Sunday, June 17, 2007

Improving Tolerance of Carbohydrate

People who are carbohydrate intolerant can slow down their aging and reduce the risk of diabetes by taking steps to improve their carbohydrate metabolism. Furthermore, it is believe that these steps are useful for anyone over thirty as they reduce the risk of developing carbohydrate intolerance or diabetes in the future.

Reducing glycemic effect of meals : As we ingest food, the enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract break it down into small molecules, such as simple sugars, aminoacids and peptides. Many foods, from ice-cream to pizza to pop-corn, contain glucose or other sugars that are converted to glucose in the body. Usually, glucose is in the form of starch, a branched polymer made up of many glucose molecules, or sucrose, a sugar consisting of one glucose and one fructose molecule. As the food is digested, the glucose it contains is released and absorbed into the bloodstream, which causes blood glucose level to rise. (Scientists call this glycemic effect of food.) How dramatic such a rise would be depends on several factors: (1) how much glucose a meal contains; (2) in which form this glucose is (e.g. starch or sugar); (3) are there other food ingredients, such as fiber, that affect the rate glucose absorption. Meals that produce less dramatic rise of blood glucose tend to be better for one's carbohydrate metabolism. Generally, among nutritionally equivalent alternatives, the food with smaller glycemic effect should be preferred. For instance, glycemic effect of a whole grain rye bread is 32 percent smaller than that of the equivalent amount of white bread. Guess which is better for your health!

Fiber: Over the past decades, research has promoted fiber from a nearly useless non-nutrient filler in plant-derived foods to an important food constituent conducive of health and longevity. Chemically, fibers are a diverse group of plant polymers based on polysaccharide chains. In contrast to starch, which is also a type of polysaccharide, fibers cannot be digested by humans, and pass through the gastrointestinal tract fully or partially intact. Large amounts of fiber in the diet make stools soft and bulky.

Fiber came to the spotlight when physicians working in Africa noted a very low incidence of such typical "Western" conditions as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. They also noticed that local population consumed a very high fiber diet -- their stool volume was several times greater than that of people in the West. A role of fiber in preventing diseases and obesity was hypothesized, which spawned abundant research on the subject. Some health benefits of fiber, such as colon cancer prevention, are still controversial. Others, including its ability of fiber to prevent and/or improve carbohydrate tolerance and type II diabetes, are confirmed by solid evidence. Fiber slows down the rate at which glucose is absorbed from food into the bloodstream. This gives the body more time to process carbohydrates, leading to lower blood sugar and better carbohydrate metabolism.

It is estimated that a typical citizen of a developed country consumes about one third of the amount of fiber optimal for health and longevity. Luckily, it is not as difficult to increase one's fiber intake without supplements as many people think. Keep in mind that fiber supplements, especially when used improperly, may cause intestinal obstruction, a serious health problem. (This never happens with high fiber foods though).

Exercise: Regular exercise is known to improve carbohydarate tolerance and have a variety of other health benefits. (And it's fun too!). If exercising outdoors, which is usually more fun than otherwise, make sure to protect you skin from excessive sun and wind exposure.

Supplements: Certain nutrients and botanicals have positive effect on carbohydrate metabolism. For instance, lipoic acid is known to lower blood sugar levels (see also the article about conditionally essential nutrients in this section). Some adaptogens were consistently proven to improve carbohydrate tolerance or even reverse early stages of type II diabetes. Adaptogens are substances that promote successful adaptation of the body to various forms of stress and also normalize various physiological aberrations. Most known adaptogens are derived from plants and are quite safe at commonly used doses.

Drugs: Of course, there are drugs that lower blood sugar. Vritually all of them, however, can have substantial adverse effects. Using glucose-lowering drug in people with confirmed diabetes is a reasonable trade-off. These drugs should not be used in people with mild carbohydrate intolerance. There are far safer things to try!

Connection between Skin and Blood sugar

Blood sugar, or more accurately blood glucose level, is a very important aspect of human physiology because glucose is the primary fuel for the central nervous system. If the blood level of glucose drops below a certain point for a long enough period of time, a person will lose consciousness, fall into coma and die. Very high blood glucose seen in diabetes is also harmful, although the immediate consequences are usually less dramatic.

It is less widely known that blood sugar has an important bearing on the aging process. Unfortunately, in addition to being a vital cellular fuel, glucose is also a substance that can cause damage to cells and tissues by randomly reacting with proteins, DNA and other vital molecules. (Scientists call this process glycation). Perhaps the worst consequence of glycation is cross-linking which is the formation of chemical bridges between proteins or other large molecules. A material that undergoes cross-linking usually becomes harder, less elastic and has a tendency to tear or crack. For instance, cross-linking is responsible for hardening of a rubber mat or a garden hose left in the sun. In an aging body, cross-linking causes hardening of arteries, wrinkling of the skin and stiffening of joints. Not surprisingly, diabetics, whose high blood glucose intensifies cross-linking, tend to have more skin damage (as well as vascular and other organ damage) than non-diabetics. However, even mildly high blood sugar promotes the aging process in the long run. This condition, called carbohydarate intolerance (or glucose intolerance) means that one's blood sugar tends to be higher than normal but not high enough to warrant the diagnosis of diabetes. Carbohydrate intolerance is extremely common, affecting up to fifty percent of the population in developed countries. In most carbohydrate intolerant people, fasting blood sugar is normal while blood sugar after meals is higher than it should be.

Research indicates that correcting carbohydrate intolerance is one the most important steps one can take towards slowing down the aging process.

Now, the question is how can one find out whether she has carbohydrate intolerance. An overt diabetes is relatively easy to diagnose. A doctor simply takes your fasting blood glucose to see whether it is elevated. A more sophisticated test called OGGT (oral glucose tolerance test) is needed to diagnose carbohydrate intolerance. First, your fasting blood sugar is measured. Then you are given a meal containing a standard amount of glucose, after which your blood glucose is measured every 30 minutes for 2 or 3 hours. This allows to see how quickly your blood sugar returns to normal after a carbohydrate load. The main risk factors for carbohydrate intolerance are being overweight and age over forty.

Next Article: How to improve carbohydrate tolerance?

Cellulite treatments

There is no officially proven and approved treatment for cellulite. One of the reasons is that quality research in this area has been scarce. On the other hand, there are a number of empirical treatments on the market claiming to improve cellulite. Which ones, if any, are reliably effective will remain unclear until rigorous clinical studies are conducted. Below we discuss cellulite treatments that either appear promising or are popular or both.

Caffeine creams: Caffeine is known to promote lymphatic drainage from tissues (i.e. remove excess fluid) as well as increase lipolysis (promote breakdown of cellular fat). In theory, this could counteract some of the factors contributing to cellulite. Hence, creams with caffeine or somewhat similarly acting substances (such as aminophylline) have been used to treat cellulite. As of the time of this writing, no independent study has demonstrated the effectiveness of topical caffeine for cellulite. A few studies demonstrating some benefit have been commissioned by skin care companies and cannot be considered unbiased. A single study demonstrating the effectiveness of aminophylline was small and its principal investigator appears to have had a conflict of interests.

Diet: A number of cellulite diets are being promoted by some skin care and/or nutrition experts - mainly in conjunction with sales of topicals, supplements and dieting materials. The more rational of these diets recommend foods and supplements that reduce inflammation, improve microcirculation, strengthen connective tissue and activate fat metabolism, i.e. allegedly address the key factors in the development of cellulite. The problem is that there is no proof that any diet has any effect on cellulite. Until there are any decent studies, dietary treatment of cellulite will remain a wishful thinking. Still want to try to defeat cellulite with diet? Then pick the one that makes the most sense in terms of general health: plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, high in fiber, rich in omega-3 fat, low-glycemic and so forth. You may not cure your cellulite, but at least it wouldn't be a wasted effort. Keep in mind that losing weight does not eliminate cellulite. However, it may modestly reduce the appearance of cellulite because it makes fat tissue shrink.

Directed energy: light, laser, radiofrequency: Directed energy treatments have been making inroads into the cellulite treatment business. Some of the claims are plausible because certain forms of directed energy can reach the junction between the skin and fat tissue and even further. One such device called TriActive incorporates a low-energy laser, a skin-cooling mechanism, and suction massage. The goal is to stimulate collagen, circulation, and lymphatic drainage in the lower skin layer and below while protecting the skin by cooling. A course of treatments with TriActive may cost up to $1,500. Another device VelaSmooth used a combination of radiofrequency energy, infrared laser and suction-based massage. Radiofrequency radiation deep-heats fat tissues causing some fat cells to burst; infrared light heats the juncture between skin and fat, improving circulation and inducing connective tissues remodeling; suction-based massage evens out the newly softened tissue and stimulates drainage. All of the above allegedly reduces cellulite by 50% or more over a series of ten $200 sessions ($2,000 total). The effectiveness of VelaSmooth remains to be proven in solid studies.

Mesotherapy: In essence, mesotherapy involves injecting a cocktail of chemicals, which may include vitamins, herbal extracts and off-label drugs (i.e. drugs approved for other purposes), into the area affected by cellulite. The rationale of this approach is the idea that delivering active chemicals directly to the source of the problem should be more effective than applying them topically and hoping that meaningful amounts will penetrate. The active chemicals are selected by their ability to soften connective tissue, break up fat, stimulated remodeling, circulation, drainage and so forth. The most prudent approach is to wait until more studies are performed to determine safety, effectiveness and best practices for mesotherapy. Or at least try other things first. Mesotherapy is typically performed in a series of 5-10 sessions, costing about $150 each.

Specialized massage: Many salons offer anti-cellulite massage, which usually employs rollers, shakers, suction, vibration and so-forth. Such massage does not seem to cause any sustained tissue restructuring and at best can achieve some degree of short-lived smoothening. Or just even out your excess cash.

Tomorrows Article: Connection between blood sugar & healthy skin………..

Cellulite myths & misconceptions

Cellulite is caused by diet: There is no evidence that any particular diet composition (including the amount of fluid you drink) leads to cellulite or can help prevent it. Of course, any diet that makes you gain weight will make your cellulite more prominent. However, if you do not have cellulite, simply gaining weight will not cause cellulite to appear.

Cellulite occurs only in women: This is not a complete myth in the sense that women are much more prone to cellulite than men. However, men can develop cellulite and a small percentage of them do. Notably, men with abnormally low testosterone levels develop cellulite almost as frequently as women, indicating a hormonal connection.

Exercise prevents or reverses cellulite: Exercise has no effect on cellulite. If exercise helps you lose weight, your cellulite will become less visible because improperly packaged fat will not protrude as much. However, exercise will not affect connective tissue defects, which are the key abnormality in cellulite.

Liposuction is an effective cellulite treatment: More often than not, liposuction is ineffective as a primary cellulite treatment because the main abnormality in cellulite is a connective tissue defect, not excessive or abnormal fat. In fact, liposuction sometimes makes the appearance of cellulite worse.

Only overweight people develop cellulite: Cellulite develops in people of any weight, including very slim ones. Gaining weight may make cellulite more prominent but it does not create it.

Only old people develop cellulite: Cellulite development can begin are early as teen years. However, cellulite does tend to progress with age.

Next Article: Cellulite treatments

About Cellulite …

Cellulite is sometimes viewed as an unscientific term. While there is no official disease called cellulite, the phenomenon it refers to clearly exists. Basically, the term cellulite refers to skin dimpling caused by protrusions of subcutaneous fat into the dermis and other irregularities of the junction between the skin and subcutaneous fat. Other names used synonymously to cellulite include orange peel syndrome, cottage cheese skin, and so forth. According to various estimates, over 80% of adult women have some degree of cellulite. Cellulite is possible but infrequent in men.

Signs and Symptoms: Cellulite is harmless and causes no pain or discomfort. Its main sign is dimpled appearance of the skin.

What causes cellulite?

The direct causes of cellulite appear to include connective tissues abnormalities, impaired microcirculation and, possibly, enlargement of fat cells. However, what leads to these disturbances remains somewhat unclear. Hormonal levels and heredity are believed to play a role. While men with normal male hormone levels rarely develop cellulite, those with abnormally low levels are much more prone to this condition. This points to a role of the hormonal balance between androgens and estrogens.

Some experts theorize that stress and diet have some role but the evidence is lacking.

Cellulite is not related to excess weight. Normal and underweight people develop cellulite as well. Losing weight does not eliminate cellulite although it may reduce its appearance somewhat as it makes fat tissue shrink.

So far, researchers found no clear distinction between normal fat tissue and the one affected by cellulite. In fact, it seems that cellulite may have more to do with changes in the lower levels of the skin and how they anchor fat tissues than with the fat itself. Age-related changes in microcirculation and lymphatic drainage may also be involved.

Treatment: There is no officially proven and approved treatment for cellulite. One of the reasons is that quality research in this area has been scarce. However, a number of empirical treatments claiming to improve cellulite are available on the market.

Next Article: Cellulite myths & misconceptions

Pigmentation Disorders

Skin pigmentation disorders and irregularities are common. Hyperpigmentation problems are particularly prevalent and many are associated with aging. While the triggers may vary, hyperpigmentation occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) become more active than normal, which leads to the production and deposition of more pigment (melanin). Conversely, hypopigmentation occurs when melanocytes are destroyed or silenced. Following are the most common pigmentation problems.

Hyperpigmentation Disorders

Age spots / sun spots (solar lentigines): Age spots/sun spots (solar lentigines) are pigmented skin blemishes associated with aging, sun damage and, to a lesser degree, other forms of skin damage. Age spots range in color from light brown to black and are predominantly located in areas exposed to the sun, such as hands, face, and arms. It is not entirely clear how sun damage triggers age spots: most likely, UV radiation produces mutations, local inflammation and other changes that increase local proliferation of melanocytes and/or activate melanin-producing genes. Sun/Age spots are harmless but may be cosmetically frustrating.

Freckles : Freckles are small, pigmented spots containing more melanin than the surrounding skin. Freckles are not caused by aging and/or sun damage. As opposed to age spots, freckles tend to fade with age. Sun exposure, while not a cause of freckles, typically makes freckles much more prominent. Freckles are found mainly in fair skinned people and tend to run in families. The cause of freckles appears to be largely genetic. Freckles are not considered a skin disorder and are harmless. Some consider them a cosmetic nuisance.

Melasma / Chloasma: Melasma is a condition characterized by increased tan-like skin pigmentation typically having uneven, patchy distribution. Chloasma is a variant of melasma occurring mainly in women and associated with increased levels of certain hormones. Chloasma may be triggered by pregnancy, oral contraceptives and occasionally other hormonal imbalances.

While hormonal changes seem to be the most common cause of melasma / cholasma, other factors may have a role. In particular, a combination of sun damage and certain ingredients found in deodorants, toiletry and other personal care products may result in melasma - apparently due to local sensitization of melanocytes.

In some cases, melasma resolves on its own if the underlying hormonal imbalance is removed (e.g. when hormonal contraceptives are replaced by a non-hormonal method or after childbirth). If the cause is non-hormonal, avoiding sun exposure and reducing/eliminating suspect skin/body care products may improve melasma. In persistent cases, various methods of skin lightening may be used.

Hypopigmentation disorders: Hypopigmentation is far less common that hyperpigmentation. Hypopigmentation occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) are either destroyed or stunned into inactivity. This generally occurs either due to serious skin damage (e.g. a burn) or due to an autoimmune disease where the immune system erroneously attacks melanocytes

Prevention of pigmentation disorders: Most hyperpigmentation problems are either caused or exacerbated by sun exposure. Hence sun protection is important for preventing hyperpigmentation. Other measures of skin protection should also help. Women with history of chloasma may be able to prevent recurrence by using non-hormonal birth control methods. However, such step should be discussed with a physician and balanced against the disadvantages of the non-hormonal alternatives.

Treatment of pigmentation disorders: Hyperpigmentation problems may be improved or eliminated by a variety of treatments, including topical lightening agents, laser / intense pulsed light, cryotherapy and chemical peels.

Treating hypopigmentation may be a greater challenge. Hypopigmentation after a burn or similar skin injury may resolve itself over time as melanocytes migrate to the damaged area. Current treatments for vitiligo are of limited effectiveness. For many people, camouflaging hypopigmentaed areas with sunless tanning products represents a viable alternative

Next Article: About Cellulite………….

Acne Treatments

There is no cure for acne. However, there are a wide variety of treatments designed to keep acne under control. The main reason why so many diverse acne treatments exist is that acne is caused and/or exacerbated by several different factors. Each acne treatment targets one or several of these factors. Another reason for the wide variety of acne treatment is that due to the complexity of acne causes no acne treatment appears to work for everyone. On the other hand, most people eventually find an effective treatment or a combination of treatments to control their symptoms.

Both prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments are available.

Exfoliation with AHA and BHA

Exfoliation is a common component of acne treatment programs. It is rarely effective on its own, but may be modestly useful in conjunction with other treatments. Since exfoliation removes dead, hardened outer skin cells, it improves the penetration of subsequently applied topical treatments. Whether exfoliation helps clear dead cells from deep inside the pores is debatable, but if it does, that would be helpful too. Common exfoliating agents used in acne include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA). Overall, BHA, particularly salicylic acid, appears to be more useful because they also reduce sebum production.

Topical Antibacterials

Since bacterial growth (particularly of P. acnes) in pores is a factor in the developments of acne, topical bactericidal agents have been used as a treatment. The most common such agent is benzoyl peroxide, which is a strong oxidizer that kills bacteria by generating oxygen free radicals. The strong suite of benzoyl peroxide is that bacteria do not develop resistance to oxygen. Hence, if benzoyl peroxide works for you, it is likely to continue working as long as you use it. The downside is that free radicals are damaging not only to bacteria but to your skin as well: they cause irritation, dryness, cell damage and accelerate the rate of skin aging. Unfortunately, for many people, benzoyl peroxide is only effective topical treatment. In that case, it is prudent to find the lowest possible effective concentration. Concentrations of benzoyl peroxide as low as 2.5% may be effective, especially if combined with other treatments.

Other topical antibacterials that have been used for acne include triclosan, chlorhexidine gluconate, colloidal silver and tea tree oil.

Topical antibiotics

Topical antibiotics have an important advantage over benzoyl peroxide in that they kill acne-causing bacteria in a more targeted way, causing minimal collateral damage to the skin. Antibiotics most commonly used for topical acne treatment include erythromycin, clindamycin and tetracycline. Topical antibiotics are about as effective as oral ones but with far fewer side effects. However, if acne is present over large areas of the body, oral antibiotics may be easier to use. Antibiotic treatment for acne may not be sustainable over the long term because bacterial resistance may develop to any and all of these drugs.

Oral antibiotics

Oral antibiotics used to treat acne include erythromycin, tetracycline or their analogs (oxytetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline or lymecycline). Oral antibiotic appear to be about as effective as topical antibiotics but produce a variety of side effects, such as diarrhea, dysbacteriosis, colitis and others. The advantage of oral antibiotics over topicals is the ease of use, especially when acne affects large areas of the body. Also, occasional cases unresponsive to topical antibiotics would respond to oral administration. Antibiotic treatment for acne may not be sustainable over the long term because bacterial resistance may develop to any and all of these drugs.

Next Article: Continuation of Acne treatments….

Acne treatments 2

Hormonal treatments

Androgens are a major factor in acne and reducing the levels and/or blocking/counterbalancing their action would generally improve acne. However, such treatments are inappropriate in men due to sexual and other side effects. In women, some estrogen/progestin contraceptive combinations were shown to reduce acne. Antiandrogens, such as cyproterone, alone or in combination with estrogens are even more effective. However, antiandrogens may sometimes affect sex drive and produce other side effect even in females. There is some evidence that topical antiandrogens (such as 5% topical spironolactone) may be modestly effective in acne.

Topical retinoid

Retinoid are active metabolites of vitamin A and their analogs. They improve acne by reducing sebum production an altering the lifecycle of epithelial skin cells. Treatment with topical retinoid often causes temporary increase in acne outbreaks during the first several weeks of treatment. Retinoid may also cause skin irritation, dryness and flaking. Also, retinoid cause sensitivity to UV light and should not be used without a thorough sun protection.

Oral retinoid

Oral retinoid, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), are among the most effective acne treatments. They work by reducing production of sebum, altering the lifecycle of epithelial skin cells and possibly modifying other acne-causing factors as well. Isotretinoin has been shown to be highly effective in severe acne and can either improve or clear over 80% of patients. A course of treatment usually takes 4-6 month and, just like topical retinoid, may cause an initial flareup. As opposed to virtually all other acne treatments, isotretinoin often leads to long-term remission of acne. In those who relapse, recurrences tend to be milder.

Despite high effectiveness and durability of improvements, oral retinoid are infrequently used and are the treatment of last resort. Common side effects include dry skin and nosebleeds (due to dry mucosa). Less frequent side effects include liver damage, permanent skin texture changes, and elevated blood triglycerides. The drugs have been linked to cased of depression and psychosis. Oral retinoid should never be used in women who are or may become pregnant due to the high risk of birth defects.

Other treatments

Topical azelaic acid: Azelaic acid (Azelex, Finevin, Skinoren) reduces sebum production possibly by partly blocking the effects of androgens. It inhibits the formation of comedones and may help in mild comedonal acne.

Topical tea tree oil: The oil of tea tree (Melaleuca) has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and in further studies was shown to be as effective as topical antibiotics with no side effects reported till date.

Topical Niacin amide: In a few small studies, 4% niacin amide gel was shown to be equally or more effective than topical antibiotics. Niacin amide is a form of (Vitamin B3). The effects are said to be due to the anti-inflammatory action of topical niacin amide.

Heat therapy: Directed targeted heat (Zeno device) delivered to the area where an acne lesion is just beginning to form appears to make lesions milder and shorter-lived. The method does not seem to work on cystic acne.

Oral Vitamin B5: Oral Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) taken orally in large doses as calcium pantothenate has been claimed to improve acne. This has not been rigorously studied, however.

Tomorrows Article: Pigmentation disorders……….

Acne and skin aging

The relationship between acne and aging has several facets. It is well known that acne typically starts at a certain age and tends to either resolve or diminish in early to mid twenties. (Some people continue having outbreaks as late as the middle age.) Less known is the fact that untreated acne contributes to the process of skin aging. Furthermore, some acne treatments, even when they are effective, also accelerate skin aging.

Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease. Acne prone skin spends significant time in the inflamed state. Inflammation is a well-known accelerator of aging. Inflammation generates free radicals, activates matrix metalloproteinases i.e enzymes that break down the skin's structural components like collagen and elastin, promotes excessive cell proliferation, etc., all of which contributes to skin aging. Treating your acne, at least to the degree of markedly reducing the number of inflamed lesions, can be the best skin anti-aging step you could make apart from sun protection.

How you treat your acne may have a major impact on the aging of your skin. As a general rule, any treatment that causes skin irritation and/or excessive skin dryness should be used cautiously. Irritation, by itself, promotes skin aging. Excessive dryness reduces the skin's ability to heal itself. Certain acne treatments should be used with a particular caution (as far as skin aging is concerned).

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a strong oxidizer that kills bacteria by generating oxygen free radicals. Topical benzoyl peroxide is one of the most effective topical acne treatments. It is highly effective in killing against P. acnes (acne-causing bacteria). Furthermore, benzoyl peroxide has an advantage over antibiotics because bacteria do not develop resistance to it.

Unfortunately, oxygen free radicals generated by benzoyl peroxide are damaging not only to bacteria but to your skin as well. They cause irritation and dryness, damage skin cells and skin matrix, and otherwise accelerate the rate of skin aging. An occasional, short-term use of benozyl peroxide produces relatively small long-term skin damage. On the other hand, long-term use of benozyl peroxide, especially at high concentrations, is likely to age your skin prematurely. It is worth trying safer alternatives first. Unfortunately, for many people, benzoyl peroxide is only effective topical treatment. In that case, it is prudent to find the lowest possible effective concentration. Concentrations of benzoyl peroxide as low as 2.5% may be effective, especially if combined with other treatments.

Topical retinoid

Topical retinoid are one of the common prescription acne treatments. Possible side effects include skin irritation, dryness, and sensitivity to UV light. Over the long run, chronic skin irritation may accelerate skin aging. Neglecting meticulous sun protection when using retinoid is likely to accelerate skin aging as well.

However, the situation with topical retinoid and skin aging is more complicated. In fact, retinoid (Retin A), a widely used retinoid, is one of the very few drugs approved by the FDA as an anti-wrinkle agent. Indeed, when used prudently, retinoid actually reduce many signs of skin aging and may even inhibit some of the mechanisms of skin aging.

Some people with acne respond to the concentration of retinoid sufficiently low to avoid chronic, long-term skin irritation. In that case, one may get both anti-acne and anti-aging benefits. Others respond only to the formulations of retinoid strong enough to produce chronic irritation. In that case, other topical alternatives should be explored and/or steps be taken to reduce the irritation.


Exfoliation with alpha or beta-hydroxy acids is a common component of acne treatment programs. Whether it is effective against acne and to what extend it debatable. Arguably, it may improve penetration of other treatments and, when done with salicylic acid, reduce the formation of comedones. Moderate exfoliation, especially with alpha-hydroxy acids, may also have some skin rejuvenation benefits. On the other hand, excessive exfoliation may lead to chronic irritation, skin dryness and sensitivity and actually contribute to the aging process.

Tomorrows Article: Acne treatments….

About Acne….

Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin affecting the skin structures consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland. The most common inflammatory manifestations of acne are pimples.

Acne usually develops in puberty due to the surge of testosterone, which is a necessary (but not sufficient) causative factor in acne. In many people, acne disappears by early to mid twenties. Others continue to experience it throughout adult life, even though adult acne tends to be milder. Acne is very common.

Signs and Symptoms: Acne is of several types

  • Comedone / Microcomedone: Comedone is enlarged hair follicle plugged with oil and bacteria. This is the first and smallest type of lesion. It is often called microcomendone because it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
  • Open comedone / blackhead: Open comedone / blackhead is a plugged follicle that reaches the surface of the skin. Although dark in appearance, blackheads do not indicate the presence of dirt. The dark color comes from chemically altered oils and bacteria.
  • Closed comedone / whitehead: Closed comedone / whitehead is a clogged follicle that stays beneath the skin. Whiteheads usually appear on the skin as round, white bumps 1-2 mm wide.
  • Papules: Papules are inflamed lesions that appear as small, pink bumps on the skin. They do not contain any visible puss.
  • Pustules / pimples: Pustules or pimples are inflamed pus-filled lesions red at the base
  • Cysts and nodules: These are large, inflamed, pus-filled lesions that are lodged deep and can drain, causing pain and scarring.
  • Scars: As they heal, acne lesions, particularly cysts and nodules and, less frequently, pistules may cause scars of various shape and size.

How acne lesions develop: Excessive secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands combines with naturally occurring dead skin cells to block the hair follicles. Sometimes, excessive or altered keratinization (hardening and death of epithelial cells) leads to abnormal shedding of the skin lining of the pores. Oil secretions build up beneath the blocked pore, forming a comedone, which is a perfect anaerobic environment for the growth of the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes. Bacterial growth triggers inflammatory response, producing an inflamed lesion, such as a pustule or a nodule. After an inflamed lesion heals, a scar may develop.

Causes of acne: Development of acne requires a combination of several factors, which are influenced mainly by heredity, age and gender. Lifestyle factors, such as diet or grooming habits appear to play a minimal role. Some of the factors contribute to the development of acne are:

  • Hormonal levels: Certain hormones, particularly androgens, such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), promote acne. Of importance are not only absolute levels of these hormones but also the levels relative to other hormones, such as estrogens and progestins. Acne tends to flare up when levels of androgens increase either absolutely or relatively to other hormones. This is one of the main reasons why acne flare-ups are linked to puberty and menstrual cycles.
  • Excessive sebum production: Excess sebum from overactive sebaceous glands is an important factor in acne. Excess sebum is most often caused by increase in absolute or relative levels of androgenic hormones. Sebum production may also be increased by stress and heat.
  • Stress: There is some preliminary evidence that stress may exacerbate acne. The proposed mechanisms of this effect include altered hormonal levels and suppression of immune system linked to stress.
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells: Excessive shedding of dead skin cells can plug the pore, creating a nutrient-rich anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment conducive to overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria.
  • Bacteria: Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the species of bacteria most commonly associated with acne. However, other species may have a role as well. The factors contributing to the overgrowth of P. acnes include, excess sebum, accumulation of dead cell plugging the pore, suppression of immune system and others. Some people become allergic to P. acnes and may develop inflammatory acne lesions even when bacterial overgrowth is minimal.
  • Skin irritation: Skin irritation does not generally cause acne by itself, but may induce a flare-up or exacerbate existing lesions.
  • Drugs, pollutants: Certain drugs and environmental pollutants have been linked to acne with varying degree of certainty. Some examples include anabolic steroids, lithium, and barbiturates. Exposure to high levels of chlorine compounds, such as chlorinated dioxins, can cause severe, long-lasting acne, known as Chloracne.

Treatment: There is no cure for acne. However, there are a wide variety of treatments designed to keep acne under control - each addressing one or more factors contributing to the development of acne lesions

Next Article: Acne and skin aging………….

Sebum, Sweat, Skin pH and Acid Mantle

Sebum is an oily secretion produced by sebaceous glands, tiny ducts adjacent to hair follicles. Sebum is secreted into the follicle, from which it spreads over the hair and skin. The main role of sebum is to waterproof the skin and hair. Both excess and lack of sebum are undesirable. Excess sebum is associated with oily skin and acne. It is particularly common in adolescents as the increased levels of sex hormones stimulate sebum production. Lack of sebum, which is common in middle and older age, leads to skin dryness and accelerates wrinkle formation.

Sweat is a salty, watery solution produced by sweat glands, numerous microscopic channels opening onto the skin surface. As sebum and sweat mix up on the skin surface, they form a protective layer often referred to as the Acid Mantle (Acid Covering). Acid mantle has a particular level of acidity characterized by pH from about 4 to 5.5. A pH of 7 is considered neutral, above 7 is alkaline, and below is acidic. The pH of acid in the human stomach, for example, is usually from 1 to 2, which is highly acidic. The skin, on the other hand, is mildly acidic. In addition to helping protect skin from "the elements" (such as wind or pollutants), acid mantle also inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. If acid mantle is disrupted or loses its acidity, the skin becomes more prone to damage and infection. The loss of acid mantle is one of the side-effects of washing the skin with soaps or detergents of moderate or high strength.

Tomorrows Article: Acne…………

Vitamins, Minerals and Skin Rejuvenation

Vitamins and minerals are essential for proper function of every organ in the body - and the skin is no exception. Furthermore, deficiencies of some vitamins and minerals are particularly detrimental to the skin and may result in skin diseases and/or accelerated aging. While severe vitamin/mineral deficiencies are rare in the developed countries, mild deficiencies are surprisingly common. To maximize the effects of any skin rejuvenation program, one needs to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. This doesn't mean, however, that one needs to indiscriminately gobble up megadoses of vitamin/mineral supplements. In most cases, excessively high doses do not provide extra benefits. Furthermore, high doses of some vitamins and most minerals may be toxic. For those few vitamins when doses above RDA (recommended daily allowance) may provide extra benefits, one should not exceed safety limits. Below we focus on vitamins and minerals that are particularly important for skin health.


The term B-complex usually refers to a group of vitamins that includes vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyancobalamine) and folate.

Vitamins B1 and B2 are critical for energy production in the cells. Overt deficiencies of vitamins B1 and B2 are known to cause special forms of dermatitis (along with many other problems). Mild deficiencies usually go unnoticed but still may produce some degree of skin damage. People who consume a diet based mainly on processed grains are particularly prone to developing such deficiencies. A few decades ago, the US government mandated that food manufacturers should add B1 and B2 to foods made of white flour. This markedly reduced the incidence of serious B1 and B2 deficiency in the US. Many other governments did the same. Still, mild deficiency (but enough to have some negative effects on the skin and some other organs) does occur, particularly in those who base their diets mainly on processes grains and potatoes. Balancing the diet or modest supplementation is helpful, while excessively high doses of B1 or B2 seem to provide little or no additional benefit.

B12 (cyancobalamine) is essential for a variety of synthetic processes in the cells. The deficiency of this vitamin is particularly detrimental to neurons and rapidly dividing cells, including skin cells. Mild B12 deficiency often goes undiagnosed, producing no overt symptoms. Sometimes, depression may be the only symptom of B12 deficiency. B12 is unique among vitamins in that it is found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin such as meet, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy products. Contrary to some popular beliefs, no active form of B12 is found in algae such as spirulina or fermented soy products. Thus strict vegetarians are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Healthy young and middle-aged people consuming a balanced non-vegetarian diet are usually not at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. The absorption of vitamin B12 from food requires intrinsic factor, a protein produced by the stomach. Some older people do not produce enough intrinsic factor due to the atrophy of stomach glands. Certain autoimmune and digestive conditions may also lead to poor absorption of B12. In people whose B12 deficiency is due to poor absorption, neither dietary changes nor oral supplements correct the problem. In such cases, B12 has to be administered as a nasal spray or injected. In contrast to many other vitamins, B12 doses higher than what's required to prevent deficiency may provide extra health benefits.

Folate participates in many of the same biochemical cascades as B12. Just as B12, it is particularly important for rapidly dividing cells, including skin cells. Mild folate deficiency often goes unnoticed. Sometimes, depression may be the only symptom of folate deficiency.Vegetables are the most abundant sources of folate, particularly green leafy vegetables and beans. The only food from animal source rich in folate is liver. Folate can be destroyed during cooking and prolonged storage. The best way to obtain enough folate from the diet is to eat generous amounts of fresh or slightly cooked vegetables. Diet lacking vegetables and fruits puts you at risk for folate deficiency. Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs interfere with absorption of folate and may cause deficiency.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is critical for normal life cycle of skin cells. Vitamin A deficiency causes skin to become dry, fragile and prone to wrinkles. If a person is vitamin A deficient, no skin treatment will work properly. Serious vitamin A deficiency is rather common in the third world and causes a variety of serious health problems. In developed countries, milder forms of vitamin A deficiency predominate. The main sources of vitamin A are foods of animal origin, particularly eggs, organ meats and whole milk dairy products. Unfortunately, these foods tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some plants, such as carrots or broccoli, supply carotenoids which can be converted into vitamin A by the body. Diets lacking foods of animal origin and carotenoid-rich plants may lead to vitamin A deficiency. On the other hand, excessive vitamin A intake (from taking high dose supplements or eating large amounts of liver) may cause serious toxicity and should be avoided.

Vitamin C, iron and copper

We mention vitamin C, iron and copper together because all three are important for the synthesis of collagen, a key structural protein in the skin. Deficiency of each of these nutrients reduces skin resilience and ability to heal (in addition to other health problems). Vitamin C is abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables. Iron is found in whole grains and meat products. Copper is found in a variety of foods and its deficiency is uncommon except in people taking zinc supplements.

Moral of the story.

Practically all vitamins and minerals are needed for healthy skin, but some are especially important.

Next Article: What is Sebum, Sweat, Skin pH and Acid Mantle?

Antioxidant nutrients and skin protection

Free radical damage is one of the principal mechanisms of aging. Free radicals are highly and indiscriminately reactive chemicals that can damage any structure in living cells. The most common source of free radicals is normal burning of fuel that occurs in every cell every minute of every day. (Generally, the more free radicals a species produces, the shorter its life spans.) Skin suffers additional free radical damage from sunlight and pollutants.

Topical antioxidants provide some protection against environmental damage to the skin and may be somewhat effective in slowing down the skin aging. However, topical antioxidants are relatively unreliable. Their effect depends on skin permeability, other ingredients in the cream and many other factors. It appears that increasing oral intake of some antioxidants may additionally protect skin from free radicals. Keep in mind, however, that relatively little solid research has been done specifically on skin benefits of oral or topical antioxidants and much of the supporting evidence is indirect.

A very important chemical property for an oxidant is its solubility in water and fat (or oil). Basically, living organisms have two types of internal media, watery extra- and intracellular space and oily membranes that serve as partitions enclosing individual cells and various intracellular compartments. Water-soluble antioxidants are effective mainly in extra- and intracellular fluid, whereas fat-soluble antioxidants protect biological membranes. Both types of antioxidants are needed to create an effective shield against free radicals for the entire body, and skin in particular.

Solubility of antioxidants

Water soluble

Fat soluble

Water and fat soluble

Vitamin C

Vitamin E
Vitamin A
Coenzyme Q10

Lipoic acid
Some polyphenols
Some flavonoids

Below we review some of the antioxidant nutrients and supplements which appear the most likely to produce skin benefits.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a principal fat soluble antioxidant vitamin in the body. It protects cellular membranes, lipoproteins and other "oily" structures. Skin is high in unsaturated fatty acids ("oily" molecules especially susceptible to free radical damage), and can benefit from vitamin E protection (both oral and topical).


Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant pigments with antioxidant properties. These substances are responsible for color in many fruits, vegetables and flowers. In addition to providing color that attracts insects or animals, these pigments protect plants from environmental stress. In addition to being potent antioxidants, some flavonoids have antiallergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been characterized and classified, but only a few have been researched. As far as skin benefits are concerned, two classes of flavonoids appear to be especially beneficial: proanthocyanins (found in grapes and pine bark) and polyphenols (found in green tea).

Coenzyme Q10, Lipoic acid, Cysteine, Methionine

Coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, cysteine and methionine are potent antioxidants. But they also play other roles that are at least as important as their antioxidant activity. See also the article about conditionally essential nutrients in this section.

Tomorrows Article: Vitamins, minerals and skin rejuvenation

Is there a link - The Body, Diet, Nutrition & Skin Condition?

We all know that the skin is the body’s largest organ but I feel many of us forget just how intricate the internal systems of the body and the skin are at a cellular level. Many skin and hair disorders reflect some system disturbance within the body; everything from hormonal imbalance, immune deficiency, to gastric disease can affect your skin. Researchers have many different theories about the etiology of various skin disorders and several tell us there is no connection between diet, nutrition and skin condition. Is it possible that diet and nutrition can boost the immune system, assist in the repair and control of gastric disease or other diseases of the body? We believe that while diet and nutrition may not cure skin disorders they can certainly provide the body and consequently the skin with vital nutrients to improve the health of the skin and help the body fight disease.

The skin is like a mirror, it reflects everything because it is impacted by everything both internal and external of the body. Human skin is also impacted by the stresses of our lives, genetics, environment, hormones, disease and lifestyle. We have to stop thinking of our skin as just a covering on the body that we wash and scrub, bake in the sun, rub with creams, make-up, lasers and treatments. Topical treatments and cosmetics can be very dramatic but the body functions as a whole complete complex unit which includes the skin. We should nourish and treat the skin from the inside to have lasting healthy improvements.

The skin and its cells acquire and utilize nutrients from the metabolic processes of the skin and the body. When our body is lacking in vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and essential fatty acids the skin will eventually react.

So you are not sure what you should be eating or what supplements you need for healthy skin and hair, search for healthy nutrition information at your local bookstore or on-line, also many physicians and health plans now have nutritionist on staff. If you have a health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease speaking with a professional nutritionist is highly recommended. Most of us will find that eating healthy, taking supplements and exercise will not only have a positive impact on our skin but also on our overall health and well being.

Start by adding a good all in one vitamin supplement that has all the basic vitamin groups, some minerals, amino acids and other nutrients then add fish oil or a combination omega-3/omgea-6 supplement. I like a vitamin that only requires me to take one a day. Eliminate the fatty snacks and carbonated beverages, instead reach for fruit and even better would be raw vegetables, you can now buy them bagged fresh, cut and ready to eat. Drink more water and natural unprocessed fruit juices, use a blender to make your own. Save time by making a gallon at a time and drink up. Pass on the milk, cheese, and red meat. The cows get so many hormones and other boosters these days who need theirs when we have our own hormonal issues. Just say no to fried foods and processed breads.

To those with skin conditions, blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dry skin types put it to a test for 90 days once you determine what foods to avoid and what supplements to take. Be patient it will take your body some time to react to all this goodness. If you are patient and consistent you should notice some improvement.

Please don't do this if it causes stress in any way because stress is a possible contributor to flares in many skin conditions. Only do this if you can enjoy it, embrace it and can make it a welcome part of your world.

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Next Article: Antioxidant nutrients and skin protection

What diet is best for your skin?

The diet which is best for overall health is best for the skin health as well. But still some aspects of a healthy diet which are more important for the skin are given below.

Balance and variety

Every one recommends to consume a “Balanced Diet”. But what exactly does it mean? By balanced diet, nutritionist means a diet that contains all necessary nutrients within a certain optimal range. This range is usually selected in such a way as to prevent protein malnutrition and vitamin / mineral deficiencies. Thus, in a strict sense, balanced diet is a diet allowing avoiding malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. And, for many people, especially junk-food lovers, adopting a standard balanced diet would already be a great improvement. However, derive significant anti-aging benefits; one may have to consume some nutrients in greater amounts than those found in a basic balanced diet.

For most people, the simplest and probably the most practically feasible way to take a balanced diet is to follow the recommendations of the Daily Food Guide developed by the US Department of Agriculture. Adults are advised to:

· Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.

· Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.

· Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.

· Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

To ensure than all essential nutrients are consumed in adequate amounts, it is desirable to consume a wide variety of foods.

Fruits and vegetables: My grandma use to say and now it's official! Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for your health. Fruits and vegetables are particularly important for preventing premature skin aging because they contain a wide variety of antioxidants. Many of the pigments responsible for the color of fruits and veggies are potent antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect skin cells from damage by free radicals which are especially rampant in the skin due to environmental exposure. To ensure that your fruits and veggies have all their antioxidants intact, make sure they are fresh and uncooked (or only minimally cooked) since heat inactivates most antioxidants. Also, some fruits and veggies are significantly richer in antioxidants than others.

Fluids: A well-moisturized skin is somewhat less prone to developing of wrinkles. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day ensures proper hydration of the body and helps reduce skin dryness. Experts usually recommend drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day. Coffee and sodas are not a good substitute for water because they contain caffeine, which is a diuretic ( a substance promoting the excretion of water via urine). Also, do not drink too much fluid 2-3 hours before going to bed. This may cause morning puffiness and excessively stretch your skin.

Calories: Except for frying oneself in direct sunlight at noon, the quickest way to get wrinkles is to put on a lot of weight and then lose it. The reason is obvious: when you gain weight, extra fat stretches the skin, then, when you lose weight and body fat goes away, the skin sags and crumples up. The degree of skin sagging after weight loss varies with the person's age, genetics and other factors. Let the desire to retain youthful skin be another incentive for you to watch your calories and avoid weight gain - even if you plan to lose weight later on. Also, keep in mind that gaining and losing weight in cycles may have negative effects not only on the skin but on your overall health as well.

Cooking: The central theme in cooking is heat-treatment of foods. Every time a food is heated up, the rate of reactions of degradation and oxidation of nutrients jumps up dramatically. In other words, cooking depletes food of many essential nutrients and antioxidants and increases the content of oxidative by-products (free radicals). As a result, we consume less essential nutrients and more aging-promoting free radicals. True, complete avoidance of cooked foods is no fun. You don't have to stop eating cooked foods altogether to avoid most of the negative effects of excessively cooked foods. For starters, reduce cooking time and avoid deep frying, grilling and cooking in large amounts of oil or fat.

Next Article: More on Nutrition…

Basics steps of facial skin care routine: Exfoliation

Exfoliation is a technique where the layer of mostly dead epidermal cells on the outer surface of the skin is removed to expose fresher mostly living cells. Potential benefits of exfoliation include fresher, brighter looking skin, better penetration of active ingredients of skin care products and, for people with excessively oily skin, a varying degree of reduction in oil secretion.

Routine exfoliation should not be confused with deep chemical peels, laser peels and other semi-invasive wrinkle treatments methods. The idea of such methods is not to strip the dead cells from the epidermis (as routine exfoliation does) but to create controlled trauma to the dermis, the deeper layer responsible for structural integrity of the skin. The subsequent wound-healing response and skin remodeling help to wipe out some of the wrinkles. Procedures like deep chemical peels are aggressive treatments to be done infrequently by trained professionals. Their mechanism of action is different -- they are not simply intense versions of routine exfoliation.

If you decided that exfoliation should be a regular element of your skin care routine, how often should you do it? Except for people with extremely oily skin, daily exfoliation is not a good idea. You goal is to remove the dead cells from the skin surface. It takes at least a few days for a sizeable amount of dead cells to accumulate. If you exfoliate more often than that, you may be removing too many living cell, increasing the chance of irritation and skin damage.

For most people who decide to exfoliate, once or twice a week is sufficient. You should determine optimal frequency based on your skin type, strength of the exfoliates you use, application technique and other factors. If you develop irritation, increased sensitivity or dryness, you are probably exfoliating too much.

Be prudent: listen to your skin, use common sense and inform yourself before trying anything new.

Next Article: What diet is best for your skin?....

Sun (UV) Protection

Most people know that sunlight contributes to wrinkles and skin aging as well as increases the risk of skin cancer. What most people don't know is that many sunscreens do not protect from skin aging and that staying out of direct sunlight will prevent only part of sun damage. Since sun damage is partly irreversible, it should be prevented as much as possible. This article aims to clarify some common misconceptions about sun damage.

Ultraviolet radiation

The reason sunlight and tanning beds are bad for your skin is ultraviolet radiation (UV-light or UV-rays for short), which represents a small but important portion of the sunlight spectrum. UV is a killer of living things: it can damage almost any part of the cell, but especially its blueprint, the DNA. Suntan, which is the accumulation of UV-blocking pigment melanin, is a defense mechanism whereby the skin tries to protect itself from destruction. There are three subtypes of UV light: UVA (400 nm wavelength), UVB (320 nm), UVC (100 nm). UVC is almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the Earth's surface. So, as long as we haven't destroyed the ozone layer, we don't have to worry about the UVC. But we do have to worry about the other two. UVB causes sunburn, but has a relatively modest effect on skin wrinkles because most of it is absorbed in the epidermis (the outer skin layer) and does not reach the dermis where wrinkles form. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and is the major contributor to skin damage and wrinkles. Both UVA and UVB can contribute to the development skin cancer.


An ideal sunscreen should protect from sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer. To do that, a sunscreen must provide a high degree of lasting protection against both UVA and UVB. It is relatively easy to figure out a sunscreen's effectiveness against UVB: if you spent some time in the sun and have no signs of sunburn whatsoever, then you probably have a good UVB sunscreen. An even better way, at least in theory, is to look at the sunscreens SPF (sun protection factor), a number indicating the degree of protection against UVB. A sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher should provide a good UVB protection as long as it stays on the skin long enough.

If you sunscreen does not include the quantitative information on UVA protection, the least you can do is to review the ingredients to see what kind of UV blockers it contains. UV blockers can be physical or chemical. Physical blockers are finely powdered and dispersed minerals and include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These physical blockers filter out both UVA and UVB. Chemical UVA blockers include avobenzone and Mexoryl, a newer, seemingly more effective UVA blocker developed in Europe.

No single sunscreen is perfect for everyone. Chemical sunscreens are invisible but may be irritating, degrade over time or dissipate quickly. Physical blocking agents are more stable and less irritating because they are largely inert (especially zinc oxide). Notably, a recently developed transparent form of zinc oxide Z-Cote is claimed to offer the best of both worlds: broad UVA+UVB protection, stability and transparency.

Limitation of sunscreens

Even the best UVA+UVB sunscreens do not provide full protection. First, some UV rays still manage to get through. Second, it is easy to accidentally rub off, wash off or sweat off much of your sunscreen. Third, it is easy to forget to reapply sunscreen as often as recommended. It is fun to be in the sun. But it is fun to look young, too. Limit your sun exposure even when you are wearing sunscreen.

Indirect sunlight

When outside don't assume that wearing a hat or staying in the shade protects you from UV light. Reflected light may retain over a third if its UV rays. When outside always wear a UVA and UVB-blocking sunscreen. You may have heard that glass blocks UV rays. It does block UVB quite well but fails to block much of UVA. This means that in a room brightly lit with daylight you still should wear sunscreen to ensure maximum UV protection.

Downside of light avoidance

Some people choose to stay out of the sun and bright daylight altogether. This is clearly a solution for minimizing UV damage but it does have some downside (besides reducing the enjoyment of life). In some people, lack of exposure to bright light may disturb normal sleep-wake cycle leading to insomnia and depression. This has to do with the effect of light on the production of some brain chemicals, such as serotonin and melatonin. Sunlight is also needed for the body to produce vitamin D whose deficiency leads to bone loss and poor immunity. If you have no sun exposure, make sure that you get 100% RDA for vitamin D in your vitamin supplement or in vitamin D fortified milk.

Tomorrows article: Basics steps of facial skin care routine: Exfoliation…………..

Basic steps of facial skin care routine: Moisturizing

Contrary to popular belief and opinions of some experts, moisturizing is not a universal "must do" of basic skin care. Not everyone needs moisturizing. In fact, poorly selected and misused moisturizers may do more harm than good.

People with oily skin do not need to moisturize because the abundant sebum they produce has more than sufficient emollient and moisturizing effect. People with normal skin do not necessarily need to moisturize since they too produce enough sebum and other natural emollients and humectants. Under some circumstances (e.g. dry climate, frequent water exposure, etc.) people with normal skin may want to apply an oil-free moisturizer after cleansing to prevent the development of dry skin. Moisturizing does benefit dry skin (and dry areas of combination skin) by improving the skin's barrier function, reducing irritation, sensitivity as well as creating a plushier look. However, moisturizing alone does not seem to have a major impact on the development (and prevention) of wrinkles and other signs of skin aging.

If you feel you need to moisturize, make sure you pick the right type of moisturizer for your skin type. Otherwise you may do more harm than good.

Emulsion based moisturizers

Water and oil do not dissolve in each other. When they are mixed together and shaken they form a fine mixture of oil droplets in water or vice versa (depending on the proportions used). Such mixtures can be stabilized with so-called emulsifiers, which are surfactants preventing water and oil droplets from coalescing. Both oil-in-water and water-in-oil emulsions may be useful for dry skin that produces too little sebum, which is particularly common in women during and after the menopause. Moisturizers based on oil-in-water emulsions tend to be heavier but may be a good fit for some cases of particularly dry skin. Oil-water emulsions tend to be more comedogenic than oil-free moisturizers and should not be used for normal or oily skin.

Occlusive moisturizers

The idea of an occlusive moisturizer is to cover the skin with a waterproof film through which water cannot evaporate or otherwise escape. Occlusive ingredients include petrolatum (a.k.a. Vaseline), mineral oil, siloxanes (dimethicone, cyclomethicone) to name a few. Occlusive ingredients may clog pores and produce other unwanted effects. Siloxanes tend to cause fewer breakouts than petroleum-based ingredients but individual reactions vary. Occlusive moisturizers should be considered for dry skin unresponsive to moisturizers based on oil-water emulsions. This may happen when the primary cause of dryness is excessive water evaporation from the skin surface. In such a case, an occlusive moisturizer, particularly one with a siloxane, may be a better alternative. It is best to apply an occlusive moisturizer over moist skin.

Oil-free moisturizers

Oil-free moisturizers are usually based on the so-called humectants, the substances that can trap and hold water. Some examples include propylene glycol, glycerin, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, collagen and others. If you have oily or normal skin and feel the need to moisturize, use an oil-free moisturizer.

Long-lasting moisturizers

In some cases of dry skin or in very dry environments, ordinary moisturizers just don't cut it. They last for an hour or two and then your skin gets as dry as before. Specially designed long-lasting moisturizers are a viable alternative to having to reapply a moisturizer every two hours. Long-lasting moisturizers usually combine active principles from several types of moisturizers. A typical long-lasting moisturizer may contain several humectants and occlusive agents (e.g. dimethicone, colloidal oatmeal, glycerin, sodium PSA, hyaluronic acid, petrolatum and so forth). Oftentimes, long-lasting moisturizers is an overkill but may be just right for some cases of severe dryness.

Moisturizers as vehicles for active ingredients

Whether to use a basic moisturizer is becoming a moot point, at least as far as facial skin care is concerned. These days most people use advanced skin care products with active ingredients aimed at preventing or reducing the signs of skin aging. It is often redundant and counterproductive to apply both a moisturizer and an anti-aging product. Besides, most anti-aging products contain some moisturizing ingredients. People with oily and normal skin can forego basic moisturizers and use anti-aging products only. Dry skin sufferers may be able to do the same by picking an anti-aging product with a sufficiently moisturizing base. In the remaining cases of severely dry skin, a moisturizer should be applied a few minutes after the anti-aging product (to allow active ingredients to absorb).

Next article: Sun (UV) protection …………..

Basic steps of facial skin care routine: Cleansing & Toning

The purpose of washing/cleansing is to remove dirt, makeup, grime, contaminants and so forth from the surface of the skin. Proper cleansing not only removes impurities but also clears the way for the penetration of active ingredients you may want to apply afterwards. Cleansing may be beneficial or damaging, depending on how you do it.

Most people should cleanse their face twice a day, usually in the morning and before going to bed at night. It is best to use warm (lukewarm) water and a mild cleanser (free of harsh detergents, soaps, alcohol or other irritants). Here is the key steps and recommendations to follow:

  • Gently run cleanser all over your face with your fingertips for about 20-25 seconds
  • Splash running warm water in your face several times to rinse off the cleanser until there is no more residue on your skin. Do not direct the stream of water onto your face.
  • Take a clean towel and gently pat your face. Make sure it remains moist.
  • Apply a moisturizer or an active skin care product of choice onto clean, moist skin. Massage product into your face by gently tapping with your fingers until it is absorbed. No pulling or tugging.

Cleansers vary by the amount and types of detergents, moisturizers, emollients and other ingredients. Selecting the right cleanser depends on your skin type. But whatever your skin type may be, avoid cleansers with harsh detergents (such as sodium lauryl sulfate and its analogs), soap and alcohol (except perhaps for extremely oily skin).


Toning is often touted as an essential step in a skin care routine. Most toners contain alcohol and/or witch hazel. Both are drying and irritating, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. So always, use a soothing toner free of alcohol or witch hazel, such as alcohol-free toner with Chamomile or Aloe Vera extract.

You do not want to strip every last molecule of oil from your skin. Only grime, makeup and excess oil on the surface needs to be removed. The underlying thin coat of fresh sebum is best left undisturbed. Toners, especially alcohol-based ones, tend to strip everything off, leaving the skin dry and/or irritated.

Some experts say that toners help close pores and tighten cell gaps after cleansing, thus reducing the penetration of impurities and environmental contaminants into the skin. You can tone after cleansing by wiping your face with a chip of frozen green tea. The cold from the ice helps close your pores; the caffeine and tannins in the tea help tighten skin and reduce puffiness; and green tea polyphenols may provide antioxidant benefits. But don't overuse the cold - frequent excessive cooling may increase the risk of developing stubborn skin redness.

Next Article: Basic steps of facial skin care routine: Moisturizing….