Interview with Dr. Anita Damodaran, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, The Pond's Institute
1. You had proposed a breakthrough finding on acne pathogenesis. Please share more about this.
For the first time ever, using microarray technology for gene expression analysis, we were able to show that inflammation starts very early in comedones. Inflammatory markers were upregulated in whiteheads, traditionally seen as non-inflammatory acne, while keratin markers were upregulated in blackheads. These results indicate that lesions progress from blackheads to whiteheads to inflammatory acne, and are an important step in helping us to find ways to better deal with the condition.
After gaining a better understanding of the role inflammation plays in acne pathogenesis, we set out to find a new approach to reducing inflammation and acne. The Pond’s Institute developed a novel combination of anti-microbial actives, Thymol and Terpineol (TT) that resolves acne by killing and inhibiting P. acnes bacteria, thus lowering inflammation response in keratinocytes. TT works by binding to the efflux pump on the P. acnes surface membrane, blocking it and locking both active ingredients inside the cell where they can rapidly exert strong bactericidal effects. In human clinical studies, a cleanser with TT showed substantial reduction of acne lesions from day 3 and displayed significantly better results at all time-points over the six-week study compared to a salicylic acid cleanser and placebo.
2. What inspired the research on acne pathogenesis and why is it important?
Acne has been a particular focus area of The Pond’s Institute as it can have profound negative effects on a consumer’s physical appearance, psychological state, socio-economic status and quality of life. Yet acne is often a trivialized condition and much is still unknown about its causative factors and progression. Therefore, the Pond’s Institute decided to investigate acne at a cellular and molecular level to gain a better understanding of its pathogenesis. By taking this approach, we began to investigate acne solutions beyond the traditional keratinolytic agents used today. Ultimately, our aim is to help acne sufferers strengthen skin inside for softer and healthier skin on the outside.
3. What are the techniques or technologies you used in this study?
In our attempt to answer these questions, we analyzed the gene expression patterns in biopsies from blackheads and whiteheads using microarray technology. This allowed us to discover the upregulated inflammatory markers in whiteheads, and so we were able to propose the new sequence of acne progression.
In-vitro, we managed to show that the TT combination, through its antibacterial activity, could prevent the P. acnes induced inflammatory response in keratinocytes. Human studies were also conducted on individuals with acne, where a product containing TT demonstrated a significant reduction in acne lesion counts; results that were also significantly better as compared to salicylic acid cleanser and placebo.
4. Your studies demonstrated that Thymol/Terpineol (TT) combination could contribute to reduction of acne lesions due to its antibacterial activity. How did you come up with this novel combination of anti-microbial actives?
Our consumer insight research showed that most people only spend an average of 30 seconds washing their face. As such, we were looking for therapeutic agents that could exert a powerful effect on bacteria in a very short time. We undertook high-throughput screening and tested more than 50 combinations of various naturally occurring essential oils to determine those that displayed the highest activity. We reviewed the top 10 agents identified this way, all of which were subject to a variety of different combinations.
Through this testing process, a unique combination of Thymol and Terpineol (TT) was identified. Initial indications and benchmarking data from in-vitro testing demonstrated significantly better and/or faster effect with the TT combination as compared with any others.
5. How do you define normal pigmentation and hyperpigmentation? How to identify/measure hyperpigmentation?
Skin color is the manifestation of the presence of various chromophores, mostly the level and distribution of melanin pigment and to some extent, hemoglobin and other chromophores like beta carotene. The color of the skin one is born with, is called constitutive skin color; it is regulated by one’s genetic makeup. About 350 color genes are known to regulate skin color.
Hyperpigmentation is generally due to excess of melanin pigment accumulation in skin leading to uneven skin tone. Age spots, PIH, Nevus of Ota, Acanthosis nigricans, Melasma, Periorbital pigmentation are some of the common pigmentary disorders and typically, darker skinned individuals are more prone to hyper-pigmentary disorders.
There are various tools used by dermatologists and scientists to identify and measure hyperpigmentation, like a Wood’s lamp examination, chromameters, dermoscopy, imaging, and color scales.
6. Please tell us more about The Pond’s Institute. Does it also do research in fields other than acne pathogenesis?
Pond’s has been around since as far back as the 1800s, and has been making key advancements in the dermatological industry through its lifespan. The Pond’s Institute was established in 1992 and began pioneering the evolution of skincare into a more sophisticated era, consolidating its research & development under one organization. Since then it has grown tremendously in size, employing over 700 scientists in 6 countries around the world, while achieving over 200 patents and numerous industry firsts.
Along with our recent advances in the understanding of acne pathogenesis, a few of The Pond’s Institutes firsts include:
Alpha Hydroxy Acids: The first clinically proven anti- ageing ingredient available in many Pond’s products.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Another Anti-ageing active that speeds up skin regeneration.
Pond’s Men Energy Charge: The first all-in-one moisturizer, toner and serum for men.
VB3+ PPAR: Novel technology which helps to boost the skin’s natural whitening ability to deliver spotless rosy white skin.
Gen Activ: A ground-breaking formula which consists
of Vitamins E and B3, allantoin and optics that works deeply to lighten and fade dark spots while preventing
7. What can people do or consume to prevent the occurrence of acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and to improve skin conditions?
There is some research to suggest acne sufferers can benefit from dietary intervention. Historically there has been evidence to suggest that Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) correlated directly with the severity of acne. IGF-1 induces initial follicular obstruction, and also stimulates androgens. This in turn causes an increase in sebum production. Westernized nutrition is traditionally associated with a high intake of hyperglycemic carbohydrates, milk, saturated fats and trans-fatty acids, all of which have an impact on IGF-1 synthesis. A study carried out in a non-western population in 2002 interestingly showed that the complete absence of acne in Kitavan Islanders in Papua New Guinea and Aché hunter-gatherers of Paraguay, may have been a direct consequence of their low glycemic and low fat diets. In addition to this study, other studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in fish and borage oil can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines thus benefitting both Acne and PIH.
Therefore, reducing consumption of hyperglycemic carbohydrates, milk, saturated fats and trans-fatty acids while also increasing the intake of fish, fresh vegetables, fruits and green tea can have a positive effect on acne treatment. Ultimately, we believe that acne is best treated by taking a holistic approach which includes both nutrition and topical interventions.