How Our Technology Works

How Our Technology Works

To understand how our technology works, and why our approach is so revolutionary, let’s see how current acne products work. It’s important to note that the active ingredients in all acne products out there have an antibacterial effect – from over-the-counter products to strong prescription medication. Benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics simply kill all the bacteria they touch – they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. This isn’t a good option, because other than being very harsh on your skin, they cause massive disruptions in your microbiome, which can leave you susceptible to skin infections. Also these harsh measures inevitably lead to recurring acne, since the bad strains tend to be more resilient and craftier than the good guys. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone who’s had to deal with le zits?

Retinoids are some of the most effective acne treatments we have, and it works by remodeling skin. It shrinks your pores and drastically cuts down on oil production, so it literally shrinks and starves the P. acnes out of its home. Of course, the heavy helping of side effects of retinoids comes with include extreme dryness and skin irritation, birth defects, liver damage, depression and suicide. For an acne drug. Oh, the things we do for clear skin.

And the fact is, since acne occurs in our youth when our skin is resilient, we are so eager to get rid of it that we don’t think twice before we bombard our fragile skin with all sorts of intense and harmful chemicals. Harsh substances like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids have been shown to activate pro-inflammatory pathways in our skin, which are also involved in aging. So while you’re desperately trying everything under the sun to push the acne off your skin, you don’t realize that in 20 years you’ll be wondering why your skin looks so much worse than it should, and what you could have possibly done differently.

Salicylic acid is a gentler, milder option than these, and kills P. acnes indirectly. Since P. acnes is anaerobic, it needs a clogged pore (aka whiteheads and blackheads) to keep the oxygen out. Salicylic acid is keratolytic, which means it breaks up these clogs and exfoliates the skin, exposing the P. acnes to oxygen and stopping it in its tracks. It also lowers sebum secretions, and robs the P. acnes of some of its food.

So it seems like all these products try to limit the growth of P. acnes indirectly, but they all do this in an indiscriminate way, killing both good and bad bacteria and being incredibly harsh on acne skin that needs to be treated with TLC. In an ideal world, we would simply get rid of the acne-causing bacteria without disturbing the good community of bacteria on our skin. Ideally, we could do so without being harsh on the skin, treating it with the care and consideration it deserves. Ideally, we could use this soothing treatment that gently reshapes your microbiome to health, well, forever. Without side effects. Without redness and irritation. Without irreparably damaging your skin and aging it prematurely.

The thing is, your microbiome is kind of like a beautiful garden that you tend and nurture with care. One day, you see a weed in your lawn. What do you do: douse the whole garden in gasoline and set it on fire, or just scoop up the weed and replace it with a patch of grass? Every time you use benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics on your skin, you’re basically setting your microbiome on fire. And up until now, you’ve had no option.

Here’s where we come in. We’ve discovered a brand new type of skin probiotic, called a bacteriophage (phage, for short). It eats bacteria, and it’s incredibly specific. It’s found in our skin all the time; in fact, it’s found far more frequently on healthy skin, and there’s a hypothesis that its natural occurrence correlated with the absence of acne could mean that it causes some people to never break out. Its specificity means that it will never kill or inhibit the growth of neighboring good bacteria, and because it is naturally found on healthy skin, we know (and have proven) that it is incredibly gentle on your skin and can be used every day without any harsh side effects. More excitingly, since it specifically kills P. acnes only, you can now eat all the spicy food you want, sweat as much as you like, and there will be no overgrowth from the bacteria feasting on your sebum. This means that over time, as the phage continually reshapes and recalibrates your microbiome towards health, you will see the long-term benefits of being acne-free – in the healthiest and gentlest way imaginable.

We’ve figured out a way to keep the phage alive in our formulation, which is no mean feat, and we are the world’s first true skin probiotic – no ground-up dead bacteria, no bacteria from yogurt or dirt. Our probiotic is a microorganism that lives selectively on healthy skin, and is probably the cause of healthy skin. Maybe some people are born with it, but we want to democratize this probiotic and make it accessible to everyone – so that we all can have the great-looking healthy skin we deserve.

phage probiotic acne care

The Phyla™ system was designed to give you the great-looking and healthy skin you deserve. Unveil what nature gave you by being kind to your microbiome.

What Causes Acne?

What Causes Acne?

Acne is a multifactorial disease, and there are many factors that contribute to its occurrence and severity. We all know that diet, stress, genetics, and hormones can affect acne – we’ve experienced most of these in our life. But these are all secondary factors that support the primary cause of acne, which is the overgrowth of a key bacteria in the ‘oily’ microbiome – Propionibacterium acnes. Confused? Let me explain.

Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, is an anaerobic bacterium that lives deep within the pores of our oily skin. We generally think of our skin as this flat thin layer, but if you zoom in you can see that our skin has pores which are narrow, deep wells. In oily or sebaceous skin, which is your face, upper chest and upper back, each pore has a sebaceous gland that secretes an oily substance into the pore. P. acnes absolutely love this stuff – it is uniquely adapted to feed on this oil. Further, this oil accumulates and tends to block the pore, which seals off the pore from oxygen and gives P. acnes the anaerobic environment it needs to thrive. Due to the unique distribution of sebaceous glands, you can get acne on your face or back, but you’ll never get acne on your leg. (If you think you have acne on your leg, it’s not acne. See a doctor.)

So is P. acnes the enemy? Well, kinda. We’ve known for decades that P. acnes is intimately involved with acne, but for a long time we didn’t know exactly how. You see, every teenager and adult has a considerable amount of P. acnes on their face – it dominates our ‘oily’ microbiome. But obviously, all of us don’t have acne. Also, acne does not correlate with the amount of P. acnes on your skin – healthy skin can have more P. acnes than acne skin. Microbiome research has helped to solve this conundrum, when we discovered that all P. acnes are not made equal – there are many strains of this bacterium, and some strains (classified as ribotypes) are almost perfectly correlated with acne, while others are perfectly correlated with healthy skin. There are also ‘garden variety’ strains, which are present on almost everyone and sort of constitute the background of your microbiome. More importantly, an overgrowth of the bad strains triggers the inflammation that leads to acne, so the key to controlling acne is to keep the population of these bad strains in check.

So… how do those secondary factors figure in acne? Well, it turns out that all those factors – diet, stress, genetics, hormones – are linked to changes in skin chemistry, specifically in ways that affect the food for P. acnes. If you eat too much spicy food, or stress out or exercise in a way that makes you sweat more, you’re just providing more food for this bacteria. Some people are genetically predisposed to have oily skin or large pores, or sweat more – that’s a bacteria buffet. And hormones can change skin chemistry too, which stimulates the sebaceous glands to provide more microbial munchies. You get the idea.

Have more questions about what causes acne? Leave them in the comments for Dr. Yug Varma to answer below!

The Phyla™ system was designed to give you the great-looking and healthy skin you deserve. Unveil what nature gave you by being kind to your microbiome.

What is the Microbiome?

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome is the community of microorganisms – bacteria, fungi, and viruses – that live on, and within, our bodies. We used to think of bacteria as gross, or mostly dirty and disgusting things that are to be eliminated and avoided. But research into the microbiome has shown that the vast majority of our microbiota (the members of our microbiome) are not only benign but crucial to our health. In fact, there is evidence that exposure to the right set of bacteria at the right time of development is essential for our immune system to develop properly so that we can avoid allergies, asthma, and a host of other inflammatory disorders.

The raft of research in interest in the microbiome had also led to a renewed interest in the benefit of probiotics and fermented foods, although these are mostly aimed at maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. From kombucha to kefir, and yogurt to sauerkraut, we are rediscovering the powerful benefits of naturally fermented foods.

Before the advent of microbiome research, we used to think that most of the bacteria in our body resided in our gut. While that is true, we now know that other parts of our body, such as our skin. In fact, the skin alone has multiple separate microbiomes – for wet, dry, and oily (sebaceous) regions of the skin within our body. The unique features of our ‘oily’ microbiome are why we only get acne on our face, chest, and back (more on that later).

Naturally, since our skin microbiome is very different from our gut microbiome, what’s good for the gut isn’t automatically good for the skin. So if you’re being sold yogurt to smear on your face, you’re probably better off just eating it. Your stomach will thank you, your face won’t. Even worse, the overwhelming majority of the ‘probiotic’ skincare products contain dead, ground-up yogurt bacteria (look for ‘lysate’ or ‘extract’ in the ingredients section) – this does less than nothing to maintain a healthy skin microbiome.

While different body sites have extremely different microbiomes, they do share some features. One common theme is the concept of diversity – strong, healthy microbiomes tend to be more diverse. The bacteria in the community form an ecological web, and generally the more diverse these bacteria are, the more resilient this web tends to be. Conversely, a lack of diversity in the microbiome makes it easy to disturb and susceptible to attack by a pathogen. You can think of your microbiome like a farm or a garden. If you only have one type of plant, then a pest can wipe out the entire farm. But if you have several crops or plants, then a single pest can’t wipe them out and they will be more resilient to damage.

Have more questions about the skin’s microbiome? Leave them in the comments for Dr. Yug Varma to answer below!

The Phyla™ system was designed to give you the great-looking and healthy skin you deserve. Unveil what nature gave you by being kind to your microbiome.