The Most Effective Moisturizing Ingredients

The Most Effective Moisturizing Ingredients

Over-the-counter skin-care products can help soothe dry skin. Here’s how to find the right one for you.

effective moisturizing ingredients

As you may know, dry skin results primarily from low moisture levels on the surface of the skin, or epidermis. You can rehydrate by using skin-care products that work to increase the amount of water your skin retains.

The Best Moisturizers

The most effective way to moisturize your skin is to use a product that contains occlusive, humectant, or emollient ingredients. Occlusives, which include dimethicone, petrolatum, paraffin, and lanolin, form a barrier on the epidermis, preventing water from being lost when the skin is exposed to dry air or wind. Humectants, such as glycerin, sorbitol, sodium hyaluronate, urea, propylene glycol, alpha hydroxy acids, and sugars, attract water into the skin cells, causing the skin surface to swell very slightly — thus temporarily making it appear smoother and free of wrinkles. Emollients fill the spaces between rough or peeling skin cells, smoothing the surface of the skin. Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum are occlusive agents that also serve as emollients.

Common Allergens in Skin Care Products

Fragrances are the most likely explanation for allergies to topical creams and lotions, says Dr. Ashinoff. If you have sensitive skin, avoid the following ingredients, which account for 90 percent of fragrance allergies: isoeugenol, eugenol, cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamic alcohol, hydroxycitronellal, geraniol, amyl cinnamic aldehyde, oak moss absolute, and balsam of Peru. Plus, “antioxidants like vitamin E can occasionally cause allergic contact dermatitis in people with sensitive skin,” Ashinoff says.

When and How to Apply Moisturizer

With the wide array of effective moisturizers on the market, how do you pick the best one for you? “Select a moisturizer based on personal factors such as smell, consistency, effectiveness, and price,” recommends Conway Huang, MD, associate professor of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Laser Surgery at the University of Alabama.

Both oil- and water-based products can be effective, but the one you choose depends on personal preference. “Oil-based moisturizers tend to be greasier but have the capacity to stay on the skin better,” explains Dr. Levine. “Water-based moisturizers feel better on the skin but don’t stay on as well.”

As for when and how to use a moisturizer, dermatologists recommend applying a thin coating — particularly after bathing, showering, or swimming — to trap water in the skin. Pat dry to keep skin damp — don’t vigorously towel dry or you’ll remove the water from your skin before it can be sealed in. Repeat the application twice daily or when your skin is itchy, especially during the winter months, when wind, cold, and indoor heating dry your skin out the most.

Is a Man’s Skin Really Different?

Is a Man’s Skin Really Different?

man's skin

The skin on a man versus that on a woman is significantly different. The ability to grow a beard is just one obvious distinction among many others that are not so evident. From a structural point of view, some of the differences include skin thickness, collagen density, loss of collagen as we age, texture and hydration. These differences in the skin may in fact create differences in the treatment room. Let’s look at each of these aspects in more detail.

Skin Thickness

We know that the thickness of the skin varies with the location, age and sex of the individual. Additionally, androgens (i.e. testosterone), which cause an increase in skin thickness, accounts for why a man’s skin is about 25 percent thicker than that of a woman’s. A man’s skin also thins gradually with age, whereas the thickness of a woman’s skin remains constant until about the age of fifty. After menopause, her skin will thin significantly, which will continue as she ages.

Collagen Density

Regardless of age, men have a higher collagen density than women; this is the ratio of collagen to the thickness of the skin. Researchers believe that the higher collagen density accounts for why women appear to age faster than men of the same age. When considering intrinsic (genetically-programmed) aging of the skin, it has been said that women are about 15 years older than men of the same age. Of course, the role of daylight exposure in skin aging, combined with the fact that men do not use sunscreen as often as women, may account for why we do not readily notice. Extrinsic aging from UV radiation can add years to a man’s skin and negate the benefit of slower intrinsic aging.

Loss of Collagen

The physical signs of aging in adults, such as wrinkles and laxity to the tissue, are closely related to the collagen content of the skin. Both men and women lose about one percent of their collagen per year after their 30th birthday. For women, however, this escalates significantly in the first five years after menopause then slows down to a loss of two percent per year.

Texture

From a superficial perspective, the texture of a man’s skin is very different than a woman’s. The texture (on a man) is rougher, and the Stratum Corneum is thicker. There is also a difference in the composition of sebum and its production. After puberty, sebum production is greater in males than in females, which is attributed to androgen secretions and accounts for why men have longer lasting acne. The cells in a man’s sebaceous glands have more positive receptors for androgens, which explains why they produce more sebum. Interestingly, redness, proliferation of the sebaceous glands and swelling of the skin on the nose, (a condition known as rhinophyma that is found in extreme cases of rosacea) is only seen in males. It is unknown if this condition is controlled by androgens in a similar capacity as sebum production.

Hydration

Puberty also stimulates the appearance of facial hair in men and gives rise to sweat secretions. Males have more Lactic Acid in their sweat, which accounts for a lower pH (.05 lower) when compared to female sweat. Men also sweat more than twice as much as women and are more prone to sweating, which is stimulated by an increase in body temperature. However, male skin appears to be better hydrated than women’s, which is fortunate, as men are less likely to apply a hydrating moisturizer to their body or face. Perhaps the excess sweating and production of Lactic Acid, a known natural humectant for the skin, is responsible for the level of tissue hydration.

Treating a Man’s Skin

The health of a man’s skin is, of course, just as important as that of a woman. But while treatment for a man sometimes differs from a woman, remember that the same amount of care must be taken regardless of the sex of the client. Even if the man appears to have tough, resilient skin, he may still have internal issues or surround himself in environments that sensitize him. In every instance, use the consultation card to familiarize yourself with the client, and never assume that a man needs any less gentle care than a woman.

Top 10 Tips for Moisturizing Eczema

Moisturizing Eczema

Top 10 Tips for Moisturizing Eczema

Think of your skin as a permanent ensemble — it has the ability to protect the body, regulate internal temperature and pretty much go with anything. But sometimes an outfit simply doesn’t end up looking the way you want it to, and such is the case with certain dermatological conditions such as eczema.

There’s no cure for eczema, a recurring condition that causes itchy, dry skin and leads to redness, scaling and sometimes oozing. The really frustrating part about eczema is that the more you scratch, the more irritated your skin becomes.

Think about a childhood bout of the itchy hell that is chicken pox, or even a case of poison ivy. Parents use MacGyver-like solutions when thinking of innovative ways to prevent children from scratching. They smother their offspring in oatmeal, tape oven mitts around their hands, and drench them in ice baths. Unlike chicken pox, which eventually runs its course, itchy eczema flare-ups will always lie dormant for children and adults affected with the condition. Since most people don’t want to go to work or school covered in chalk-pink calamine lotion, one of the best ways to avoid sudden eczema outbreaks is to keep skin moist and clean.

Moisturizing eczema is key to keeping your “outerwear” looking (and feeling) its best. Scratching only worsens and intensifies the disorder, so making sure skin stays soft and supple helps manage eczema flare-ups.

You only get one set of skin in this life, regardless of its condition, so it’s up to you to make it work. Learn about the ins and outs of moisturizing eczema on the next page.

10: Hit the Showers (or Baths)

It only makes sense that a top 10 list about moisturizing eczema would somehow involve water. When skin is itchy, dry and cracking, jumping into the shower or bathtub offers much-needed relief. Besides the fact that water adds moisture to skin, it can also remove debris and irritants that may contribute to eczema flare-ups [source: National Eczema Association]. Stress is another factor that may aggravate eczema for some people — all the more reason to take a relaxing soak.

But beware: You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to water. After about 10 minutes spent in the tub or shower, water no longer moisturizes skin. In fact, the opposite happens — skin can’t retain the moisture and will dry out with excessive bathing. If you have eczema and can’t get all of your bathing business completed in a five- to 10-minute washing window, you might want to re-evaluate your cleaning routine and streamline the process.

For those who prefer creating a makeshift bathroom inferno in order to unwind in a steaming bath and shower, think again. Boiling water is another no-no in the fight against dry skin — use lukewarm water because hot water withdraws natural oils from skin [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Nothing should cause your skin to redden in the shower.

Now that we know proper bathing techniques when it comes to moisturizing eczema, we must learn what to do after we grab our towels and dry off. On the next page, learn why it’s a race against time the second your feet touch the bathmat.

OTHER SINS OF THE SKIN

Eczema is a general term that encompasses different types of skin disorders. The most common type is atopic dermatitis, an extremely itchy variety that usually affects infants and children. Other examples include contact dermatitis, neurodermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.

9: Getting Amped for Damp

It’s just you versus the elements when it comes to moisturizing eczema. After taking a lukewarm, seven-minute shower, there’s still more work to be done in the fight to lock in every drop of moisture.

When it comes to eczema, time is your biggest enemy after turning off the faucet and stepping out of the shower. Moisturizing within three minutes after bathing helps your skin retain moisture and avoid cracking [source: EczemaNet]. When your skin is damp, it’s the perfect time to apply moisturizing ointments and creams (discussed on the next page).

Though retaining water is crucial when moisturizing eczema, that doesn’t mean you have to drip-dry after every bath or shower. Gently blot the skin with a towel and then apply moisturizing agents so you don’t remove natural oils.

There’s no point in following proper eczema-prevention procedures if you’re not using the right moisturizers. Learn how ointments, creams and lotions aren’t all created equal.

PASTE, POWDER AND ROLL!

Medicated liquids, paste, powders and even shake lotions are additional ways doctors can treat eczema [source: EczemaNet].

8: Lotions, Creams and Ointments

Visit any drug store or beauty supply shop and you’ll notice the aisles bursting with lotions, creams and ointments. Though it may seem that they all do the same thing, there are important differences when it comes to moisturizing eczema. The key is to find a product with enough oil to retain moisture and prevent excessive dryness.

  • Lotions are the mildest of the bunch when it comes to moisturizing eczema. Lotion contains oil but its main ingredient is water — since water eventually evaporates, this won’t do much for extremely dry, itchy skin. Lotion is a good option for people with mild cases of eczema or for those who live in humid climates [source: National Eczema Association, EczemaNet].
  • Cream is the next step up from lotion as it contains equal parts water and oil. Because the goal is to create a layer between moistened skin and the environment, a thick barrier like cream can help do the job. However, people with dry skin should note that some creams have additives and preservatives that can cause irritation [source: National Eczema Association, EczemaNet].
  • The best way to moisturize eczema is to use ointment since the product contains 80 percent oil and 20 percent water. Viscous ointments create a visible layer atop skin to trap in moisture, though they can feel a bit greasy. If you decide to go the ointment route, make sure not to use these products on areas of the body that get excessively sweaty [source: EczemaNet].

On the next page, learn why people with eczema should pretend the words “handle with care” are stamped across their skin.

7: Be Gentle When Moisturizing

Eczema is a highly reactive condition — vehemently scratching a patch of cracked, itchy skin will worsen symptoms and can cause a rash for some patients. Gently moisturizing eczema is an extremely important part of managing the condition. Think of it this way: Treating skin with a soft touch should eventually lead to skin that’s soft to the touch.

Dyes, perfumes, detergents, alcohol and other chemicals can irritate skin and trigger eczema flare-ups. Besides checking creams and ointments for these ingredients, it’s important to note these additives in soaps and cleansers. Look for moisturizing elements like glycerin, mineral oil, linoleic acid and petrolatum when selecting soaps and creams [source: EczemaNet].

Select mild products geared toward dry skin — Dove, Vaseline, Eucerin and Cetaphil are good examples of brands focused on gentle solutions to dry skin. Vaseline petroleum jelly and Aquaphor are simple, gelatinous products that go on thick and help protect skin.

As mentioned earlier, don’t use too much friction when toweling off after a shower; gently pat dry so skin retains its natural oils. Avoid harsh materials that can scratch skin and set off eczema — that means skipping loofah sponges and scrubbing puffs in the shower, as well as staying away from tight, itchy fabrics like wool and polyester [source: National Eczema Association, EczemaNet].

So you need an easy touch while you’re moisturizing, but there’s more to it than that — find out on the next page.

Top 10 Tips for Moisturizing Eczema

You’ve got to pay a little more attention to your moisturizer routine if you have eczema.

©iStockphoto.com/kati1313

6: Apply Yourself

Without the proper application methods, moisturizing eczema would be a useless task — just squirting a few drops of lotion on your legs or smothering your hands in 10 layers of salve probably won’t keep eczema at bay.

As we mentioned earlier, the key is locking in moisture after bathing. Gently apply the product by stroking it downward on the skin. Take your time smearing on the cream or ointment — it may take a few minutes for it to absorb completely. If necessary, roll the product between your hands before application to increase its malleability and temperature. Always apply topical medications before moisturizers [source: National Eczema Association].

Depending on the product you use, it’s usually a good idea to reapply moisturizer throughout the day. Rub cream into your skin right after bathing and anytime you use soap and water. Even if you don’t come into contact with water but you feel a bit itchy and dry, massage a few globs of moisturizer into your skin.

The less humidity in the air, the more protection your skin may need. That’s why people who live in very dry climates, like the Southwest, may require heavier, less watery moisturizers than those who live in wetter regions. People who deal with harsh winters may need to load up on thicker moisturizing agents as well.

If the urge to scratch dry, itchy skin has overtaken every other thought in your mind, you may need to try a wet dressing.

5: Moisturizer with Extra Dressing

Wet dressing may sound like a slimy salad, but this is no drippy condiment. When it comes to eczema, wet dressings can moisturize stubborn areas that refuse to soften.

Wet dressings, also known as wet wrapping or wet bandages, are especially therapeutic for young children who may have a hard time controlling the urge to scratch. Besides preventing your child from physically making contact with dry patches, wet dressings offer relief from hot, itchy skin.

After bathing, apply any topical medications and follow with moisturizers as per usual. Sop bandages, gauze or paper towels in lukewarm water and start wrapping the affected areas. Top the wet paper towels with a layer of dry bandages and let skin absorb the moisture. Once the bottom, wet layer dries, it’s time to remove the wet dressing — leaving on dry bandages may lead to skin irritation [source: The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, National Eczema Association].

If you don’t have access to bandages or gauze, wet clothing can also work. Follow the same steps above but, depending on the area of the body, top wet clothing, like pajamas, with a dry layer or wear a pair of wet socks under a pair of dry socks.

There’s another way to moisturize eczema beyond creamy lotions and wet paper towels — learn more on the next page.

4: Humidifier Hope

When tenderly caring for parched skin, there needs to be something more than just love in the air. As we learned earlier about climate and season, moist air helps keep skin smooth. That’s when a humidifier can come in handy.

Humidifiers disperse water into the air, which can help moisten dry, chapped skin. These appliances use different types of technology to add water droplets throughout your home — the simplest humidifiers release steam, while others release fog and evaporative air. Because they are portable, humidifiers make a great moisturizing solution for active eczematous children.

It’s important to note that humidifiers can cause more harm than good if not properly cleaned. Because it’s all about the moisture when it comes to humidifiers, mold and bacteria can’t help but mooch off these water-loving appliances. No homeowner wants to spray fungi throughout his or her house, so make sure to follow the user’s manual and regularly clean the unit. Also, steam humidifiers (also called vaporizers) can potentially cause burns, so double-check this option if you have children [source: Brain and Nice].

Top 10 Tips for Moisturizing Eczema

Bedtime means time for teddy bears — and a good moisturizing cream.

©iStockphoto.com/matka_Wariatka

3: Moonlit Moisturizing

Slathering on goopy ointments as part of your morning routine can literally become a sticky situation as you try to hold your toothbrush, get dressed and even grab the doorknob. In fact, if you’re not paying attention, all of that carefully applied moisturizer may rub off on your clothes, couch and refrigerator door handle before you jump in the car.

For this reason, some doctors recommend night as the perfect time to practice moisturizing rituals. By bathing and moisturizing before bedtime, there’s less chance that you’ll continue to dry out skin. The body will have a better opportunity to absorb creams thoroughly and create a barrier between skin and the elements. If there are certain parts of your body that are more irritated and dry, like hands or feet, you can bathe, apply any prescription treatments, add a moisturizing agent, wrap your hands or feet in cotton gloves or socks accordingly and then doze off without the embarrassment or self-consciousness of wearing these accessories to work or school.

Wet dressings at bedtime are especially helpful because itchy skin makes for trouble sleeping. Not only will wet dressings, when applied correctly, help reduce the itch, these treatments should soften skin and moisturize eczema.

Blankets and pajamas made from natural, breathable fabrics, like cotton, should also allow eczematous children and adults to get a better night’s sleep.

LIKE PARENT, LIKE CHILD

Certain types of eczema hit infants and children the hardest. Your child may be at risk of developing atopic dermatitis if you or your spouse had the disorder as a kid or other conditions like asthma, hay fever and food allergies [source: Discovery Home and Health].

2: Nonsteroidal Prescription Treatments

Some eczema flare-ups require prescription strength, especially if the urge to scratch becomes unbearable. Nonsteroidal prescription creams and lotions can be paired with over-the-counter moisturizers in order to seal in necessary wetness. After bathing but before moisturizing, these nonsteroidal topical treatments can be applied on the affected areas (and also used as part of a wet dressing regimen).

Many of these prescription creams help control the itchy side of eczema, a crucial part of treatment since scratching can exacerbate the condition. Many brands don’t have age restrictions, but you should always double-check with your doctor, especially when dealing with young patients. Atopiclair and Mimyx are nonsteroidal prescription creams aimed at treating and moisturizing eczema [source: U.S. News and World Report]. Topical clacineurin inhibitors, like Elidel and Protopic, are a new class of prescription drugs that treat inflammation without steroids [source: Discovery Home and Health].

For those eczema patients, or parents of patients, who prefer to stay away from steroid ointments, a common prescribed route, these creams and lotions can be more appealing options. Your doctor will decipher which treatment makes the most sense based on the patient’s needs and symptoms.

1: Infection Intervention

If you’ve followed these tips, like moisturizing at night and taking short baths, and you still have a severe case of this skin disorder, it may be time to revisit your dermatologist.

Dermatologists and health care professionals will prescribe eczema treatments on a case-by-case basis, usually starting with mild therapies, like OTC moisturizers, and eventually selecting more intense treatments if the condition worsens. Remember that eczema can only be managed, not cured.

As mentioned earlier, doctors may recommend nonsteroidal topical treatments like Elidel or Atopiclair as an added measure to a standard moisturizing regimen. They may prescribe strong topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and control itching. These steroidal treatments are available in oral form for severe cases.

If eczema looks very red, swollen, abnormal or covered in pus or a thick crust, skin may be infected. Infections aren’t uncommon when it comes to this skin disorder, and it’s important to check with your dermatologist before moisturizing eczema as per usual. Mild infections may require combination creams that have antibiotics as well as moisturizing agents; severe cases may involve oral antibiotics as well as topical treatments. It’s important to note that if you suspect infection, discontinue the wet dressing method as this may worsen the problem [source: Infection and Eczema].

Learning more about eczema and how your body responds to different moisturizers will help you better manage itchy, dry skin.

Different Strains of Acne Bacteria Cause Different Diseases

Different Strains of Acne Bacteria Cause Different Diseases

acne strains

The acne bacterium Proprionibacterium acnes, often identified by its abbreviation P. acnes, plays an unusual role in health and disease.

Everyone has billions of Propionibacterium acnes on their skin. Sometimes this bacterium builds up and clogs a pore, forming a whitehead that later oxidizes on contact with the air into a blackhead. Sometimes the immune system attacks the acne bacteria in a pore and forms a pimple, that can be covered with skin to form a cyst.

Sometimes P. acnes gets into the eyes and causes infections there, and when it is transferred inside the body during a surgical procedure, it can even induce hardening of the arteries, clog the copper stents heart surgeons implant to keep coronary arteries open, and trigger heart attacks.

Propionibacterium acnes is usually harmless. Sometimes it causes pain and disfigurement of the skin. And sometimes it even threatens life. But do you need to worry that if you don’t zap your zits, acne bacteria might rob you or your sight or even trigger a life-ending heart attack?

Recent research tells us the answer to this question is no. Different strains of acne bacteria have different health effects.

Some Strains of Acne Bacteria Are Actually Beneficial

Scientists at the University of Bath in the United Kingdown and Aarhus University in Denmark have identified not just 1 or 2 but 56 different strains of Propionibacterium acnes. These 56 different strains differ in just nine genes, which bacteria are able to trade with each other through a process of “bacterial sex” called recombination. However, usually each strain of acne bacteria keeps to itself and behaves in relatively predictable ways.

Most strains of acne bacteria don’t actually cause acne. These “commensal” bacteria provide a very basic form of skin cleansing that works from the inside out. Living on the sides and in the base of skin pores and around pores on the surface of the skin, they feed on excess skin oil, their numbers reduced by exposure to sunlight and oxygen.

The more oil the skin produces, the more the bacteria are protected from the killing blue light rays of the sun, and the more sebum they can consume. As the bacteria eat up the excess sebum, they are exposed to more sunlight, and their numbers are naturally kept in check. For however many centuries human beings did not have skin care products, these strains of bacteria actually served to keep skin pores open.

Some Strains of Acne Bacteria Cause Eye Infections

The eyes also produce lubricating films. Tears are a mixture of proteins, fats, and water, that could also accumulate on the eyes except that the excess is consumed by bacteria. Acne genome researches at the Bay Zoltán Nonprofit Ltd. in Szeged, Hungary have announced the mapping of the genome of three genetially unique strains of bacteria that cause eye infections.

Typically, these bacteria cause chronic, mild inflammation of the sclera or “white” of the eyes that is often misdiagnosed as allergy. A flare-up of the infection on the corena of the eye, however, can cause sight-threatening keratitis,.

Some Strains of Acne Bacteria Enter the Body with Implanted Medical Devices

Millions of people who have coronary artery disease have their clogged coronary arteries opened with metal stents. These stents are sometimes contaminated with another strain of acne bacteria that produce a wide variety of mild, ambiguous symptoms including confusion, anxiety, dizziness, unexpectedly low  blood pressure, unexpectedly high blood pressure, headache, nausea, and fatigue—all of which can also be caused by the surgery. The dyes surgeons use to see the stents during the catheterization procedure tend to “feed” these strains of acne bacteria, but it’s very rare for the infection to become so massive that it actually damages the heart, although infective endocarditis is a real possibility,.

Acne bacteria can also hitch a ride on artificial joints, central lines, and shunts used to relieve pressure. As with infections on implanted devices in the coronary arteries, infections on these medical devices usually cause a variety of vague symptoms that are aggravated by the dyes used to make the images used to examine the damage.

And Acne Bacteria Can Cause Many Other Kinds of Infections

There are a number of other manifestations of infection with acne bacteria. Just a few of them include:

  • Painful infections of the muscles after rotator cuff surgery.
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis, destruction of the tissue around and in the bile duct that drains the liver, mimicking gallbladder disease.
  • Fevers and chills after blood transfusions.
  • Triggering rheumatoid arthritis, in both children and in the elderly,
  • Severe joint pain.
  • Gum disease and even
  • Bad breath.

Any and all of these conditions can be caused by acne bacteria. But what difference does that make in day to day health care?

Why You Need to Know About Different Kinds of Infections Caused by Acne Bacteria

The reason you need to know that there are many different kinds of infections caused by acne bacteria is that chances are that your doctor won’t. Moreover, some of the kinds of tests that doctors routinely run when the symptoms become serious can actually make the underlying disease worse.

If you are scheduled for elective surgery on your heart, your joints, your gums, or your eyes, make sure that your acne is in good control. Ask you doctor about appropriate antibiotics.

Even though the strains of acne bacteria that cause acne symptoms are not the same strains that cause so many serious problems  in the eyes, in the mouth, and in the interior of the body, they live alongside other strains of bacteria in the pores. Ironically, your skin care treatment program might, ironically, save you a stay in the hospital with a heart or liver problem.

And if you develop a diagnosed Propionibacterium infection in some part of your body other than your skin, don’t be hesitant to ask questions about the antibiotics your doctor prescribes. Antibiotics that are not effective for skin infections may not work for infections inside your body, either.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to explain how it is that you are getting the treatment you need, and take the entire, prescribed amount. Don’t give destructive strains of acne bacteria a chance to come back.

Skin Health First

skin health

“At Last – Fat That You and Your Skin Can Love”

In our society a simple 3-letter word “fat” grew to become a notorious villain. The fact is however, that to live a healthy life and… to show off your beautiful complexion we need to recognize the “good” from the “ugly”. I hope the short story below will help you in this process.

Eating right means diet with no fat – RIGHT? WRONG!

Eating the RIGHT kinds of fat is essential for optimal health as well as good skin tone. Most of our diet is full of too much saturated fat and not enough of the essential fats that we call essential oils. The essential oils are those that promote clear and healthy skin and are also good for your heart.

Saturated and mono-unsaturated fats are not necessary in your diet; the polyunsaturated fats or oils are essential for your health and to maintain youthful, radiant and healthy looking skin.

The polyunsaturated oils provide two essential fats: Omega 6 (linoleic acid) and Omega 3 (alpha-linoleic acid). If these essential fatty acids are processed using heat (as fried and cooked or baked at high temperatures) they change to trans-fats and liberate free radicals which can damage skin and local tissues. These transformed fats are not good for us and interfere with liver metabolism, increase the likelihood of heart disease and inhibit our immune system. So avoid processed or fried foods, which change the structure of these essential fatty acids (EFA).

The body cannot manufacture EFA, so they must be supplied by the diet. EFA are necessary for the proper functioning of all tissues and for tissue repair, especially the skin since the EFAs hold skin cells together in a water tight seal and retain moisture.

The best source of EFA is fish (among the best is salmon and herring) and flaxseeds (linseed). Also a diet high in nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and pumpkin seeds will help to supply the necessary EFAs. Taking Omega 3, as a supplement such as cod-liver oil will help to support the proper function of the brain, vision, facilitate learning and prevent mood swings. These oils also help to control blood cholesterol, improve immunity, reduce inflammation (also in skin), moisten dry skin and support the body’s water metabolism.

Omega 3 (alpha-linoleic acid) is converted by the body into gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and may then proceed to the pathway responsible for the synthesis of prostaglandins. These prostaglandins keep blood thin (inhibit platelet aggregation), lower blood pressure, aid water metabolism, decrease inflammation, improve nerve and immune function and help to balance blood sugar. This group of fats is present in seeds and their oils. The best source of seed oils are pumpkin, hemp, sunflower, safflower, sesame, corn, walnut, soybean and wheatgerm oil. Evening primrose oil and borage oil are the best-known sources of Gamma-linoleic acid and may be taken as supplements.

Both these two fats Omega 6 and Omega 3 (linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid) are essential for healthy skin since they work together to keep skin smooth and soft and help the cells to retain the appropriate amount of water. Adequate EFAs also help to reduce the dehydrating effects of heat, wind and other environmental factors. If you have a deficiency of EFA the health of your skin deteriorates, the skin becomes dehydrated, itchy, dry and inflamed and you will be more prone to skin infections.

EFAs help wounds to heal more quickly (acne scars), strengthen capillary walls and prevent enlargement of sebaceous glands that in turn may become over active resulting in a higher chance for acne. EFA also help to balance hormones and increase blood flow to the skin.

To ensure an adequate intake of EFA in the diet eat plenty of fish, nuts, seeds and their oils. Have seeds ground up and sprinkled on your salads or into your cereals, even dip your fish or meat into the oil extracts. Make sure the nuts, seeds and oils are stored in air-tight containers to prevent them from turning rancid and producing damaging trans-fats. You may also take an EFA supplement.

USE THE “GOOD FATS” TO FEED YOUR SKIN

EVENING PRIMROSE MASK

This mask nourishes skin and reduces inflammation. It can be used for all skin types but is especially good for dry, skin or acne damaged, scarred and sensitive skin. Evening primrose is rich in gamma linoleic acid and contains all the therapeutic properties of the essential fatty acids; and helps rebalance sebaceous secretions. Use the mask one a week or as desired.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons all natural, plain yogurt
  • Potato starch
  • 2 capsules of evening primrose oil
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon of honey (organic if possible)
  • 2 capsules of vitamin E
  • Rosewater (may be bought in natural food stores as rosehydrolat). This is to be used after the mask

Open the capsules of evening primrose and vitamin E and place the oils in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the rosewater. Add enough water to make a good mask consistency. The paste should be the consistency of chocolate icing on a cake, easy to spread but not “leaky”. Apply the mask to a clean face and neck and leave to absorb for 20 minutes. Relax.

Rinse off with warm water and pat-dry delicately preferably with a cotton towel. Finish by toning your skin with light floral water such as rosewater. Discard any remaining mask and make a fresh batch for each treatment.

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