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Zapne Review - Does It Work?

Zapne has been raising a lot of interest in the scientific community as of late. It touts a new technology that can help treat acne, as an alternative to antibiotics.

If you want to watch the video review for Zapne, check it out here.

Zapne claims to be "natural, non-synthetic", it "produces no material side effects, requires only a single 15-minute weekly application, and produces visible results quickly, in some cases after only one or a few applications".

Essentially, the product comes with 4 weeks of treatments, at one treatment per week, so 4 total treatments. It comes with a salicylic acid face wipe, as well as a pre-measured mask. The mask includes nutrient-rich plant extracts including Natural Sericin, Natural Brown Seaweed, and Organic selections of Green Tea, Ginger Root, Chamomile and Aloe Vera. The product contains anti-microbials, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, but it is allegedly its unique delivery system that harnesses the power of spicules from the Russian sponge that does most of the heavy lifting. This apparently restores the follicle, calms acne, and reduces associated scarring.

One of the main ingredients in the Zapne mask is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). You may be familiar with it, as it is commonly used to prevent infections in wounds.

Many skin infections are caused by anaerobic bacteria - they cannot grow in the presence of oxygen (like P. acnes bacteria, one of the most common acne-causing bacteria). When a typical H2O2 solution is applied to a wound, oxygen is released. An enzyme called catalase breaks down the hyroden peroxide, releasing oxygen and water. While the water cleans the wound, the oxygen kills the anaerobic bacteria.

In one study, a combination cream of adapalene and H2O2 was deemed a more effective topical treatment regimen in mild to moderate acne than benzoyl peroxide, and was even more tolerable.

Another study found that a stabilized H2O2 cream was just as effective as benzoyl peroxide in reducing inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions, and again, was more tolerable.

Yet another, more recent study, found that in just 4 days a stabilized form of H2O2 reduced acne lesions by 68%.

So, it seems to make sense that they would use H2O2 in their product.

Unfortunately one of my main concerns was that hydrogen peroxide is also an aggressive oxidizing agent and it can corrode the skin. It can even result in severe third-degree burns. In laboratory studies, hydrogen peroxide was shown to damage skin cells in a process known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is involved in the formation of acne and skin damage, as I discussed in my eBook. When hydrogen peroxide was placed on skin cells, an oxidative stress protein was activated, indicating that hydrogen peroxide caused stress to the cells. H2O2 is known to cause free radical damage, this is not disputable, it is unfortunately fact. Free radicals, as a result, cause cellular damage. This is why many physicians and dermatologists currently advise against using hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds, as it has been found to slow the healing process and possibly worsen scarring by killing the healthy cells surrounding a cut.

We know that oxidizing the skin can be bad for acne, which is why I always encourage the use of antioxidants in skin care. So why is an oxidizing agent used in this product?

Well, this product is a bit different than the 3% aqueous solution that you buy from drug stores. The kind of H2O2 you buy at the store isn't stable and the extra oxygen molecule in it can play havoc with cells. The Zapne product, however, actually couples the H2O2 with antioxidants which first and foremost would mitigate some of the free radical damage.

However, it is upon mixing the Spongilla product with the H2O2 that the H2O2 is actually converted to water and one molecule of oxygen evaporates (during the bubbling process of mixing for 1 minute). Thus, the compound used on the face is Spongilla and water, and no H2O2 remains.

Thus, it is nothing like applying straight 3% H2O2 to the skin, so we can put those worries to rest.

Clinical Evidence

Aside from the studies mentioned earlier on H2O2 in other products, are there any studies that actually demonstrate Zapne's efficacy?

Well, in one study, researchers studied the effects of sponge spicules and 3% H2O2 applied to skin (similar technology used in the Zapne system), although this was in an animal model. The study found that the skin retained the spicules deep in the stratum basalis from the sponge for 3 days. The researchers hypothesizes that the spicules from the sponge cause punctures that allow the product to penetrate better into the skin. From this study, the solution was considered safe for short-term use, but long-term safety was deemed questionable.

Aside from this, according to Zapne's Medical Advisor, Dr. Robertson, "In a sampling of 50 of my patients, 95% of participants reported an immediate reduction in acne breakouts after two treatments. Participants also reported additional benefits, including: smoother, more radiant youthful and healthy looking skin, less oily or irritated skin, and appearance of less acne scarring."

Citizens for Health, one of the country's most revered consumer action groups, also endorses Zapne for providing a uniquely effective treatment for the most common skin condition in the U.S. Zapne is the first acne treatment product ever to receive such an endorsement.

My Experience

Now that we've gotten the technical jargon out of the way, let's get down to business. What was my experience with Zapne?

Zapne's system works in two steps: the face is prepared with a salicylic acid wipe, then a light, pre-measured mask is applied for 15 minutes. This is repeated only once a week. The convenience is a bonus - acne treatment routines tend to be rigorous and we need to remember to do them several times a day to ensure efficacy, so doing something only once a week has serious appeal.

My first impression of the mask claims is that natural doesn't automatically mean something is better for your skin. I've gone over this in other blog posts, like this one. So while this isn't a major selling point for me personally, and I don't think it should be a major selling point for anyone, that doesn't mean there's necessarily anything wrong with the product being non-synthetic.

First Time Impressions Using the Treatment

  1. The Wipe

  2. Smells nice and faint, not like a medicine or treated product.

  3. Looks a bit like a thick wet nap, the kind you would get when you go to a wing place to clean your hands off.

  4. It feels a bit rough or sticky going on, as if the wipe doesn’t wipe as smoothly as other face wipes do.

  5. The product you wipe on you’re supposed to leave on, and it dries fairly quickly and doesn’t feel unpleasant on the skin as if there’s a residue or anything like that. It doesn't feel dry or uncomfortable to put on the skin.

  6. The Mask

  7. The initial smell of the sponge product in the package is earthy and not overwhelming.

  8. It mixes together easily and applies easily, but it is a tad abrasive even applying it to your skin.

  9. The product description tells you to rub as vigorously as your skin will allow but I was very gentle and found it to be quite harsh, so you would need to be careful.

  10. I didn’t notice a tingling sensation much at all, maybe a few little bubbles feelings in a few spots but it didn't persist long.

  11. As it dried it didn’t get too tight, maybe about as tight as a watery clay mask.

  12. It smelled a little bit like water slime or a minnow tank or something. The more I used the mask the more pungent and repulsive the smell became.

  13. Afterward, removing it, it felt a bit like rinsing off tiny shards of glass, and even when it’s all wiped off it feels like they’re still there in the pores (which, according to a study cited earlier, they are).

  14. Skin feels a little sensitive after, a little dry, and there’s mild erythema after.

  15. A couple hours after it looked and felt like I had a mild sunburn – kind of sore, tight and a bit swollen. Felt uncomfortable to sleep the first night.

Next Day

  1. Woke up and skin was fine, still had some very mild erythema but nothing too noticeable, no skin discomfort, tightness or swelling, skin did look and feel very consistent – noticed skin was a bit less oily than usual but didn’t feel tight or dry.

Second Treatment

By the time I did the second treatment my skin was a little different than before. My forehead, which had been fairly clear around the time of starting, now had a couple inflamed bumps. My chin, which had been fairly broken out, was now mostly clear – but there seemed to be some bumps starting. This, however, isn't unusual for my skin. My chin goes through cycles of clearing and breaking out, and so does my forehead.

The second time I used it I felt some bubbles around my nose this time in applying the mask, likely reacting with bacteria.

Same experience as last time, although it didn’t hurt as bad to remove it. Skin felt tight, a little dry, almost like I had gotten Botox or a chemical peel. Skin was very sensitive after, mild erythema, nothing too intense although there is mild discomfort.

Third and Fourth Treatment

Literally the worst smelling mask I’ve ever used. It smells like the scum you’d clean out of a fish tank and I think that was the second worst part of the mask for me.

It was also quite painful putting it on the third time, my face felt very sensitive but again it didn’t tingle or sting for long, it wasn’t uncomfortable to wear, just to put on and take off. This was the worst part for me.

After using the product, I also dispute the claim that it produces no material side effects. I consider erythema and dryness to be side effects, but again this doesn't necessarily mean anything. Most acne treatments come with side effects - dryness, cheilitis, flaking, irritation, something of the sort. An acne treatment that truly has no side effects probably isn't doing anything. That's called homeopathy.

Personally speaking, I didn't find that this mask did much for my skin. After 4 weeks of treatment, I didn't find any reduction in my acne, or my acne scarring. My skin texture was not necessarily improved. However, knowing my skin - I know that my acne is not bacterial in nature (my acne is largely hormonal and situated predominantly on my chin). So after 4 weeks of treatment, it only became more obvious that it wasn't bacteria that was causing my skin problems.

Does this mean that the Zapne system doesn't work? Absolutely not. Hormonal acne is just one type of acne that some people struggle with. There are still so many people with acne caused by bacteria, or who have the type of acne that Zapne would be ideal for.

My best advice is to try it out for yourself if you have the type of skin that is responsive to antibiotics (topical or oral), or if you find your acne flares up from things like dirty pillow cases. Like benzoyl peroxide, it’s something that tends to work very quickly, and can give you fairly quick results – with good efficacy and guarantee it will work with better tolerability than benzoyl peroxide. For hormonal acne, unfortunately I don't think that this product has any application (not many acne treatments do much for hormonal acne). But again, that doesn't mean that it doesn't work. Just because it didn't work for me, doesn't mean it won't work for you.

If you're interested in trying out Zapne for yourself, you can get it here.

Also, if you're concerned about the ethics of using sponges, please see this post here, and here.

Please note that I was not paid to write this blog post, although I was provided with a treatment to try and review. I do not recieve any commission for the sale of this product. These opinions are my own.

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