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Bad bacteria: Have we found the real cause behind acne?

Posted in OnlineClinic 08 Mar, 2013

Lets face it, getting spots or suffering from skin that is acne prone, cannot only cause great distress but can also affect a person’s confidence. More still is the feeling that while your skin seems to be experiencing frequent breakouts, your friends, family members or even work colleagues seem to have no such problems. For years scientists, have been perplexed on the causes behind the skin condition, with hormones, age, foods, stress and genetic history, just some of the common factors used to explain why some people are prone to the pesky pimples than others. According to the Daily Mail, a new study has added an another factor to this list, by claiming that a strain of ‘bad bacteria’ is a key cause behind a person's probability of developing acne.


Acne vulgaris is a bacterial skin condition that is caused by male sex hormones known as androgens. When these hormones increase the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands of the skin too much, your pores can become blocked, resulting in skin to appear oily and acne to occur. Thus acne can appear, as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts, all which are types of acne.

Looking at bad bacteria

Published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the study looked in depth at the bacteria that exists on the skin. They discovered that this bacteria contained both strains of what they termed as ‘good’ bacteria and ‘strains of ‘bad’ bacteria. Findings discovered that the ‘good’ strains of bacteria worked to protect the skin, while in contrast the ‘bad’ strains of bacteria played a significant role in the development of the skin condition. Thus the study concluded that if an imbalance occurred promoting more strains of the ‘bad bacteria’, then acne spots would develop. In contrast, results showed that those with more ‘good’ strains of bacteria prevented ‘bad’ bacteria from infecting the bacterial cell, thus resulting in clearer skin.

Being susceptible to acne

The study’s findings go a long way in helping to discover why some people are more prone to suffering from acne than others. Although it is widely believed that changes in hormones resulting in an increased production of oil levels in the skin, are the primary reason for acne to occur, this only provides an explanation as to why teenagers, pregnant women, women on their monthly cycle and people taking medications that include hormones, are susceptible to frequent outbreaks. However, this theory is somewhat limited when explaining why acne still occurs in only some teenagers, pregnant women and some people long into their adulthood. Though it has been acknowledged that acne can be a genetic or hereditary condition, that is passed down, for some people, this may not be the case.

Results from this study therefore, explaining the importance of having more ‘good’ bacteria as opposed to having too much ‘bad’ bacteria, may explain why some people are more likely to suffer from an outbreak of pimples than others. But why some people have more strains of ‘bad bacteria’ and some have more strains of ‘good’ bacteria in the first place, is still something that scientists are looking at. Although there are effective acne medications, which can help treat the condition, it seems like for some of us, our little friends are likely to rear their pimply heads.

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