Monthly Archives: February 2011

My Favorite Skincare Gadgets – #3: Facial Flex

My 3rd favorite gadget that really produces results without any risk is this little device called Facial Flex.

This is an inexpensive little gadget which helps to train the muscles of the lower face, including the jaw line, neck, and around the mouth area.   I don’t think it does much for the upper cheeks or eyes though, and that’s why I think a microcurrent unit is necessary for those areas.  I don’t find the Tua Trend as tolerable or effective for my jaw and neck area, so I use this little thing instead to keep the jaw line sharp and neck muscles tight.  It works amazingly well for such a simple gadget.      

So, I’ve had this thing for over 5 years now and I still use it about 3x/wk, for about 40 reps at a time.  Basically, you put it between the outer corners of your mouth and exercise your jaw and neck muscles by closing and opening your lips slowly in an “O” shape.   It’s like resistance training for the face muscles.  There are 3 levels of resistance which is controlled by the rubber bands you place on the device.  The rubber bands are very similar to little orthodontic rubber bands used to align braces inside the mouth.  There is a 6 oz, 8 oz, and 14 oz band.  You start with the 6 oz and work your way up.  You can use it every day up to twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, about 40 to 60 reps at a time.  The key is to know when your muscles are getting tired and not over doing it.  Also, make sure you are not creating lines around the mouth by looking in the mirror and using your fingers to hold your cheek areas up as you exercise.  Make sure no creases are occurring when you form your “O”s; otherwise, you will create more lines around the mouth, which is not a good look.  I also look straight upwards towards the ceiling and stretch my neck taut while using the Facial Flex to really work the neck and jaw muscles.  

When done correctly, you will see and feel a tightening of the jaw line and neck.  Turkey gobble chins and jowls are reduced in a matter of a few weeks in most cases.  As long as you keep up with weekly maintenance, results should be sustainable.  In time, you can go longer between sessions and skip a few days in between.       

This type of device has been used for many years as speech and facial rehabilitation devices for people who have weakened facial muscles and speech impairments due to atrophied facial muscles from strokes, burns, and other medical conditions.   See the links below for clinical studies.  So, it has the testing that shows it works, plus many positive testimonials from people who have used it.  So, why not spend $30 and try it out?   It could save you from having to go for plastic surgery.  A sagging jaw line and jowls are areas which age people very easily, and tightening it can make you look years younger.  If you do purchase the Facial Flex, just buy the device without the cream.  The cream contains some questionable ingredients that I would steer clear of, dimethicone which may clog pores, diazolidinyl urea which can be a sensitizer and irritant, and paraben preservatives which could be endocrine disruptors, estrogenic, and toxic to organs. 

The device is well-built and should last forever.  You will need to buy replacement bands, but those are not too expensive, about $8 for a 6-month supply.   Or you can try getting for free, or buying for a few bucks, orthodontic bands at your kid’s local orthodontist office which can work just as well.   Just double up if the strength is not enough for you.   Happy flexing! 

Resources:

http://www.facialflex.com/

http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/view.2/app.detail/params.aol_refer.false.tpl.detail.msn_refer.false.item.L0136.ref.GBA?cm_ven=GOOGLEBASE&cm_cat=Beauty&cm_pla=Skin%20Care&cm_ite=L0136

Advertisements

My Favorite Skincare Gadgets – #2: Microcurrent

My 2nd most favorite gadget to use in conjunction with my skincare is a microcurrent device.  Proper skincare will help maintain the structure and elasticity of the skin by rebuilding collagen and elastin.  Ultrasound devices can stimulate the pili muscles in the dermis to further tighten the skin.  But, another factor which contributes to an aged appearance is sagging of the facial muscles located under the skin’s subcutaneous layer.  This results in nasolabial fold lines, sagging jowls, and turkey gobble under the chin.  Skincare and ultrasound are not capable of correcting lax, sagging muscles, so it is an important consideration if you are trying to keep an overall youthful appearance.  Luckily, a microcurrent device can address the sagging muscles.  Professional microcurrent machines have been used in spas for at least 20 years.  Muscles on the face that are not worked on a regular basis eventually atrophy and sag with age, similar to muscles on the body. 

Microcurrent gadgets generate little electrical impulses which are passed through the facial muscles.  The electrical stimulation gives the facial muscles a mini workout by alternately tensing and relaxing them.  As a result, facial muscles are firmer and more lifted appearing.   Deep lines caused by constant squinting, frowning and  other expressions can be softened and relaxed with microcurrent.  The eye brows, cheeks, and jawline can be lifted with a microcurrent gadget.  As you lift the cheek muscles, nasolabial lines (marionette lines) diminish as well.  An immediate lifting effect can be seen right after a spa treatment and can last 7-10 days.   With regular treatments, the effect is cumulative and sustained.  You may have to go in once a week for a few weeks to obtain the desired results and then go on a maintenance schedule of once or twice a month to keep up the results.  The effect is temporary, however; so unless you can go in at least once every month, your sagging will eventually come back. 

The good news is that for a few hundred dollars, you can buy a home unit for interim or long-term use.  They may take longer than a spa treatment to obtain the same level of results, but the end result is the same as long as you do treatments on a regular basis.  Most of these are hand-held units and cost in the $300 to $500 range.  The benefits of microcurrent devices are that they are noninvasive, not painful, or harmful.  They are extremely easy to use.  You may feel a tingling and contractions, but it should never be painful or unbearable.  In addition to lifting the muscles, the electrical current also increases circulation and blood flow in the skin, providing more nutrients to the skin, improving its overall health, tone, and texture.  I find microcurrent helpful in reducing morning eye puffiness by moving out retained fluid under the eyes.  Like ultrasound, I find microcurrent is a must-have gadget because of its multiple benefits and lack of risk.

Over the last decade, I have tried several units.  I tried the Dermatone, Suzanne Somers Facemaster, and the Ezzi-lift.  By far, my favorite microcurrent device has been Tua Trend.  It is a handheld rechargeable unit.  I’ve been using it over a year now, and it’s very user-friendly, not painful, highly adjustable, AND only takes me 15 minutes 3x/wk for treatments.  Great for busy (or lazy) people who don’t want to spend hours every week doing treatments.  Here is a picture of my Tua Trend.  The sponges are different colors, but are the same otherwise:    

The beauty of this unit is that it has a timer on it, so you know exactly when to move the wand to the next section of the face.  There are specific settings for 5 zones of the face and neck (upper cheek, lower cheek, eyebrow and eye, jaw/neck, and under eye).  You can control the intensity or strength of contractions to each zone; this is displayed as a number on the screen.  The wands are detachable.  Two replaceable sponge contacts or heads are on each wand.  Only 1 wand comes with the unit.  However, you can buy an additional wand and plug in 2 wands (4 sponge contacts in total) in order to work both sides of your face simultaneously, cutting the treatment time from 30 to 15 minutes.  There is a DVD and a booklet with full instructions, but it is very easy to use after one read.

 I use the Tua Trend on clean dry skin.  The wands must be moistened with water or calming mist so that the current can conduct properly through the skin.  If not wet enough, you will not feel the tingle or contractions as well.  Correctly placed, you will see and feel the muscles contracting.  Depending on the level you set, it can be mild or very strong.  I suggest not setting the levels too high in the beginning.  You can overwork the muscles and cause more sag if you try to do too much, too soon, at a very high intensity.   Also, do it in the mirror the first few times to be sure you are contracting the right muscles.  Build up your intensity and give your face muscles down time to rest in between treatments.  I think 3x/wk is adequate.  If you have a big event or date, do it the morning of the event for a pick-me-up lift.  After the microcurrent treatment, I do my ultrasound massage.  It’s not necessary that the microcurrent and ultrasound treatments be done together, but I like to use my gadgets on the same 3 evenings (or mornings) and get it over with.  Together, both treatments should take about 40 minutes 3x/wk….That’s not too much time to invest in keeping your face as youthful as possible.   I think these gadgets are a better option to plastic surgery, as they are safer, cheaper, and there is no down-time.   Additionally, you can’t end up looking “overdone” or unnatural looking, as sometimes happens with plastic surgery.   Keep in mind, even good plastic surgery is only a temporary solution, because the skin and muscles will ultimately sag again after a few years.   Unfortunately, you can’t stop the aging process, you can only slow it down with proper skincare and regular use of skincare tools or gadgets.

Resources:

http://reviews.qvcuk.com/1690/432631/tua-tua-trend-face-neck-portable-toning-firming-system-with-demo-dvd-432631-reviews/reviews.htm

http://www.tuatrendface.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTpmou2tkqg&feature=related

My Favorite Skincare Gadgets – #1: Ultrasound

I use a few skincare devices or tools, what I call gadgets, in conjunction with my skincare.  You may want to consider using gadgets to help speed results and to help with tougher aging issues.  If you are young or have no major wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sags, or scars to repair, then you probably don’t need to buy these gadgets.  But for most aging woman over 40, these devices can help keep the skin functioning well and fight the forces of gravity.  For me, the most important criteria in selecting any device or gadget is value for the money, and benefits with few or no risks.  The gadget must be well-built, effective, and have scientifically proven results.

I will discuss my gadgets one at a time, in order of must haves.  My first gadget must-have is an ultrasound device.  This is a very versatile and affordable option available for home use.  Of course, you can get professional ultrasound treatments that will give you amazing results after 1 treatment, but the home devices can give you similar results with long-term use.   Home devices may range from $200-$400 but you will recoup your investment in no time, considering how much spa ultrasound treatments cost.       

Ultrasound Probe or Spatula

Ultrasound has been used in the medical and esthetic industry for decades, so it’s not new technology.  However, home units have only become affordable recently.  Instead of shelling out thousands for professional units, you can purchase small units that are cordless or corded for a few hundred dollars.   I have two units, one with a spatula and a separate ultrasound probe.  The professional units usually have both types of attachments for convenience.  

The benefits of using ultrasound with your skincare can be summarized into 4 areas:

1.   Ultrasound uses sound waves (phonophoresis) and cavitation (the process of creating microbubbles with liquids) to break up pigment deposits (lipofuscin) and other stray pigment cells (melanin).  Once broken up, the debris can be removed easily by the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes.  Over time, pigment blotches are lightened, and the skin’s waste removal function normalizes.  Additionally, ultrasonic waves can loosen and blast off any dead, hardened skin cells on the surface of the epidermis and help loosen debris in the pores (blackheads).  This is a much safer way to exfoliate and remove blackheads because you are not harming the viable cells of the skin or irritating the skin.   The skin is baby soft after exfoliating with an ultrasound spatula.  You may have a slight pinking, but that goes away in a few hours at most.  

2.  Ultrasound waves generate heat as a byproduct of the energy produced which, in turns, heats the skin and promotes collagen regeneration deep in the dermal layer.   The desired temperature is 115 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not very hot.  If you can purchase a skin surface thermometer, you can monitor how warm your skin gets while doing a treatment.  You don’t want to overheat the skin, as this may produce a sunburn effect.  The heat also helps loosen cellular waste and lipofuscin/pigment accumulations, again helping to move them out through the lymphatic system faster. 

3.  The ultrasound waves stimulate the arrector pili muscles in the dermal layer, causing the skin to tighten immediately and for weeks afterwards.  It gives you a mini facelift with repeated treatments.  You can use ultrasound in this way to tighten skin and reduce the appearance of nasolabial lines, drooping eyebrows and jowls.  

4.  Ultrasound also uses sound waves and cavitation as a means of pushing topicals and actives through the hardened keratinocytes on the surface of the epidermis and into the extracellular matrix (ECM), the component of skin which gives skin its structure and elasticity.  For actives to be effective, they must reach the receptors in the ECM.  If an active has the molecular size of 750 daltons or less, they should be able to easily penetrate through the epidermis into the dermis.  However, slightly bigger molecules can be pushed down with the assist of ultrasound. 

How to Use Your Ultrasound Probe or Spatula

If you only have enough money to choose one ultrasound device, consider what your main goals are.   If you want a device that will exfoliate the dead skin cells from the epidermis, help loosen blackheads, then the spatula is going to be your best bet.  If your main goal is to push topicals into the skin, massage, lift and tighten the skin, then a probe may be better.   You can use a spatula to do the same functions as a probe, but it is a little trickier to maneuver on the face and may take longer.  You cannot exfoliate with a probe, however.   

This is a picture of my 2Mhz probe:  

This is an entry level professional ultrasound spatula, there is a metal blade at the end of the handpiece:

This is a cordless, handheld spatula:

You should read the manufacturer’s instructions before beginning.  To be sure it is working, sprinkle a few drops of water on the metal probe or blade of the spatula.  It should instantly vaporize into the air.  You don’t want to overdo your treatments, as you may cause prolonged pinking of the skin (like a mild sunburn).   Five to ten minutes per each side of face should be adequate, depending on how strong your unit is.  My rule of thumb is massage treatments approximately 3x/wk and exfoliation 1x/wk at most.  Since my skin’s cellular turnover is very good at this point, I don’t really need to exfoliate my skin very often, so I just exfoliate maybe twice a year with my professional ultrasound spatula, when I have extra time for a “spa treatment” with an enzyme peel applied prior. 

A major benefit of ultrasound is that it is noninvasive and non-irritating; even sensitive and rosacea skin types can use ultrasound devices.  This makes it preferable over acid peels or microdermabrasion for exfoliating the skin.  It cannot damage the viable cells of the epidermis or dermis.  You must use a conductive gel (plain aloe is good), water, or one of the 302 mists to keep the skin moistened as you move the probe or spatula.  This allows the ultrasound waves to penetrate or conduct through the skin.  During massage and topical penetration treatments, apply your topical first, wet the skin with gel, water, or 302 mist and then move the blade of the spatula or probe from the center of the face, up and out towards the ears, and down the side to the jaw line.  This will help push excess fluid, cellular debris, and stray pigment cells out through your lymph nodes.  To help lift and tighten, move the spatula or probe from the center of the face to the hairline in sweeping upward movements.       

Ultrasound Precautions

Ultrasound devices are extremely safe if these simple common sense precautions are followed:

1.  Never let the spatula or probe sit stationary on the face.  You need to continually move the blade at a slow, but steady pace.  You can move the probes in small circular movements.   The ultrasound device will generate a little heat, but should never become hot.  While using the probe or spatula, keep your skin moist and slightly wet by using a mister or fan brush to apply conductive gel, water, or 302 mist.   Wet one area at a time, such as 1 cheek, half of forehead, jaw line, eyebrows, eye bags, concentrating on areas of concern.       

2.  Don’t use over the eyelids and eyeballs.   Don’t use over major neck veins, arteries, or thyroid.   I do use the probe above my eyebrows and underneath my eyes, but keep it gentle and of short duration because the skin there is extremely thin and delicate.

3.  Never use ultrasound devices that are intended for the body on your face.  The skin on the face is thinner than body skin.  You should use only 3 MHz or 2 MHz devices for the face.  Never use a 1 MHz probe for the face, as it could penetrate into the subcutaneous layer and damage fat cells.   

Resources:

http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/rej.2008.0683

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101021141000.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNLXI8n33O0

http://www.skinspatula.com/

http://www.bellaireindustry.com/

A Safe and Sensible Approach to Correcting Acne Scars

Once your acne is under control and your skin is no longer inflamed, you can address the acne scars which remain.  The effectiveness of treatments tends to be better on people who are younger, healthier, and have fresh scars.   However, if you have decades old scarring, you can still diminish scarring.  My scars were 30 years old and I still got excellent results.  It will just take longer and require patience.   My suggestion is that you approach scar remodeling on a risk/benefit basis.  That is, try the least risky options first before embarking on more invasive and, potentially, damaging procedures.   Many people immediately go for the big guns, paying thousands of dollars on the latest laser treatments in hopes of instant scar repair.  “Instant” scar repair usually does not happen without some risk attached to it.  If there was a miracle treatment, we would have heard of it by now.  Though I have heard of some success stories with lasers, dermabrasion, and peels, I have also heard the flip side, of people who have become disfigured or damaged their skin permanently from botched laser procedures, dermabrasions, and deep chemical peels.  The damage may not show until months later, but it is devastating when it happens.  Remember, your results are totally dependent on the skill and knowledge of the doctor, nurse, or assistant doing the procedure.  If you sustain damage to the dermis or subcutaneous layer, you will have few options to repair it without risking further damage.   So, my recommendation is to eliminate or reduce the risk of damage by trying the less invasive treatments first, treatments which have little or no risk.     

Scar Remodeling – What I Found to Work  

I have been searching for acne repair solutions for the last 3 decades, so I’ve done many things and used many skincare lines.  Some have helped and some made things worse.  Most did nothing.  I believe I got some improvement from TCA peels in the doctor’s office, acids with Copper Peptides, and a line called Epicuren.  The problem was, with long-term use, they eventually led to my skin becoming sensitive, thinned, blotchy, and the results eventually stopped.   

Of the many treatments I have tried over the years, I find the following to be the most effective, safe, inexpensive, and without down-time.  Results are cumulative.  It can always get better, not worse.  Try these first before signing up for deep chemical peels, dermabrasion, or laser treatments:

1.   My Holy Grail of scar repair has to be this:   302 products with Avogen in conjunction with ultrasound and needling techniques.  The Avogen is a safe and effective ingredient that softens the skin and increases cell renewal.  I can honestly say that this has been the only thing which I could use long-term and see dramatically visible results.  I had 80% improvement in the first year, and now I would estimate it is 95% improvement after 5 years.  Avogen is very good at breaking up the gristly, cross-linked protein which presents as hardened scar tissue in the dermis.  It softens skin.   It also increases glucose utilization, which improves cell energy, and promotes the collagen and protein synthesis necessary to fill in the scar.  Ultrasound and needling are not required with Avogen, but I find it accelerates the process by breaking up the scar faster and pushing the Avogen deeper into the dermis.   The actual entire process is explained below in more detail. 

2.  Heating your skin to 115 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 seconds will denature the scar and help promote collagen formation.  You can use a number of gadgets to accomplish this.  In fact, that is how lasers seem to promote collagen, by the heat it generates, not the light.  See the study below.  You can safely use a 2 MHz ultrasound probe to generate the heat, a heating pad set on a low setting, or even hair dryer on low.  But the ultrasound probe is best because it will not dry out your skin or get too hot. 

3.  Take supplements which help break up scar tissue.  The two I use are serrapeptase and nattokinase.  These are fibrinolytic enzymes which dissolve excess fibrin which causes scar tissue, adhesions, and growths on organs, vessels, and arteries.  Once broken down by these enzymes, the cell debris is more capable of being excreted as waste.  These enzymes also have anti-inflammatory, immune system, and circulatory benefits.

4.  Even without 302 Avogen, you can try individual needling, dermarolling, or dermastamping.  This involves puncturing the skin with tiny holes, which can break up scar tissue and allow topicals to permeate the dermis better.  Vitamin A and C topicals are recommended prior, during, and after these treatments to promote collagen regeneration.  Just make sure not to apply Retin-A or L-ascorbic C forms, as these are highly irritating and will sting.  Instead, use lipid soluble vitamin A in the form of Retinyl Palmitate and vitamin C in the form of tetrahexydecyl-ascorbate (THDCA).  These forms are gentler, yet still provide the same benefits as Retin-A and L-ascorbic C.  These are the forms used in the 302 A Boost and Lightening Drops.  You can buy microneedling devices from the Internet or Ebay, but you have to be extremely careful.  There are many dangerous and shoddy devices out there.  I would never go any longer than 2.0 mm in length, because the possibility of going all the way to the subcutaneous fat layer is too risky.  You can permanently damage your fat cells by using extremely long needles and cause them to die or atrophy, leaving your face gaunt looking.  I buy my supplies from www.owndoc.com.  I find them honest and reasonable in cost.  You can also try finding a physician who does these procedures in an office setting under sterile conditions, which would be the safest option.             

My 302 Protocol for Scar Remodeling

First, a disclaimer.  This is my personal protocol.  The 302 company does not endorse self-needling, dermarolling, or dermastamping.  Obviously, there is a risk of infection if the tools are not sterile or you do not do it correctly.  Before embarking on this, read about dermarolling, needling, and stamping in the www.owndoc.com website.  There are several very informative articles in their forum. 

The one important prerequisite is that you have used the 302 skincare protocol suggested by your esthetician and have come to a point where your skin is calmed, healthy, and functioning well.  If you are not at this point, don’t attempt this yet.  You want your skin to be in optimal health before doing this.  Select your tools correctly.  If you have numerous scars on the face, you will want to use a 1.5 mm dermaroller.  If you only have a few isolated scars, a single needle (for ice picks) or a dermastamp (for small scars) is a better option.  You will need some anesthetic if using the roller, but is not necessary or desirable for the individual needles or dermastamps.  Anesthetic seems to exacerbate redness, and it takes longer to go away in my experience. 

So, in a nutshell this is what I did for my acne scars.  This should also work for chemical burns and other general scarring: 

1.   Take a 2- or 3-week holiday from Avogen-containing topicals, also A and C actives.  You may continue using all other 302 products as usual if you want.  The reason for the break is to reset your skin to baseline again.  Nothing bad will happen, and when you resume the actives, the improvements seem to jump to another level.

2.  At the end of the holiday, use the appropriate tool to roll, needle, or stamp your scars.  Below, from left to right, is a 2 mm single needle, 1.75 mm dermastamp, and 1.5 mm dermaroller.It’s very important to use sterile technique and instruments.  You don’t need to excessively roll, needle or stamp.  Four passes on the roller in 4 directions, 15 stamps or 15 needle punctures is all you want.  You want to see pinprick bleeding, this is an indication you are reaching the dermis, where the scar resides.  But don’t make your skin a bloody pulpy mess, or you will cause more scarring.  With proper technique, you should have some redness or red spots, but they will be totally gone in a matter of 5-7 days.  Use appropriate sunscreen or better yet, stay inside while you are in this stage of healing; otherwise, hyperpigmentation may result. 

3.  Immediately after the rolling, needling, stamping, apply equal parts of 302 Drops OR 302 Serum (or Hi Potency Drops or Hi Potency Serum if available) + A Boost + Lightening Drops.  This is the only time you should combine 302 actives.  This is what I call my 302 Triple Threat, and I only use this when needling.  Mist with water or Calming Mist afterwards to spread it out.

4.  Let your skin rest.  Don’t apply any more actives until your redness go away.   You can use the 302 cleansers, mists in the interim. 

5.  After your skin is back to normal, resume your 302 actives as usual. 

6.  In between treatments, use your 2 MHz ultrasound probe after applying your 302 Avogen topical at night to heat up the skin and push the Avogen even further. 

Do this 3x/week, 10 minutes for your face.   This is going to promote even more collagen regeneration and help tighten the skin.  Keep your skin slightly wet when using the probe, keep moving it in little circles, concentrating on scars.  I use the Calming mist, but misting water is okay too.  You should feel a little heat, but it should never be hot.   

7.  Do not roll, needle, or stamp again for at least another 4 weeks.  Six weeks, even better.  The skin is actively producing collagen during this period of time and you don’t want to disrupt the process.  Also, you don’t want chronic inflammation, so limit your treatments.

7.  Give yourself at least 6 months before assessing progress.  Scar remodeling is one of the longest processes you will encounter, especially the older you are.  Be patient.  Don’t expect overnight results.  Take before and after shots.  Your friends and spouse will probably notice before you do, which is exactly what happened to me. 

So, stop constantly monitoring your skin on a daily or hourly basis, and keep a positive attitude!  Scar repair can be done safely and cheaply if you educate yourself, use the right tools, and have patience.  

Resources:

http://www.healthiertalk.com/enzymes-fibrosis-scars-keloids-lung-disease-and-cancer-2118 

http://www.taoofherbs.com/articles/88/NeprinolEnzyme.htm

http://dermaroller.com/en/scar-treatment/derma-stamp

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101021141000.htm

http://www.asds.net/UltrasoundUsefulinSkinTightening.aspx

 

Treating Acne – Do’s and Don’ts

I suffered from cystic acne as a teenager, so this subject is very important to me.   I understand the pain, emotionally and physically, of dealing with constant breakouts which seemingly never stop and appear at the worst possible times.  As a teenager, I didn’t have the opportunity or money to seek medical treatment, so I often resorted to drug store remedies, picking and squeezing, and then covering my spots with globs of concealer and makeup.  I was depressed about my face, and I think it led to many of the self-esteem issues that I had later as a young adult.  When I started making my own money, I did turn to dermatologists.  I had 2 courses of Accutane which made the acne go away, but I had extremely dry, sensitive skin, and I had to have blood tests every month.  I didn’t realize the risks associated with Accutane use at the time.  I was young and just wanted my breakouts to stop.  At first, I thought it was a miracle.  It was many years later that I read about the potential risks of bone deformities, hair loss, GI problems, and depression that Accutane could cause.  I also believe it caused my skin to scar even worse.  I had huge depressions, ice picks scars all over my cheeks and chin.  The next 30 years were spent trying to correct the scars.  I tried all types of skincare, dermatologic treatments, injections, laser treatments, chemical peels…you name it I probably tried it.  I will go into scar remodeling next time because I was eventually able to correct at least 90% of my scars.  My skin is nearly scar-free today.  But it took me thousands of dollars, lots of frustration and time to get to this point.  Hopefully, with my experience, I can save you some grief.        

For now, I want to address how to avoid the scars in the first place.  Stop the breakouts, and you will have less chance of residual scarring.   Here are my Do’s and Don’ts for treating acne. 

 The Don’ts of Treating Acne

 1.  Acne treatments which contain benzoyl peroxide (BP) or hydrogen peroxide should be limited to spot treatments on a limited basis.  Benzoyl peroxide is, well, a bleach.  It works by killing bacteria.  Hydrogen peroxide also reduces acne lesions in the same manner.  It will bleach your towels, bed sheets, hair, whatever it comes in contact with.  Putting Hydrogen peroxide or BP all over your face along with an AHA such as glycolic acid, every day, twice a day will cause extreme dryness, irritation, inflame the skin, and eventually make your skin sensitive to almost everything, including water.  BP, hydrogen peroxide, and glycolic acids are potent free radical producers…they age your skin.  As a result, the skin takes longer to heal and becomes more likely to scar.  Once you stop BP or hydrogen peroxide, your breakouts come back in full force, and you will be left with sensitive, blotchy, dried out skin.  These treatments are not addressing the source of the acne, just the surface manifestation.  So, use BP or hydrogen peroxide judiciously and infrequently as spot treatments if you have to.  Try not to use AHAs on a regular basis, as it makes your skin more prone to hyperpigmentation.  But I think it’s best to not even start with these ingredients, as the damage caused to your skin may be very difficult to fix later on.   

 2.  Try to forgo Accutane or make it your last resort.  The side effects and long-term effects are many and potentially dangerous, especially for young teens and women of childbearing age.  There are other safer options that can be tried first which I will list below. 

 3.   Do not pick.  Picking definitely increases the chance of infection and making your scarring worse.  I was a notorious picker, and I know I caused my scars to be deeper as a result.

 4.  Stop wearing liquid foundation, primers, smoothers, concealers.  These often contain pore-clogging ingredients, irritants, and will exacerbate your acne.  It’s better to use mineral powder makeup or no makeup if possible.  Find a mineral makeup with as few ingredients as possible, no added fillers, artificial dyes, antioxidants or fancy anti-aging ingredients.  You want to limit your chance of having an adverse reaction.  Try to find a mineral makeup containing mainly zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and iron oxides if possible.  Avoid makeup with bismuth oxychloride because it can irritate the skin, causing breakouts.   

The Do’s of Treating Acne

1.  Look at your diet.  Try eliminating, as much as possible, dairy, refined carbohydrates, sugar from your diet.  Many people find modifying their diet helps reduce breakouts tremendously.    

2.  Reduce stress.   Studies have shown that stress has a direct impact on occurrence of acne breakouts.   If you’ve noticed how that pimple appears right before a big date or exam, it’s stress related.   During times of stress, the adrenal glands produce more male hormones, which in turn enlarge oil glands, making them overactive, causing more breakouts to occur. 

3.  Try supplements that will treat acne from the inside out by reducing inflammation and killing bacteria.  Acne is an inflammatory reaction to the P. acnes bacteria.  If you can supplement with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory herbals that are much safer than using drugs, you should try that first.  I’ve had very good results with products by Acnescript.  I put my 2 teenagers on Acnescript in April 2010, and their skin has markedly improved.  Like me, my son had really bad cystic acne with redness.  His redness is gone, and breakouts go away much faster now, but he still has the occasional breakout.  It’s not a cure-all, but it’s natural and has few, if any, side effects.  www.acnescript.com  is the website.  You can trial their products for free (except for shipping).  I even take them, just for the skin health benefits provided by the herbals which include tumeric, burdock, B5, B6, Zinc, and garlic.   Another good supplement for acne and skin health in general is black currant oil.  It helps the skin to retain moisture and less prone to forming hard sebum plugs which can block pores.  

4.  Try the 302 Skincare topicals for controlling breakouts.  These are gentle and simple to use.  At minimum, the Face and Body Bar and the Acne or Calming Mist should be used.  These 3 products alone should make a vast difference for most people.  Wash once a day with the Face and Body bar and then spray with the Acne Mist or Calming Mist.  This simple routine is especially good for kids.  There are other stronger 302 products for more severe cases, and your 302 esthetician can recommend the correct products for you.  The Acne Mist and Calming Mist contains a very high level of EGCG (green tea extract), proven in scientific studies to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide 4% without the negative side effects.  The Acne mist is most suitable for people with a lot of clogged pores as it contains enzymes to break down the clogs.  The enzymes have a mild peeling effect, so you should use it once daily and limit sun exposure after application.  The Calming mist does not contain the enzymes and can be used as often as needed.   

5.  Try using noninvasive home gadgets such as LED therapy (blue light) and high-frequency devices like DermaWand to zap acne lesions before they get out of hand.   

So, these are some suggestions to try out first.  If your acne is still out of control after trying these for at least a few months, then you should see a dermatologist for other prescription options.  But I think for 90% of people, the above suggestions will be adequate to control acne with little to no risk.    

Resources:

http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v94/n2/abs/5613082a.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/213/4511/1023.short

http://www.bion-research.com/benzoyl_peroxide_skin_damage.htm

http://www.naturalhealthweb.com/articles/Podsakoff12.html

http://www.smartskincare.com/conditions/acne/acne-and-skin-aging.html

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/news/20070307/stress-makes-teen-acne-worse

http://acne.about.com/od/acnetriggers/a/dietacnestudy.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/67311-high-frequency-acne-treatments/

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies for a Healthy Glow

I think the most common request that I hear from women has to be “I want my skin to glow.”  Glow has subjective meaning.  Some people take glow to mean pinkness to the cheeks, or shiny smooth skin, or both.  You can certainly obtain a glow by exfoliating and causing temporary erythema or microinflammation, but that is not sustainable.   Plus, you are prematurely aging the skin with the constant exfoliation.  You don’t want to end up with tight, shiny, unnatural looking skin.   Some women like that look I guess, but it’s not a sign of healthy skin.  We’ve all been told by our parents to eat our veggies and fruits, and for good reason.  It keeps your body functioning at a healthy level by providing nutrients to your cells.  That translates to the skin as well.  I stumbled across this interesting article which shows research that backs this up.  So, if you want a truly healthy glow, eat your carotenoids, the red and orange veggies!!

Check it out:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110111133224.htm