At some point of our lives, we’ve all had to deal with acne — barring those who won the genetic lottery in the form of glass skin. There are an exhaustive list of treatments for the condition that range from laser therapy to steroid injections and pills, each more drastic than the last — but then again, nothing is too drastic for acne sufferers desperate to be rid of their condition.
The textbook cause of acne usually goes like this: when sebum and dead skin cells plug follicles, coupled with some bacteria, acne develops. But Eva Soh, founder of homegrown skincare brand mySkinbar, wasn’t satisfied with that — especially since she saw people with dry skin and tight pores still suffering from the condition.
So she and her dermatologist decided to squeeze out some sebum from the nose area (the oiliest part of the skin, thanks to the high concentration of glands) and slotted it under a microscope. The results were enlightening — if slightly unsettling.
“To our surprise, we found the Demodex mite feasting away at the sebum and skin,” she says.
As she explains, there are two types of mites that live on the skin, the Demodex Brevis and the Demodex Folliculorum. The latter prefers to stay on the face, while the former can appear anywhere on the body, particularly on areas with oil glands, since they feed off sebum and skin cells. If you’ve the stomach for it, you can even watch a video of the mite in action here.
“We aren’t born with the mites, but they accumulate on our faces over time,” she explains. “It’s all about whether our skin presents a hospitable or inhospitable environment for these mites to thrive.”
And when these mites seek refuge in oil glands, an inflammatory reaction occurs — then, acne.
Soh’s research is backed up by science as well. A study from the California Academy of Sciences indicates that these mites have evolved alongside humans through the centuries, and that the cause of several skin issues — such as acne and even rosacea — depend on how abundant and reactive one’s skin is to these mites.
The mites are also light-sensitive as well, in that they only appear in the absence of light. It explains why blue light technology works on acne — because it kills these mites once they climb out of the pores — and it’s also why the prime acne-eradicating time happens when we’re asleep.
It’s part of why Soh was driven to leave her cushy finance job to set up mySkinbar. (If we were confronted with a live, wriggling mite that was feasting on our skin, we’d have an epiphany too.)
While Soh notes that acne is a “multi-layered problem” that’s caused by a combination of environmental and hormonal factors, she says that the Demodex mite remains the most crucial cause: “So it’s all about creating an environment that prevents them from thriving.”
MySkinbar presents a lean roster of products, not least because they’re all geared to serve one goal: to stop the Demodex mites on your skin for good. Their bestselling The Crux cream comes with anti-inflammatory Willow Bark extracts, as well as and Iris Root for its calming properties; the brand’s latest formulation is a serum version of The Crux, which is designed to wear well with makeup.
Since setting up the brand in 2011, Soh has a trove of skin transformation stories that are equal parts dramatic and heart-warming. “I distinctly remember one client who was about to undergo a serious chemical peel in a last ditch effort to treat her acne,” she recalls. “Her dermatologist told her this would be the last time she could even get her face peeled — because it was already too thin.”
One client was going to have his face lit on fire by a facialist in an attempt to rid himself of acne — and another entered their store with acne so severe that one of Soh’s former assistants had to leave the room.
The common theme underscoring these stories is that they all saw results with Soh’s products — and gave her the motivation to keep innovating.
“We started the brand in the hopes of sharing our knowledge on acne,” says Soh. “Ultimately, we want to bring relief to people with acne — and bring them happiness.”