Topical antioxidants the key to getting rid of acne?Hello Love Vitamins!

I wanted to bring to light something that might be a very important part of the acne puzzle that we all *may* have been missing.

Or, well, I don’t really think we’ve actually been missing it entirely – we have been working on this at an intuitive level with the rejection of harsh, drying, skin stripping skin care in favour of natural products that contain nutrients and antioxidants – but now it’s come to light in a more concrete and specific way.

Seppo Puusa, the acne smarty pants over at has concluded from his excellent research that basically all acne is caused by the oxidation of the sebum (aka. the skin’s oil).

Oxidation is basically a chemical reaction due to the presence of oxygen that results in damage to the molecule… it’s like when you leave an apple or an avocado out and it turns brown. That’s oxidation. He also refers to oxidation interchangeably as inflammation.

The skin’s sebum is made of fatty acids. Seppo says one of those fatty acids is called squalene, which is normally just dandy, but when it gets oxidized it becomes squalene peroxide, which is massively comedogenic (aka. pore clogging). 

Is Oxidation The Reason We Get Acne?

So anyway, he concludes that this oxidation is indeed the reason we get acne. The oxidation happens first, which then clogs the pores, invites bacteria to breed, body sends more inflammation —> acne. If the oxidation doesn’t happen, then acne can’t happen.

In this model, everything that is generally thought to cause acne by us who are out to heal our skin naturally – like hormones, stress, poor diet, gut health, harsh chemical face washes etc – actually cause acne because they are causing oxidation of the sebum (or causing you to produce much more sebum than you should, which means more squalene and more potential for oxidation).

This may be the very specific, scientific reason that improving these areas of our health like we do here at The Love Vitamin works to get rid of acne.

You following me here?

So while of course all healthy stuff that we normally talk about here at the Love Vitamin is super important to preventing oxidation, and therefore acne, he proposes that if you use antioxidants (the antagonist to oxidation) on your skin topically, you will make a huge leap forward by preventing oxidation at a surface level before it can lead to acne.

Which Antioxidants Work Best Topically

He’s found that in studies, the antioxidants Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin, or niacinimide), Vitamin E (the major antioxidant in the skin), the Vitamin C precursor SAP (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), and the antioxidants contained in green tea have all proven to be effective against acne. The most evidence thus far for fighting acne successfully is in favour of B3 niacinimide and SAP.

Seppo says that if you find a skin care product that contains these active ingredients, he doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal if the rest of the product is all natural or not.

Whether that is true or not (obviously not all synthetic chemicals are the end of the world, I know), I am still keen to recommend natural solutions. Of course I am open to everyone making their own decisions for themselves though! I don’t mind what you use on your skin as long as it works for you and you’re happy.

My suggestion for formulating something that contains these active ingredients, and is all natural, would be to buy pure b3 (niacinamide) powder, or / and pure SAP extract, and mix a bit of these (perhaps 5% of the whole solution for each) with a high vitamin E content oil – like sweet almond oil or extra virgin olive oil.

Niacinamide would probably be the best place to start trying, as apparently the powder is cheap, stable, and easily soluble.

Alternatively you could mix these with any oil or skin care ingredient that you have already found works well with your skin (such as jojoba oil, or aloe vera) to mix it into, and perhaps even add a little extra pure Vitamin E oil to the formulation for an E boost.

You would premix this and then once or twice a day, apply just a few drops to your damp skin, perhaps after you wash your face, as in the place of moisturizer.

If it’s an oil you’ve mixed it with, you do not want to overdo it, just use a little bit so that it absorbs easily into the skin (read these two articles for more about oils and how to use them).

(UPDATE: you can’t mix niacin with oil. Apparently it’s only water soluble and won’t mix with oils. So it has to either go in water, like a spray, or mixed into aloe vera, or some kind of moisturizer that has a water component)

Please note that I do not in any way have this formulation down to an exact science and is very much open to interpretation and experimentation.

If formulating your own is too much work, this Vitamin C formula looks pretty good – natural ingredients, including SAP (Vitamin C Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) and Vitamin E, as well as several other antioxidants.

For B3 niacin, there are a few serums on Amazon that I could find – this one looks to have the best ingredients. Expensive though, compared to just getting the powder and doing a little DIY, especially if you already have a nice skin care product that you like using.

If You Are Doing the Caveman Regimen Like Me…

If you are doing the caveman regimen like I am (aka not washing your face), you can just massage it into your skin without actually washing your face first. That’s what I would do. Get the best of both worlds – lazy deliciousness of not having to wash your face, but still get the benefits of topical antioxidants.

While I’ve never seen Seppo endorse the full on caveman regimen (aka. doing nothing at all to the skin – he likes moisturizer as far as I can tell), he does make it sound like washing your face too much and with harsh washes does indeed get rid of your skin’s natural protection, leaving you more prone to oxidation.

If so, a modified caveman regimen would probably be best for most – less or no washing, but combined with something like the mixture I described above.

Experiment and Please Report Back!

Anyway – interesting and exciting stuff. Massive potential? Maybe.

I did get an email a while ago from a male Love Vitamin who seems to have finally found his stride with acne after many years of experimentation and mentioned that mixing a bit of topical b3 niacinamide powder into his other skin care has had a very positive effect for him.

I am actually very intrigued by this whole thing and may be interested in experimenting with it myself when I get back from travelling in India (although I’m reluctant since I just LOVE not doing any external skin care at all).

But anyway, if you are interested in this, please explore and let me know what happens!