When colour makes a huge difference
At Atopis we are often asked about the colour of our skin creams. Why are they not white, or a standardised colour like other creams?
Many ‘natural’ skin creams are bleached white or have colour added for a uniform appearance so that they look ‘nice and clean’, but the reality is, bleaching kills any bioactives or natural benefits the cream may have once contained.
Our creams are typically yellow to beige, because our scientific process does not harm our natural ingredients. (In fact, we enhance the natural bioactive super powers of our ingredients!)
Additionally, if you’re wondering why your newest tube of Atopis skin cream is a different colour from the last one, it’s because of seasonal variation in our natural ingredients.
Depending on the time of year, the finished skin care product will appear more yellow or beige simply because our ingredients are sourced from nature.We don’t add any colouring, the colour you see is exactly what nature gave us.When choosing your skin cream, the benefits of using a powerful cream that becomes bioactive on contact with your skin far outweigh the ‘benefits’ of the cream looking white or looking exactly the same colour inside every tube you buy.
Part Two: Why are some people more prone to acne?
Acne vulgaris is a skin condition that involves lots of pimples and redness. It’s usually seen on the face, but can also occur on the back, chest, and neck. Acne can have a serious negative impact on self-esteem and self-confidence.
We typically associate acne with teenagers, but it can also occur in adults, either persisting from adolescence or beginning later. This is called adult-onset acne, and it can be very frustrating because there is a perception that acne is a problem exclusively for teenagers.
What causes acne?
The causes of acne are not well understood, but we do know a few things. From twin studies and family studies, we know that there is at least some genetic component to acne.
Unsurprisingly, however, genetics cannot take all the blame. Environmental factors like lifestyle and diet also have an effect. You may have noticed this in your own life – certain foods or even stress may trigger break-outs.
Think of it like this: there are certain genetic factors that can make you more or less resilient to acne-causing environmental factors. Someone who is very resilient might be able to eat whatever they like without getting any acne, while someone who is very prone to acne will have acne no matter what foods they cut out.
This graph illustrates how one person might have a lot of genetic factors that predispose them to acne and only have a small amount of control over environmental factors (Person A), while Person C has lots of room to change their environment before they will trigger an acne breakout.
A short version of how acne pimples work is that your pilosebaceous unit (what you might think of as the hair follicle) becomes clogged by over-produced keratinocytes (skin cells), forming a plug in the shaft of the pilosebaceous unit. This leads to a build-up of sebum and dead skin cells in the pore, which in turn feeds some “bad” bacteria. This is a whitehead or black head. When the build-up leaks out of the hair follicle into the lower layers of skin, this triggers an immune response to the bacteria, which causes inflammation and redness. For more information, see Part One: Understanding Acne
The speed at which keratinocytes (skin cells) in the pilosebaceous unit grow is determined by hormones. Androgens, including testosterone, stimulate faster production of these cells, and affects the way they develop and die, which is what leads to the aforementioned “plugs.”
Hormones are funny things, though – because they interact with cells through a signalling system, many different factors within the body and the cells’ environments can influence the “strength” of their signalling, and even the content of the message.
Think of the cell (the keratinocyte) as a pond which a pebble (hormone) is dropped into to make ripples (the message). If the pebble is big, it will make bigger waves. If the pebble is a large, flat square, it will make a different pattern to a small, round pebble. The conditions in the pond will also affect the ripples – if there are lots of other ripples, the message will interact with them. So even the effects of the same hormone can vary from person to person and day to day.
Many things in our life can affect our hormones and the effects of our hormones on our body.
Stress is a big one. Of course, puberty affects hormone production, which is why acne is associated with teenagers. But for adults, starting or stopping hormonal contraception, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause can all change hormone production – so it’s no surprise that some adults get hormonal acne.
Our diet can also influence hormone production – the things that our body converts to hormones usually come from our diet, and sometimes molecules that we ingest are analogous to hormones and can simulate them in our body. One dermatologist suggests that dairy can sometimes simulate an androgen, which is why cutting out dairy can improve acne symptoms for some people.
Maybe acne seems like an insurmountable problem – but it doesn’t have to be. By using skincare products and making small lifestyle changes, we can control acne and reduce the symptoms.
As acne is triggered by hormonal changes, trying to reduce these hormone fluctuations in your life can help reduce the symptoms. Reducing stress will influence hormone production, and by eliminating common inflammatory foods to test whether they influence your acne, you may be able to pinpoint some specific triggers.
As mentioned above, dairy is a common culprit. Some other hypotheses relating to diet suggest that increasing consumption of omega-3 fats to balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can improve acne, because it may trigger a change in sebum composition, which can help control acne. It has also been suggested that eating a low glycaemic index diet may help, as it reduces insulin resistance and insulin, as a hormone, affects the way that other hormones function in the body.
But of course, for whatever reason, many people can’t change their diet drastically, so addressing acne directly on the skin is a great option.
That’s where Atopis comes in. Instead of killing all the bacteria, Atopis’s Acne Treatment Cream introduces beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to the skin to help regain the necessary balance in the microbiome. It also contains prebiotics, which are food for these bacteria, to help them establish themselves in the microbiome.
Additionally, Dr. Iona Weir’s patented myriphytase extract is a potent mixture of plant botanicals that helps to regulate the immune response and reduce redness and inflammation. All this goodness is suspended in a rich, moisturizing cream that will leave your skin feeling clear and fresh.
When used in combination with Atopis’s Thoroughly Gentle Cleanser, which gently clears comedones and allows them to restore to their natural processes, and our Revitalizing Toner, which stimulates the skin to repair itself and helps to rebalance the skin microbiome, our acne treatment cream can help to control nasty acne outbreaks and help your skin return to a naturally healthy state.
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Part One: How does an acne pimple work?
Understanding how acne pimples form will be key to understanding the best treatments for acne.
Pimples form in something called the pilosebaceous unit, which includes the hair follicle and the sebaceous gland.
The sebaceous glands are filled with sebocytes, cells that make sebum. Sebum is an oily lubricant that helps cells move around and contributes to the protective acid mantle of the skin. These sebocytes are made in the sebaceous gland, and then travel up to the hair follicle, where they release the sebum to lubricate the movement of keratinocytes (skin cells) and growth of the hair follicle.
Keratinocytes make up the internal shaft, forming a roughly cylindrical shape through which the hair grows. Normally, these keratinocytes simply flatten and become hard as they move through their “life cycle.”
When they become flat and hard at the end of their life cycle, they break off and move up the shaft to release onto the skin surface, lubricated by the sebum. However, when the keratinocytes grow too fast, they can “stick together” and not be removed to the skin surface properly. This can create a “plug” in the shaft, which means that sebum and dead keratinocytes will build up in the shaft. This is what causes a whitehead or blackhead pimple.
When all this gunk builds up under the surface, it creates anaerobic conditions – conditions where there is no oxygen. This is really good for some opportunistic bacteria that are found on the skin, called Cutibacterium acnes. They multiply rapidly in the pimple, which causes an immune response – i.e. inflammation.
Acne can affect anyone
All people have a community of bacteria and other microbes inhabiting their skin and gut. These communities are called the “microbiome”, and they are composed of organisms that are commensal – they don’t have any negative effects on us. In fact, many of them have beneficial effects, such as producing antimicrobials that act to kill pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. When the microbiome is balanced, many different species of bacteria successfully live on the skin’s surface and contribute to healthy skin.
Of particular interest in acne cases are the three bacterial species Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes), and Staphylococcus epidermis (S. epidermis). Each of these bacteria is a commensal organism that usually has no negative impact on us, but when they grow in excess they can become pathogenic (bad for us).
For example, S. aureus is the species responsible for most impetigo (school sores) infections, while C. acnes is the bacteria found in acne lesions. S. epidermis is a bacteria that is also found on all skin, and it seems to live alongside C. acnes and keep its population in check through producing a particular acid (succinic acid).
In turn, C. acnes and S. epidermis together control S. aureus. There is also some evidence suggesting that particular strains of C. acnes are especially inflammatory, as they are often found in acne patients but not in the skin of unaffected people.
However, there is no evidence that C. acnes infection is the cause of acne; significantly larger populations of the bacteria are not found in acne sufferers – it’s just that an excess population of C. acnes, attributed to the build-up of sebum in an oxygenless environment, stimulates an immune response (inflammation).
C.acnes has specific effects on the immune system. Molecules produced by C. acnes, and the bacteria itself stimulates production of inflammatory molecules by the keratinocytes, which causes a disproportionate immune response and inflammation (redness).
This is bad enough when the effects are confined to the pilosebaceous unit, but when the pressure builds up and the bacteria-filled sebum leaks into the epidermis, it triggers an even harsher immune response, causing pain and redness. This is what causes papules or pustules.
This picture shows the different types of pimple mentioned.
To find out why some people are affected by acne while others aren’t, watch our for our next post: Why are some people more prone to acne?
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