Common Causes of Acne – What to Avoid?

Most of the people who get acne are teenagers. But infants can get acne, too. Even unborn babies in the womb can get acne. (This is called perinatal acne.) People can get acne for the first time at age twenty, thirty,forty, fifty, even older. Why?

As we’ve already mentioned, no one yet knows for sure exactly why acne starts. But for as long as acne has been around, people have been speculating on what causes acne or makes it worse. Things that cause acne are said to be acnegenic, or comedogenic (producing comedones). Some of the speculations sound logical enough but actually have turned out to be wrong.

Acne Myths

One of the earliest beliefs about acne was that it was caused by dirt—the result of not keeping the skin properly cleaned. Many people still believe this, but it isn’t so. It is important to clean the skin regularly,because dirt and excess oil on the skin may contribute to blocking pores and slowing down the flow of sebum out to the surface. But dirt does not cause skin cells to clump together and cling to the follicle walls. That happens deep inside the follicle, where cleaning can’t reach.

Another long held belief about acne was that it was somehow related to sex. “Don’t worry,” people would tell a teenaged boy or girl worrying about pimples. “When you get married, your skin will clear up.” The idea that sexual activity could help cure acne also made a good line for someone trying to persuade a reluctant date to “fool around.” Paradoxically, acne has also been associated with having too much sex. That idea got started because people noticed that acne usually occurs during adolescence—the time when a person is becoming sexually mature. (The ancient Greeks were the first to link acne and adolescence, about twenty-five hundred years ago.) Some medical authorities suggested that masturbation was an important cause of acne—a notion that was especially popular during the repressive Victorian era. Such misconceptions about acne and sex persisted until the 1940’s, when scientific studies established that sexual activity and acne are not related.

Do Foods Cause Acne?

Perhaps the most popular idea links acne breakouts to diet. Doctors used to tell their patients to avoid certain foods thought to cause acne. However, over the years so many different foods have been called acnegenic that a person who avoided them all would have practically nothing left to eat. The most notorious acnegenic foods were thought to be chocolate, colas, and greasy foods such as French fries and potato chips. Today most doctors do not feel that diet plays a very important role in acne breakouts. They point to studies of patients who ate large quantities of chocolates or peanuts and did not break out afterwards as proof that diet does not affect acne.

The topic of diet and acne, however, is still under debate. Some doctors claim that the effect of foods should not be ruled out just because a breakout does not occur immediately after eating a possible acnegenic food. Pimples can take weeks or even months to develop. How, then, can we be sure something eaten now will not cause a breakout of pimples several days or weeks from now?

Many doctors who do feel diet has a role in the development of acne have noticed some of their patients had definite breakouts after eating chocolate, sugar, or greasy foods. Others answer that only sensitive people break out after eating these foods. They point to studies such as one that found one out of four people are sensitive to chocolate and may have an acne-like reaction to it. These doctors claim that the reaction is not really acne at all, but rather an allergic reaction that is mistaken for the common acne vulgaris.

Foods that contain iodides have also been linked with acne. Many shellfish are high in iodides. So are pretzels and potato chips, which contain iodized salt. Gluten bread has also been blamed. Excess amounts of iodides probably contribute to the acne process by making the response of the white blood cells to inflammation less effective. But not all doctors agree that iodides are major contributors to acne. Some claim that the levels required to cause breakouts are very high, and normal eating habits would not pose a problem.

Many doctors avoid the debate about acne and food and simply advise their patients to stay away from any foods that seem to cause a problem. If a breakout occurs, they suggest, stay away from the food for a while. Then, after the flare-up goes away, try it again. If the problem recurs, this is a food you should avoid. This is a highly individual matter, to be determined by each person by trial and error.

Hormones and Puberty

The question of hormones is even more complex. There is no doubt that the hormones secreted by an adolescent’s body play a role in acne.

The fact that acne usually occurs at puberty, when sex hormones are released into the bloodstream in large quantities, suggests a definite connection between acne and increased levels of androgen’s, the normal male sex hormones. Eunuchs—men whose testes have been removed or destroyed—do not produce testosterone. Although some androgen’s are produced by the adrenal glands, their overall levels are low, like those of a child before puberty. It’s no coincidence that eunuchs don’t get acne.

Flare-ups of acne in adolescent girls and women are also linked with sex steroid hormones. Typically, pimples peak during menstrual periods, and that is when a woman’s progesterone levels are highest. (Progesterone is chemically very similar to the main androgen, testosterone.)

However, as some research has revealed, higher androgen levels in the blood do not necessarily mean more oil will be produced in the skin. Actually, people with oily skin and a tendency to develop acne usually have normal levels of androgen’s in their bodies. And though the testosterone level remains high in an adult man, most boys do eventually outgrow acne after puberty has ended. So the level of the sex hormones is not the only important factor. What counts is how sensitive the sebaceous glands are to the androgen’s that are present.

Some people’s sebaceous glands are more sensitive than others’. Even in a person’s own body, sebaceous glands differ in their androgen sensitivity. For example, most people’s skin is oilier in the center of the face than anywhere else. The areas on the forehead, nose, cheeks around the nose, and the chin are usually oilier even in people with normal skin and no acne problems. This is because the sebaceous glands in this area are larger and
more sensitive than those in other places. Doctors call this sensitivity end-organ sensitivity. Heredity plays an important role in determining each person’s end-organ sensitivity.

Who Gets Acne?

Increased oil production is obviously related to acne breakouts. But why does acne start? Heredity probably plays an important role in who gets acne and how severe the case will be. However, unlike other conditions that are very rare, acne is so common—nearly everyone gets it—that it is hard to determine how much of a role heredity plays. Some people whose parents had severe cases of acne develop severe cases of their own. Others don’t.

Geography and culture are also uncertain factors. Before white people brought modern ways to Alaska, conditions such as heart disease and acne were very rare among the Eskimos. Now there are many more cases. Did diet play the major role? Was it the change in lifestyle? Research has not yet brought a definite answer.

What Actually Causes Acne?

C. Acne Bacteria

One current theory about acne has to do with the bacteria that live on the skin and in the follicles, particularly C. acnes. Research has shown that the fatty acids produced by these bacteria sometimes act to speed up the turnover rate of skin cells in the epidermis. New cells are produced in the basal layer at a faster rate. They displace the older cells, pushing them outward and causing more dead outer epidermal cells to be formed. This is a defense mechanism, producing a thicker layer of dead cells as a shield to protect the body. Some scientists feel this might be part of a chain reaction contributing to the start of acne: An increase in the oil production in the skin feeds the C. acnes bacteria present there and creates a population explosion of these microbes. The multiplying bacteria produce more fatty acids, which irritate the skin and prompt it to produce more dead cells. This combination of extra cells and extra oil could set the stage for acne.

Another idea about acne is that the pore openings in an adolescent’s skin are not big enough to handle the increased amount of oil. The pores are still immature and cannot accommodate the growth spurts that the body experiences at this time. This immature pore size makes it more difficult for the sebum to flow. Things get backed up inside, as the body produces more and more oil, and more dead cells are sloughed off inside the follicle. Eventually the pores grow bigger, and the sebum can flow more freely—but this often takes years.

But what about adults who get acne? How does this fit in with the “too-small-pore-size” theory? Dermatologists find that 60 percent of their patients with acne are adult women. In fact, some doctors suggest that between 30 and 50 percent of all adult women have acne flare-ups at one time or another. Many dermatologists believe that the biggest cause of acne in adult women is the cosmetics they use. Makeup foundations and moisturizers are often oily or greasy and can clog the pore openings, causing acne cosmetica. Pores clogged
with oily makeup are similar to the immature pore openings m adolescents. In both cases the flow of sebum is restricted, which can contribute to a backup inside the follicle. Cosmetics manufacturers dispute this theory, contending that most cosmetic products sold to the public are nonacnegenic. Recently dermatologists and cosmetic-industry researchers have been reviewing the results of testing m a cooperative attempt to resolve the question.

Probably both mechanisms—a bacterial population explosion fueled by increased oil production and a clogging of follicles whose pores are too small to permit a free flow of sebum—contribute to the acne process. Perhaps other factors will be discovered. When scientists find out for sure exactly why acne happens, a “cure” for acne will be only one step away. For now. though. dealing with acne means learning about as many things that can cause acne (or acne-like conditions) as possible. If you know what may trigger your acne breakouts, you may be able to minimize acne problems.

Sun, Head, and Humidity

Many people find their acne gets better in the summer, while some find it gets worse. For the people whose problems improve, the answer seems to be the greater exposure to sunlight, whose ultraviolet rays can kill bacteria. Sunlight also promotes increased scaling, as the skin thickens protectively and the dead outer layers flake off more rapidly. This scaling can help unblock clogged pores. So doctors used to advise moderate sunbathing or treatments With UV lamps to help clear up acne.

Be Careful with the Sun

But recently, medical specialists have become more aware of the negative effects of sun exposure. Ultraviolet light is powerful. If it is strong enough to kill bacteria, you might wonder what it can do to your skin. For one thing, it can produce chemical changes in the skin protein collagen. The long chemical chains of this protein get linked together rigidly, instead of providing an elastic framework. Gradually the skin becomes wrinkled, tough, and leathery—old looking. Even worse, the UV rays can strike deep into the skin cells, producing changes in the chemicals that guide and control their activities. Such a changed skin cell may suddenly run wild, multiplying uncontrollably and producing a cancerous growth. A suntan is the body’s defense against UV rays: The dark pigment melanin soaks up the radiation harmlessly and shields the more delicate structures in the cells. A sunburn means that you were exposed to more sun than you were equipped to handle; dermatologists now believe that most skin cancers can be traced back to a sunburn some time in the past.

Doctors today warn against overdoing sunbathing as an acne remedy, and they frown on UV lamps. You should always use a sunscreen when out in the sun, one that blocks out the UV rays effectively. But beware of oily ones that can aggravate acne problems by blocking pores. Alcohol-based sunscreens are better for your skin than oily, greasy ones, since alcohol helps to clean off excess oil and dirt.

The summer sun may be beneficial to the skin, but coupled with humidity, summer heat can cause acne to get worse. Skin cells swell in hot, humid weather, and this can block the follicles, preventing sebum from flowing properly and causing acne breakouts.

In some severe cases, tropical acne can develop. Large nodules and cysts form on the shoulders and back where the skin is rubbed by clothing. This sometimes happens to soldiers, for example, who are stationed in hot, tropical climates and have to do a lot of physical labor. Some research has suggested that a yeast called Pityrosporum ovale may be involved in tropical acne cases.

In hot, humid weather, it might be advisable to use an astringent (a lotion that dries and tightens the skin) a few times a day to remove excess oil. One good thing about astringents is that they come in medicated pads that you can take along anywhere. They can be stashed in a gym bag, purse, or knapsack for use at times when soap-and-water washing isn’t possible.

Pressure and Other Aggravators

During the summer, remember to reduce friction against the skin, which can also cause acne. Sitting in a vinyl seat in a car, at home, or at work can cause sweat to accumulate. The same is true of exercising in tight fitting, nonabsorbent clothes. Moreover, friction produced by rubbing against the chair or by rough clothes rubbing against the body can damage follicles swollen and blocked by humidity. Headbands, backpack straps, and football helmet straps all can cause flare-ups when they touch and rub on the skin, even in cold climates.

Some doctors believe that pressure on the skin alone can cause problems. If you lean your chin on your hand while studying, for example, you may have an acne breakout on your chin. Apparently pressure locks moisture into the skin, causing the surface layer around the pores to swell. This makes the pore openings smaller, so the oil cannot escape properly. Acne that is caused by rubbing, friction, or pressure on the skin is acne mechanics. Placing a towel on the chair, wearing loose, absorbent clothes, using talcum powder, and keeping as little pressure on the skin as possible are good ways to minimize problems.

Acne can be aggravated by anything that prevents sebum from flowing freely through the follicle and out onto the surface of the skin. Some people find that if they wear their hair in bangs, they break out on the forehead. People with long hair sometimes get acne on the neck and upper back. This is caused by the oils from the hair, which may help to clog the pore openings, and possibly by friction of the hair rubbing on the skin.

Over-cleaning your face can also worsen acne pimples and result in what doctors call acne detergicans. Some people scrub very hard and use abrasive cleansers to try to scrub acne away. Sometimes this over-cleaning can irritate plugged-up follicles, causing them to rupture and become inflamed. Instead of washing away the acne, it only makes the area more raw and worse than before.

Acne can also be caused by a person’s work environment. Occupational acne is what sometimes happens when the skin is exposed to a lot of oil or grease on the job. Some people who work in fast-food restaurants, for example, can develop severe cases oi acne if they are constantly exposed to splattering oil and grease in a kitchen. Machinists and mechanics, too, may develop acne on their arms from constant exposure to oil and grease.

Sometimes medications the doctor prescribes for an illness can cause acne pimples as a side effect. Acne medicamentosa is the name for this type of breakout. Steroids and drugs used to control epileptic seizures can sometimes cause acne. So can oral contraceptives. Lithium, phenobarbital, and Dilantin can cause breakouts. Some cough and cold medicines or multivitamins that contain bromides and iodides are sometimes culprits. Danazol, a synthetic androgen used to treat endometriosis, and INH, an anti-TB drug, have sometimes caused eruptions. Excessive amounts of vitamin B12 can also cause breakouts.

Usually breakouts caused by medications will look different from ordinary acne problems. Steroid eruptions, for example, most often occur as a number of small, shallow pustules. If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing breakouts, don’t stop taking it on your own. Discuss it with your doctor. He or she will examine the pimples, and if the medication seems to be causing you to break out, perhaps another drug will be substituted for it.

Some people notice that the area around the mouth is particularly prone to acne. The culprit may be tooth paste. Some people react to the fluoride in the tooth paste by breaking out in acne pimples. If you think this might be your problem, try a non-fluoridated toothpaste for a while to see if the skin in the area clears up. Soaps used to wash the skin may also contribute to acne if they contain oily cleansing cream or fragrance. (Some people are sensitive to perfumes.)

Sometimes breakouts can occur when something is missing from your diet. Some people break out when their bodies do not have enough vitamin C, for example.

Men with curly hair may develop a particular kind of acne problem. Their facial hairs are curly, too, and the tips may turn back into the pores and become ingrown, causing acne-like pimples. This condition is called pseudofolliculitis barbae. It is often worsened by shaving.

Some people are affected by foods and drinks that cause the blood vessels to expand. These are called vasodilators. Spicy foods and hot drinks such as coffee and tea, as well as alcoholic drinks, are all vasodilators, which cause the face to be flushed. People with an acne-like condition called acne rosacea are particularly sensitive to vasodilators. The capillaries beneath the skin become enlarged and sometimes are damaged, causing the nose and surrounding area to be puffy and red. Pimples break out on and around the nose, as well as on the cheeks and forehead, and the area around the pimples is red and inflamed. Acne rosacea usually occurs in people over thirty, particularly in women, although men who have the condition often have more severe cases. W. C. Fields was one famous acne rosacea sufferer. Sometimes this condition is called * ‘whiskey nose,” but this is an unfair description; although alcohol can worsen the problem, acne rosacea also occurs in people who have never had a drink in their lives. Severe cases of acne rosacea require treatment with prescription drugs: antibiotics or the recently approved metronidazole, which comes in a water-based gel form that is colorless and odorless and can be used under makeup.

Development Stages of Acne

Pimples usually seem to pop up overnight. This may sometimes be the case, but more often the pimple that you notice has taken weeks, even months to develop before you ever see it. Once it does appear, it might disappear in a day or two, or it could linger on for another few weeks or even months.

There are many different kinds of acne pimples, or lesions, as doctors call them. They can take the form of tiny skin-colored bumps, little white bumps, small red bumps, bigger red bumps, bumps with a black substance in them, pus-filled bumps, or even giant, painful ones. All of these are acne lesions, and all of them start out the same way: from a follicle that becomes blocked.

How Pimples Start

When shed epidermal cells start clumping together, along with the oily secretions and bacteria feeding on them, they begin to stick to the follicle wall. As more cells pile up, the wall grows thicker and it becomes more difficult for sebum to flow to the surface through the narrowed channel. The tube-shaped follicle starts to bulge a little as more and more shed cells stick to the growing mass inside it, and the opening to the surface becomes increasingly blocked. At this point, the problem is still a small one; you would need a microscope to see the plugged-up follicle.

Doctors call any stopped-up follicle a comedo (plural comedones), and a tiny microscopic one is called a microcomedo.  All acne pimples start out as microcomedones. Unfortunately, they don’t stay invisible. Eventually, thousands of dead epidermal cells build up in the follicle, and the plug makes the opening to the surface even smaller as it grows. The plug is not solid; it is more like a sponge. The skin cells in it are loosely clumped together, allowing oxygen and some amount of fluids to go in and out.

Meanwhile, the follicle starts to really bulge like a tiny balloon under the skin, because the sebaceous gland keeps producing sebum. Some of the sebum gets out to the surface, but most of it is trapped inside. Now the comedo is big enough to see if you look at yourself in the mirror.

 

                         Microcomedo

When pimples are first visible, they appear as tiny white or flesh-colored bumps under the skin. They may be hard to see, but- if you stretch or pull your skin they become more evident. Because they are almost completely plugged, these acne lesions are called closed comedones. They are also known as whiteheads. Dermatologists sometimes call them “time bombs ” because they may not seem like much—they are only about 2 millimeters across, roughly the size of a pinhead—but they can develop into very serious kinds of pimples.

 

                          Closed Comedo

It is important to remember that the opening of the pore at the surface of the skin is not where the block occurs. It is down inside the follicle, so simple washing cannot clean the plug away. Often skin will grow over the pore, preventing almost all sebum from escaping and making the pore opening almost impossible to see.

Blackhead Stage

                   Open Comedo

Oil and dead cells continue to build up, and eventually one of two things will happen. Either the sebum will eventually force its way out to the surface of the skin, or it will put so much pressure on the follicle walls that they burst like a balloon that has too much air in it. If the pore eventually does open, it produces what is known as a blackhead or, in dermatological terms, an open comedo. People call it a blackhead because there is a gooey dark material inside.
The biggest misconception about blackheads is that the dark stuff is dirt and it is caused by not keeping the skin properly cleaned. The dark color is actually produced by a chemical reaction oi the sebum and dead cells with the oxygen of the air. The skin’s own melanin also makes a substantial contribution to the blackhead’s dark color. In fact, since melanin is produced only by the epidermal cells in the upper part of the follicle and not by those lining its lower part, the material in the open comedo is dark near the skin surface and lighter below. The color of blackheads also varies from one person to another, depending on the amount of melanin in the skin. Dark-skinned people tend to have very dark blackheads, while albinos have white ones. Since the matter in the comedo isn’t dirt, more frequent washing will not get rid of it. Neither will squeezing: Although some of the material near the surface will be forced out the narrowing of the follicle down below still remains, and the blackhead will eventually re-form.

From Bad to Worse

Annoying as blackheads may be, the alternative can be worse. The second outcome of a closed comedo—an exploded follicle wall—is a much more serious situation. For the first time, the acne process enters the body. (Remember, the follicle wall is really an extension of the outer layer of the epidermis, so in a way open comedones and even closed ones do not occur “inside” the body.) When the follicle wall is damaged, the dead cells and sebum flood into the dermis, along with some of the bacteria that were living in the follicle. This is when inflammation starts, and with it come redness and swelling.

Now the body’s defenses spring into action. When tissues are damaged, they send out chemical distress signals. A substance called histamine makes the microscopic capillaries dilate (widen), bringing more blood into the area. One side effect of this is that the capillary walls become leaky, and fluid from the blood oozes out into the surrounding tissues, producing swelling and inflammation. The chemical distress signals sent out by damaged tissues also summon white blood cells, which act as combination soldiers and garbage collectors. They are the body’s main line of defense against things that do not belong in it. Some of the white blood cells slip through tiny gaps in the capillary walls and move into the damaged tissues, prowling along the fluid-filled spaces between cells.

Soon the inflamed pimple is the scene of a fierce battle. White cells, looking like constantly changing blobs, creep through the tissues, homing in on bacteria, dead skin cells, or bits of sebum. The white blood cells flow over their prey, literally eating them. (The technical name of these germ-fighting white cells is phagocytes,which means “eating cells.”) The battle rages on as the white blood cells tirelessly gobble down bacteria and bits of dead matter. Some of these blood-cell soldiers are overcome in the fight, “slain” by doses of poison produced by the bacteria they have consumed. These dead blood cells, along with dead bacteria, sebum, and bits of skin-cell debris, accumulate in the form of the whitish matter called pus.

In the first stages of the battle, the increased flow of blood to the region of the damaged follicle makes the swollen area look red. Soon it becomes noticeable at the surface of the skin, in the form of a small red bump called a papule.

                                 Papule

If there was only a small break in the follicle wall, the white blood cells will quickly win the fight and remove all the intruders within just a few days. The papule will disappear, and the follicle wall will be patched up with scar tissues. Sometimes the papules become hardened and remain for weeks before their contents are finally absorbed.

Often the damage is more extensive and cannot be contained right away. As the fight continues, a sac of pus forms, filled with oil and bacteria and white blood cells. At the surface, it looks like a yellowish or whitish cap on top of the red bump. It has now become a pustule.

                            Pustule

The skin over the pustule is thin, and eventually it may open, so that the pus drains out; or the white blood cells patrolling the tissues may clean up all the pus and carry it away, digesting it as they continue their patrols through the body. Papules and pustules are what we normally think of as ”pimples.”

Battle Scars

When foreign material gets into the dermis and causes inflammation, some of the connective tissue is damaged. If all goes well, new tissue will form to replace the damaged tissue, and the skin will be as good as new. However, sometimes the repair is not complete, and a hole will be left in the dermis. Epidermis grows to cover the hole, and a depressed scar is formed.

Scarring is all the more probable when the break in the follicle wall is a large one. Then a lot of sebum, dead cells, and bacteria flood into the dermis, creating a large red bump, called a nodule. This is actually a larger form of the papule, and it feels firm. You may be tempted to squeeze it, hoping that the “bad stuff” will pop out and the pimple will heal. Instead, squeezing probably will just make the scarring worse.

The body’s defenses work hard to get rid of the irritating material of the nodule. After a painful flare-up that may last for up to a week or so, the nodule may gradually subside into a papule, which in turn may take some weeks to disappear. If the accumulation of bacteria and cell matter is very large, the contents of the nodule may become enclosed inside a makeshift wall below the skin surface. Now the lesion has become a cyst, which may grow to as much as an inch in diameter. Pus builds up inside the cyst, making it feel somewhat soft. It may be red and throbbing, an “angry-looking” boil. A cyst will heal faster if it is opened, so that the contents can drain; but this is definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Opening a cyst is actually surgery, and it should be done by a doctor or other medical professional with special precautions to stop the bleeding, prevent further infection, and minimize scarring.

When the acne process progresses to cysts, the inflammation is usually very serious. The sebaceous gland in these large lesions is destroyed, and oil will never be produced in that spot again. Cysts can be painful, and scarring often occurs, so you should see a dermatologist if your acne is this serious.

                                           Cyst

Many people never get papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts because their follicle walls are strong and the pore is always forced open, creating a blackhead, before the wall can give way. Other people almost never get blackheads but have a lot of inflamed lesions. This is because their follicle walls are not as strong. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to strengthen your follicle walls. You can’t build them up with special exercises or salves or vitamins. Their strength is just something you’re born with. The same goes for scarring. Some people’s skin heals better than others’. Chance is also a big factor in scarring. If the follicle wall breaks close to the surface and if the break is small, there usually won’t be any scarring. But if it is a large break, deep in the dermis, chances are that scarring will occur.

Dry Skin Brushing – How to and Benefits

The skin, sometimes called the third kidney because of its eliminative function, is the largest organ of your body. It is responsible for one quarter of the body’s detoxification, making it one of the most important eliminative organs. When you dry skin brush, you help your lymph system cleanse itself of toxins that collect in the lymph glands. It helps the detoxification process by increasing circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system, opening the pores, and invigorating the skin.

Dry skin brushing removes the top dead layer of skin, encouraging new cells to rejuvenate. It helps make the skin glow. The gentle brushing of the bristles also has a beneficial effect on cellulite and is one of the easiest methods to improve your overall health and beauty.

There are various types of brushes, available at most health food stores. You will need a brush with a handle (some are detachable) so that you can reach all the inaccessible parts of your back. Make sure that your brush is a natural (not synthetic) bristle brush, so it won’t scratch the surface of the skin.

If you don’t have a dry skin brush, a loofah may also be used as long as it isn’t wet. If using a loofah, you’ll need a softer brush, or a flannel, for your face.

Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing

  • stimulates the lymphatic system
  • helps eliminate toxins from the body
  • increases circulation
  • helps digestion
  • strengthens immune system
  • encourages cells to regenerate
  • removes dead skin layers
  • helps combat cellulite
  • improves muscle tone
  • stimulates the nervous system and brings a great sense of well-being
  • invigorates and enhances your general health

Dry skin brush each part of your body daily, just before showering. Do not brush wet skin as it won’t have the same effect. Always brush toward the heart, beginning from the soles of your feet.

How to Brush Your Skin

  1. With long sweeping strokes, work upward from the soles of your feet to the legs and thighs.
  2. Move brush across your stomach and buttocks.
  3. Sweep brush from the palm of your hand toward your elbow and shoulder.
  4. Move from the neck down toward back and/or chest.

And some tips when brushing your skin.

  • The best time to brush is before your shower, after your morning exercise, and before breakfast (on an empty stomach).
  • Brush gently where the skin is thinnest (use a softer brush for your face).
  • Always use a natural fiber brush.
  • If your new brush is too rough, or you wish to clean it, wash it with water and mild soap and let it dry in the sun.
  • The brush is personal—do not share it with anyone else.

And you may find a visual application of dry skin brushing in this good explanatory video.

Biological Properties of Our Skin

Beauty may or may not be only skin deep, but the skin is the part of us that other people see. Inside, we may all have the same basic assortment of organs, but it is our outer appearance that makes us look unique. Even the skin on our fingers carries a set of fingerprints that no one else has.
The skin reveals a lot about our inner selves. It grows pale when we’re afraid and flushes when we’re excited or embarrassed. It always gives us away when we’re tired. Doctors can be alerted to possible internal diseases, such as diabetes and liver disease, just by examining the skin.

The Wall Around Us

The skin is a protective shield around the body, keeping out harmful things such as bacteria and pollution. It’s naturally waterproof and will not allow water past its protective shield even when submerged for long periods of time. Skin helps to give the body shape and form and keeps important fluids and our internal organs inside and safe from harm. It protects the body from heat and cold by regulating the body temperature. Unlike a coat made of cloth, which no longer fits when you outgrow it, the skin can contract and expand like a balloon. Think of all the times you ate just a little too much, and the skin on your belly stretched, only to return later to its normal size. The skin grows around us as we grow taller and wider. It also has an amazing ability to repair itself if it is cut, torn, or burned.
Our skin is more than just a self-repairing, protective overcoat, though. It is an organ of the body, and a very active one, at that. It helps to rid the body of excess fluids, salts, and wastes. Some skin cells are like miniature factories, producing a variety of hormones and other substances and carrying out various chemical reactions. (Under the action of sunlight on the skin, for example, vitamin D is converted to an active form that helps to control the formation of bone.) The skin is also a sense organ that brings us information about the world: Through it we feel pain and pleasure, heat and cold.
It may seem a bit strange to think of the skin as an organ, like the heart or brain. What is even more surprising is that it is the largest organ in the body. If all of a person’s skin were stretched out, it would be large enough to cover a tabletop or a door—twenty square feet or so—and it weighs about eight pounds. The skin is made up of billions of cells, each microscopic in size. These cells are constantly being replaced. A skin cell lasts less than a month from the time it is formed until it falls off and becomes a tiny flake of dust. That means that every month you have a completely new skin covering on your body.
The skin is divided into three basic layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer.

The Outer Layer

Did you know that every skin cell that you can see is dead? No, you’re not suffering from some mysterious disease. This is a perfectly normal state of affairs for the amazing outer covering of your body. The outermost layer of the skin is called the epidermis. (Epimeans “over”; it lies over the dermis, the layer that makes up the bulk of the skin.) The epidermis is about as thick as a sheet of paper. It is composed of fifteen to twenty layers of cells stacked on top of each other.

                            Epidermis

New cells are created in the deepest part of the epidermis, called the basal layer. Cells reproduce by dividing. As the skin cells get older they are pushed upward toward the outer surface of the epidermis by new cells that are forming. As they move outward, they become flatter, accumulate a horny protein called keratin, and start to lose precious moisture that keeps them alive. Eventually, by the time the epidermal cells reach the outer surface, they are completely flat and have lost most of the cell fluid. The nucleus—the ”brain” that holds the instructions for all the living cell’s activities — has disappeared.

It takes an epidermal cell about two weeks to reach the upper layer on the outer surface of the body. This layer is exposed to the air, which would quickly dry and kill living cells. But the cells of this outermost layer are all dead, and they form a hardened protective shell called the stratum corneum (literally, the “horny layer”) over the living cells beneath. At some time during the next two weeks the dead cell falls off or is washed away—perhaps speeded in its departure by the rub of a towel or the scratch of a fingernail. The loss of dead cells from the outer layer of the skin is a natural process that goes on continually. Normally we don’t notice it. But when dead skin cells are shed too quickly, psoriasis or dandruff may be the result.

The epidermis serves mostly as protection for the body. In addition to providing a physical shield, this part of the skin also protects us from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. The basal layer of the epidermis contains melanocytes, cells that give the skin its color by producing tiny particles of the pigment melanin. Melanin particles absorb the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation and keep it from damaging the body’s delicate cells and chemicals.

A fascinating thing about melanocytes is that everyone has basically the same number of them. The reason there are people of many different colors in the world is that each person inherits genes that tell the melanocytes just how much melanin to produce and how big each melanin particle will be.

When skin is exposed to the sun, the melanocytes produce more melanin. This extra pigment produces a darkening effect—a suntan—and provides better protection. People who are very fair may not be able to make enough melanin to protect themselves effectively. Then the ultraviolet in the sun’s rays can damage skin cells, producing a painful sunburn.

The Living Skin

                            Dermis

Beneath the epidermis is another major skin layer, the dermis. Its name comes from the Greek word for skin, and this layer makes up about 90 percent of the skin. All of the cells in the dermis are alive, and they are nourished by a rich network of millions of tiny blood vessels, called capillaries. The dermis also contains numerous nerve endings, as well as hair follicles, sweat glands, and oil glands. They are all held in place by a strong yet very elastic substance called collagen, which has been called ”nature’s nylon.”

If harmful microbes get into the dermis—perhaps through a cut or scrape in the protective barrier of the epidermis—they may begin to multiply, producing an infection. Then another series of body defenses goes into action. Chemicals released by the damaged cells cause the walls of the tiny blood vessels in the skin to get leaky, and fluid from the blood seeps out into the tissues. This process is called inflammation. Disease-fighting white blood cells squeeze their way out of the capillaries and roam through the dermis on search and destroy missions against the invading microbes.

The dermis gives the skin its strength, yet can stretch to allow the body to move freely. (As we age, the dermis grows thinner, and the accumulated effects of the years and exposure to the sun make it lose its elastic springiness; gradually it stretches out and sags, producing wrinkles.)

This important skin layer also contains a number of sensory nerves that end in specialized sense receptors. Some respond to heat, others to cold. Some are sensitive to the slightest touch, some to a firmer pressure; still others provide warning signals of pain when skin cells are being damaged.

The network of tiny blood vessels crisscrossing the dermis brings oxygen and nutrients to keep the epidermal cells alive and carries away their waste products. The capillaries also expand and contract to help cool the body down or warm it up. When the air around you is hot, special sensors in the skin send messages along nerves to the brain. These messages spark a new set of signals, which cause the capillaries to expand. Then they have a larger surface for radiating heat, which passes out through the skin directly to the air or is taken up by the water in sweat, which carries heat out of the body. Cold air against the skin surface is also reported by skin sensors, prompting signals that cause the capillaries to contract. That decreases their radiating surface and helps to conserve body heat that would otherwise be lost through the skin. The body’s system of internal ”thermostats” fine-tunes the various processes of conserving and releasing heat, so that the inner body temperature stays at about the same level no matter how hot or cold it is outside.

When the capillaries in the dermis expand, the reflections of the red blood cells that they carry give the skin a rosy color. (Not only heat but also emotions can spark this reaction. That is what happens when you blush in embarrassment.) When the capillaries contract, they take up a smaller fraction of the skin area, so not as much of the red color is visible. Then the skin turns pale. (This reaction, too, can be produced by strong emotions.)

The tiny coiled tubes of the sweat glands are found in the dermis but extend up through the epidermis and end at the surface in openings called pores. Sweat pores are too small to see with the naked eye. Over the entire body surface, there are between two and five million of these sweat glands!

What is Acne and Why It Attacks During Puberty?

Tonight is the big night. You’ve been looking forward to the school dance all week. Now it’s almost time to go. You glance in the mirror while you’re washing your face.What’s that on the tip of your nose? It’s big and awful. It’s a zit! “Why me?” you cry.

If you have that common skin disorder called acne, you’re not alone. Close to 90 percent of all teenagers are bothered by acne sometime between the ages of twelve and seventeen.For some it’s only an occasional pimple or so. But for others it could mean painful red sores all over the face, neck, chest, and back.Most people grow out of acne by their late teens, but for some it can last until their twenties, thirties, and forties. Acne can also leave behind scars that cause psychological stress for a person’s whole life.

Most people don’t think of acne as a disease or a disorder. It’s just one of those awful things teenagers have to face while growing up, and there’s really nothing much you can do about it.

Not so! 

Why people get acne is still partly a mystery and, like the common cold, acne has no cure. But skin specialists and researchers know enough about acne so that almost every case is treatable.

Although doctors are not sure exactly why it starts, they have a pretty good idea of how it develops. After all, they’ve had a long time to study acne. This condition has been around for as long as there have been people—teenagers have been plagued by acne for thousands of years.

Even if you’re a pharaoh, you may still have problems with acne.

King Tut, the best-known Egyptian pharaoh, was only in his teens when he died. Scientists can tell that this famous teenager had the same problems with pimples as teens do today. Various medications were put in Tutankhamen’s tomb to help treat his acne problem in the afterlife.

Everyone knows what the blotches, blackheads, and pimples of acne look like, but there are many myths and misconceptions about this condition. Lots of people have lots of different ideas about what causes acne and how to get rid of it.

Generally, when we think of acne we think of acne vulgaris. (Vulgaris in Latin means “common.”) It is a disorder of the hair follicles and their attached oil glands in the skin, and its symptoms can vary from just a few pimples to many deep cysts.

Why Acne Attacks Teens and Adolescents

Most people get acne during adolescence. It seems unfair that this extra burden should be added, just when a boy or girl has so many other upsetting adjustments to cope with. But the acne process seems to be linked with the whole sweeping complex of changes that occur in the adolescent body.

During the teen years the body is flooded with hormones that stimulate many changes. Hormones are chemicals that help to control and coordinate body processes. Different hormones are produced to regulate nearly everything that goes on inside us. Growth hormones stimulate growth, for example, and sex hormones control sexual development. Adolescence is a time when both these types are produced in abundance.

At puberty the pituitary gland, the master gland that is found at the base of the brain, tells the body to start making sex hormones. In boys the main sex hormone that is produced is testosterone, which is made in the testes. In girls estrogen and progesterone are produced in the ovaries. Testosterone and progesterone are chemically very similar, and together with the estrogen’s, they belong to a class of compounds called steroids.

In addition to sparking a rapid growth and development of the sex organs, the sex hormones stimulate the formation of secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts in a woman and facial hair in a man. They also cause the oil glands in the skin to grow larger and secrete more oil. Sometimes, though, too much oil is produced. This may result in acne.

Most adolescents eventually outgrow acne. That is, it usually goes away by itself. But it may be years before it stays away. During that time, many teenagers often feel uncomfortable about their “spotty” complexions. They may feel awkward about the way they look and tend to shy away from people and activities because of their self-consciousness. Worse yet, in severe cases scars can remain behind to haunt a person for the rest of his or her life. Many people will try anything to get rid of their acne problems.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for acne. No injection will cause pimples to disappear overnight and stay away. You can’t take a pill to banish unsightly spots. Controlling acne is something that has to be worked on every day, and treatments do not produce immediate results. Often it takes one to two months of treatment before an acne problem is finally under control. Even then you have to continue the treatment, or else the pimples may come back.

You may be able to keep an acne problem under control by yourself. Nearly 90 percent of all people with acne don’t go to a doctor. Instead, they try to deal with their acne by using one of the countless products available from supermarkets and drugstores. However, if you decide your acne is too much for you to handle on your own, you may wish to see your family doctor or a skin specialist, called a dermatologist, for help.

Even with a dermatologist, the battle against acne is a team effort. You will have to follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully every day.

Whether you fight acne with a doctor’s help or on your own, you should know as much as possible about it so that you can understand what’s going on in your body and how you can best help conquer those annoying spots. This book will help you by describing how pimples form and what today’s medical specialists know about the causes of acne. In later chapters you’ll find out how to treat pimples on your own, when you need to see a specialist, and what a dermatologist can do to help. But first let’s find out more about the part of the body that acne affects most directly—the skin.

Five Tips for Everyday Skin Health

Your skin is the most remarkable feature on your body and to take care of it in a gentle, healthy manner, you do what any other person would do- you go to the beauty store. The beauty industry has manufactured vast amounts of glowing, colorful bottles of body butters—each with its own inviting string of words, each proclaiming that it’ll reduce your aging, your sunspots and your dry skin!

Be Gentle

Be Gentle with Your Skin

Constant shaving and make up usage can pack a real punch to your skin cells.
When you shower or bathe, limit your time in the water. If you bathe for too long, your skin begins to lose its important oils that fight back against chemicals and pathogens. When bathing, remember to use warm water; limit your hot water usage.

Also, when choosing soap, use something weak. Strong detergents similarly alter your skin’s oil construction, thus stripping your body’s important fences from your exterior. Find a mild cleanser.

While shaving, always lubricate. Apply lotion, shaving cream, or gel to your skin and always utilize a sharp razor. Contrary to popular belief, you should shave in the direction of your hair’s growth. Be conscious about your towel usage. When you remove yourself from the shower or bath, pat yourself dry instead of scrubbing at yourself. Patting yourself allows moisture to remain on your skin. It allows your skin to further retain oils.

Utilize a natural, chemical-free moisturizer.

Be Careful with the Sun

Be Careful with the Sun

Despite the summertime search for the perfect tan, we all know that sun damage contributes to a wealth of problems: things like wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer. Not all skin types can handle the same amount of sun. This ultimate amount of sun is based on your stock of melatonin: if you have darker skin, your body is ready to absorb sunshine. If you have lighter skin, your body cannot absorb as much sun without problems. Regardless of your amount of melatonin, however, it’s best to take precaution.

Always use sunscreen. Your SPF should be at least 15, and you must reapply every two hours. If you are swimming or exercising, you should reapply more often.

Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the sun is its most direct and intense. These are not “prime pool hours.” Instead, seek shade beneath pool umbrella or a tree. Enjoy the outdoors, of course, but opt for sunscreen and shade at all times.

Wear proper clothing. Woven cloth should cover your arms and your legs. Opt for a wide-brim hat, as well, in order to protect your face. When doing laundry, utilize special laundry detergent with ultraviolet ray protection. This provides an added anti-sun layer to your clothing.

No Nicotine

Say No to Smoking

We all understand the detrimental effects of smoking on the lungs and teeth. However, smoking rallies hard against your skin. Smoking decreases blood vessel flow in your dermis; therefore, the nutrients and oxygen required in the basal cell layer for cell creation are low. Your skin cells become weak and more susceptible to wrinkles.

Furthermore, smoking damages your dermis’ elastin and collagen. As aforementioned, these layers allow for strength and elasticity. Damaging them contributes to pre-aging. Your skin will lose its elasticity and begin to fall in on itself. You will lose that youthful glow. Quit smoking as soon as possible. Ask your health professional for assistance.

Try to Reduce Stress

Stress’ effects on the body are unlimited. Your body releases a hormone called cortisol when your body feels the “fight or flight response.” This response is, of course, necessary for survival. When you are in danger or closing in on a work deadline, cortisol works to rev your cells. It forces you to respire more quickly and push into immediate action. However, continued stress allows cortisol to become rampant in your system. It begins to work like a free radical, damaging and killing your cells. Therefore, when it arrives in your basal cell layer—where new skin cells are always forming—it can actually damage these cells. When free radicals damage skin cells, the cells begin to die. This contributes to pre-formed wrinkles.

Work through your stress and remember to take the time to calm yourself. Your skin will thank you.

Have a Balanced Diet

Balanced Diet

Your diet affects every part of your body. An unhealthy diet, most notably, creates inflammation in your digestive system. This inflammation creates an inability to leek all the nutrients from the food to your blood vessels. Therefore, your body cannot deliver the proper nutrients to your skin cells; as a result your skin cells do not have the building blocks to become powerful, thriving members of your body’s biggest and most-beautiful defense system.

Load up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables allow for healthy digestion and decrease inflammation. Furthermore, they’re filled with phytonutrients that actually decrease wrinkle-causing free radicals in your skin.

In addition, fruits and vegetables are filled with Vitamin C. Vitamin C fights back against the stress hormone, cortisol. As aforementioned, cortisol causes a wealth of problems when chronic stress takes hold of your body. Cortisol increases free radical damage.

Avoid processed sugar like the plague. Processed sugar causes interior inflammation and contains no vitamins or nutrients. It contributes to acne, skin spots, and increased wrinkles.

Calming Body Butter with Orange and Apricot

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Shea butter
  • ¼ cup cocoa butter
  • ½ cup apricot kernel oil
  • 1 tsp. vitamin E
  • 4-5 drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Directions:

Bring the Shea butter and the cocoa butter together in a glass bowl. To the side, allow a pot of water to come to a simmer on low heat. After it begins to simmer, place the glass bowl full of butters in the hot water and allow the butters to melt. Stir occasionally.

Next, remove the glass bowl from the hot water and pour in the apricot oil. Stir well. Immediately afterwards, place the glass bowl in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. The top of the mixture will become a bit cloudy.

When you remove the mixture from the refrigerator, add the vitamin E and the 4-5 drops of Sweet Orange essential oil. Utilizing a hand mixer, whip the mixture until firm peaks begin to form. The mixture should appear whipped cream-like. Afterwards, place the body butter in a sealable container and store it in a cool, dry location.

Stress Relief Body Butter with Mango and Citrus

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mango butter
  • 2/3 cup Shea butter
  • 3 tsp. grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp. jojoba oil
  • 10 drops bergamot essential oil
  • ¼ tsp. vitamin E
  • 8 drops lemongra
  • 8 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 2 drops cypress essential oil
  • 8 drops palmaros essential oil
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 drop rose geranium

Directions:

Begin by placing the mango butter and the Shea butter in a glass bowl. Bring a pot of water to a simmer and place your glass bowl in the water to allow the butters to melt. Stir occasionally.

When the butters are melted, remove the glass bowl from the heat and stir in the grapeseed oil, the jojoba oil, the essential oils, vitamin E, cornstarch, and the rose geranium. Stir well, assimilating everything. Place the glass bowl in the refrigerator and allow the ingredients to chill for thirty minutes.

When the mixture has chilled, hand mix the body butter for several minutes. You’ll begin to see peaks. When the mixture looks a bit liked whipped cream, spoon the mixture into a safe, sterilized container for later use!

Skin-Tightening Body Butter with Rosehip and Arnica

Rosehip essential oil is perfect for tightening your skin and assisting in a boost of skin cell production in your basal cell layer. This is because it’s stocked with vitamin A. Furthermore, arnica essential oil has been utilized for countless years to assist with muscle relaxation and tired limbs.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Shea butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup kokum butter
  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp. rosehip essential oil
  • 2 tbsp. arnica essential oil

Directions:

Bring everything into a glass bowl: the Shea butter, the coconut oil, the kokum butter, the avocado oil, the rosehip essential oil, and the arnica essential oil. To the side, bring a pot of water to a simmer. Afterwards, place the glass bowl in the simmering water and allow the oils and butters to melt together slowly. Stir occasionally.

After the oils and butters have mixed, place the glass bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to harden for about three hours. It should begin to look cloudy. After you remove it from the refrigerator, whip it on a high setting for about fifteen minutes. When your body butter begins to look like whipped cream or good-enough-to-eat frosting, you’ve completed it. Store the body butter is sealable containers and place them in a cool, dark, and dry location.

Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Itch Body Butter with Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin is the anti-bacterial agent in this avocado-rich body butter. It further brings oxygen into your blood and is quite a rejuvenating moisturizer. The anti-itch element comes upon application.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Shea butter
  • ½ cup cocoa butter
  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable glycerin
  • 2 tsp. gluten-free colloidal oatmeal

Directions:

Begin by placing the Shea butter in a food processor. Pulse the Shea butter several times. As the processor continues to run, add the avocado oil and the vegetable glycerin.

To the side, place the cocoa butter in a small glass bowl. Allow a pot of water to come to a simmer, and place the cocoa butter glass bowl in the center of the pot, allowing the cocoa butter to melt. After the cocoa butter melts, remove it from the heat.

Add the cocoa butter to the food processor and mix well until everything is perfectly assimilated. Scoop the mixture into a sealable container and store in a clean, dry, and dark location.

For the anti-itch benefits, add 2 teaspoons of gluten-free colloidal oatmeal for each ½ cup of body butter and apply to any itchy area for total rejuvenation. This will soothe your skin and reduce inflammation.