Saturday, March 30, 2013

ACNE - Myths Debunked

ACNE - Myths Debunked

Don’t you just hate it when acne develops on your face or on any visible part of your body especially at a time when you want to look good for a special event or a date? It could be the worst feeling. It may cause emotional distress and self-esteem issues for some people particularly for teenagers. The good news is that there are treatments available to help overcome this common condition that can affect anybody, even the very young and older adults. But what is acne? What are the common misconceptions that surround this skin problem?

Acne is a common yet puzzling inflammatory skin condition that occurs when hair follicles or pores on the surface of the skin get clogged with oil and dead skin cells (keratin). This blockage is called a comedone which prevents sebum, an oily substance produced by sebaceous glands that lubricates skin and hair, from flowing out. In addition to oil and keratin, bacteria also build up underneath the clogged pore due to lack of oxygen. The end result is an inflammation that presents itself in the form of a cyst called a pimple or a zit.  

Some people are more susceptible to acne than others including teenagers, females several days before their menstrual period, pregnant women, people on medications containing corticosteroids, androgen or lithium, those with a family history of acne, and those with gut or digestive problems.

MYTH #1 - Acne is caused by dirt.

Dirt is not a bacterium and although dirt may worsen acne, it does not necessarily cause acne. Acne is an inflammatory problem due to oxidative stress. The presence of pathogens in the skin can cause an inflammation which can induce acne. Some people tend to think that if they scrub parts of their affected skin several times a day the problem will resolve faster. The truth is excessive cleansing or scrubbing of the skin with chemicals and harsh products may irritate the skin and worsen acne. Removing makeup and gentle washing or cleansing twice a day and after exercise or working out using mild non-drying cleansers with antioxidants including Vitamin C with your clean hands to remove excess oil and dirt is sufficient.  

MYTH #2 - Chocolate causes acne.

Dark chocolate or chocolate without milk does not cause acne but high calorie or high carbohydrate diet and dairy may play a role in the formation or aggravation of acne. Milk contains natural hormones that turn on oil glands. Sugar is a carbohydrate. High levels of blood sugar increase the levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). This process then leads to overproduction of male hormone androgens which can stimulate sebum and keratin production that triggers acne outbreaks. Restricting poor quality carbohydrates in your diet reduces insulin levels and therefore reduces your risk of inflammation.

MYTH #3 - Stress causes acne.

While stress is a major risk factor in the formation and worsening of acne, it does not necessarily cause this skin condition alone. Acne sufferers’ skin contains clogged pores. Stress results in an inflammatory response in the body that can cause the walls of these pores to break, and, eventually, a pimple or a zit.  Stress also prompts the adrenal glands to produce excessive amounts of male hormone androgens which, again, lead to acne.   

So if you tend to develop acne, what can you do to prevent and treat breakouts? In addition to gentle cleansing of your skin using mild cleansers with antioxidants; taking antioxidant supplements and/or applying topical applications with antioxidants; making dietary changes low in carbohydrates and avoiding dairy; and, managing stress by getting enough sleep, doing some meditation, and exercising regularly,  studies suggest that the following may be able to help:

1. It is suggested that getting enough Vitamin D may be beneficial for the skin. Vitamin D is shown to reduce the growth of sebocytes. Less sebocytes means less sebum. And less sebum means less clogged pores. Among acne sufferers, skin cells tend to grow too fast and stick together after they die which leads to clogged pores. Vitamin D is believed to reduce skin cell growth so taking Vitamin D supplement and/or getting some sun in the morning for about 15 minutes if you are deficient may help combat acne. It is not recommended, however, that you expose your skin to direct sunlight for long periods of time between 10am and 3pm because ultraviolet rays can also cause inflammation and put you at risk for the development of melanoma or skin cancer or other forms of skin damage. Vitamin D in excess may also pose some risks including toxicity that may cause potentially serious symptoms so if you’re in doubt, have your doctor check your Vitamin D blood levels.     

2. For those females who suffer from acne and wear makeup, choose a product that is either water based, noncomedogenic, or oil free.  Any makeup can clog pores but you can wear it and still prevent acne breakouts. In order to decrease the chance of clogged pores or breakouts, make sure you remove your makeup before going to bed, cleanse your skin twice a day (as discussed above), and exfoliate using a natural gentle face scrub at least twice a week. Avoid wearing makeup while exercising or working out because oils in your makeup and in your hair can come dripping down your face, neck, shoulders and back. If you have long hair, pull it back away from your face when you go to bed.    

3. Moisturize your skin twice a day using a natural noncomedogenic moisturizer that contains antioxidants. A lot of topical acne formulations contain skin drying ingredients like alcohol so when you are using any of those products make sure to moisturize your skin or avoid using them altogether and opt for more natural alternatives. If you have oily skin, choose an oil-free or gel-based moisturizer. If you have dry skin, use a moisturizing cream or lotion. It is important to hydrate your skin by drinking adequate water and avoiding beverages that dehydrate the skin. Hormonal balance is regulated by water so there is a strong connection between drinking water and acne. The human skin is the largest external elimination organ and the human body consists of 70 percent water. When the body is not adequately hydrated the skin is adversely affected and becomes dehydrated as well. When the skin is dehydrated, it loses moisture and is deprived of essential nutrients from lack of proper circulation. This leads to an imbalance in the skin’s pH which allows bacteria to thrive and if the pores become clogged, acne develops. Avoid alcohol, soda and other caffeinated beverages. Fruits and raw vegetables are also beneficial for hydrating the skin because of their water content and most of them also contain antioxidants. Studies suggest that acne prone skin may be lacking in antioxidants and without adequate antioxidant protection sebum gets damaged and acne develops. This leads to a conclusion that topical and supplemental antioxidants may help acne. Eating foods rich in Vitamin A or beta-carotene including carrots, apricots, spinach, kale, lettuce, turnip greens, collards, cantaloupe, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and dried herbs may boost skin health. Vitamins A, C and E are the most important antioxidants that provide protection against oxidative stress.     

4. If you have digestive or gut problems, eat a high-fiber diet to help keep the colon clean. Low-fiber foods may release energy from your body quickly and alter hormonal balance. Hormonal imbalance, again, may affect sebum production that may result in clogged pores and acne. Foods rich in fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds which contain essential fatty acids that offer anti inflammatory properties like flaxseed and almonds (but also be careful with your nut and seed intake if you have an active flare up of IBS or Crohn’s disease in which case a low residue diet is essential). Probiotics may also help to replenish good bacteria in the gut. 

5. It’s easier said than done but it’s important to avoid touching your face unnecessarily. Doing so may force contaminated materials from the pore deeper into the follicle and into the dermis which could result in infection and scarring. Also, avoid picking or popping zits with your fingers as this can lead to a hard nodule or a fluid-filled cyst which is a serious form of acne. If you develop cysts it is best to see a dermatologist for medical treatment that may include an antibiotic prescription. Keep in mind though that while prescription medications are effective in treating acute acne breakouts, they may only provide temporary symptom relief. Make it a habit to use natural alternatives for maintaining healthy skin and for treating mild breakouts.

Don't Smoke - It Hurts

Don't Smoke - It Hurts Your Skin In More Ways Than One!

It’s a fact!  Smoking nicotine jeopardizes your skin health in so many ways.  It causes delayed wound healing and premature skin aging.  It also increases your risk of developing psoriasis, vascular diseases, and skin and oral cancer.  Worse, these conditions are harder to treat among smokers.  Do you smoke?  Maybe this is going to motivate you to quit now.
Nicotine in cigarettes speeds up the skin’s aging process by constriction of the blood vessels which results in a decreased blood supply to the skin.  With impaired blood supply, the skin does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients including Vitamin A, its collagen production is diminished, its elastic fibres do not stretch and recoil as effectively, and new blood vessels fail to grow.  Vitamin A is essential for skin health and antioxidant activity.  Collagen is a protein that gives skin its structure and its appearance of youth and smoothness.  The end result is premature wrinkling and sagging of the skin from the face to the other areas of your body that only progress the longer and the more you smoke.  This process may also be responsible for vascular disease that involves delayed wound healing, wound infections and tissue death, formation of blood clots in the deep veins beneath the skin, and Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms that obstruct blood flow to the fingers, toes, and sometimes the ears and nose, thereby leading to a discoloration of these areas and brittling of the nails.     

Smoking may also increase your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a nonmelanoma skin cancer.  Certain types of squamous cell carcinoma may grow slowly but they may also be difficult to treat.  Oral cancer, a type of squamous cell carcinoma, tends to spread quickly and is usually not detected until it has already advanced in stage.

Nicotine addiction is also linked to the development of other skin conditions like psoriasis and cutaneous lupus erythematosus most likely due to its effects on the immune system which may be mistakenly activating a reaction in the skin cells thereby leading to their rapid growth cycle.    

Smoking obviously does not only cause lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease all of which could either be a slow or a fast killer but it also puts you at risk for so many other dreadful health conditions.  Quitting, although difficult, is the only option if you are serious about improving your health and decreasing your risks of the above problems and even premature death.  Choose health.  It’s a lot more enjoyable than living with a disease that could otherwise be preventable.  

Need help quitting?  These resources may be able to help (USA):

Why Fruit and Botanical

Why Fruit and Botanical Extracts???

Different cultures have been using fruits and plants for skin care and for treatment of skin ailments for hundreds,  even thousands, of years. It is only now that the skincare and beauty industry is embracing this practice by using botanical and fruit extracts as ingredients in different products. Fruits contain antioxidants that help our body prevent and fight free radicals which are organic molecules that are found to be responsible for premature aging, tissue damage and a lot diseases. Fruits are as good eaten as they are applied to the skin. Certain botanicals can help treat acne, psoriasis, eczema and other chronic skin conditions and also help slow the skin’s aging process. These claims are not just marketing hypes as they are backed up by modern research.    

Tropical fruits like Pineapple, Papaya, Mango, Banana and Coconut are abundant, of course, in tropical countries. The residents of these tropical places have beautiful, young-looking skin and hair partly because of the application of these fruits on their skin and hair. So everyone else can benefit from the properties of certain fruits and botanicals, the beauty industry can now take advantage of the availability of fruit and botanical extracts which have the same powerful anti-aging, healing, nourishing, strengthening and rejuvenating properties. They are naturally derived and concentrated ingredients that are proven to benefit our skin. The addition of these extracts to skincare products also gives them a naturally divine scent and a natural color.   
The human skin is the largest organ of the integumentary system. Although it has low permeability, that is, most foreign substances are unable to penetrate and diffuse through the skin, there are still particles or substances that can penetrate the skin and cause either damage or protection/nourishment. An example is exposure to ultraviolet rays which leads to skin wrinkling and, potentially, skin cancer or melanoma. What penetrates our skin is dependent on a lot of factors including age; hormonal factors; skin’s health, temperature, and hydration; the substance or particle itself; and the site of exposure. Although the skin is designed to guard the body against harmful chemicals, scientists now admit that it may actually absorb what is applied to it and although it isn’t known exactly how much of these substances or particles is absorbed by the skin, we should really be careful about what we apply to it. So are you convinced yet of what fruit and botanical extracts can do for our skin? Try them and see for yourself! After all, it’s all about your skin and your overall health.

Our skin needs nutrition that can come from fruits and botanicals. It includes: 

Vitamin A - also known as retinoids, benefits the skin by down regulating sebum which contributes to acne, and reversing and treating ultraviolet damage, stretch marks, and cellulite

Vitamin D - down regulates the skin’s immune system and reproduction of new cells and tissues (increases skin cell’s metabolism)

Vitamin C - an antioxidant that regulates collagen synthesis, forms barrier lipids, regenerates  Vitamin E, and provides protection from ultraviolet rays

Vitamin E - an antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage and against ultraviolet rays; also a natural preservative that allows for longer product shelf life

Beta-carotene - a precursor of Vitamin A, an antioxidant that protects from and increases resistance to environmental free radicals
Vitamins are not the only nutrients that a lot of fruits contain. Fruits like Papaya, Strawberry, Pineapple, Grape, Apple and Lemon contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs, a type of acid naturally occurring in certain foods. AHAs naturally exfoliate, rejuvenate and repair the skin by loosening and removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. They help reduce the appearance of skin wrinkling, even skin tone, and soften and smooth the skin. They also contain lactic acid and glycolic acid which function as a humectant or skin conditioning agent, mild exfoliants and pH adjusters and are thus mild and non-irritating. 

Shea, mango and cocoa

Shea, Mango, and Cocoa Butters - B is for Beauty

Shea, mango and cocoa butters are all excellent natural vegetable fats that have been used for hundreds of years in health and skin care. While each is unique, all three contain antioxidants and other vitamins that may be worth adding to your skin care regimen. These plant butters mimic sebum or the natural oils produced by our skin so their application on the skin rarely causes irritation and is actually ideal for those who have sensitive skin.  


Shea butter is rich in fatty acids including oleic, stearic, palmitic, arachidic and linolenic acids that help heal and protect the skin and lock in moisture. It has a buttery texture which is easily absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue. Shea butter has antiinflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidant vitamins A and E and catechins which are proven to help prevent and treat skin damage from ultraviolet radiation. It also contains vitamins D and F. Shea butter is not only used as a moisturizer to reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars and stretch marks but also to effectively and safely treat common skin ailments like burns, insect bites, diaper rash, eczema and psoriasis. Its consistency is dependent on location of production.


Mango butter is a soft, creamy butter that has a mild pleasant scent and is highly emollient, softening, moisturizing and soothing to the skin. It is rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C that have protective effects against ultraviolet rays. It helps to treat dryness, itching, small wounds, skin rash, eczema, dermatitis, insect bites, poison ivy, and blemishes. Mango butter can also help to minimize stretch marks during pregnancy, promote healthy rejuvenated skin, and fight off fine lines and wrinkles.  


Cocoa butter is one of the most highly concentrated and stable fats available and has been used for thousands of years in skin care items and of course, chocolate. The benefits of cocoa butter for preventing bad stretch marks during pregnancy are well-known. The Vitamin E in cocoa butter promotes the skin’s elasticity, minimizing the formation and appearance of scar tissue. Also, cocoa butter contains cocoa mass polyphenol or CMP which helps stop production of immunoglobulin that worsens skin conditions like eczema.

Cocoa for the Skin

A lot of people think of cocoa as a delicious treat that is bad for our diet and rarely consider its health and skin care benefits. Cocoa is a natural product that is loaded with active substances that might be very protective for the skin including antioxidants flavonoids and procyanidins which are thought to be effective in fighting cancer. Work published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 concentrated on a group of antioxidant flavonoids. They showed that a group of women given a flavonoid rich cocoa drink showed 15% less reddening of the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light. It is well established that the aging of the skin caused by sunlight is largely the result of damage to the skin’s collagen caused by free radicals.

For those with oily skin, Shea and Mango butters are the best options. For people with dry skin, Cocoa butter provides the most moisturizing and emollient benefits. 
Skin Care and Skin Treatment

DIY At-Home Facial

DIY At-Home Facial

Getting a facial at the spa is a great way to pamper yourself and keep your skin glowing, youthful and radiant but it can be very expensive and is not for everybody. Everyone, man or woman, should give high priority to his/her personal appearance because it is a great investment that pays off in so many ways. Having a facial in addition to a good skin care regimen greatly enhances the skin's exfoliation process, resulting in young looking skin. You can save a lot of money by doing your own facial at home using ingredients you normally find in your kitchen. You only need 20-30 minutes of your time to complete this process. It is ideal to have a facial about once a month or at least four times a year. Doing it too frequently may over sensitize your skin. Younger people can get a facial less frequently because their skin cells generally regenerate a lot faster naturally.

This facial works for both men and women of all skin types.

What You'll Need:
1. (Optional for a much more enjoyable facial experience at home) Relaxation music

2. Timer (microwave oven's timer works great too)

3. 2 small bowls for mixing

4. 3 washcloths or face towels

5. To remove makeup - Olive oil, Coconut oil, Sweet Almond oil, Sunflower oil, Argan oil or Jojoba oil and cotton ball or puff

6. For cleansing - Gentle sulfate free face cleanser or soap

7. For exfoliation - Mix in advance

     2 tsp finely granulated sugar

     1/2 tsp of any of the above oils

     1 tsp water

8. To open pores - A pot with 2 cups water or warm running water

9. Facial mask - Mix ingredients until they form a smooth paste

     1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

     1 tbsp almond milk (or regular milk)

     1 tsp honey
     2 tea bags or fresh cucumber slices (optional for reducing puffiness in the under eye areas)

10. Light moisturizer or cream (natural product with antioxidants is highly recommended)

Let's start:

1. Play your relaxation music. Pull your hair up and keep bangs away from your face or cover your head with a towel. Avoid wearing a collared top as it may get soiled.

2. Wash your hands properly and dry them.

3. Cleanse the skin -

If you're wearing makeup, gently remove it using a cotton ball or puff with a drop or two of any of the above oils.

To remove excess dirt, wash your face and neck with lukewarm water over the sink using a gentle face cleanser or soap in a circular motion. Pat dry with a clean towel or washcloth.

4. Exfoliate -

Put the sugar scrub mixture in the palm of your hand and gently massage onto your face in a circular motion for about 2 minutes, paying extra attention to the nose and forehead or areas with whiteheads/blackheads. Remember NOT TO RUB to avoid skin irritation. Gently rinse your face with lukewarm water over the sink and gently wipe it with a wet washcloth. Wash and dry your hands.

* When you apply sugar to your skin, it reacts with the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) which in turn releases the dead skin cells, allowing them to be exfoliated, exposing healthy skin cells.

5. Steam

Boil water in the pot and stand in front of it for about 5 minutes to allow steam to open your pores. Make sure you don't burn yourself. Another way to do it is by wetting a clean washcloth with warm water at the sink, putting it on your face and leaving it on for about 5 minutes but remember that with this method the washcloth cools down too fast.

6. Facial mask

Apply the chocolate facial mask mixture all over your face using your fingers or a clean brush. Lie down, apply wet tea bags or cucumber slices over your eyes if those areas are puffy. Leave everything on for 15-20 minutes then rinse face with lukewarm water and pat dry. Wash and dry your hands.

You may feel your skin tightening while the facial mask mixture is drying. It is expected so don't be alarmed.

* Almond milk contains nourishing compounds that can potentially improve your complexion. The flavonoids catechin, kaempferol and epicatechin found in almonds help prevent skin cells from oxidizing and dying, and the monounsaturated fats in almonds can help heal and nourish your skin. In addition, almonds and almond milk are both rich in vitamin E, which may play a specific role in acne.

7. Moisturize

Apply a thin layer of lightweight natural rmoisturizer or cream over face and neck.
You're finished! You will notice immediate results that include well hydrated, fresh looking and taut skin. Repeat this process once a month or four times a year.