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Wednesday, February 8, 2012 in , , ,

Consult the Herbal Chemist - Acne Rescue Au Natural Part 3

Today is the final installment in my holistic, healthful, and natural suggestions for acne treatment. Have you been keeping up with Part 1, Part 2, and our article on the link between stress and skin problems? If you have you're armed with a few new ideas to try.

On to step 4 to help you prevent and manage acne...
4. Moisturize and spot treat with something soothing and anti-inflammatory - not drying!!

Here's an important premise even people with acne should remember.

Hydration makes skin happy.

With all the products out there to "dry" pimples or that are astringents a lot of overzealous, concerned folks will overtreat and irritate their skin. It's easy to do. Most marketing revolves around oil being blamed as the source of your problem, but as we've discussed it can be interior triggers like hormones, stress, and the foods you eat. Oil isn't always the culprit.
Acne is an inflamed situation - the pimple itself is swollen, aggravated, and painful. What it needs more than anything is soothing.

One of my primary gripes with Benzoyl Peroxide is that while it can kill acne bacteria it can also really dry and irritate the skin on the pimple and in the immediate surrounding area. So then you've taken a bad situation and made it worse with more irritation to repair. Double whammy! If you can fight bacteria and calm at the same time you'll be in much better shape. Keep your skin supple, hydrated, and calm so it can concentrate on defending itself from bacteria.

Your skin is intelligent and responsive to its environment and what you apply to it. If you are drying, drying, drying your skin your skin will begin to think that it is oil deficient and respond by producing even more oil.

So what about oil-free moisturizers? It seems like a good deal - theoretically you are getting moisturization without excess oil. You should be aware that many creams marketed as oil-free contain highly synthetic emollients, penetrants, and softening agents like this
Oil Free Moisturizer from Alba which contains dimethicone, a silicone which would coat your skin instead of soaking in, and octyl palmitate, a synthetic ester produced from palmitic acid from palm oil that has a silicone-like feel. Octyl palmitate rates a 4 out of 5 as a comedogenic ingredient. Comedogenic means pore-clogging.

What on earth are these formulators doing using coating, clogging ingredients when they know that the people most likely to purchase an oil-free product generally have acne problems!?!?! Please for the love of pete skip using this product or its ugly stepsisters that abound all through your local drug and grocery stores. (And really skip the whole Alba brand, which is the pits in terms of actual natural quality and to which I and numerous others I know have had pronounced allergic reactions). In addition to pore clogging synthetics and silicones you're also getting synthetic fragrance and the most watered-down, fake botanical extracts you could ever find in a product. The part that really hurts is that this product might set you back anywhere from $13 to $30. For that much you can have a really good quality, clean natural product that won't cause you even more problems. Keep moving and save your precious funds for something truly beneficial.

"Oil-free" moisturizers are one of the dirty little secrets of the mass market skincare world. The way they are constructed and marketed is closely akin to how the food industry created low-fat foods by taking out the fat and pumping in a whole lot of artificial thickeners and sugars to replace the mouthy feel and flavor in products.
A low fat cookie is no healthier for you - nearly the same calories, no vitamins, no fiber, and loads of flavoring agents and texturizers. But through the magic of marketing they can smack LOW FAT or FAT FREE on the packaging and people feel like they can eat the whole box. Oil-free moisturizers are the Snackwells of the skincare world. It's all slick sales and not actually good for you.

There's just no reason to use a bunch of synthetic replacements when real, nutrient rich, botanical oils are GOOD for your skin in the right amounts and also don't clog pores. Plus they come with anti-aging benefits as a hefty bonus. Sorry, Octyl Palmitate and Dimethicone, you can't claim anything close to that.

Choices for Oil-Rich and Acne Prone Complexions

1. An Aloe gel or herbal serum like
Dr. Alkaitis Organic Herbal Toner.

The consistency of this lovely product is just perfect. A base of real Aloe Vera and a host of regenerative herbs are a perfect treat to feed and heal. It isn't sticky and though it says "toner" in the title an oily complexion could easily use this product alone to hydrate or in combination with other products. It's amazing and is probably one of my favorite aloe based products I have ever used other than my own line.

Aloe Vera has polysaccharides and glycoproteins that short circuit inflammation, moisturize, and stimulate growth and repair. There's nothing about that your skin won't love.

DON'T just get any old "aloe gel" product from your local drugstore. Most commercial aloe gels are a faked mixture of aloe's polysaccharide components and not even from the actual plant. They're full of synthetic carbomers, colorants, and preservatives. That is a tragic representation of real aloe juice. To assure you're getting the real thing stick to certified organic aloe. The certification assures traceability back to the field. There's so much organic aloe being grown as well that there is no reason a company shouldn't be using it except to cut costs and potentially shortchange you in the bargain.

If you don't have or don't want to invest the dollars in a higher end treatment the best advice is to get a nice hefty aloe plant. Break off a leaf and squeeze every time you want to soothe. Voila! On-demand juice that will leave your face perfectly moist and nourished every time. I have 3 aloe plants for just such purposes.
2. Organic Jojoba Oil (with or without a little essential oil)For a simple, affordable moisturizer try Organic Jojoba Oil, and add 3 drops of your choice of essential oil per each oz for added benefit. Organic Jojoba isn't actually a triglyceride oil, it's a liquid wax. It is highly absorbent and similar to skin's sebum structure, making it perfectly compatible with skin. The addition of essential oil discourages bacterial growth. It's readily available through your local health food store or many online beauty resources and very shelf stable, meaning it won't go rancid quickly. Using a small amount of jojoba can condition your skin and help manage sebum production.

3. Lightweight, Balancing MoisturizersInstead of Oil-free try a lightweight moisturizer that contains small amounts of absorbent, nutrient-rich, plant oils. Oils like argan, pumpkin seed, fruit seed oils like grapeseed, blueberry, red raspberry, and cranberry, and exotic lightweight oils like perilla seed oil pack antioxidants, sterols, and vitamins as well as absorbancy. A small amount won't overdo you.

Can you actually use a straight facial oil other than just jojoba? The answer is yes depending on the oil blend. Just put a little on your fingertips and pat the residue onto the face. Botanical oils often contain anti-inflammatory compounds that will do your irritations a world of good.

For a budget friendly cream moisturizer maybe something like Logona's Clear Skin Moisture Fluid would fit the bill for you. Or perhaps you'll enjoy something from their similarly BDIH Natural Cosmetic certified twin Lavera - their Young Faces Mint Moisturizing Fluid?

Both these products use more neutral oils for their bases but the texture is lovely and European BDIH certification ensures that you're getting a truly natural product that is tested and certified to a strict standard. If you can't go organic then BDIH is a great seal to look for.

4. NiacinamideNiacinamide is Vitamin B3 recommended by natural dermatologists for anti-acne benefits. Read more about Niacinamide in this article. A 1995 study showed that a 4% Niacinamide product had results better than Clindamycin, an antiobiotic. It's benefits include moderating oil production, building collagen, evening coloration, and helping skin retain hydration so you don't end up dry in the middle of the day. It's a winning ingredient all around for fighting acne problems. And yes, I feature Niacinamide in numerous Blissoma moisturizers including Smooth A+ Serum which contains the recommended 4%.

5. HerbsWillowbark for exfoliation, Chamomile, Comfrey, and Calendula for calming, Yarrow for astringency, Fennel to deter bacteria, Gotu Kola, Echinacea, Licorice, and many more.

As with anything the quality of the herbs matters.
You can get your herbs as extracts in the skincare products you purchase or get loose herbs to make your own infusion for a compress. For a compress dip a clean washcloth in a strong infusion of herbs and water and press it gently to your problem areas. Dip and press again when the washcloth cools.

6. MasksIt's great to have something to apply directly to your problem areas or as a deep cleaning, proactive treatment. A weekly mask is your best answer for a regular routine. Choose something that will offer you a boost and variety of nutrition, perhaps at higher levels than what you use daily.

Clays are one of the top choices for oil management, pore cleansing, and overall detoxification. There are a lot of clay mask choices in the naturals community available so experiment and try a few so you can decide what works best for your skin. Some come dry and some come wet. For a preblended dry clay you could try this mask from Anne Marie Gianni Skincare, another Fig+Sage endorsed natural skincare brand also endorsed glowingly by the Glamorganic Goddess. For a wet, creamy, premixed clay mask check out our Refine Clay Renewal Treatment. You can also purchase just straight Kaolin, Pink, Green, or other types of clays and mix them with water for your own DIY mask. Leave a dot of clay mixture directly on a pimple overnight to shrink it.

Acid masks and peels are popular for exfoliation and these can be fine used in moderation. If you use them keep it to once a week. Most use fruit acids, glycolic, or lactic acids. Overuse of these can irritate skin so take it easy. Beta-Hydroxy acids like the natural salicylates found in Willow Bark are also a great choice and can be less irritating for some people.

Other DIY mask ideas:

- Mash a Mango and Papaya together and apply to the face. Papaya contains the enzyme papain that will dissolve dead skin cells and exfoliate for you.

- Apply raw honey to the face, let sit 15 minutes, and then wash off. Honey is moisturizing and has natural antibacterial qualities. Purchase a certified organic, raw, unrefined honey for full benefits or at the very least something from a local farm. Why? Because in recent food testing it was found
that most honey at your grocery store may not really be honey at all. Lack of pollen content in highly refined "honeys" means there is no way to verify that it is truly honey. Local honeys by small family farms all had pollen content, and certified organics will be traceable. Considering this information you might want to change the honey you're eating too!

- Use organic, full fat, unflavored Yogurt to deep condition and provide a burst of pro-biotics. Make sure you get organic and unflavored as mass market fruit yogurts mostly contain a lot of sugar, flavorings, artificial color, and preservatives.

- Try this recipe for a Chocolate/Avocado/Honey/Green Tea/Oatmeal mask.

- A Cucumber/Yogurt/Clay mask might be to your liking and this recipe from The Herb Companion will tell you just how to do it.

- Steam your face with herbs for deep pore cleansing, detox, and toning. Use the Chamomile, Peppermint, Rooibos, and Green teas already in your cabinet at home for a
steam experience using these directions.

There are so many ways to treat your acne-prone skin to botanicals that will help fortify you to fight your inflammations and come out victorious. Treating acne problems holistically looks for the root of the problem in order to provide a long term, safe, and sustainable solution.
The best thing is that most changes you can make as part of your holistic acne transformation will benefit your total health as well. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Get to it! We want to see those pretty skin pictures....

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Consult the Herbal Chemist - Acne Rescue Au Natural Part 2

Everyone wants to know what will work to solve their difficult acne problems. There's no one magic bullet but you can have a big effect on your biology and environmental factors through what you do. Changing your behavior may make a big change for your skin.

A successful acne remedy generally involves a whole lifestyle approach. Using the right skincare matters but it is also about the foods you are eating and your stress levels. For ideas on how you can start to revamp your eating habits see Part 1 of this series. Going organic and plant-based in your diet is a huge step in the right direction and your total health will also improve as a result. There's so much more to cover with the internal/external health link but today is about how you can simply and effectively treat your acne using skincare methods and products on the exterior. Here's the third step in my recommendations for natural acne prevention and treatment.

3. Use a gentle, natural cleansing routine daily to exfoliate, balance sebum, kill bacteria, and maintain proper PH.

Exfoliation is a big skincare buzzword, but what is it and why do it?

Skin cells replicate and die off each day as part of the skin’s natural repair and growth cycles. The dead skin cells may slough off but some individuals’ skin may not maintain itself as efficiently. This causes buildup of dead skin cells on the surface and can cause a dull appearance, patchy and flaky areas, and clogged pores. The skin replicates less efficiently as individuals age and regular but gentle exfoliation can help maintain a smooth, fresh, bright appearance. A clogged pore is a pore likely to get a pimple, so helping your skin with its daily renewal is a great idea.

Exfoliation can be done manually with a mild abrasive, but a gentler way to go at it can be enzymes such as Bromelain from Pineapple, Papain from Papaya, and even Kiwi Fruit juice will dissolve dead skin cells. A mild acid like the Beta Hydroxy Acid salicylates in Willow Bark will dissolve dead skin cells too. Even just using a terry washcloth to gently wipe your face while removing your cleanser can provide benefit. Over-exfoliation is not a good thing and gentle is the key word for good results. Take it easy on yourself.

Environmental pollutants and occlusive moisturizing agents like petroleum oils can also block pores so cleansing helps remove these external factors as well as your own dead skin cells.

For the best in gentle and effective exfoliation some people swear by a fun little gadget called the Clarisonic.It has a brush head that gently polishes away dead skin cells. It's a strictly manual method that uses no chemicals at all, and Terri Bly of The Nature of Beauty calls it "the perfect facial cleansing and exfoliating system".

How does it work?
Terri says, "Using ultrasonic technology, the facial brush uses a sonic frequency of more than 300 movements per second to remove 6X more makeup and 2X more dirt and oil than cleansing with your hands alone. Even better, it does so without irritating the skin." For more compelling, complimentary information on the Clarisonic see her article "Why you should have a Clarisonic". It can be used alone with warm water or with your favorite herbal cleanser for added benefits.

Balancing Sebum
Sebum, your natural skin oil, protects the skin and creates what is known as the acid mantle. The acid mantle is hostile to many types of bacteria. It also serves as a food and breeding ground for other types of bacteria though, such as Propionibacterium Acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne lesions. When sebum levels are overly abundant the bacteria have a ready supply of food, leading to growth. Ideally sebum levels should be enough to provide comfort and protection but not feed bacteria. Daily cleansing with gentle products can remove excess sebum and still leave skin conditioned and comfortable.

Kill/Discourage Bacteria Populations
The first route by which cleansing discourages bacterial buildup is by physically removing anything deposited on the skin through your environment (dirty hands, fabrics and air) and by removing excess sebum that serves as food for bacteria, as mentioned above. The second route can be by actually killing bacteria using herbs, oils, or other medicines. I prefer a strictly botanical approach.

Many natural acne products concentrate on Tea Tree oil due to a proven antibacterial fraction in the oil called Terpen-4-ol. It does directly kill acne bacteria. However, it can also be quite drying and for some people Tea Tree oil prompts allergic reaction.

Most essential oils have antibacterial qualities and are highly mobile into skin, which make them uniquely suited to natural acne treatment.
They discourage bacteria on the surface and work against bacterial growth inside pores. For common antibacterial essential oils that may help manage acne more gently than Tea Tree oil try Lavender, Rose, Palmarosa, Geranium, Cedarwood, Myrhh, Bergamot, and Frankincense.
For more specific recommendations on these and other essential oils from respected herbal and essential oil expert Jeanne Rose see her article "Antibacerial/Acne-Fighting Essential Oils".

Tea Tree oil is suitable mostly for acne in teen and young adult skin types. I would not recommend Tea Tree oil for anyone above the age of 25 due to excessive drying and potential for irritation. Take care with essential oils and always dilute them well before use.

Maintain Proper Skin PH
Your skin is made of proteins. The building blocks for proteins are amino acids. Notice the word acid there. Your skin is naturally acidic with a PH of somewhere between 4 and 6. 7 is neutral PH and anything above 7 is basic.
Many people are damaging their naturally acidic skin PH by using alkaline cleansers. Once the acid mantle is removed or compromised your skin's defenses are down and acne bacteria can flourish. A typical soap cleanser will have a PH of 9 or 10 - solidly alkaline. Some people have more resilient skin than others and may rebound quickly from washing with an alkaline cleanser. Some lucky people have other genetic factors that contribute to a lack of acne bacteria growth. But for those who are exceptionally PH sensitive or have a propensity for acne this PH change can be disastrous.

According to a paper titled The Importance of Skin PH by Gil Yosipovitch, MD and Judy Hu, MD from 2003 it can take skin up to 14 hours to return to normal PH. That means if you are washing twice a day with a soap cleanser your skin may never be reaching optimal PH, leaving you vulnerable to acne bacteria ALL THE TIME. Wow! That is a skincare juggernaut as far as I'm concerned. Acne is not the only detrimental effect from skin PH being too high. Some people may simply be experiencing dryness or discomfort, so proper PH isn't just for acne sufferers. Increased skin PH is also related to other disturbed skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.

If you're using a soap-based cleanser and have acne problems stop now and switch to something with an acidic PH that will not damage your acid mantle.

How can you tell if a cleanser is a good PH for you? Unfortunately many of the natural facial cleansers that are available, even liquid cleansers, are soaps. Look for "liquid castile soap" or "saponified oils of" in the ingredient declaration. Other ways it may be listed is "Sodium Cocoate", "Sodium Olivate", "Potassium Cocoate", "Potassium Olivate" or potentially as just botanical oils and then Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide.

Cream cleansers, oil based cleansers, and those using mild glucoside cleansers like cocoglucoside and decyl glucoside would be something to look for instead. I still have my personal preferences even within PH correct cleansers but the point is to help you make an educated decision about what product is right for you.

None is what I'm saying is meant to speak badly overall of natural soaps. Natural soaps are wonderfully simple products and generally toxin-free, which is how they've made their way so well into the routines of many natural and organic lifestyle lovers. However, when I get a client who tells me they've used many natural skincare lines and are still having no luck with their persistent acne a non-soap cleanser is the first thing I recommend. Change your cleanser and see what happens for you. Improper PH may be the culprit.

A cleanser to try that would be correct PH, soap-free, and the pinnacle of clean ingredients would be Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Anti-Aging Cleanser.

As evidence of what the right, non-soap cleanser can do for acne-prone skin check out this proud, bare-faced Twitter post from one of our fans of Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser.

Also watch this video from ILuvJesse444 who thought she had oily skin with her acne but it turns out a cleanser switch to a non-soap made all the difference.

Cleansing is incredibly important and the right cleansing routine can change your whole skin condition.
Make the commitment to find the proper cleansing routine for YOU and the benefits will come. Whether it's the Clarisonic, an essential oil, or a cleanser product something is out there that will set your skin up for success.

I'll be back tomorrow with some moisturizing, spot treatment, and mask ideas to finish off. Stay tuned!

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