With celebrities like Kendall Jenner chipping in on Acne Awareness Month as the brand-new ambassador of Proactiv – we wanted to get involved as well, what with new research making headway on using microbiome skincare as a possible solution to acne scar treatment in Singapore.
A little background on the microbiome skincare trend – the research goes all the way back to as early as the 1900s, where there have been clinical studies done showing the improvement of acne patients after using probiotics.
While still a relatively new research topic, the past decade has seen over 6000 publications being released just on the subject of microbiome. And the story is fast evolving – countries such as South Korea, UK and the US are fast launching microbiome-friendly cleansers, moisturizers, mists to serums – just a tiny fraction of the latest wave of products promising to nourish the skin’s microflora for healthier, clearer skin.
With all the discussion and studies highlighting the strong relationship between the bacteria in the gut and skin health – there might be actual ground in skincare probiotics to improve skin conditions, including cystic acne.
What is Microbiome?
Our gut, as well as our skin is essentially made up of a flourishing ecosystem of microorganisms called the microbiome. Made up of mostly harmless bacteria, fungi, virus and mites – the interplay between them is absolutely essential in protecting our skin’s barrier, and the secret to healthy, glowing skin.
Every individual owns their own unique ecosystem of microbiota which changes throughout their lifetime, depending on factors such as your age, diet, environmental factors and lifestyle.
And as it turns out, the microbial population plays an extremely important role when trying to get rid of acne scars– a 2014 study discovered that the microbiome is essential to our ability to heal wounds, which serves as great news for acne scar removal, especially for patients guilty of constantly picking away at their face.
Microbiome & its role in acne
You might already be familiar with the dreaded Propionibacterium acnes (a.k.a P.acnes) – the annoying bacteria that is synonymous with acne.
There are now multiple studies showing that inflammation-related skin conditions such as acne and rosacea are worsened when our gut’s microbiome is thrown off balance.
In fact, microbial imbalances, or conditions such as the Leaky Gut Syndrome have been shown to give rise to many other conditions, including poor digestive health, allergies, cancer, depression and even obesity.
A small study done by the World Journal of Dermatology in 2017 linked patients with rosacea having a greater disposition for excessive bacteria in their small intestines. Once treated, however, the symptoms are ameliorated.
So, what exactly is the ultimate goal? It is not to completely eliminate the “bad” bacteria, and neither is it adding in copious amounts of “good” bacteria into the microbiome. Instead, the aim is to achieve bacterial diversity and harmony – a 2016 review reported acne patients often suffer from a low microbial diversity, while another 2013 study discovered that high diversity was typical of “normal” and clear skin.
Promise in the search for better acne solutions
Not long ago, an important study that took place in Washington University School of Medicine had a revelation in regard to Isotretinoin, a type of vitamin A that is commonly used to treat long-term acne, and with great results. It has been observed to effectively shift the skin microbiome of acne patients to mirror that of individuals with clear skin.
The research determined that taking Isotretinoin increased the diversity of microbes found on the skin – shedding light on how developing microbiome-based treatments could be the next major breakthrough in curing acne altogether.
This could be extremely beneficial as dermatologists, doctors and consumers become increasingly aware of the severe side effects that often come with taking Isotretinoin and other medications such as antibiotics.
What does this mean for the future of acne treatment in Singapore?
Pro for probiotics
Taking probiotics (both internally and topically) has 3 main benefits:
- Skin protective shield: Probiotics help form a barrier to protect the skin from undesirable microorganisms that can trigger an inflammation response.
- Antimicrobial action: Probiotics have been proven to kill and repel unwanted toxins and bacteria that leads to skin inflammation, boosting the skin’s immune system.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Taking probiotics both topically and internally has been thought to calm the inflammatory response in acne patients and hasten the skin’s healing process.
The best part about probiotics? It is non-toxic as compared to other modern medical drugs. Unlike antibiotics, it also does not potentially destroy beneficial bacteria strains in the process.
However, some research shows that probiotics have a positive effect – but only if it’s the right strain. In a 2018 study, 5 specific strains were found to be the most effective in acne patients – Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Lactococcus, Lactobacillus, and Enterococcus. This is backed up by another study done in 2016 – where Lactobacillus has been linked to a reduction in adult acne.
It’s hard to imagine that bacteria could ever be part of the solution – but also important to consider is that most of the evidence points towards its effectiveness in at least alleviating the symptoms of acne.
But until there is proof to directly connect the two – it’s well worth to consider talking to your doctor about your gut health, and supplementing it with the appropriate laser treatment for acne instead of being dependent on only one.
It is comforting to know that perhaps one day, skin care companies will be able to specifically target each person’s unique microbiome according to their specific needs – with sufficient research and data to cover every strain of possible bacteria.