Can live bacteria cure acne? Episode 95

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Latest acne cure: battling bacteria491px-An_introduction_to_dermatology_(1905)_Acne_(indurta)

I think we often overlook that even the best acne treatments can be problematic for many people. For example both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can irritate your skin. And if something is irritating you’re going to be less likely to use which means it’s not going to work as well. Even prescription drugs that are effective can have serious consequences. For example tetracycline, if taken at too early an age, can actually permanently stain your teeth. And then there are a host of rumored tricks like putting toothpaste or Windex on pimples are simply not proven to work at all. The good news is there’s a brand new type of acne treatment that is currently in a phase 2 clinical trial.

This work is being done by the company AOBiome, Cambridge, MA, and they’re taking a novel approach that involves something known as ammonia oxidizing bacteria or AOB for short. Essentially it involves applying live bacteria to the skin to treat acne at its source. The bacteria in question is known as B244 and it’s being classified as a “live topical” which is a brand-new class of therapeutics. This has the faint scent of quackery but it’s actually the real deal. The company is going through the proper channels and is doing the right kind of testing required by the FDA to qualify for a new drug.

According to the researchers for AOBiome the bacteria works several ways. It reduces the levels of bacteria that cause acne, it reduces inflammation, and it enhances the skins acid mantle. It does this by feeding off the ammonia in your sweat and converting it to nitrite which by itself is antibacterial. The nitrite is then further converted to nitric oxide which is an important signaling molecule that has anti-inflammatory properties. Because it’s using up this excess ammonia which has a high pH it also lowers the pH of skin which helps support its protective acid mantle.

This could be the first probiotic for skin that’s really proven to work. Plus, I also think it’s just cool to consider your skin as a microscopic battle ground for bacteria.

Sesame oil can kill you

We frequently talk about regulation in the cosmetic industry. Here’s a story where a senator has asked the FDA to require labeling of Sesame oil on food and beauty products. It turns out that there are a number of people who are allergic to this ingredient and perhaps it’s not already included on the label. I have to say this one confuses me a bit. Aren’t they already required to label ingredients on cosmetics?

I was surprised to learn that several hundred thousand Americans are allergic to sesame and the allergy is no less serious or life threatening than that of people who are allergic to peanuts or shellfish. Wow. That does remind me of a book I was writing in which a character was killed by someone making lip balm using peanut oil. Anyway, look for more labeling on cosmetics.

Gold is the new zinc (when it comes to sunscreen)

You know we’re always on the lookout for improved sunscreen technology right? All you need are some gold nano particles and a rare South America flower.

Researchers at North Maharashtra University in India found that if they synthesized gold nanoparticles with the latex-like sap from this plant the resulting material boosts the efficacy of conventional UV absorbers. They claim that this approach can help provide an alternative to titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Yes it’s true there are some potential concerns with both zinc and titanium but for the large part we have many years of safety data on these ingredients and we know they work really well. So while I applaud the researchers for being innovative it seems like it’s a bit of an esoteric approach. Aside from the sourcing issues that may exist on this tropical plant you have to use gold that’s kind of expensive. Nano particles are kind of on the watch list so you’d need years of safety testing.

I just don’t see all that being worth while unless this new approach provides a meaningful benefit to consumers. It would have to provide much more effective, broad spectrum sunscreen protection or make the products feel less greasy, or make them more waterproof or longer lasting. Something!

But if you’re interested you can read all about it in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in an article titled “Phytolatex synthesized gold nanoparticles as novel agent to enhance sun protection factor of commercial sunscreens.”

Parabens do not ruin hair color

Here’s a story from New Beauty that was a little annoying. I mean, I like New Beauty and all but some of the stuff they publish is about as whack as some of the stuff published by Refinery 29.

In this article they were talking about brassy hair and what you can do to fix it. I think they give good recommendations on fixing it for example violet toned shampoos or color containing mousses but they get the causes of brassiness all wrong.

According to the article they say brassiness is caused by “shampoos with sulfates, products with silicones and parabens” That is just wrong. Certainly silicones and parabens are not causing brassiness. Sun, chlorine, hard water build up, yes these are factors but you don’t have to worry, silicones, parabens and sulfates are not causing brassiness.

Sperm is safe from sunscreen

According to this next study your sperm is safe – at least from sunscreen. (I didn’t even realize this is something we were supposed to be worried about.) Apparently the alarm went up based on the claims of a Danish researcher and a paper he shared at the European Society of human reproduction and embryology conference.

This comes to us from the doctor Juergensen who studied 5000 Danish men over a period of 15 years and came to the conclusion that only 25% of his panelists had good quality semen. Juergensen, for some reason which was not stated in the article that I read, came to the conclusion that cosmetics including sunscreens which contain endocrine disruptors are the reason for the bad sperm. By the way if you want to learn more about endocrine disruptors go back and listen to our episode 39 about estrogen in cosmetics.

The problem is Dr. Juergensen isn’t supported by the rest of the scientific community in his conclusion. The CTPA was quick to point out the following. (The CTPA or the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association is a UK trade organization.)

“CTPA is very disappointed to hear there has been speculation regarding sperm counts and possible links to substances used in cosmetics,” says Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of CTPA.
“There is no published evidence to support such an allegation and we can state categorically that cosmetic products are required by strict European laws to be safe.”

“We would like to stress that cosmetic ingredients, including UV filters mentioned in these stories, are not endocrine disruptors.  There is a wealth of scientific information that supports the safety of these ingredients and nothing linking them to a decline in fertility,” it adds.

So this is really another example of why you need to look at a consensus of scientific opinion and not just jump on a headline that is generated by a single report based on one study from one researcher. Any individual case could be wrong or any individual scientist could have a strong bias a topic. When you look at what the collection of experts in the field say you get a much more solid, responsible opinion. And in this case the experts are saying this is not a problem.

Does a fishy smell make people more skeptical?

Here’s a story that shows that in situations where you want to think more and less likely to be tricked you should smell something fishy. According to researchers they found that there is something about the odor of spoiling fish that makes people a bit more skeptical. They hypothesize that this helped our ancestors avoid dangerous rotten food.

Researchers at the USC Dornsife Center for Mind and Society did an experiment in which they took two groups of about 30 students and had them complete a questionnaire that could measure their level of suspicion. They did this by including the trick question “how many of each animal did Moses bring on the ark.”

Anyway, the students completed their questionnaires in a booth in which the researchers could spray some fish oil (or not). It turns out that when the odor of fish was in the air 42% of respondents avoided getting tripped up by the trick question. Only 17% of the control (no odor) group avoided the trick question.

So apparently fish odor makes you more of a skeptic. This research was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Sea anemones for anti-aging

Remember the popular Pixar film Finding Nemo? Nemos’s dad tells him a joke about sea cucumbers and a mollusk. I forget the exact set up but the punch line is…with “fronds like these who needs anemones.” It turns out that sea anemones may be your skin’s best friend. Stay with me on this it gets a little complicated.

I found this research paper ‘Sea Anemone Delivery of Collagen and γ-PGA for Anti-aging Benefits.’ (PGA is polyglutamic acid.) The researchers discovered that sea anemones are a great source of marine collagen. The paper also claims that it has been previously proven that marine collagen has been shown to help stimulate production of human collagen. I’m not completely convinced that that’s an established fact but let’s for the sake of today’s news story let’s just roll with it.

So not only are anemones rich in marine collagen but they also come with their own unique application system. If you know anything about marine biology you know these animals have little microscopic stingers they used to protect themselves. These stinging cells are called cnidocysts.

Apparently these researchers put anemones in a blender or something and are able to extract these stinging cells. Now here’s the cool part: even though the cells are separated from their living host they still maintain their ability to “fire.” Apparently the cells have a high internal pressure of 150 bars. So you’ve got these cells that are able to fire these microscopic needles that that are actually made up of folded collagen molecules. When you expose these stinging cells to the right osmotic pressure you can force them to fire.

So the researchers made a two part system where they apply a layer of the stinging cells to skin and then they apply second layer of a water-based product on top of the stinging cell layer. Are you with me? As the water moves from the water layer to the stinging cell layer it changes the osmotic pressure in that triggers the stinging cells to fire. When that happens they painlessly inject your skin with these collagen needles. It sounds completely crazy but the research looks pretty good. They did work on pigskin and artificially reconstructed human skin and they were able to show through Ramen spectroscopy that the collagen and actually penetrates into the dermis.

We have seen that certain collagen-like molecules can signal the production of fresh collagen so it it’s not crazy to assume that these could work that way. It’s certainly a promising area of research and it certainly helps to get past the problem of how to get large molecules through the skin.

I just wonder if PETA shut down this proposal because they are I think they have to kill the sea anemones to get the stinging cells.

The most influential personal care products

Lastly, I wanted to talk about this article I saw in Womens Wear Daily. Yes, I read a magazine called Women’s Wear Daily. For cosmetic product experts it’s filled with pretty useful articles. Anyway, the article listed what they called the 50 power products. These were beauty products that they thought changed the industry. Let’s go through a few of these and see whether we think they changed anything.

1. Axe body spray – I’d say so.
2. Bare Escentuals Bareminerals Powder – This one launched the Mineral makeup craze.
3. Bumble and bumble surf spray – This was a salt-infused spray that let people achieve the cool-girl beach hair look. I remember our marketing department loved it.
4. Chanel No 5 – This one has been around forever and sets the standard in fragrance.
5. Clairol Nice N Easy Root Touch up – Remember how this affected the hair color market back in 2005.
6. Clarisonic Facial Cleansing brush – This one created a whole new market for beauty devices.
7. CND Shellac – This one started the gel nail polish craze. And it still sells pretty well.
8. Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair – They convinced people that skin care while you sleep was a good thing.
9. Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish – This product kicked off the sugar scrub craze.
10. Jargons Natural Glow – They figured out how to make self tanning cool and functional.
11. John Frieda Frizz Ease Hair Serum – The best selling blend of dimethicone and cyclomethicone around.
12. Klorane Dry Shampoo – They are giving this brand credit for kicking off the dry shampoo trend. I think it was that other brand.
13. Maybelline New York Dream BB Cream – They don’t say Maybelline invented the category but they were an important earlier adopter that got other companies in on it.
14. Proactiv Solutions – Getting celebrities to sell acne medicine. Brilliant.
15. Vaseline Intensive Care spray moisturizer – Who would have thought you could deliver a skin cream in a spray can.
16. Pureology Serious Color Care – This one was given credit for inspiring the sulfate-free hair care craze.

I’m surprised they didn’t have Pert Plus since it launched the two-in-one shampoo market.

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