Don't Blame Acne on Bacteria

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When people have accurate knowledge about a disease or a medical condition, that information can help them find a cure to their problem instead of just relief for its symptoms. In the case of acne, many people relate its cause to the bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes that lives in our bodies as part of our system's normal flora. In spite of this popular belief, the acne bacteria alone cannot cause acne. It can only do so if the correct environment is created for it to multiply itself. This information is meant to help get the correct idea of what causes these conditions so that a real solution for acne prevention can be found.

One of the components of our system's normal flora is the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. The bacterias in the flora of our bodies can either help us by battling other pathogens, eliminating toxins, creating vitamins, taking up space so other dangerous organisms do not enter our system and in the worst of cases, harm us by triggering a disease. In the case of Propionibacterium acnes, it produces fatty acids in an amount that helps inhibit the growth of fungi and yeast on the skin. Therefore, killing this bacteria is not a solution for us, because it is only when it becomes trapped in hair follicle with an over production of sebum that it may grow rapidly and cause inflammation and acne.

Sebum Production and Acne

The amount of sebum created is what determines how bad the case of acne will be. The sebaceous glands are generally attached to the hair follicles and produce the sebum secreting it through their conducts. Our body is always producing sebum. A strong increase in the amount of sebum secretion happens a few hours after birth; this peaks during the first week and slowly subsides thereafter. Around age 9 and until the age of 17 and due to the beginning of androgen secretion and puberty signs in females and males, a new increase in the production of sebum happens.

Acne occurs when the channel from the sebaceous gland to the surface of the skin is blocked, allowing sebum to accumulate in the follicle and sebaceous duct. The Propionibacterium acnes bacteria in this environment reproduces and the production of fatty acids grows too, which is what causes the inflammatory reactions of the skin leading to pimples. The root cause of acne is whatever is causing this accumulation of sebum in the follicles.

The increased amount of sebum and keratin trigger the lesions, which can be open or closed comodos, whiteheads ans blackheads, respectively. The Dorland's Medical Dictionary defines a comedo as 'a plug of keratin and sebum within the dilated orifice of a hair follicle, frequently containing the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes'. The contents of the comedo are scattered when its walls collapse, and this leads to an inflammatory reaction.

We now know that our skin benefits from the acne bacteria and that it is only a small part of the acne formation process. Killing the bacteria may help reduce the inflammation of an already developed pimple, but it will not stop the internal problem that's causing acne in the first place. Factors such as disturbances in hormone levels, nutrition, the environment and/ or a psychological imbalance can create a rise in the levels of sebum produced. Therefore, the solution is not to use expensive acne creams that kill the bacteria, but to keep under control the above factors that create the environment where the bacteria multiplies, but at the same time, keeping the amount of bacteria on our skin at an optimal balance.

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