In a recently published paper in the Journal of Lipid Research, Emanuela Camera and her colleagues at the San Gallicano Dermatologic Institute in Italy analyzed the lipids in sebum to explain how sebum composition correlates with the severity of acne in teenagers. “One of the many insults of adolescence is pimple-speckled skin,” says Camera. “Sebum, an oily skin secretion, plays a major role in causing zits. But the knowledge of what exactly in sebum is responsible for the occurrence of acne is rather limited.” The lipids in human sebum are so unique that some are not even found in other oily substances in the body, or in other species. The complexity of sebum lipids has made them difficult to analyze and understand completely.
Aiming to better understand these lipids and their role in acne, 61 teenagers were recruited with the help of dermatologists. The researchers grouped adolescents based on acne severity, and all teenagers were asked to sample sebum on their foreheads with a special tape. The team then used mass spectrometry to analyze the sebum, focusing on the neutral lipids. Diacylglycerols were the predominant species found in acne sebum, alongside fatty acyls, sterols, and prenols. The more acute cases of acne had higher levels of diaclyglyerols. These findings can help create more effective acne treatments. Acne is diverse and therefore can look different from person to person, manifesting itself as white and black heads, papules, pustules, and combinations. Says Camera, “Thus, biomarkers of acne and acne severity can be instrumental in the definition of acne pathogenic mechanisms and indicate novel drug targets."