains. In addition, they inhibit oxidation by free radicals and other pollutants responsible for inflammation and various skin conditions. The result is a smoother, newer, and suppler appearance.
Fruit enzymes used in skincare are generally very safe, so take a moment to breathe, relax and enjoy them while they work their magic, but remember to store them as suggested on the packaging. Enzymes in general are easily denatured by factors such as heat and pH. Like anything else, use precautions.
“Enzymes used in skincare are gentle and have two main functions: 1. exfoliation and 2. anti-inflammation and they are here to help you — it’s as simple as that.”
- Tea Tree Oil:
Tea Tree oil is another wonder substance in that it exhibits anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which inhibit and kill acne causing bacteria. This non-comedogenic (will not clog pores) oil is derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant native to Australia and has been successfully used in traditional medicines for centuries by Aboriginal peoples.
Hiding in tea tree plant extract is a compound called Terpinen-4-ol which exhibits considerable anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory characteristics. This compound exhibits broad spectrum anti-biotic properties, meaning it will inhibit and kill a wide range of bacteria. In addition, it is also helpful against viral replication and has anti-fungal properties as well. Tea tree oil has also been successfully used to heal wounds and can be used along with many other acne fighting ingredients.
For best results, use twice a day for 12 weeks. This oil is most often found in cleansers, toners, moisturizers and by itself for spot treatments (with a carrier oil). It is also sometimes included in body washes and shampoos. For most people this is a very safe ingredient, however, a small number of users may experience allergic reactions, so it is best to consult with your dermatologist before use. Otherwise, serve those pesky acne vulgaris visitors a cold cup of Tea Tree Oil.
A word of caution:
- Dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil (olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) or use when included as a product ingredient. Do Not Apply Tea Tree Oil Directly To Skin By Itself.
- Keep tea tree oil away from the eyes as it may cause irritation.
- As previously mentioned, speak with your dermatologist first to rule out the possibility of an allergic reaction.
Skin problems are a headache for many people around the world. They affect people from all spectra such as men and women, young and old, and rich and poor. The most common skin disorder in the United States, as stated before, is acne, affecting 50 million Americans each year.
While there are many options available for acne, ingredients such as Bromelain, Papain (and other fruit enzymes), alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid), and tea tree oil are all great choices worth considering. They are very safe when used correctly and have helped many tackle common acne. The science, data and real life results speak for themselves.
Picasso Skin products such as Papaya and Pineapple Enzyme Infusion Exfoliant (fruit enzymes), Pumpkin Pineapple Enhancing Peel (AHA's and fruit enzymes) and Kojic Tone Illuminator (AHA's and tea tree oil) are loaded with so many amazing ingredients including the three discussed in this article. We take pride in our use and preference for plant-derived ingredients and the fact that our products are all paraben, FD&C colors, hydroquinone, sodium lauryl sulfate, and animal-derived free. Lastly, we use very little fragrance in only a few of our products. The vast majority of our products are fragrance free.
I can personally tell you, and truthfully state, that these are some of my favorite products of ours - or any other brand - that I've used. Yes, I know, I'm always going to be biased and partial, but I stand behind what I say. The purity of our selectively picked, in-house botanical extracts and ingredient profiles say it all in terms of safety, purity, freshness and efficacy.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed the first of our 7 articles. Feel free to comment below...looking forward to your feedback.
Next article topic: Periorbital dark circles and eye bags.
Important: Always remain patient when undergoing any skincare routine. It may take weeks to months and even up to 6 months for some users to see very significant results when using over-the-counter products. We are not doctors or dermatologists and our advice is based off of scientific research, our own experiences, available and reliable literature, safety analysis and our customer experiences. Our recommendations are for informational purposes only, so always contact your dermatologist before using any product or starting a skincare routine of any kind. We are always here for you as we are a company who truly cares about our clients satisfaction. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions you may have.
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