Acne — it’s a four letter word that every teenager dreads. But luckily for most, it’s usually gone by the time adulthood hits. For others, the constant visits to the dermatologist and testing out numerous acne products can grow tiresome. Now scientists in Scotland believe that marine algae could help to fight those nasty breakouts, according to a new study.

The secret of the algae's super powers is in the fatty acids, and scientists believe that the bacteria in the algae have drying components similar to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid — both of which help treat acne. “Many fatty acids inhibit or kill bacteria and now some of these have been shown to prevent the growth of Propionibacterium acnes,” Dr. Andrew Desbois, study author said, adding “Fatty acids are present naturally on our skin to defend us against unwanted bacteria — so applying more would boost our existing defenses.”

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) acne is the most common skin disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million to 50 million Americans. For many teens, this has a negative impact on their self-esteem and being that it effects 85 percent of teens, it would be a great benefit for a new and effective acne treatment.  Acne is caused by three major factors: overproduction of oil glands in the skin, blockage of the hair follicles that release oil, and growth of Propionibacterium acnes, also known as P.acnes.

The research finds that there are six different fatty acids that combat acne, including, omega-3, omega-6, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA). EPA is found in the algae but is also obtained by eating fish oil, seaweed, and human breast milk. DGLA, which also fights inflammation is much harder to obtain, and it is usually found in trace amounts in animal products.

"Normally, we obtain these beneficial fatty acids through consuming fish or seaweed in our diets,” Debois said, “However, we are planning to formulate the fatty acids into an ointment that can be applied to the skin to help people suffering with acne.”

The researchers are hoping to eventually make and sell a topical treatment, since some drugs currently have unfavorable side effects, such as dry skin, dermatitis, irritation, and a few others.  

Source: Desbois AP, Lawlor KC. Antibacterial Activity of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureusMarine Drugs. 2013; 11(11):4544-4557.