Anti-Acne + Anti-Aging
A major problem with many anti-aging therapies is that they tend to be singularly focused. They often don’t take into consideration skin issues past age-related concerns such as wrinkles and sagging. So they may help turn back the clock but could do nothing for a common condition like acne. In some cases they can actually make a condition like acne worse. Likewise, there are many acne treatments out there that tend to be focused on the teenage market (a consumer sector that usually isn’t as concerned about aging), thus the products themselves may treat acne but not have any anti-aging value. This is very problematic for individuals that need to clear up acne on top of fighting the aging process in their skin.
What Acne Actually Is
With all the confusion over acne and how it’s caused, it’s important to get the facts straight before finding a remedy. Acne forms in structures known as pilosebaceous units, which are composed of sebaceous glands (i.e. your skin’s oil glands), vellus (fine) hair follicles, and ducts/pores. All of these together form a pilosebaceous unit. Near the base of this unit (bottom of the pore) is the sebaceous gland which produces sebum (oil) that pushes up and out to coat both the vellus (fine) hairs of the skin and the skin’s surface. The density of these pilosebaceous units are greatest on the face, neck, and chest, which are naturally the areas people experience the worst severity of acne. These units are activated during adolescence due to hormonal stimulation, specifically increases in testosterone.
This combination of increased sebum oil production and shedding of the pore lining can easily lead to the formation of a microcomedone. A microcomedone is just a small pore clog that is usually not seen at first, but as it increases in size (fueled by the continued shedding of skin cells and oil production) a microcomedone becomes a full comedone, which is the initial acne lesion that is easily visible to the naked eye. Comedones can be either open or closed. Open comedones are more frequently known as blackheads and appear when the open pore is enlarged because of the increased amount of material in the duct. The black appearance is actually not dirt, but a combination of oxidized sebum oil and a small amount of melanin pigment. Closed comedones, on the other hand, appear as whiteheads and are typically larger acne lesions. They are white because the epithelial cells covering the pore prevent the sebum’s exposure to the oxidizing conditions of the air (it also means the pore is completely closed off and will likely just get bigger with no where for the continually produced sebum oils to go).
The bacterial organisms that actually cause inflammatory acne are Propionibacterium acnes and Acne vulgaris. We’ll refer to them collectively as “acne” for discussion purposes. Acne is normally found on the skin after birth and throughout life, but with the increased sebum production that begins at adolescence and the obstruction of the pore, it now has a very favorable environment where it can propagate itself relatively unchecked. Acne uses the sebum oils produced by the pore as a nutritive source to rapidly increase in number. As it consumes sebum it produces wastes in the form of free fatty acids. These particular free fatty acids are very irritating to the skin (unlike Essential Fatty Acids which are very calming to the skin).
The free fatty acids, plus the high concentration of acne bacteria itself, activates the immune system, which in turn creates inflammation (a great deal of it, in fact). As this happens, the closed comedone eventually causes the epithelial wall to rupture, culminating in the final pustule/papule phase. It is here that the pimple is at its largest size. This is the point where it can also be called cystic acne, even though that is a slightly inaccurate term since a true cyst is a pus-filled lesion at least 0.5cm in diameter that already has some scar tissue formed in the midst of inflammation. Acne lesions that actually make it to the 0.5cm size are known as nodular cystic acne, and are the most responsible for leaving craters and scars. Nodular cystic acne is considered the worst kind of acne.
Treating Acne Naturally
There are many ingredients in skincare that can treat acne alone, but there are only a select few that can also impart anti-aging effects. Olive Leaf Extract, Rosemary Extract, Lavender Extract, and anti-bacterial essential oils are just a few ingredients that naturally destroy acne bacteria. The continual fighting of acne bacteria with anti-microbial ingredients like these can contribute to a substantial improvement in acne conditions (whether mild or more severe) and additionally provide antioxidant/anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin (thereby also acting as anti-aging agents). When natural ingredients like these are supplied in an oil-free, aqueous solution their effects against both aging and acne further increased because an oil-free serum won’t clog pores and the aqueous base allows the formula to penetrate even deeper into the skin.
The use of natural resurfacing compounds is another very effective way to treat both acne and aging in one formula. Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids have a long history in skincare for resurfacing away fine lines as well as alleviating acne development. Alpha hydroxy acids promote skin cell division and exfoliation of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) while as beta hydroxy acids are more effective at cleaning out oils and epithelial cells from pores (most notably because beta hydroxy acids have a greater solubility in oils and thus reach deeper into pores). Glycolic acid, which is considered the strongest AHA, and lactic acid, which is considered a gentler AHA, are two of the most notable alpha hydroxy acids for resurfacing the skin, unclogging pores, and refinishing fine lines. Salicylic Acid is by far the strongest against acne in the beta hydroxy acid category.
Papaya, from which the active papain enzyme is derived, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for acne treatment for thousands of years. The powerful papain enzyme dissolves dead keratin cells on the surface of the skin, so in addition to working against fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and scars it’s also effective at dissolving away acne through a different method of action than hydroxy acids. Its effects are enhanced when combined with another enzyme, bromelain, from pineapples. When supplied together with natural hydroxy acids they synergistically enhance the effects of each other and dramatically reduce acne development as well as fine lines.
In our line, all of the serum products (both for the general face and eye-specific areas) are appropriate for acne due to their oil-free nature. But the Renew Serum™ stands out as the most beneficial for those with acne because of the hydroxy acids, enzymes, and anti-bacterial/anti-inflammatory extracts it contains. This formula is unique in its ability to keep the upper epidermal layers constantly in a state of renewal as the alpha hydroxy acids promote epidermal exfoliation while the beta hydroxy acids unclog pores to reduce acne formation. Because this puts the epidermis in a constant state of even, uniform exfoliation it also helps prevent the dry, flakey patches that develop with many other resurfacing and acne-treating products. To further these anti-acne effects, our Cleansing Serum™ formula can be used to cleanse and tone the skin during the day, especially before applying other active products.