Bacteria Secretes Sticky Glue, Causing Acne

sticky gum

Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) is the bacteria found in acne. A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has shed some light on how it wreaks its damage.

P. acnes lives in a biofilm, an aggregation of bacterial organisms and sticky extracellular substance, that allows it to stick to the wall of the hair follicle. This sticky substance also causes the skin cells to stick together, limiting their ability to shed. These stuck-together skin cells (keratinocytes) then block the hair follicle, forming a keratin plug and trapping the natural oils (sebum) below the surface. When the pressure from this trapped oil builds up, a pimple is born. The acne bacteria then live happily encased in their protective biofilm, trapped in the follicle.

This is why combination therapy is most effective against acne; if you don’t break up the keratin plug on the skin’s surface, then antibacterial medications cannot penetrate and won’t work.

Proactiv® works by employing a mild acid to break up the plugged pores and an antibacterial to kill the P. acnes. Prescription acne therapy works similarly. I often prescribe a retinoid, like Retin-A, to break-up the keratin plugs and an antibiotic, like benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin, to kill the bacteria.

Unfortunately, even with the appropriate combination therapy, it still takes up to 12 weeks to clear up your acne. On the up side, if you follow this regimen daily, you really will see results.

Burkhart, CG and Burkart, CN. Expanding the microcomedone theory and acne therapeutics: Propionibacterium acnes biofilm produces biological glue that holds corneocytes together to form plug. J Am Acad Dermatol 2007;57:22-4

Photo credit: FCC, xcaliber

8 thoughts on “Bacteria Secretes Sticky Glue, Causing Acne”

  1. Dr. Benabio, I just found your blog. This is an interesting post, for me, because I’ve struggled with skin problems, since I was 16, and now I’m 22.
    Would you recommend taking echinacea for acne?

  2. There are no studies showing that taking echinacea can help acne. If you have tried over the counter acne treatments and your acne persists, then make an appointment with your dermatologist. There are plenty of oral and topical treatments that do have good studies to support their efficacy.

    Hang in there, acne can be tough to beat, but we always win in the end.

  3. Those are Great Tips! Thank You for this in depth information about acne and how to get rid of it.

  4. Thank you! This is what I looking for for your help!

  5. I’m curious, if this is a major factor in aggregation of comedone material, why there is not an enzyme solution targeting this process as a solution to acne issues.

    Disallowing the primary steps in comedone formation is surely better than post-formation solutions such as exfoliation (which typically does not reach deep enough) and antibiotics.

  6. Susan Kirk says:

    Do you recommend extracting comedones? i have all kinds of impacted pores and skin care products do little. i have seen a dermatologist for many years and he has always extracted them. it seems easy enough, do you recommend i do it myself?

  7. hayden trozzi says:

    thanks bub this really helped i decided 2 days ago im gonna take a stand against my acne so i have bought 2 big boxes with every bit of the proactiv creme and im going to use every bit of it. amazingly though the first day i used it when i woke up my acn e was almost gone

    p.s. does popping a pimple then applying proactiv make it more effective if you could just comment on ur own page and i will check comments daily

  8. Killing the acne bacteria using antibiotics is a fruitless and destructive approach. Taking antibiotic is destructive because it upsets the natural balance of the P.acne in our body, eradicates the good probiotic bacteria and enables the intrusion of harmful bacteria to skin. Taking antibiotics is fruitless because constant intake of antibiotics will eventually cause the p.acne to become resistant to antibiotics. It is a fruitless approach also because it doesn’t stop the environment that caused the P.acne to multiply.

    The only way to stop acne permanently is to neutralize the acne environment (when the bacteria multiplies and feeds on blood toxins and excessive production of oil). To stop acne, you must balance oil secretion and discharge your body from accumulated toxins and control the nutritional, hormonal, psychological and environmental triggers.

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