Going back to school can be a stressful time, especially if you or students you know are acne-prone. Prepare your skin-care arsenal with the products that work best for you. But first, do your homework.
Did You Know?
Vitamin therapy offers a viable alternative to conventional acne treatments—without the side effects.
Acne is usually a result of elevated testosterone levels increasing sebum production. The excess sebum and the bacteria that feed on it, as well as dead skin cells and assorted debris, collect in the pores. The resulting congestion can lead to inflammation culminating in a case of acne.
Conventional treatments battle breakouts with topical cleansers, exfoliants, antimicrobials, antibiotics, and in serious cases of cystic acne, drugs like Accutane. Now new research suggests that certain vitamins, taken internally as well as applied topically, offer an effective alternative approach to treating acne—without the side effects. Indeed, for adult acne sufferers—now comprising 54% of women in their twenties, thirties, forties and up—the added benefits of vitamin therapy are very heartening. Problems plaguing adults like rosacea, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation can be ameliorated by the same treatments used to control acne breakouts.
This series will explore some of the conventional treatments and suggest alternatives that may offer, for the first time, the long-term relief you have been looking for. Let’s go for a close-up on the biggest bully on the block first: Accutane.
Accutane is a vitamin A derivative (13-cis-retinoic acid) that is administered orally in pill form, normally for 15-20 weeks. It was originally recommended for people with severe acne unresponsive to other treatments, but has lately gained in popularity and often prescribed for less severe acne. Accutane works by shrinking sebaceous glands, which reduces oil secretion and P. acnes colonization—and thus inflammation. The side effects are numerous and widespread and affect upwards of 80% of patients. Side effects are most often mild to moderate and reversible, but in some cases can be severe or long term. Clinical research shows extremely high risk for birth defects in pregnant women. The effects and risks of Accutane on unborn children are so severe that female patients of childbearing age are required to use two forms of birth control while on Accutane.
Vitamin B5 and L-carnitine
Vitamin B5, aka pantethine or pantothenic acid, is as effective as the drug Accutane in treating acne because it, like the drug, works at the first stage of acne formation. But whereas Accutane shrinks sebaceous glands, vitamin B5 reduces oil production of the sebaceous glands by increasing coenzyme A. Co-A increases the metabolic breakdown of oils, including sebum, by optimizing the normal activity of cell physiology.
The program originally suggested by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung (1997) relied on patients ingesting 5-10 grams of pantothenic acid a day. Dr. Jeffrey Dach suggests a “modified Leung B5 protocol with Pantethine 750 mg with 250 mg of L Carnitine three times a day.”
Vitamin B3, aka niacinamide or nicotinamide, is an anti-inflammatory with “verifiable beneficial effects—[it is used to improve] epidermal barrier function, aging skin, pigmentary disorders and for use on skin prone to acne.” Niacinamide also reduces facial sebum production.
The Mighty B Alternative
Reducing congestion by optimizing breakdown of fats released by the sebaceous gland heads acne formation off at the pass. Niacinamide’s many beneficial anti-inflammatory effects maintain skin health. The combination is formidable enough to help with most cases of acne, even severe or of long duration, but it is not an overnight solution. Patience is required.
For moderate to severe acne take orally:
Pantothenic acid 750 mg and 250 mg l-carnitine 3x a day
Niacinamide 500 mg 1x a day
For mild acne take orally:
Pantothenic acid 750 mg and 250 mg l-carnitine 1x a day
Niacinamide 500 mg 1x a day
For moderate to severe acne apply topically:
Serums containing vitamin B3 and B5. 1x a day, at night. (Treatment Serum)
Follow with an oil blend composed of antioxidants and omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs. 1 or 2x a day, morning and night. (Treatment Oil)
It may seem counter-intuitive to apply oils when the problem is oil over-production, but drying out the skin too much may impede sebum flow to the surface, and that means more rather than less congestion. Topically applied oils penetrate to dissolve congestion matter deep in the follicle, where acne problems begin. In addition, skin that is too dry may start a vicious cycle of increased irritation attracting more bacteria leading to more inflammation. Use oils that keep skin lubricated and reduce inflammation, i.e., oils high in omega-3s and 6s. Tea tree oil will help keep P. acnes in check. (Treatment Oil)
This routine works well as acne clears up or is mild to begin with. Treatment Serum can be a bit drying.
If you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or nursing do NOT use retinol. It is safe to use either Treatment Serum or Serum de Jour.