Early Age of First Menstruation

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I used to be pretty far out, man.  At least, I went through a phase of several years in which I was pretty far out.  I wore wooden jewelry and really tried to believe in dumb things with no real proof, evidence, or logic, like fairies or Astral travel.  I noticed during that time, the people I encountered, and the ideologies I came across – there wasn’t a large requirement for much proof, evidence, or logical thought.  It’s almost if it was more valid if it just came to you from somewhere out in the cosmos.  Neale Donald Walsch said so!

I spoke in Grass Valley, California last weekend, one of the great American meccas for the alternative, New Age, and all things in between.  Only a few minutes into my talk about how a high body temperature and high metabolism is a strong asset for the proper functioning of our body’s systems, a long-haired man adorned in purple robes interrupted me…

“You know, there are some that think that we are burning through life too quickly.  In the last hundred years the average age of first menstruation has fallen from around age 17 to just 11 or 12.”

He kept going on for quite some time, sort of patronizing me a little bit as if, because it made some sense in his mind that we were burning up too quickly, which is why we were hitting puberty early and aging more quickly, that it was right.  And I was wrong.

I quickly left the topic of early puberty and got back to some of the basics that I wanted to discuss.  But this has been marinating in my brain ever since, and his idea, although only heard by a handful of people, still deserves to be properly dismissed.

Early puberty and childhood obesity are very closely linked.

Obesity, however, is certainly not linked with a high metabolic rate or high body temperature.  Low body temperature in dogs is a strong predictor for obesity.  Others are exploring the link between low body temperature in humans and obesity as well – a link they will find a tight correlation to if anyone bothers to actually follow through and study it properly.

It’s as if the same growth factors that trigger the production of excess body fat are the same growth factors that trigger the development of secondary sex characteristics and the onset of puberty.  Being a chubby kid who pubed out at 11, developing 3-4 years faster than my father whom I share many identical physical characteristics (same height, same shoe size, etc.), I got to experience this first hand.  Body fat itself seems to affect the amount and type of estrogen produced – perhaps a reason for the link between early menstruation and above-average weight.

Anyway, all the reasons for the decline in first age of menstruation and the onset of puberty are unknown.  But we can certainly say that “high body temperature” or “high metabolism” or “burning through energy too quickly” doesn’t appear to be a cause, but more of a solution.

 

 

 

 

61 Comments

  1. First?

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  2. “first menarche” is redundant. :)

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    • I fixed it. Meant to title it “First Menstruation,” as few know what the word “menarche” means. Most think it’s a type of butterfly.

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  3. Matt, Good to hear about your experience at Grass Valley ! I had a similar sort of purple robe question :) Based on reading what Joel Fuhrman and Paul Jaminet of PHD have written, it seems they contend that a lower metabolism is linked to longevity. So does it come down to a choice between longevity and better/stronger life albeit a shorter one ?

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    • No, usually small people outlive larger people, and their metabolic rate per pound is statistically higher. Increased size correlates to decreased metabolism and also decreased lifespan, generally speaking. What I would like to see someone prove is that lowering someone’s metabolic rate does something significantly positive for their health – both morbidity and mortality stats. It would take a lot to convince me that is true. Still, I want to go through life feeling my best, spending the fewest days sick, having the fewest health problems, the best sex drive and performance, and having the most calm and upbeat mood that I’m capable of. Lowering my metabolic rate doesn’t seem to do any of these things for me.

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      • +1 I don’t think the *possible* increase in lifespan makes up for the low quality of life when in a hypo metabolic state. I’ve been there, and I won’t go back!

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      • Huh?….it’s always being said that small/short people need less calories than tall people because of the height difference.

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  4. I was 15 – nearly 16 and probably the last one in my class. I was a healthy weight – on the thin side, but my periods remained extremely irregular for years, and now I am dealing with hypothyroid. Is there any connection between later menarche and hypothyroid?

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    • I have always heard that they are correlated, Andrea, though I can’t remember from where I heard it. A good friend of mine started menstruating at 15 as well, and she has numerous symptoms of being hypo, and has always struggled with low iron.

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  5. There’s a school of thought that early menarche is related to learning to read too early. I think the theory is it has something to do with how the incarnation process works, as the astral body becomes more attached to this earthly plane, or something along those lines. If a guy in purple robes accosted me on the subject, I probably would’ve gone with that, since it’s so far off the radar that it would shut people up while they tried to figure out what the hell I’m going on about.

    (I used to hang out with some odd groups, too. Although I was always more of an observer than participants.) (Bonus points to other readers who can identify where I read about this idea.)

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      • Yep!

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    • LOL. :D

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  6. Haha, I also went through a Neale Donald Walsch phase.

    I started on my 13th Birthday (menstruating that is, not reading Neale Donald Walsch books) – I was a chubby kid, yet a couple of my stick-thin friends started just before me (the three of us were within a couple of week of each other).

    Here’s a vaguely relevant questions: do you think metabolic syndrome can cause/be associated with endometriosis (or similar problems), and if so could fixing metabolic issues fix the problem?

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  7. Both my daughter and I started our periods when we were 12. My daughter was 121/2 , me my 12th birthday. I was a very fit kid doing lots of sport and not at all overweight. My daughter is skinny, not that she tries to be. So extra weight is something. Either of us had but still started on the early side

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  8. Here’s a question: does swimming in cold water really increase your metabolism or, is it likely to do the opposite?

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    • Swimming in cold water will increase the calories you burn at the time of the activity. But temporary increased calorie burn is not an increased metabolism.
      Unless done intelligently, swimming, like any exercise, will decrease metabolism.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lKSiuHZ_L4

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    • The opposite I would assume, as it’s pretty well-known that spending a lot of time in cold water prevents fat loss. Last time I checked seals, whales, salmon, polar bears, and even ducks had a lot of body fat. They spend a lot of time swimming in cold water. Not that this means they have a low metabolism. Metabolism and body fat probably don’t intersect as neatly as people would like.

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      • Well for a few months I had freezing cold baths for an hour a day.
        I can say it did not help fat loss- I did it because I read it would- but it made no difference.

        The only thing that happened during that time was my hair started to go grey. Probably a side effect of the stress of freezing cold baths! lol

        In retrospect, I would say that over time it would teach the body to hoard fat – in order to protect from the cold water.

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      • Yeah, isn’t there a difference between metabolically active ‘brown fat’ and the more common among humans ‘yellow fat’?

        Obviously, both are fat, but I think I read that brown fat is associated with more cold resistance and greater calorie-expenditure, on par with lean tissue.

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      • Matt, it doesn’t necessarily follow that because an animal that is genetically adapted to living in cold water will carry a lot of fat, that humans, who are not aquatic mammals, will have the same response.

        Is it actually “well-known” FOR HUMANS that this is the case, or are you extrapolating from different species?

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        • I”m thinking more in terms of broad biological truisms. Like putting a sweater on a pig and seeing body fat levels decrease. Or peoples of the tropics generally being leaner than people at higher latitudes. Being lean is an adaptation for warmth. Being fat is an adaptation for cold. It doesn’t make sense to expose oneself to cold to become lean, anymore than it makes sense to get lean to protect yourself against the cold.

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      • What about this Michael Phelps(?) guy that Jack Kruse once wrote about in an article regarding cold thermogenesis?

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  9. Interesting about the obese dogs and low body temperature thing.

    I have 2 Jack Russells, they have the same father but different mothers, there is 4 months between them. The male is overweight. He is very active all day long but he always feels cold to the touch, while the female is tiny and has lots of short bursts of intense energy with rests in between but she always feels very warm. She eats way more than he does but she never puts on weight.

    I don’t know what their temperatures would be if actually measured, but I bet hers would be a lot higher than his.

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    • That sounds like a good experiment that you could do and publish it in a medical journal.

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  10. Som people need to read Romeo and Juliet. I believe Juliet was 13, and her mother was calling her an old maid.

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    • Was Juliet’s mom a doctor? Did Shakespeare publish anything in a peer-reviewed medical journal? Foget it then. Ain’t reading it.

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  11. maybe the body recognizes the slowdown and pushes out tits and dicks earlier to meet a shorter life

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  12. Two of my kids’ friends: the first tall , big boned and a bit fat at 8, wearing a bra, menarche at 9, now evened out and is average height and weight at 15, even a bit short. The other stopped growing and started periods at 10, at 13 has the body of a mature woman. What they have in common is growth issues as well as fat at menarche, and also they are both orphans. So maybe add trauma and stress to the list. Fat + (maybe) growth + (maybe) stress.

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  13. Me thinks that we are a bit screwed genetically . The earlier puberty is just part of the whole thing. Something happened to the postwar born generation, my mom and dad one. Is it the use of pesticides, the tinkering with
    agriculture, hormones in the meat and diary, dunno.
    But they are the fist generation that started getting fat without real reason.
    Sure there is the excessive sugar, trans fat and rest. But why my grands who are in their 80
    are eating the same fare and they stay thin? because they are generally non predisposed to get fat, but exactly because of eating like that they had kids that are predisposed..
    My daughter is 10, the skinniest kid i have ever seen.. she looks like a camp survivor,
    her body fat index must be around 4% or less.. She is eating a serious amount of food every single day. She eats big,really. And she is starting to have few hormonal changes..
    i hope that her period will wait, i had mine when i was 13.
    So it is not only obese kids. Look somewhere else Matt.

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    • My brother and I both developed really early and were by no means obese kids (though we did pack on the pounds in our college years and later on). However some fo the fattest kids I knew growing up were very slow developers, while some of the leaner kids I knew were among the quicker developers. I’m not sure it’s just bodyweight that affects early development. I remember reading comments on another site (I’m sorry but I cannot remember which one, as it was awhile ago) about one theory proposing that girls, specifically, are hitting puberty earlier these days due to the prevalence of divorce and prolonged exposure to non-familial adult males (stepfathers/moms’ new boyfriends). Another theory was that increasing cleanliness/hygiene has led to hormonal changes, which lead to earlier development. And also I remember hearing that antibiotic usage is a growth factor for cattle; by that same logic, could it also be a growth factor for humans?

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  14. <>

    Well, the question is what is “a lot of time in cold water”? Some of those animals spend ALL of their time in cold water and/or in extremely cold climates. Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps spend a lot of time in cold water (relative to most of us), eat voraciously and are not fat. Obviously they are also engaged in strenuous exercise. One could argue that the water is not REALLY that cold, but that could not be said of those who compete in open water swimming (in the ocean) and they, too, tend to be on the thin side (and probably spend even more time in water than pool swimmers).

    Of course there are other factors at play, not least of which is that these people are young.

    My daughter is 10 years old, a serious competitive swimmer who spends a lot of time in water, skinny, eats like a horse and has an immune system that could stop a plague. Might be interesting for me to start taking her temperature throughout the day.

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    • I had a similar experience as your daughter – I used to swim a lot earlier and I remember that it used to make me VERY hungry. I assume the body has to work overtime to keep you warm because of the colder water outside ? I think swimming is one of the safest (other than the chlorine and other things they put in the water!) and best forms of exercise.

      However, this other concept of lying around in freezing cold water (cold thermogenesis) sounds a bit kooky to me.

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  15. (Devil’s Advocate) Maybe early menstruation is a success in nature’s eye. Are women who are fully developed and able to reproduce at age 11 more beneficial to the human race? Maybe there are individual health problems that go along with that but from a “whole population” standpoint, it may be good. Pure conjecture, but interesting concept.

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    • I’d guess it’s more of a desperate reaction to overall poor health/malnutrition (and therefore lower expected lifespan) pushing the age of menarche back to a sub-optimal developmental age because the body isn’t expecting to live long enough to have children at the proper age.

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    • I think Peat’s concept is that under stress an organism rushes to develop sexual characteristics for reproduction, but this doesn’t really make much sense either.

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  16. I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!

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  17. That’s so typical of northern California (grew up there)! I think early menstruation is alarming and it’s one of the things I’m attempting to prevent in my kids by taking care of their health, developmentally it’s important for children to have enough childhood before the awkward teen phase starts.

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  18. In one of the study that Ray Peat sites in his Breast Cancer article, http://raypeat.com/articles/aging/breastcancer.shtml they give a group of rats a high fat diet of mostly corn oil. These rates had an onset of puberty at an earlier age.

    The cause of all this is a pie chart of different environmental and lifestyle factors. Plastic bottles, , etc…but I feel PUFA makes up a large chunk of it. I have flawless digestion of any food group or type now, but any soybean oil, canola oil based products fucks me up pretty bad still. These are powerful (in a negative way) substances.

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    • Ray Peat also mentions that Estrogen and PUFA synergizes(such a fun word) and are a powerhouse together. If PUFA increases/synergizes with estrogen it might explain the higher levels of estrogen and earlier puberty.

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  19. Yeah, here too. First menstruation on my 12th birthday, always been skinny. Had long and painful periods until first baby when they became shorter than normal. I always had horrible digestion, very anxious and nervous kid. Drank tons of milk, ate tons of cheese which I was allergic too. The other two gals in my class with early onset of puberty were big boned and a bit heavy however, but not obese by any means.

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  20. Had my first period when I was 9 and I’ve always been lean. Just an anecdote, of course. I thought early menstruation was linked to increased nutrition?

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    • That’s what the mainstream thinks, linking calorie intake to early puberty, and also childhood obesity which it is strongly correlated with (although not THE cause, by any stretch).

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  21. I doubt it’s the milk. I hate to single out any one thing, but I believe the biggest cause (85%+) is endocrine disruption from unsaturated fats. If you don’t think so, go drink 5 tablespoons of soybean oil and take note of “shock reaction” that floods your body after. I ate some deep fried foods at a restaurant last night and immediately had shortness of breath, irritation in my skin, and a general disdain for life that resembled a depressed teenager. All this, when I was completely fine before I ate.

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    • Corey, I also believe endocrine disruption is a major issue with early onset. And perhaps this causes some people to put on weight, whereas in others, it has the opposite effect.
      I have a cross bite and I’m going with Weston Price’s observations on how our jaw development determines our hormonal health. Obviously there are dietary factors like vegetable oils that aggravate it, I know I feel a hundred times better when I avoid them (clearer skin, lesser feeling of general inflammation in the body), but I’m guessing the root cause is an underdeveloped skeleton, which may explain why it’s so difficult for many people to achieve really good health.

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  22. Josefina, couldn’t agree with you more. I was definitely sickly thin from ages 16 to 22 or so, and have a semi-narrow pallet. A lot of people are at a disadvantage right out of the gate. My body is slowly correcting itself, it seems. I longer have an overbite, my teeth feel great, I have zero acne when I used to have chronic cystic acne, and I went from 6’4″ 150 to 6’4″ 220 in about 2 years. If I hit weights I’d have a pretty massive frame that one would not consider “underdeveloped”. My jaw is definitely not going to widen on its own, but I think over a couple of years or more span a lot of people can really make a dramatic change with the right tools.

    The factors of pre-conception/pregnancy/early childhood nutrition and stress levels are definitely factors. Not enough Vit. A, gelatin, excess tryptophan, etc…are all involved I think to name a few, there are probably a lot of co-factors.

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  23. I’ve read that recently menarche is hitting earlier and earlier, and it has been linked in some studies to soy formula feeding, which makes perfect sense to me. Since when in human history have babies been raised on processed vegetable protein and almost no saturated fat? Honestly I think that soy formula feeding probably has a huge impact on the fertility and hormonal balance of female and male children. (seriously, there are a lot of girly males out there and a lot of manly-looking women; there’s no way that this is normal.)

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    • First time post here … booyah!
      Loving Matt’s stuff, bought his Paleo Myths eBook – it was great too!

      Just wanted to chime in with something mainstream is touting on this topic and could actually have some validity. Turns out that soy has an ‘estrogen like’ compound that can bind to estrogen sites in the body (male and female). The thinking is ‘extreme diet’ replacement of traditional dairy products with soy products is flooding young bodies with an estrogen mimic.

      I read a story (google’able) about a man in his 50’s who switched to a high soy diet. He developed large breasts. After learning about the ‘estrogen like’ compound in soy from a doctor he dropped the soy. The breasts stopped growing and ‘shrank’ but if I remember correctly they required surgery to completely remove.

      True story
      picture of the lighter at concerts from the Heineken commercial

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  24. Yeah, exposure to those kinds of things in the womb or at an extremely young age usually make you most sensitive to them as you get older.

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  25. more*

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  26. i don’t think 17 was ever common or normal – maybe 14 – several girls start then.
    does anyone recall the Puerto Rico thing a few years ago when girls of six were growing breasts and menstruating? they traced it to hormones given to chickens .

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  27. Matt,
    I hope you at least got to walk the trails around the Grass Valley/Nevada City area…Some of the best in the West. I don’t miss those Nevada county hippies, but those trails…

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  28. Just got back from vacation, but wanted to share what a neighborhood farmer said. When I asked about figs, he said that because of a recent rainfall, the figs are maturing much slowly. When it was dry and blazing hot, the “threat of extinction” is what got them to produce faster. Think about it, the “threat of extinction” could exascerbate the early onset of menses issue we are experiencing. Another consequence of global warming???

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  29. Hmm, I had my menarche around…ten, I think? Also got acne around then–which was terrible for great lengths of time when whatever product I was using stopped working (I’ve since stopped using acne products on my skin). However, I was the girl running around in the snow in shorts and a tank top because I felt hot with a jacket, or even a long-sleeve shirt, on. Except for the rare bout of bronchitis (twice a year max) I was rarely sick until I hit secondary school, though I did fake it a fair bit because I was bored; and after I was sick my temperature would always return to 36.5-37C (taking temperature was always the first thing she did if I or my sister felt sick, and she always took it when we started feeling better, and again when we were back to our normal selves). I wasn’t quite as petite as most other girls were, but that’s because my bones were larger than most in my school and I had more muscle (I wasn’t chubby, let alone fat, by any stretch of the imagination; and I still gain muscle ridiculously easy and retain it without trying to). I think most girls had their menarche a year or so later, though I do know that a few others had theirs around when I did or earlier.

    Erm, just posting this in case it’s of interest to anyone…

    Actually, Matt, if it’s not much trouble, do you think you could do an updated post on getting rid of acne? It’s literally the only thing wrong with me right now (temps are an average of 36.6C since January, haven’t had a problem with asthma in months, been getting good amount of sleep on average, etc.), so some tips to get rid of it, if you know any, would be wonderful.

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    • Actually, I find acne to be one of the most perplexing health problems. I have better luck with severe, incurable illnesses haha.

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    • I also started getting acne when I first started menstruating (at 9) and it didn’t go away until I started using Dan Kern’s method of acne treatment (at acne.org). Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement- the reason I’m fond of acne.org is because there’s a heavy emphasis on treating your skin gently (such as not letting cleanser sit on your face for longer than ten seconds, using only the bare minimum of skin products needed, not using harsh abrasives, using a very gentle touch washing your face, etc.) It doesn’t correct anything internally, of course, and Dan Kern himself admits that no one really knows what causes acne.

      Just commenting in case you’re interested in it- I really am not trying to spam because acne.org is the only thing I’ve tried that actually effectively treated my acne and I thought in the sincerest way possible it might be of use to you.

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  30. Actually no they are linked in a way. The pineal gland has influence over both fat levels and periods so a wacked out pineal gland could contribute.

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  31. Acne products work in different ways, depending on their active ingredient. Some OTC acne products work by killing the bacteria that cause acne inflammation. Other acne products remove excess oils from the skin or speed up the growth of new skin cells and the removal of dead skin cells. And in some cases, acne products work by doing a combination of these things.

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