Archive for February, 2008

Skin PHacts – Know What The PH Is

Have always been curious what all this chatter about PH balance is about. Have forgotten my chemistry classes long ago and called to my friend, who himself is a doctor, to fish out some facts from him… There is nothing too complicated, really, but still interesting… Here is what I’ve “caught” from the discussion…

PH (potential of hydrogen) is a system, with the scale from 1 to 14, to measure the strength of acids and basis. Water, as a neutral element, takes the middle point of the scale, with the PH number of 7. Everything that is above 7 is categorized as a basis, below – as an acid. The farther the PH number of any substance is from the middle point of the scale, the stronger base/acid it is.

Human skin at birth is neutral (PH7) and then quickly becomes more acidic to resist outside bacteria. At puberty, when human organism is undergoing hormonal changes accompanied with the increased activity of sebaceous and eccrine glands, a thin protective layer, called the “acid mantle” (with the PH in between 4 and 5.5) is getting formed on the surface of the skin.

Acid mantle is a mixture of sweat and sebum (secreted by oil glands of the skin to keep it waterproof and protected from penetration of the environmental irritants) and is mildly acidic to help control the growth of bacteria living on the surface of the skin.

Not all the bacteria are harmful to the skin, some of them naturally associate with skin, help in protecting it from the incoming pathogens and keep its PH balance slightly acidic. These bacteria are referred to as the microflora.

Hint: The bacterium (Propionibacterium acnes) known to be the reason for developing acne – is a resident bacterium that can be found in any person, but on the skin of acne-prone people its amount is greatly increased. The natural solution to prevent bacteria growth (and thus avoid developing acne) is to keep the PH balance of the skin at PH5.5.

With the ageing, the skin’s acid mantle gets thinner as the body’s oil and sweating glands start working worse. As a result, the acidity is reduced and the skin is getting closer to neutral PH again, it makes the skin more susceptible to bacteria and infections and leads to development of various skin problems and diseases.

Note: Most soaps have PH in between 9 and 11 that means they are highly alkaline; it means that they remove acid mantle, kill the natural microflora of your skin and you need the PH balance of your skin to be restored after using them.

Hint: You are able to detect the PH level of any skin care product at home by using simple lacmus paper. Blue litmus paper turns red when dipped into an acid, red litmus paper turns blue when dipped into a base. Color changes: pH 4.3(red) to 6.8 (blue-violet) to 8.1(blue).

Still Moisturizing, Huh?

Every time I come to a beauty store to add to my decorative makeup supplies, I pass numerous shelves with different skin care products – there are scrubs, cleansers, cleansing milks, lotions, crèmes, and make-up removers. There are products for dry and for oily skin, products needed to be applied in the morning and those to be put on before going to bed. Nourishing and Moisturizing, with Vitamins and Minerals. They all promise to make me 10 years younger and 10 times prettier. The more they promise, the more I become skeptical.

I believe in simple things.

I believe in nature that is smarter than all of us and has its own ways. Any organism naturally knows how to be healthy, but when it gets out of balance again and again, it forgets about this ability, it forgets about how it can get back to its normal state.

When we sit most of time, we have our legs thin and weak, with muscles unable to carry the body’s weight. When we don’t use the resources of our body – we lose them. The more we allow different “goodies” to do the work for us, the more we perform such substitutions, the weaker we become finally.

When you are unable to walk, you need to use crutches to restore the muscles, but with the muscles getting back to shape, you should leave crutches to let your body work. The same is with the skin. To my mind all it needs is – some help in getting back to its natural balance (when it cares of itself by itself), and then – some additional help in keeping this balance in place. That is all.

Majority of lotions deal only with the symptoms, not reasons for the skin’s problems, they never let the skin work. When put on, they start to take over some of the skin’s functions; by doing this they lead you to being “addicted” to the lotion. Your skin looks OK while you use the lotion and becomes even worse (than it initially was) as soon as you stop applying it daily. It means the skin has stopped functioning the way it should.

It means it is high time to remind the skin about its duties.

Masks, Which Are Not Hiding Anything

Some simple recipes to let your beauty bloom, naturally!

honeyI am not too fond of just following any “proven” solutions blindly. Wanting to be well informed, I always ask questions, wishing to know “how it works” and “why does it work this way” before buying or even trying most anything. So, before getting to masks themselves, I am going to give you a bit of information on what our skin loves and needs in order to stay healthy and beautiful.
 

Here is a list of vitamins and minerals needed for the skin’s wellbeing:

  • Vitamin A helps prevent dry skin, acne and wrinkles; it strengthens the skin and repairs its tissues.
  • B complex vitamins help the body to withstand stresses that may prevent such skin diseases as eczema, the form that can be caused by stress. Vitamin B1 is an antioxidant that helps eliminate toxins. Vitamin B2 helps prevent acne and keep the skin healthy. Vitamin B3 improves circulation. Vitamin B5 helps in stress reduction. Vitamin B6 is the one that helps the immune system stay healthy.
  • Vitamin C is a healing and rejuvenating agent, it also helps the immune system to fight off viruses.
  • Vitamin D is an antioxidant playing significant role in skin pigmentation (see my posting below for the effects that Vitamin D has on the entire body).
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that means it helps preventing damage to the skin caused by free radicals.
  • Zinc helps regulate the generation of sebum, preventing its hyper-production, which helps control acne. It participates in skin’s healing process and helps in keeping the immune system healthy.

Here is a list of products, easily found in most every kitchen along with the effect they have on the skin:

  • Cucumber – is a natural cleanser, it helps clean the pores.
  • avocado and lemonAvocado – is widely used in skin care as a natural anti-aging agent, as it reduces age spots, increases the amount of collagen in the skin, which helps the skin keeping that youthful look, assists in the regeneration and rejuvenation of the skin. Avocado yields a rich and extremely deep penetrating oil, which is perfect for dry and mature skin. Additionally, avocado helps to relieve dryness and itching from such skin diseases as eczema and psoriasis. It is rich in vitamins A, D, E, lecithin, potassium (a so-called “youth mineral” as it contains proteins, lecithin, beta-carotene and essential unsaturated fatty acids including palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic. 
  • Lemon – has both drying and cleansing effects on the skin, it will help us to remove oiliness; apples may help in removing oily shine as well, but it has milder effect on the skin.
  • Eggs contains protein that has just the right mix of essential amino acids needed by humans to build tissues, it is rich in almost all the vitamins except for C. They contain A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, E, Folate, Niacin, Biotin and Pantothenic Acid. Additionally, eggs are the source of most of the minerals required for optimum health: zinc, selenium (an antioxidant), calcium, iron (used to build red blood cells), iodine (vital to make the thyroid hormone) and phosphorus. Additionally, egg contains cholesterol, a material for the fatty lubricants, which helps keep the skin supple. 
    • Egg yolks, as a nourishing ingredient, are widely used in masks for dry skin.
    • Egg whites  are helpful in closing pores and tightening the skin.
  • Oatmeal – is a natural peeler; it softens the skin and soothes itching.
  • Orange peels – are a natural bleaching agent.
  • Olive oil – is a source for mono-unsaturated fatty acids and anti-oxidative substances, it’s a nourishing and softening ingredient providing elasticity to the skin.
  • Milk – is good for moisturizing, whitening, skin-softening and filled with nutrients. It was a favorite skin care product of Cleopatra. She used milk along with honey for her favorite milk-and-honey baths to keep her skin youthful.
  • Honey – is a natural moisturizing agent, a humectant (it helps to attract and retain moisture). It is an antioxidant that means it protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation and takes a significant part in its rejuvenation. It has antimicrobial properties and helps in treatment for minor abrasions and burns. Because of its anti-irritating effect it can be used even by children and people with the sensitive skin (allergy-prone). Honey is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals, containing Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Folate, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.

Oily Skin:

In order for oily skin to start looking good we should get rid of oily shine, clean the pores and tighten them a little, next we should rejuvenate the skin, refresh it and make it soft.

  1. Cucumber juice mixed with the milk can be used as a cleanser for oily skin.
  2. Smear your face with the mix of grapes, lemon and milk white. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water for clean and smooth skin. Note that this mask has tightening effect on the skin.
  3. A mixture of oatmeal and egg whites also works well for oily skin, peeling it gently and constricting the pores.
  4. A mixture of honey and milk, used as a mask, will make your skin glow.

Dry Skin

Dry skin needs gentle peeling to remove flakes and nourishing to make the skin supple.

  1. A mixture of honey (you may replace honey with egg yolk), lemon and olive oil is a good moisturizer for dry skin. Wear for 10 minutes and then rinse with the tepid water.
  2. A mixture of well-beaten egg yolk and mashed pulp of half an avocado put on a clean face for 20 minutes greatly improves the texture of the skin and helps in its revitalizing.
  3. If you add a cup of milk to the #2 recipe, you’ll get a great facial cleanser keeping your skin free of pollutants.

NOTE: all these masks should be put on a thoroughly washed face  then carefully removed. Avoid keeping them on for more than is recommended and make sure you don’t have an allergy reaction to any of its ingredients before you try it.

They Call It Dehydration

While writing about skin types I have found that the skin type you now have may not be the type you will have a few years.

Normal skin type – is the most prevalent, all other skin types are simply symptoms of some imbalance. When you are healthy, with all systems working properly, when you are in good spirits and you are able to easily deal with the stresses in your life – your skin glows with health, it is supple, soft, smooth and of a very special hue that you will recognize as markedly improved when you begin to observe it.

Something to consider:

dry skin as a deserted land
Dry skin can be just a symptom of a skin disorder, a disorder in one or more of your organs, symptomatic of something else no functioning properly or it could simply be your body’s way in letting you know that you are not adequately hydrated. So, if you have noticed your skin undergoes any changes in its appearance, you may want to visit a health care professional if you think that it may be caused by the more serious conditions listed above.

Symptoms and Causes – what we must deal with daily?

You can work on moisturizers, anti-aging and nourishing crèmes, but as long as the underlying cause for dry skin remains, all these products will have little or no effect. While dermatology problems or other organ dysfunctions should be definitely treated by professionals, you can take effective steps in ensuring you are not suffering from dehydration. Dehydration can be caused by stress situations, prolonged physical activity with insufficient water intake, long-term exposure to excessively dry air (often the result of indoor air that is mechanically heated or cooled) or other numerous other causes.

Signs of mild dehydration can vary. Besides skin dryness many experience headaches, tiredness, discomfort, lack of appetite, cravings, dizziness and low blood pressure, decreased perspiration, reduced urination and lack of tears while crying. Other symptoms are that the skin loses its elasticity, sagging back into its normal state slowly when pinched into a fold. When dehydration is severe, the skin may become shriveled and wrinkled. 

The best treatment possible for minor dehydration is drinking up to 1 gallon of water – but never more than 8 oz in any 15 minute period so as to not overwhelm the digestive tract. Then this occurs you get no benefit for the water as it is immediately eliminated through your kidneys and bladder. Just fresh clear water is preferable to all drinks, as it alone has the balance of electrolytes matching the replacement requirements of the body.

So, here we are again: drinking an adequate quantity of water daily is a must. Does anybody around has any ideas on how to prevent water loss?

Guess What’s Your Skin Type?

It is vital to know your skin type before choosing from a great variety of skin care recipes, products and make-up.

This is quick and simple and there is no need to go to a cosmetologist. All you need is a towel, a mild face cleanser and several pieces of tissue. Wash your face with a mild cleanser, pat it dry and then wait for about an hour. Then press separate pieces of tissue to your chin, nose, center of you forehead and cheeks, top of your forehead and sides of your cheeks. Then examine the pieces of tissue.

  1. if there is no oily or flaky residue on tissue pieces, than you have your skin of a perfectly normal type,
  2. if all the pieces of tissue have an oily residue on them – you have oily skin type,
  3. if all the pieces of tissue have a flaky residue on them – you have a dry skin type (another indicator is a tight feeling after washing),
  4. and finally, if you have both oily and flaky residue on different tissue pieces – you have combination skin.

Some people define “sensitive skin” as a separate skin type which is characterized by immediate reaction to almost any skin care product, cold temperatures, wind, sun, etc. This is symptomatic when exposure to almost any substance makes the skin feel either tight or stretched and painful, becoming red or spotted. To me, any type of the skin may become “sensitive” when treated incorrectly.

If you don’t have an hour to deal with face washing and are interested in knowing your skin type right away, here are some other methods.

  1. If your face has barely visible pores, evenly colored skin without any imperfections, then you are a happy owner of normal skin. It has lipids and moisture well-balanced and is not excessively sensitive,
  2. Dry skin has tiny pores in combination with rough texture and dull complexion with red patches. It can be flaking or itchy and very sensitive to the elements or skin care products,
  3. Oily skin means you have problems with production of sebum (substance generated by oil glands of the skin), it may result in shiny complexion, the skin looks thick, high incidence of acne, pores are visible and can clog easily, which causes blackheads to appear,
  4. Combination skin looks shiny in the center of the chin, forehead, nose and inner cheeks, while being normal or dry (up to flakiness) on the outer forehead and cheeks.

“Here Comes the Sun…”

As summer time draws near many of us are planning vacation days spent on sun-drenched beaches.  There will be innumerable beautiful women with their skin tanned from light gold to dark chocolate and me… in shades of red.

Noble white skin, as it was considered in centuries past, makes me feel like a stranger where sun worshipers frequent. So, I only try and go outdoors early in the morning, before 10 AM, and later in the afternoon, after 3 PM, when the sun is not so “harsh” on my skin. But I was not completely sure that the excessive sun wouldn’t be as bad for my body as the lack of it. So it decided to further research the subject.

Pros & Cons of the Sunbathing

tan and hatWhat is Positive: natural sunlight is vitally important for your health, as your skin produces Vitamin D in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation (it is the best and most reliable way to produce enough of Vitamin D, as there is no diet containing adequate amounts of this vitamin). The lack of Vitamin D in your body prevents calcium absorption, it is harmful for your bones and may cause osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency may also be among reasons for such diseases as psoriasis, some types of cancer and even diabetes.
While it is absolutely impossible to generate too much Vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure (your body self-regulates its production and only generates as much vitamin as necessary), excessive sunbathing may result in sunburn, which is extremely harmful for the skin that leads us to…

What Is Negative: Sunburned skin resulting from ultraviolet radiation causes damage of collagen fibers along with accumulation of abnormal elastin, that makes the skin look older than its years. Besides premature skin aging, sunburns may provoke skin cancer and the entire host of various skin disorders.

In Summary: In order to have your skin healthy, you should get adequate amount of Vitamin D (naturally produced by your body) keeping in mind that every excessive exposure (to heat, cold, wind or sun) is harmful to the skin, and as a result – to your overall health. It is highly recommended to restrict the exposure to hours when the sun is not too bright. In case you can’t avoid being outdoors between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM when the UVB radiation is of the highest intensity, you should wear wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts in order to protect your skin from sunburns.

“Beauty Is Only Skin Deep…”

The first thing I see every morning – is my face in the mirror. Sometimes it looks fresh, young, with healthy vibrant skin, but there are times, it looks old and tired. I’m quite a curious person, you know. This has caused me find some simple tips on how to keep my skin good-looking. Some simple things to share with you:

  1. Rest – you should sleep for no less than 8 hours a night (for children it is 10 hours ). It is better to go to bed early, by 9 PM, as many experts agree that every hour of sleep before midnight is as valuable as two hours after midnight. Make sure that the room you sleep in is aired well (remember that your skin loves oxygen). Regarding your bedroom – it is better to have cool air as opposed to warm and darkness to light. This allows you to rest better.
  2. Clean Face – gently remove your make-up and be sure to go to bed with your face “clean”. Wash your face with lukewarm water (never hot!), do not rub or tug your skin while washing.
  3. Go Natural – make some natural nourishing mask (there are plenty of mask recipes on the web, I will find and post the simpler ones in the next post). You may apply some yoghurt, honey or several pieces of cucumber or just smear your face with a piece of strawberry, banana or avocado and leave it there for some time. This has worked well for many – some of our moms and grannies will vouch for these skin treatments. Use natural lotions to care for the skin. When you check the list of ingredients you should keep in mind that some of the best botanicals for the skin are: aloe vera, comfrey, calendula and chamomile.
  4. Fresh Air and Exercise – toned bodies have better blood circulation, increased metabolism and burn more fat than a body of a sedentary lifestyle. The effect is that your skin is better supplied with oxygen and all nutrition to help keep the skin supple and resilient.
  5. Moisture – both inside and outside the body – You should drink at least half of gallon (8 – 8 oz glasses) of water daily to keep your entire body hydrated (not tea, not coffee, not juice – just pure, fresh, sugar-free water). Remember that dry, unhealthy-looking skin is a reflection of some disorder of the organs or other systems.
  6. Alcohol and Tobacco – absolutely NOT!
  7. Food/Drink – your diet should be well-balanced. It should include:
  • Red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, which contain much beta-carotene (antioxidants)
  • Vegetables, which are rich with sulfur, such as garlic, onions and asparagus (for skin smoothness)
  • Grains, seeds, and nuts
  • Milk cheese, natural plain yogurt, kefir
  • Vegetable oils that are cold-pressed, unrefined (Avoid cooking on such oils as they may become carcinogenic when heated)
  • Avoid junky food, animal fats, cooking on cold-pressed vegetable oils (try to avoid everything that is fried), sugar, chocolate, coffee, strong black tea.