If you’re using antibacterial skincare to help fight acne, stop right now my friend. Your skin needs acne bacteria.
Published studies in well-respected science journals are proving it.
In fact, your skin doesn’t just need acne bacteria. It must have acne bacteria aka propionibacterium acnes to be healthy and happy.
Shock fact, healthy non-acne prone skin types actually have more acne bacteria aka p.acnes.
Yes you read that right.
More ‘acne bacteria’ in your skin’s microbiome is a hallmark of healthy, acne-free skin.
Crazy eh. I’m explaining exactly why this is very soon.
My friend, if ’til today, your get rid of my acne quick strategy has been based wholly on antibacterial skincare (maybe something like benzoyl peroxide? or tea tree oil? or even prescription-strength DUAC gel containing both benzoyl peroxide and the antibiotic clindamycin) then you’re about to be shocked to the core by these next 3 facts.
Are you ready for this? Let’s set the p.acnes record straight…
1. Acne Bacteria ARE Antimicrobial, They Protect Your Skin Against Poor Health
Wow right. This is brain-twisting.
My friend, your skin microbiome is a beautiful tapestry of alive bacteria which when balanced – make your skin resistant to acne, spots and pimples. They make your skin radiant. They make your skin glow.
Imagine a tapestry that’s a dazzling, leafy scene on a dusky pink backdrop. There’s beautiful, pink rosy colours, bright greens, light greens and deep, dark emerald greens.
Now imagine some of these beautiful threads being pulled out of your leafy green tapestry. Some pink ones are becoming threadbare. Some bright green ones have been pulled out and the deep, dark emerald threads have ‘been left in the sun too long’ and are fading.
This is what can happen when your skin levels of acne bacteria plummet.
A key reason for this is because acne bacteria can be protective of your skin.
Take a read of this;
“…fermentation of glycerol by P. acnes contributes to skin and host health via the production of short chain fatty acids… SCFA including acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionic acid were shown to significantly decrease the colonization of skin-associated pathogens.”Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 21;6:39491. doi: 10.1038/srep39491.
In human speak what this science quote tells us is that acne bacteria are helpers. They eat up actives naturally found on your skin and as they do this, they poop out bits which helps your skin resist infection.
Meaning acne bacteria can be anti-bacterial.
They’re your skin’s natural anti-bacterial defence. So how can they cause acne? That’s a really good question and I’m going to be answering it soon so make sure you keep on reading.
2. Acne Bacteria Help Keep Your Skin pH Healthy
And this contributes to something called your skin’s acid mantle – more on this soon, so don’t worry if it makes zero sense right now. That’s actually pretty normal :).
Here’s the thing, your skin has a pH level. That’s a measure of how acid or how alkaline it is.
Lemon is way down the acid part of the pH ruler vs. soapy water and bleach which have a pH way up the alkaline part of the pH ruler.
Neutral on the pH ruler is 7 and your skin is at its healthiest around pH 4.2-5.
One of the biggest struggles I see in the skin of people who I’ve coached through acne (and seen come out the other side) is that they’re stuck in an incredibly frustrating oily-dry-dehydrated skin cycle.
It’s usually caused by anti-bacterial skincare, and that’s because when your skin pH strays above healthy, skin gets dry, rough, irritated and dehydrated.
Let’s chat through that again, shall we?
Acne bacteria aka p.acnes help keep your skin pH healthy and acidic.
At this pH level your skin can be hydrated.
But when your skin pH gets higher, your skin’s going to get dry, dull, rough and dehydrated.
This is where antibacterial anti-acne skincare like benzoyl peroxide runs riot with your skin health.
Antibacterial anti-acne skincare kills off acne bacteria.
And as acne bacteria help make your skin acidic, your skin pH can rise.
As your skin pH rises, you guessed it my friend, your skin’s going to get dry, dull, rough and dehydrated.
Your skin pH is key to good skin health. It feeds into what’s called your skin’s acid mantle. A thin film which sits on top of your skin, which is acidic and which defends your skin against bacteria.
Psst; diet can also impact the pH of your skin. What you eat could be directly making your skin more alkaline. Another shocking fact eh. Be sure to get your free copy of my yes, no, sometimes foods for starting out on an acne diet which works.
Extra fact, take a look at this;
“Disruption in the normal skin pH has been linked to several skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, fungal infections, and acne.”Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 21;6:39491. doi: 10.1038/srep39491.
Bottom line; if your skin pH isn’t healthy, your skin can’t be either.
3. Healthy Skin Has MORE Acne Bacteria
My friend, there’s a difference between acne bacteria and acne-causing bacteria.
Subtle eh 😉
A landmark study published in 2016 showed that healthy skin actually has relatively more acne bacteria.
Fact; your very own special body is to bacteria what planet Earth is to us. Home.
Us scientists call this your skin’s microbiome.
And this 2016 study shows that healthy happy skin has a 93.8% average relative abundance of acne bacteria.
Vs. acne-prone skin which has an 88.5% average relative abundance.
It has less.
Acne-prone skin has LESS acne bacteria… relatively (!)
And did you catch how acne bacteria are THE main strain of bacteria which are right now living on your skin?
Weird right? Why would we want to get rid of something that is naturally a major part of us? It’s like an invisible limb you never knew you had.
“A beneficial role of propionibacteria in the skin microbiota is consistent with skin microbiome studies of other skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, in which the abundance of propionibacteria was reduced in the diseased states and increased after treatment.”Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 21;6:39491. doi: 10.1038/srep39491.
Psst; sometimes there’s a time and place for antibacterial skincare, however, long term management of acne (and other skin conditions), in my opinion, is not that time and place.
Now here’s where a VERY important fact takes hold.
There’s a major difference between acne bacteria and acne-causing bacteria.
Remember that beautiful leaf tapestry we talked about? Aka your skin microbiome? And how there where different kinds of green thread? Light green ones, bright green ones and deep, dark emerald green ones?
The exact same thing applies for acne bacteria.
There are different kinds.
Some are “light green” and others are “bright green”.
And this is what matters.
Because some of the genes in specific strains of acne bacteria can help promote invasive infections and immune activation aka inflammation and aka acne.
And some of these specific acne bacteria strains are resistant to antibiotics – which I would never recommend you take for acne anyhow because psst they could actually make your acne worse long term.
And guess what has a huge impact on which bacteria live on your skin? Your diet my friend. What you’re eating. The food you have today, tomorrow, next month and for your whole entire life.
Psst – crazy fact – it can also (subtly) change your skin colour. What you eat literally ends up in your skin.
This is the real-deal, don’t kill off your skin microbiome, make it healthy instead acne fix at your fingertips.
Psst; be sure to grab your free copy of my yes, no, sometimes acne diet cheat sheet to take the first step in designing a clear skin diet which works. This is not the whole acne healing picture however it’s a fantastic starting block. Click here to get your copy.
Now over to you my friend. Tell me which 1 out of these 3 acne bacteria facts shocked you the most? Was it 1, 2 or 3? And as always, please, please do use those buttons below to share on with a friend in need. You are a friend indeed 😉
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.