Why The Sad Face?
By: Kara Tumminelli

It is the most dreaded and feared disease in the world. There is no avoiding it, there is no running from it, and there is no stopping it! What disease am I talking about? Acne! Acne vulgaris, to be exact. It is what makes us girls run for our cosmetic bags and buy the most expensive, and useless solutions on the market. If you are one of those lucky people who have no idea what I am talking about, acne vulgaris is a common skin disease that creates tiny red pumps and lesions on the face, back, and chest area. My report is to describe what causes acne vulgaris, why I choose this subject, how it effects people emotionally, and the best way to treat acne. Below is a picture that best represents acne on a human face.

Courtesy of MedicaLook.com
Ever since I was ten years old, acne has been my one constant enemy. I remember one day when a boy came running up to me on the playground and called me “pizza face.” I ended up going home and crying to my dad while my older brother performed his older brother duties. Over the course of the next couple of years, my acne grew worse to the point where my mother though it was time for medical intervention. My doctor tried everything from topical creams that burned my skin to birth control that affected my hormones. There was never a perfect solution. Now in my early twenties, I finally am seeing some reduction to the disease, but the scars both physical and mental remain. Thanks to my microbiology class, I can share with you with the cause and effect of acne and how to find the best solution to prevent it.


Much research over the years has been done on acne vulgaris and what causes it. Over the course of my investigation there are certain factors that play a role in acne. The first role is genetic factors. If a parent has acne, it is most likely that their offspring will also have acne (Rudy 287). Another role, they has been linked to acne, is certain foods. I was once told by a massage therapist that I was a “dairy girl” because high consumptions of a dairy affect acne production. I never believed her, but research done by non-industrialized societies such as Kitavin Islanders of Papua, New Ginea and Ache hunter gathers of Paraguay have no acne because of their low glycemic index (Rudy 287). Another factor is the sebaceous gland and it’s secretion of sebum onto the skin. A bacterium called Propionibacterium Acnes thrives in sebum and allows proliferation and the spread of the bacterium on the skin (Rudy 287)

Bacteria on my skin!!

There is nothing to worry about if bacterium such as P. Acnes is on the skin. In fact, P. Acnes is also found in the large intestine, the conjunctiva, and the external canal (Perry and Lamber 185). P. Acnes are a non-spore forming, gram positive, anaerobic rod. Gram positive means that the bacteria retain the crystal violet color after decolorizing it with alcohol (Tortora, Funke, Case G-8). This bacterium can survive for as long as 8 months under anaerobic conditions. Anaerobic means it does not need oxygen (Tortora, Funke, Case G-I). P. Acnes is known for its role in acne. When a pore is blocked, the bacterium overgrows and secretes chemicals to break down the pore’s wall. The bacteria spills onto the skin causing skin lesions (unknown, 2011)

courtesy of xigre.com


As mentioned before, acne has left a mental scar for me and I know it has for many others as well. In fact a study shows that depression and suicide ideation rates were higher among acne patients than general hospital patients (Uhlenhake, Yentzer, Felaman 59). This is because acne develops in adolescents during their development of sense of self. Along with depression there are feelings of insecurity and inferiority (Rudy 287). In the graph seen below, it is now known that depression is most severe in the middle age group as well.


There is good news! Acne inflammation can be reduced. In the 1960s a product was introduced to help fight acne, benzoyl peroxide. Even today it is the most widely used topical agent in treatment against acne vulgaris (Taylor and Shalita 59) Benzoyl peroxide is a lipophilic molecule that can penetrate the stratum corneum of the skin and enter the sebaceous follicle. In here, benzoyl peroxide generates free radicals that oxidize proteins in the bacterial cell membrane, killing it (Taylor and Shalita 59). Benzoyl Peroxide is effective by itself, but it causes allergic reactions such as burning or itching as well as irritant contact dermatitis (Taylor and Shalita 262). It was found to work with other topical treatments such as erythromycin and clindamycin to reduce allergic reactions.

courtesy of Crushpress.com

· Case, C, Funke, B, & Tortora, G. (2010). Microbiology: an introduction. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings
· Felaman, S, Uhlenhake, E, & Yentzer, Brad. (2010). Acne vulgaris and depression: a retrospective examination. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 59-63.
· Lambert, P.A. (1992). Letters in applied microbiology.
· Rudy, S. (2003). Overview of the evaluation and managment of acne vulgaris. Pediatirc Nursing, 29(4),
· Shalita, A, & Taylor, G. Benzol peroxide-based combination therapies for acne vulgaris: a comparative review. department of dermatology
· Priopionibacterium Acnes. (2011). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://en.wikipeida.org/wiki/Propionibacterium_acnes