The Truth About Parabens

The preservatives used in cosmetic and skincare products have come under an intense attack in the last few years. The media have  published some very scary stories and headlines, like “Toxic Toiletries”! and “Killer Cosmetics”. This scaremongering is fundamentally wrong and creates panic,fear and confusion!

The family of preservatives in question is“Parabens”and many of you will be fearful of the name without really knowing why? I know lots of people who will only buy Paraben Free products, but when asked why they either don’t know or say that they cause breast cancer! Also when we start to see “Paraben Free” on lots of things, then ultimately we think it’s a bad ingredient.

Parabens are widely used as a preservative in cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals and household products. They stop products from deteriorating by protecting them from harmful micro-organisms during storage and while the product is opened and used.

This adverse publicity has stemmed from a flawed and very much misinterpreted scientific research paper that was published (then the media twisted it). The Paraben family are actually naturally occuring chemicals, found in fruits, vegetables and other plants as well as being man-made, despite what has been written, parabens are not especially Oestrogenic ( not as much as Apples, and far less than Soya products). The study in question which was widely publicised claimed to find traces of Parabens in breast cancer tissue samples, but extraordinaraly  traces of parabens where also found in the blank control samples – which should have been just blank! Dr Philippa Darbe, the researcher on this confirmed that traces of parabens came from the laboratory glassware, most likely from the cleaning agents, so it is entirely possible that the parabens found in the breast tissue sample were  actually present only due to the contamination of the laboratory glassware. No other studies since have found any parabens whatsoever in breast cancer tissue. Unfortunately the media has focused it’s attention on this and now regards paraben free skincare as much better for us, which is absolute nonsense, it has only given rise to many more so called “Organic/natural” brands being sold as Paraben free, as if it is a much better option! You will find that lots of big brands have started to remove Parabens, this is due to the scaremongering and people avoiding products with parabens.

Parabens are approved for use as a preservative in the European Cosmetics Directive  and are the most widely used in skincare products, they have been used and tested since the 1930’s and shown to be very safe for us and the environment.

Products need to be safe, especially skincare that has a mix of oil and water and used around our mouth and eyes! This  means using an adequately preserved product! Bugs love to grow especially in an emollient formulation that comes into contact with fingers. Using a product that is not properly preserved or has inferior preservatives may be potentially  harmful and you can risk skin infections.

For more facts on Parabens go to – www.thefactsabout.co.uk which is a very credible source of information run by the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, it’s the first place I go when I hear a scare story!

Skin Deep Juice

This is one of my favourite juices from Michael Van Straten’s Super Juice book, he is the UK’s best known practitioner of complementary medicine, a leading osteopath, naturopath, acupuncturist and nutritional consultant.

I have been a fan of juicing for years with a little help from my old faithful Magimix Juicer, and love to experiment with different combinations, it’s also helpful to use up fruit and veg that you may otherwise waste! Beauty is definitely more than skin deep, and it’s pointless having anti-ageing treatments and using topical products if your not feeding your skin from within with antioxidants and nutrients!

I am a fan of the Apple, Carrot and ginger combo, but when my skin needs an extra boost, this really hits the spot! Here’s what you need  for the Skin Deep Juice

  • 4 Organic Carrots – unpeeled
  • 2 Asparagus Spears
  • Half a medium Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 handful of Spinach Leaves

This is super rich in Vitamins A and C, Beta-Carotene and Folic Acid. Rich in Iron and Vitamin E, contains Potassium, Silica and some B Vitamins. Not only does it protect against skin infections thanks to its high Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene content, Skin Deep also provides plenty of Vitamin E, which helps maintain supple and wrinkle free skin! This juice is also a blood builder – which means more skin nutrients are carried to the surface where they’re needed.

Check out Michael Van Stratens Super Juice Book for more recipes, but I would love to hear your favourite juicing recipes, so please post below!

Red Alert For Rosacea

RosaceaRosacea is actually quite a common skin problem. One in twenty people suffer from it to varying degrees, though many never realise they have it. About three times as many women have it as men. Multiple factors contribute to an alarming rise in this progressive neurovascular disorder which generally affects the facial skin. The bad news is there is currently no cure, the good news, is that with information and diligence, Rosacea now may be effectively managed and contained to prevent irreversible damage.

In spite of the fact that this condition has been around for centuries, there is still much that we do not know. Rosacea is primarily a disorder of the facial blood vessels. It can start as intense blushing, the blood vessels seem hyper-responsive to a wide range of stimuli. These stimuli may include physical exertion, sun, stress, hormonal/adrenal changes, chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, smoking and alcohol to name but a few. In response the blood vessels dilate and engorge with blood more frequently than is normal, and in the end often stay that way.

The constant dilation and engorgement finally damages the blood vessels to the point where they no longer function properly. In some people, the skin swells and thickens: if this happens around the nose, it may become bulbous and is known as Rhinophyma (as in some people with alcoholism) Some sufferers also find that their eyes sting and feel gritty. This can be accompanied by papules and pustules which can be confused with Acne. It can cause discomfort and effect the persons self confidence.

Rosacea generally affects the face, and is most common in people between the ages of 30 – 50. Women are most affected in the cheek, and chin areas, while men seem to manifest the condition around the nose.

It all begins with the blushing, of course everyone blushes at some point!, but for Rosacea sufferers rosy cheeks are the first sign of their condition.

The challenge is recognizing Rosacea for what it truly is. This skin disorder can often produce pustules and pimples as it advances, and can be misdiagnosed as Acne Vulgaris (common Acne). Correct diagnosis is critical as some of the ingredients used to treat acne (Salicylic acid, Benzoyl peroxide) may actually make matters much worse!

The very early stages of Rosacea, the pink flush may appear 30-60 minutes after a trigger, and sometimes takes hours or days to disappear. If this flush is accompanied by itchiness, sensitivity, and sometimes a reaction to your skin care products, then stage 1 of Rosacea may be showing itself.

Stage 2 is indicated by more intense and frequent facial flushing, to the point where it is almost a constant state and the affected areas can look swollen and a dark pink/purple colour. This long term engorgement of the blood vessels often results in vascular damage, followed by inflammatory papules and pustules (leading to the confusion with acne, although typically Rosacea does not produce blackheads)

As Rosacea advances, the veins begin weak and begin to leak, leading to stage 3, where the impaired blood vessels cannot remove lymph through the system in a normal way. As a result, the sebaceous glands of the cheeks and nose become enlarged and all affected tissues begin to swell.

The Treatment of Rosacea

The usual medical treatment is antibiotics, either taken orally or in the form of topical creams or gels e.g – Tetracycline and Metronidazole. This does appear to help control blushing as well as reduce the inflammation in the veins. However long term use may disturb beneficial bacteria in the gut. laser treatments are very effective at diminishing the broken blood vessels that are visible on the skin – seek advice from a Dermatologist

In addition to drugs, treatment by a professional skin therapist offers some relief in many holistic ways.

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage – a specialised, advanced massage technique which doesn’t stimulate blood flow and works to prevent the swelling around the facial features caused by the impaired blood vessels.
  • Anti-inflammatory essential oils and ingredients – Aloe, Allantoin, Arnica, Chamomile, Calendula, Oatmeal, Comfrey, Burdock and Coneflower. Look for these in your skin care formulations.
  • Reflexology, Pressure point massage, and stress relief treatments – may bring some relief to the mind and body.
  • Nutrition for skin – tackle Rosacea from the inside as well, good nutrition is the key to treating any skin disorder and a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods is always going to have skin benefits.

Definitely avoid conventional exfoliation and products with Alpha Hydroxy Acids, non invasive particles such as rice bran are more appropriate to Rosacea prone skin, Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant  is ideal – but don’t use it everyday, once or twice a week if at all. Also waxing must be approached with caution as well as extremes of temperature, especially when washing the face, this must be avoided to minimize capillary expansion.

Beware of harsh cleansers and toners with alcohol, these will strip the skin of its lipids which in turn compromise the skin’s protective barrier. Avoid the classic irritants Lanolin, S.D Alcohol, artificial fragrance, artificial colour, and mineral oil.

Try to reduce the number of products you use (less is definitely more with Rosacea), a good moisturiser, especially during severe weather and when travelling by air, along with a good sun protection product are essential! Also a good sun protection product is vital, look for Mineral sun blocks that include Zinc Oxide.

Mineral make up can provide full coverage for the redness, with sun protection and has less ingredients than conventional make up, so is much less irritating.

Recommended Products

For more information visit www.rosacea.org

Psoriasis

Udo's Choice Omega BlendPsoriasis is a distressing skin condition in which the skin cells renew too quickly, leading to scaliness and flaking, in other words abnormal skin growth. Usually the outer cells (Stratum Corneum) are shed so slowly that we barely notice, but in people with psoriasis, new cells are formed about a thousand times more quickly than usual, due to a disturbance in the body’s cell replication control mechanisms.

Some women find that their psoriasis improves during pregnancy or when they reach menopause, so there may be some hormonal link but this is not yet understood. In fact the reason why psoriasis happens at all is not known but there are many ways in which it can be helped.

Psoriasis is a common skin complaint, in the UK about 2% of the population suffers from it. It affects women and men equally and it can come on at any age. There appears to be a family link to Psoriasis as about one third of sufferers have relatives with the condition. If you smoke, then you are 3 times more likely to develop Psoriasis.

Psoriasis is mostly treated with steroid creams and lotions designed to help slow down the rate of cell formation. But as many sufferers will tell you, these are not always effective. Psoriasis has been linked to problems with metabolism of essential fatty acids. A study of 80 patients who were given omega 3 fish oil supplements showed significantly reduced lesions within 4 – 6 weeks. Itching was the first to decrease, followed by scaling, then redness. Essential fatty acids may help when applied topically to the skin and some natural treatment creams contain specialised EFA’s and other helpful oils.

In addition to dietary supplements, it is important for psoriasis patients to avoid all damaged, trans fats and to focus on a “clean food” diet. It may also help to cut back on saturated fats found in red meats, dairy foods and eggs, as well as refined sugars and wheat gluten. Some practitioners also suggest milk thistle and artichoke extracts to help improve liver function. Sufferers from psoriasis also seem to benefit from taking evening primrose oil and clinical trials have reported moderate improvements in 60% of patients given 2000mg supplements over an 8 week period. The dosage for omega – 3 supplements recommended for treating psoriasis is around 2000mg of fish oils a day, try eating more oily fish as well.

Treating Psoriasis

A key factor in dealing with psoriasis does appear to be managing the way you react to stress. Stress seems to be a huge trigger in psoriasis. Unless the person with psoriasis is first willing to confront and deal with stress or unresolved emotional issues then your treatment results may not be very successful. Find out what works for you in terms of stress management and try different techniques – excercise, meditation, massage, reflexology and aromatherapy all help with stress reduction and coping techniques.

Prescription emollients are normally given to sufferers to moisturise the skin, or coal tar preparations which are messy and smelly. Harsher chemicals are also prescribed and are relatively effective but not without side effects. Ultraviolet light therapy can be a useful treatment, but be aware of the ageing effect and the risk of skin cancer, always consult your doctor first.

Dead sea salts can be helpful and there are many bathing products available in your health food shop, you could also try Epsom Salts , 500g in a warm bath. Look in your local health food shop for an alternative to cortisone creams such as Glycyrrhetinic acid, this is made from Licorice and has anti-inflammarory properties. Neem oil is also used for psoriasis and eczema and is used in Indian medicine to help treat skin disorders. Studies have shown Neem to be both anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory. One study has even showed Neem oil to be four times more effective than hydrocortisone.

Skin care advice

  • Gentle, non irritating products can help minimise the discomfort of psoriasis.
  • Avoid soap, bubble bath and perfumed shower gel.
  • Frequently apply an emmolient moisturiser.

Dermanova Cream is a specific moisturising cream containing Neem and other oils to help treat psoriasis, available from select health food shops or try – www.wellcene.co.uk for the full range. (this is an option if steroid creams have not worked or if you would rather avoid them).

www.psoriasis-association.org.uk

Providing support for psoriasis sufferers as well as raising awareness to the condition.

Skin Sensitivity – A Sore Subject

Dermalogica Soothing Protection SpraySkin Sensitivity: Genetic or Environmental?

No other skin is as misunderstood and hard to diagnose as Sensitive skin. In fact, most of us would have had some skin sensitivity at some point in our lives.

A true Sensitive skin is caused by a genetic predisposition , mostly affecting very light/fair skinned individuals and usually of Northern European ancestry. The reason for this could be the lower amount of pigment and a thinner epidermal layer (the top layer of skin). Someone with a truly sensitive skin may experience – blushing, has a very fine complexion and may experience hay fever or asthma and other allergies.

What most people actually suffer from is Sensitized skin, which can affect any person of any racial background or skin colour. Rather than a result of your genetic heritage, sensitized skin is a reflection of your environment and lifestyle. Stress, pollution, hormonal imbalance, harsh cosmetic products, alcohol, a poor diet and over-exfoliation can all make your skin sensitized and feel irritated!. The hormonal imbalance can affect us around our periods or menopause and you may find that products you are normally fine with will cause stinging and irritation.

The symptoms for sensitive and sensitized are both quite similar, itching, burning, redness and stinging, and you need to apply the “Less is more” philosophy to your skin care routine, the less ingredients you apply then the less to irritate! But let’s get one thing straight – anyone can be allergic to anything! so looking for Hypo-allergenic products will be no fail-safe guarantee that you won’t react!

The Epidemic of Over Exfoliation

Over exfoliation triggers the inflammatory response, leading to a compromised lipid barrier that won’t protect your skin or function as it should, this could even lead to premature ageing. There are far too many micro-dermabrasion kits out there, tempting people to scrub and polish the protective barrier away! Don’t get me wrong – exfoliation has its place in skin care, but we must make sure we are using the right exfoliant for our skin’s requirements.

Some of the signs of over exfoliation are: noticeable dryness, patchy areas of dryness, skin tautness, redness and itchiness, stinging, inflammatory acne and irritation.

Maintaining your Skin’s Barrier

Maintaining this is vital, so always remember to apply moisturiser and barrier enhancing products. Sunscreen is critical because sensitized skin is even more vulnerable to UV damage, go for the chemical free sunblocks that contain Zinc Oxide, Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatories.

A few lifestyle changes can usually solve your skin sensitization, and the right product choices will make a difference, you may find products with fairly active ingredients may sting or tingle as your barrier is letting more into your skin.

Your diet can also help your skin’s barrier, by providing your body with the right nutritional oils to manufacture the lipid barrier, your will definitely strengthen your skin from the inside, I love Viridian Organic Beauty Oil.

Smoking is no good for anyone, but for the sensitive skin it’s going to make matters worse: you will inhibit your body’s ability to provide oxygen and nutrients (vital moisture) to the skin. Excess alcohol and certain medications can also contribute to dry skin, leaving skin feeling more sensitive. Also avoid trigger factors such as spicy foods, hot drinks and caffeine, and help your skin to recover and rebuild itself.

Product Recommendations

Obviously you don’t need all these products, as less is more with a Sensitive skin type, so cherry pick the ones you feel you would use or request some samples!

Pigmentation and Damage Control

What is Pigmentation?

UV damage causes PigmentationThe colour of your skin is the result of millions of years of evolution, which explains the wide range of skin tones we see in everyday life. People with origins close to the equator, where the sun is the most intense, had to develop protection against dangerous UV rays. The result? – an increase in the production of Melanin, a natural skin and hair colorant that absorbs UV radiation and protects the body from damage. In fact, the epidermis of a dark skinned person absorbs up to 25% more UV than that of a light skin.

Pigmentation disorders are caused by many factors, which include sun damage, hormonal imbalance, and skin trauma or disease. Of all these causes, sun damage is both the most common, and the most easily prevented!! Simple application of a sunscreen with a SPF 15-30 everyday, and avoiding peak sun times around midday, will do a lot to prevent the sun damage that can make your skin’s pigment mis-behave

Types of Dark Spots

Melasma: also known as the mask of pregnancy.

Hormonal imbalance, a cause of pigmentation mostly affecting women, can occur during any time that the body’s natural hormonal balance is disturbed. These triggers can include hormonal changes, such as those that happen during the menstrual cycle, birth control pills, prolonged stress, menopause and most commonly pregnancy. Unlike pigmentation related to trauma or sun damage, hormonal induced hyper-pigmentation generally disappears when hormone balance is restored, and it can be treated during the interim period with topical skin brighteners. If you are pregnant always wear a SPF on your face, this will prevent the Melasma from getting darker and prevent damage. Try mineral sunblocks as they are less irritating if your skin is sensitised with pregnancy.

Solar Lentigos

These are caused by sun exposure and sunburn. They’re completely preventable with sun avoidance and protection. People of all skin and hair colours can get these, solar lentigos result from environmental factors like excess sun, more than genetic factors.

Dark patches contribute to the appearance of ageing as much as wrinkles, yet many people focus on wrinkles not recognising how dark spots detract from skin’s youthful appearance.

Freckles

Also called Ephelides, freckles are associated with red hair and fair skin, while solar lentigos are not, although their appearance is similar. The gene believed to be responsible for freckles is the MC1R gene, which is known as the “red head gene”, and this determines your tanning potential. While you can’t control your genes, you CAN control your sun exposure. Freckles appear in early childhood, they increase as a result of sunburn and sun exposure.

Skin Trauma

The pigmentation related to skin trauma (cuts, wounds, scrapes etc) is difficult to prevent in the case of accidental damage to the skin. Picking at acne and squeezing lesions is also a big no-no, this will only exacerbate the pigmentation associated with wound healing. This can be more common in black and Asian skins and increases as you get older.

Age Spots

Age spots occur when melanin is literally dumped in the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ). The epidermis and Dermis are interlocked by rete pegs (finger like protusions), these start to separate with old age. There is little you can do about this with any cosmetic formula or treatment, some lasers may be helpful.

How Pigment is Formed

Skin pigment producing cells (Melanocytes) produce skin pigment (Melanin), which creates skin colour as well as the excess forms of pigmentation. Our skin has a different colour in different areas, however the concentration of about 1000-2000 melanocytes per cubic millimetre is the same for all race groups! So it doesn’t matter if you are a black-skinned person, or a pale northern European, you will still have the same number of melanocytes, just a different balance of Eumelanin and Pheomelanin pigment granules inherited from the family gene pool. As we get older we don’t produce as much melanin, and skin becomes translucent and the damaged dark patches stand out even more.

Ultra Violet Light

When UV light hits the skin, it stimulates an increased production of skin pigment, which is the tanning process. This is the skin’s major defence against further UV damage. UV light worsens Melasma and causes Solar Lentigos. UVB cause an immediate sunburn, UVA is present all year round and causes long term damage and premature ageing. Even broad spectrum sunscreens with a high factor do not block 100% of the suns rays. A conscious effort must be made to avoid all natural and artificial UVA and UVB rays. One thing for certain is that with the weakening of the Ozone protective layer, more UV rays are getting through to earth and as a result pigmentation problems are becoming worse.

Pigmentation can also be triggered by ingredients in your skincare products, especially fragrance. Avoid products that contain fragrance; Parfum, perfume, all mean that there is artificial fragrance in the product. The many chemical components in fragrance can cause irritation and react with UV light causing Photo-sensitivity and pigmentation. Sometimes you see women with blotchy pigmentation on their chest and neck area, this is caused by the perfume reacting with light over many years. If you want a youthful neck and chest, avoid spraying perfume on that area, it’s also very drying due to the alcohol content. Spritz your clothes of dab onto your wrists. Also citrus oils in cosmetics can cause photo-sensitivity when exposed to sunlight, stimulating pigmentation.

Treating Pigmentation

When it comes to Hyper-pigmentation you must be patient! It can take at least 3 months before you may notice any changes. So don’t give up using a product just because you cannot see an immediate difference. It largely depends on what is causing the pigmentation and how deeply into the skin it extends. Generally speaking most people see results within 8-12 weeks of beginning a treatment programme. Keep in mind, however, that all sun exposure must be avoided during this time – even one unprotected hour in the sun can reverse all positive treatment results.

Topical Products

Chemical lighteners, predominantly those containing Hydroquinone, are recognised as effective skin lighteners. However, Hydroquinone has been linked with many negative side effects and can cause severe skin allergies and worsening of pigmentation. Hydroquinone is now banned in most countries.

Botanical skin brighteners are a much safer approach for brightening the skin, and are as effective when used consistently in a professional brightening regimen. Brightening agents to look for on ingredients lists include; Liquorice, Bearberry, Rice, Kiwi and Mulberry, Yellow Dock, Kojic Acid, Arbutin, Lactic Acid, Niacinamide, Soy and Vitamin C and A.

In the cosmetic industry we can only brighten and inhibit tyrosinase, doing both of these will eventually lessen your pigmentation.

These ingredients work by two main mechanisms. The first is to inhibit the enzyme Tyrosinase, which will prevent the formation of melanin. Tyrosinase needs an oxidising atmosphere to work, and this is why antioxidants like Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are so effective. Many topical cosmetic ingredients as above are tyrosinase inhibitors. The second method of preventing the production of excess melanin is to forestall the transfer of the colour into the skin cells, studies show that Niacinamide (vitamin B3) and Soy prevent this transfer, which is why they are in skin brightening products.

Daily Sunscreen Use

Dermalogica Daylight DefenceIf you really want to prevent further damage and stop your dark patches from getting worse, then make it a habit to apply sunscreen every morning whether you plan to be indoors or out. UVA easily penetrates windows into buildings, cars and aeroplanes. Keep your favourite sunscreen in your car, desk and handbag just in case you forget to apply at home. Also your make-up can provide you with extra sun protection – mineral make up is a great choice as most give you a SPF20 or higher, and give you a physical sun block that bounces off UVA and UVB, and it’s less irritating.

Here are some recommended products that target and reduce pigmentation. They are all effective and have a brightening effect on the skin and contain Tyrosinase inhibitors. An effective routine of cleansing, exfoliating the pigmented cells away, then treating the pigmentation with a brightening serum and sun protection will give you a more even skin tone.

Cleansers

Exfoliators

Treatment Products

Treatments

Acne: The Facts

Acne is triggered by hormones and can occur in virtually anyone at almost any stage of his or her life. Acne not only disfigures the face and body but can also leave profound, permanent scars on your self-esteem and confidence.

What is Acne ?

Acne is often described as a disease involving the sebaceous follicles and hair follicles of the skin. It occurs in people who have a genetic predisposition. If acne runs in families of both parents, three out of four children may suffer from it.

Sebaceous and hair follicles are associated with a sebaceous gland that produces sebum, a complex mixture of lipids. In the hair follicle, the hair acts as a wick, transporting sebum and other cellular debris to the surface of the skin, where it is ultimately removed. Inflammation of infection is rarely associated with this type of follicle, unless the hair becomes ingrown or the opening of the follicle becomes clogged.

The sebaceous follicle, usually lacking a hair or containing only a fine hair, is generally associated with acne. Activity of the sebaceous gland is stimulated by many factors, including the onset of puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pharmaceutical agents, stress, using inappropriate products, heat, friction and humidity.

To understand the physical changes that cause acne, it is important to understand the microscopic processes that produce it. Our skin has pores, referred to as follicles by dermatologists. A follicle is not a hair, it could either contain a hair or be empty, like a tube extending from the surface of the skin (epidermis) down into the dermis.

This deeper layer of skin, the dermis, is made up of collagen and elastin, which gives the skin bounce and support, it also provides a home for blood vessels, other cells and nerves. Underneath the dermis is a layer of fat that cushions and insulates the skin and contributes to a youthful face. The follicle (pore) starts in the dermis as a tube, from this tube branch glands that look like a cluster of grapes. These are your sebaceous glands that produce an oil substance called sebum.

The Four Main Factors that contribute to Acne

  • Over active sebaceous glands
  • Cell accumulation (retention hyperkeratosis)
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation

The reason that the sebaceous glands are over active is down to Testosterone. This hormone is secreted by the male sexual organs, and in women it originates from the ovaries and adrenal glands. In both sexes testosterone is released into the body and enters into the sebaceous gland where an enzyme – 5-alpha reductase, converts the testosterone into di-hydrotestosterone, this stimulates sebum production. 5-alpha reductase is sensitive to hormone levels and goes into overdrive when testosterone levels get high. This is noticeable during puberty and results in teenage acne. The excess oil on the skin acts as a binder and when acne is present an accumulation of cells occurs at the neck of the follicle and sticks to the sebum, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria (propionibacterium acnes). At this point the result may be closed comedones (white heads) and open comedones (blackheads).

The Grades Of Acne

Scientists use a grading system to categorize the various stages of acne lesions.

Grade 1– Comprises of open and closed comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), the t-zone may be a little oily.

Grade 2 – Mainly open and some closed comdedones and papules, with some pustules. Comedones and pustules located only in the oilier areas of the face. (easily aggravated by comedogenic substances)

Grade 3 – Papules and Pustules present throughout the t-zone and cheeks, with open comedones. Scarring is likely.

Grade 4– The nodule, a large painful solid lesion extending deep into the skin, accompanied by visible inflammation and redness. Macules (flattened crusted lesion) These are the types of lesions found in hormonal mediated acne and found around the lower face in women, there is a lack of comedones.

Grade 5– The cyst – an inflamed, pus filled lesion extending deep into the skin. This occurs when several nodules merge resulting in a giant lesion, when the grading of acne becomes higher, there are fewer comedones to be found.

Comedogenic Substances

The term “Comedogenic”means to clog pores, and a comedone is a blackhead or whitehead. Comedogenic substances in cosmetics are a major cause of congestion related skin problems. If the application of a cosmetic that contains comedogenic ingredients is applied regularly and left on, e.g. foundation, moisturiser – then problems can occur. These problems appear as closed or open comedones, this can feel like lots of lumps and bumps under the skin and can be known as “Cosmetic Acne”and is purely caused by using products with comedogenic ingredients that are inappropriate for your skin type. Lots of mainstream cosmetic companies (even very expensive brands!) put pore clogging ingredients into their products, they do this because generally they are cheap ingredients or can serve a purpose in the formulation.

Just because an ingredient or product is “Comedogenic”, doesn’t mean that everyone who uses it will automatically develop acne or clogged pores. If your skin gets clogged easily then you are at more risk from using those ingredients. Here are the main ones to look out for:

  • Isopropyl Myristate, Myristyl Myristate
  • Lanolin
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Flax Oil
  • Octyl Palmitate, Octyl Stearate
  • Linseed Oil
  • D & C Red and Orange colours
  • Isostearyl Alcohol
  • Mink Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Mineral Oil– A Petroleum by product, there are mixed reviews of Mineral oil, in theory cosmetic grade scores a 0 on the comedogenic list, as it doesn’t actually penetrate into the follicle, it just sits on the surface of the skin. This coating the skin may cause problems for some people as the skin cannot excrete and function, so congestion can build up in the skin. (I personally do not like it, and will not use it as it does cause me congestion)

As you can see there are many ingredients that can cause and exacerbate acne, so look closely at your cosmetic formulations for these substances. Be aware that even if you are using products that have no comedogenic ingredients in them, if they are too rich a formula for your skin, then they can ultimately cause some congestion.

Less common but certainly about, is a type of acne called “Acne of Toxic Origin”. This type of acne can occur from both the side effects of medications (antibiotics, cortisone and tranquilisers), occupational causes, and self-infliction. Establishing the cause is the secret and simply removing the cause can improve the skin dramatically.

Other Factors That Will Influence and cause Acne

  • Birth control pills may affect the skin and you may see a change in the amount of breakouts
  • Medicines containing bromides and diodides, as found in cold remedies, can cause breakouts
  • Barbiturates and amphetamines can cause acne type lesions
  • If you have a predisposition to acne it is wise to screen your vitamins for Kelp, seaweed or straight iodine (potassium iodide) and eliminate from your diet (avoid Shellfish)
  • Steroids can be a cause of breakouts
  • Stress influences and aggravates acne breakouts, so often you think this is major stress, when it is in fact simply just “being uptight”
  • Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, all of these can cause skin problems including acne
  • Harsh drying substances and over exfoliation
  • High humidity can trigger breakouts
  • UV radiation, contrary to what many acne sufferers believe, the sun actually makes matters worse, this is due to the inflammatory effect that happens within the skin
  • Food sensitivities, dairy can often cause skin problems in some people

Antiobiotic Resistant Acne

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed by GP’s to help treat acne by attempting to reduce the levels of P acnes bacteria. The resulting reduction in bacteria will consequently result in the decrease of the inflammation. As this approach only treats the symptoms, and not the true cause of the condition, it can have a limited affect. Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics to treat minor grades of acne can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Like many bacteria that have been over treated with antibiotics, the P acnes have developed many strains and a resistance to on or more common antibiotics. Also some antibiotics can cause sensitivity to UV light, so sunscreen is vital.

Adult Acne

Post – adolescent acne is on the rise, more people are suffering from the challenges of oily and acneic skin conditions. It is normally in the age group of 20-40 that are diagnosed with a low grade, persistent acne. Acne arising in adulthood is more likely to be inflammatory with fewer comedones that teenage acne, and with lesions located around the mouth, chin and jaw line. It is definitely more challenging to treat, as adults can often have sensitised skin, or a combination of skin conditions in addition to acne and concerns about ageing!

The primary factor leading to adult acne is chronic stress, we all know temporary stress can cause a breakout from time to time, but chronic, continuous stress increases hormone levels, which leads to an increase in oil production. This is frustrating for many people an causes additional emotional stress, which in turn can trigger more breakouts!

The need to “squeeze” and “pick” breakouts opens the skin up to more acne-causing bacteria, and you normally end up with more spots around the area you have picked! You also increase the development of scars and trauma induced pigmentation. I know it’s hard to resist, but they will heal quicker when you leave them alone.

Nutrition For Acne

Antioxidant Fruit and VegetablesDoes what you eat make a difference ? This is a controversial subject and many dermatologists have different opinions. The prevailing wisdom is that the foods we eat have no effect on the systemic disease of acne. What you eat may not be a direct cause of your acne, but plain common sense tells us that you cannot eat lots of sugar and pro-inflammatory foods without effecting your skin, it is after all the largest organ of the body! We must nourish it from within as well as treating it topically (the skin is always last to get its ration of nutrients, the vital organs get them first).

The best advice I can give is to ensure you have an all round healthy diet, which includes plenty of antioxidant rich vegetables, whole grains, proteins (in the form of fish, lean meat, soya and beans and lentils), this is a great anti-inflammatory diet (low G.I) and you will benefit on many levels.

The Sugar Connection

While many people say that giving up chocolate doesn’t cure acne, most people find that we feel better all round when we give up sugary refined foods and drinks. There is a link between people with acne and the way they do not transfer sugar into their cells properly. All sugar is pro-inflammatory and by reducing the amount of inflammation in your body can only have positive benefits on your acne. I know it isn’t easy but try to cut down on sugary foods and drinks, including sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks and any added sugar. Let food be your medicine!

Recommended reading – The acne prescription by Nicholas Perricone MD.

Supplements

As well as improving your diet there are certain supplements that are worth considering in the treatment of acne. Given that some of the most drastic medical treatments for acne involve Vitamin A, it makes sense to include some in your diet. You will get adequate amounts in your multivitamin formula, too much is toxic so don’t go over the recommended daily allowance.

Healthy skin also requires a good supply of Zinc, a mineral that is essential to all aspects of our health. Some dermatologists recommend up to 100 milligrams of zinc supplements a day for the treatment of acne. However, these higher doses may result in nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not take zinc in higher doses than 15 milligrams per day to avoid causing harm to the foetus. As always I strongly recommend you seek advice from your doctor before taking any dietary or supplement programme.

Vitmain A and Acne

Vitamin A acne treatment was introduced in the early 1970’s. Also known asRetin-A,Tretinoin or Retinoic Acid, this is the acidic form of Vitamin A – (retinoids), when applied topically it normalizes the skin cells and increases exfoliation at a cellular level. This has a positive effect on the skin but can also be very irritating in some people, the skin can get very red and inflamed from the treatment and is not for everyone. Seek advice from a dermatologist as these products are prescription only.

Accutane

The breakthroughs achieved by using topical vitamin A acid also led to another oral therapy, this one made from a compound belonging to the same retinoid class as Retin-A. This is known asAccutane and when taken for approximately 4-6 months, has been proven to be an extremely effective treatment for a severe form of acne, know as cystic or nodular acne. Accutane is a prescription medication and has a number of possible side effects that are similar to those resulting from large doses of vitamin A. Among Accutane’s potential side effects are dry, peeling skin, inability to see in the dark and inflamed liver. There is also a link between taking Accutane and mental depression and suicide. If your doctor prescribes Accutane, consider increasing your intake of essential fatty acids, as a common side effect is severe dry skin, lips and nasal passages. Try Udo’s Choice Essential Oil Blend , it has the perfect ration of 3.6.9 fatty acids.

Acne and Ageing Skin

Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease, and spends a significant amount of time being inflamed. Inflammation is a well known accelerator of ageing, and can create free radicals that break down the skins structural components like Collagen and Elastin etc, which can contribute to an aged appearance. Treating your acne, at least to the degree of markedly reducing the number of inflamed lesions, is going to be the best anti-ageing step you could make apart from sun protection.

How you treat your acne may have a major impact on the ageing of your skin. As a general rule, any treatment that causes irritation and/or excessive dryness should be used cautiously. The use of Vitamin A at sufficiently low doses to avoid skin irritation will get both anti-acne and anti-ageing benefits. Vitamin A is still the most effective anti-ageing ingredient that you can use on your skin.

Excercise and Acne

Gymnastics pilatesAs you can see eliminating Acne and controlling it is a multi layered task! and we must treat the whole body, not just the symptom. We all know that moderate exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, this is especially true for the acne patient, but moderation is key. Acne is unique and the exercise that is good for people without acne, can spell disaster for those with acne. For example weight lifting: regardless of gender, this type of exercise makes the body more susceptible to acne breakouts. The reason is simple – weight lifting and weight training increases levels of male hormones, such as testosterone, and male hormones can contribute to acne.

I would definitely recommend some form of Yoga or Pilates, you can achieve a fit, toned and flexible body as well as clear radiant skin at any age.

Yoga and Pilates will:

  • Exercise and tone the body
  • Energizes and soothes the mind
  • Increases blood circulation and lymph flow
  • Helps you achieve a deeply relaxed state – stress reduction

Because acne is aggravated by stress, yoga will help induce relaxation, focus your breathing and ultimately lower stress levels.

Topical Products For Acne

There are many advances in ingredient technology for acne, we need ingredients that ultimately stop the cascade of events leading to acne development. We must regulate the sebaceous glands, promote exfoliation, kill bacteria and calm inflammation.

Fighting Acne

Cleansing – make sure you perform a double cleanse in the evening, this will remove make-up and sunscreens and other debris before you do your second cleanse, which will ultimately cleanse your skin and pores. If not done properly, poor cleansing can result in breakout and clogged pores. ALWAYS take your make-up off before you sleep!!! Use an acid balanced cleanser and avoid soap, it is far too alkaline and will strip your skin’s barrier, making it pump out more oil and letting bacteria in.

Exfoliate– Acneic skin produces five times more dead skin cells than other skin, this means that proper exfoliation can give great results for acne. Hydroxy acids will be effective, as they help cells detach and prevent dead skin cells from clogging the follicle. 1% -2% Salicylic acid is effective in a product formulation, this is a Beta Hydroxy Acid, this is better at exfoliating inside the follicle. (if you are allergic to Aspirin avoid BHA’S, try Alpha Hydroxy Acids instead, like Lactic Acid or Glycolic Acid) Sulphur and Papain are also useful ingredients, avoid physical scrubs with grains in them, they will only aggravate and inflame your skin.

Oil Control– this is one of the trickiest skin care problems, you can’t stop it by applying products, but we can control it and help absorb it. Harsh products will only make you feel oilier, so avoid those at all costs. Once or twice a week use a non irritating caly mask, to help absorb sebum and deep cleanse. Milk of Magnesia is also a great facial mask, it is nothing more that magnesium hydroxide, which does a fine job of absorbing oil.

Bacteria Control – the following are good at controlling bacteria: Benzoyl Peroxide, this is the most effective over the counter choice, as it can penetrate the follicle to reach acne causing bacteria, it can be drying though. Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree Oil, Suphur, Zinc Gluconate, Triclosan – this has had a bit of bad press lately, but it is very effective, it is also in toothpaste – that is why dabbing it on spots can be effective, however the peppermint can be irritating and inflammatory.

The Jan Marini Skincare Management System contains some of these key ingredient and the products actually work!

Key Tips For Acne

  • Avoid comedogenic ingredients in all your products, 75% of skincare products make acne worse.
  • Keep your skin barrier intact, do not over-exfoliate, too much exfoliation is worse than none.
  • Try to eat a low Glycaemic load diet
  • Make sure you are hydrated with enough water
  • Avoid barrier stripping ingredients like – Acetone, SD Alcohol, Isopropyl Alcohol and menthol, irritation will cause inflammation.
  • Use lukewarm water to wash in- not hot or extreme cold.
  • Change your pillowcase regularly
  • Clean the handsets of your phones to reduce bacteria
  • Try NOT to pick and squeeze your spots, they will only get worse. If you do, do not squeeze until they bleed! and apply a good anti-bacterial product afterwards
  • If you have no success with over the counter products, seek advice from a dermatologist about a topical retinoid – like Differin Gel
  • Don’t forget to wear a sunscreen!!, you will be more prone to sun-damage due to the hydroxy acids and some anti-biotics make your skin sun sensitive. There are good oil free choices available from Dermalogica
  • Some anti-androgen contraceptive pills work wonders for acne, however everyone is different and it can be trial and error and your acne may get worse temporarily

Other treatments that have been useful for some people are IPL Laser Therapy, and some Light Therapies with blue and red lights, seek advice from a dermatologist or medical skin clinic.

As you can see acne is a complex skin condition and what works for other people may not work for you, results are not instant and you may never cure your acne but can control it. By following some of these guidelines hopefully you will have a better understanding of Acne and how to treat it, and not let it rule your life!

The New Fanny Cradock

Ravinder Bhogal2 years ago Gordon Ramsay set about finding his modern day ” Fanny Cradock”. Women from all over the country sent in videos of themselves cooking there own recipes. The gorgeous Ravinder Bhogal won the title and is to take on today’s male dominated celebrity chefs as it’s about time we had some more passionate women cooking on TV!!

Ravinder was selected from over 1300 entries, the best of which were selected to come to the F-word, where they cooked there homemade dish for Gordon, and were then judged.

June has seen the launch of her first book “Cook in Boots”, a gorgeous collection of dishes, designed with a woman’s varied moods! Ravinder says “We’re emotional creatures, we need food that fits the way we feel as much as our lifestyle”.Quite right! Some of the chapters have rather interesting titles! including – Hangover food, social grazing, falling off the carb wagon and the food of love! the one I love is focused on chocolate (surprise) and called “PMT”

Here is an extract of Ravinders superfood salads – “Green Tea noodle Super-food Salad” This salad is brimming with vitamins and antioxidants – the perfect anti-ageing food and energy boost!

Here’s what you need to serve 6:

  • 200g Green-tea noodles -available from www.mountfuji.co.uk
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g tenderstem sprouting broccoli
  • 1 generous handful of beansprouts
  • 2 small carrots – cut into matchsticks
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, each deseeded and cut into think strips
  • 100 g trimmed asparagus
  • Olive oil – for brushing
  • 3 tbsp mixed seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, linseed and hemp – to serve

For the dressing:

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cm knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp light Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • Juice of half a lime

Boil the noodles in a large pan of simmering water until cooked through. Drain and refresh in cold water, then drain again.

Steam the green beans and broccoli for 3-4 minutes, then place in a large salad bowl with the beansprouts, carrots and pepper strips. Add the drained noodles.

Heat a griddle pan until hot. Brush the asparagus with olive oil and griddle until tiger-striped and tender. Mix into the noodles.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together. Pour over the salad and toss through, then top with the mixed seeds and serve.

Extracted from Cook in Boots by Ravinder Bhogal, published on May 28 (HarperCollins £18.99).

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I have been a professional makeup artist for over twenty years. I have been involved in every aspect from fashion to television and feature films. I have had experience with practically every product on the market. My clients are used to the latest and greatest in skin care and makeup. I am very excited about Intraceuticals and how fantastic the treatments make the skin look.

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