Theoretically, having beautiful skin is simple. Take one part clear young skin, add the forty or so known nutrients from fresh foods eaten as much as possible in their natural state, and mix together with exercise for overall tone and proper breathing for good oxygenation of cells. Put in a dose of fresh air and a pinch of stimulation now and then. Stir well and you've got a recipe that will last for years.
That's the theory. In practice, however, things can go wrong: an early wrinkle, acne, dryness, roughness - that's when you need help from special cosmetics, vitamins, and treatments.
when skin dries out
Dried-out skin usually comes from under-active sebaceous glands, which don't produce enough of this important oily fluid to lubricate the skin and protect it from excessive water loss. It can also be the result of being exposed to excessively drying weather conditions, central heating, or air conditioning. Another, rarer, cause is being on a diet too low in essential fatty acids, such as a fat-free slimming regimen. Excessive dryness of the skin also occurs in people who, unknown to themselves, are suffering from deficiencies of vitamin A or C or any one of several of the B-complex group.
prevention and cure
Use a water-in-oil emulsion on your face night and day to protect against excessive water loss, by trapping the water in the outer layer of the skin and preventing it from being given up into the atmosphere. Ensure that you get enough essential fatty acids in your diet by using olive oil in your salad dressings and cutting out convenience foods full of junk fats.
Consider taking supplements of vitamins A and D in the form of fish liver oil, or drinking fresh carrot juice a couple of times a day and taking some EPA and DHA in supplement form along with GLA. Try putting GLA in the form of borage oil or evening primrose oil directly on the skin too. You need to leave the oil on the skin for only fifteen minutes; then you can remove the excess with a tissue. Vitamin E taken internally and rubbed on the skin from capsules is often helpful too.
Other helpful things include a humidifier, weekly steaming of the skin followed by an oil massage, and mineral water sprayed from an atomizer before applying your moisturizer or treatment products. Don't wash your skin with soap. Don't use any skin product containing alcohol. Use a mask for dry skin. Use aromatherapy oils you mix yourself to contain the essences most useful for dry skin, such as geranium, chamomile, rose, sandalwood, lavender, and ylang-ylang. Always choose an oil-based makeup foundation.
the oil crisis
Oily skin, or seborrhea, is the result of overactive sebaceous glands: it usually occurs due to a hormonal imbalance in the body. Occasionally a diet too high in fats and fried foods or refined sugar can contribute to the condition, as can too much stimulation of the sebaceous glands by heat, the sun, or skin-care products. Studies show that people on diets slightly deficient in some of the B group of vitamins rapidly develop whiteheads, blackheads, and oily hair and skin.
prevention and cure
Treatment for seborrhea has changed in recent years. Dermatologists used to think the way to deal with the condition was literally to dry out the skin. Dermatologists now realize that oily skin is not the tough and robust stuff they once thought it was. They have found that the use of drying agents in cosmetic products in most cases only treats the problem temporarily by removing excess oil at the expense of worsening the condition in the long run. Attempts to cover it up and to cover up acne with heavy, drying makeup are generally unsuccessful too.
The new approach is different, but it may take time for you to get used to it if you are still thinking in the old way. Instead of using harsh products on your skin, buy a mild, lotion cleanser without any drying agent for cleansing and removing makeup. It should be an oil itself or an oil-in-water emulsion. Rub it on gently with clean hands, then wipe it off completely with tissues before rinsing with fresh, cool water. It is important to remove it all. You don't need a tonic or a freshener, but if you want one, make sure it contains no alcohol (alcohol is also a drier).
During the day, wear a water-in-oil moisturizer and forget the heavy foundation. Instead, as soon as the moisturizer has had a chance to set, powder your face with double the amount of powder you would usually use, dust off the excess, then spray the face with a fine mist of water (preferably spring water from an atomiser, but you can use ordinary water in a spray bottle so long as the spray is very fine). Now blot with a tissue and then powder again. This will keep your skin looking fresh and matte as well as calming the flow of oil from trigger-happy glands. It will also help gradually to shrink the size of your pores. Then, throughout the day, every three or four hours or whenever necessary, you can repowder, and you'll never end up with the ugly, cakey mess oily-skinned women usually get.
Also, stay out of the sun. Sunbathing may dry your skin for a while, but when indoors weather comes you will find you're faced with the results of the same situation: over-stimulation of the sebaceous glands by ultraviolet light, which results in all the problems you have been trying to get rid of.
From a nutritional point of view, if your skin is too oily, don't eat fatty foods or fried foods and do eat plenty of raw green vegetables and B-complex vitamins from wholegrain breads and cereals, and liver.
The B vitamins (particularly B6, niacin, and B2) in these foods are vital in the treatment of excessively oily skin and the acne that often accompanies it. Vitamin A and beta-carotene can also be useful in treating skin that is too oily. It can be taken together with vitamin D as fish liver oil, or in higher doses on its own as well. Vitamin C, potassium, and calcium have also been reported helpful.
ultrasensitive and allergic skin
The word allergy means `altered response' in Greek. If you are allergic to something, this means that your body has come into contact with it and instead of reacting normally to it or not at all, it has reacted with hostility, resulting in raised, red, itchy splotches on the skin. An acute reaction occurs within seconds or minutes after coming in contact with the allergen. You can inhale it, say in the form of a hair spray, or you can take it in through your skin as a face cream or a makeup product. There are also delayed reactions, which come about only after a few hours or even days after coming into contact with the allergen.
prevention and cure
Apart from nutritional therapy to strengthen the whole organism against allergic reactions, the only effective way to deal with skin sensitivities is to be careful about what you put on your face.
Get to know the hypoallergenic cosmetics - skin-care and makeup products made without known irritants. Most are inexpensive yet very good and specially formulated with ingredients that have little likelihood of causing problems. The prefix `hypo' means `less'. Hypoallergenic products are designed to be less reaction-producing than other cosmetics. They are fragrance-free and leave out such common troublemakers as aluminum salts, wool fat, and phenol.
For immediate relief, skin inflammation usually responds well to calamine lotion, simple witch hazel, and some poultices made with herbs such as calendula. One of the best to use is comfrey, whose very name denotes healing in Latin. It contains the natural anti-inflammatory substance allantoin, which is often used in skin ointments. Make a comfrey compress by pouring half a cup of boiling water over half a cup of the dried herb. Let it cool to a bearable temperature, near body heat, then put the wet herb on the face. Cover with gauze and lie down for fifteen minutes while it cools. This kind of compress will also reduce the pain and swelling over a bruise or a pulled muscle, as well as calm inflamed skin.
when acne strikes
Although it is more common among teenagers than among any other age group, acne, an infection of the sebaceous glands, can occur at any time in life. It shows up as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and pustules that occur on the face and neck, back and chest.
The cause of acne is still not completely understood, and the recommended treatment tends to vary. Many people with acne are victims of a food sensitivity or allergy - the most common allergens being wheat, milk, or preservatives and colorings. And when the elimination of waste via the alimentary canal is inadequate, often wastes are eliminated through the skin. Finally, stress and emotional upset are often implicated.
prevention and cure
Look to your diet first. Eliminate sweets, sugared soft drinks, and fatty foods such as nuts and fried foods. A diet in which at least 50 per cent of your foods are eaten raw often does wonders for even long-term acne, provided it is used in conjunction with the proper external care and vitamin and mineral supplements where necessary.
It is essential to keep the skin clean, removing dirt and excess oil or waxy sebum regularly, using gentle, pH-balanced soaps or detergent cleansers. Skin should be washed in warm water at least twice a day and steamed twice a week to encourage the release of waste matter. Of course your hands should be immaculate so as not to encourage further infection.
Topical agents are often helpful. Retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A acid (available only by prescription) applied to the skin is one of the commonly used and generally effective treatments for acne. Sometimes dermatologists use the antibiotic tetracycline, usually administered in doses of 250mg twice a day. In many cases this has dramatically reduced the acne, but there are disadvantages to antibiotic treatment, too. Because of the stress aspects of acne, both regular exercise and meditation or deep relaxation can be helpful too.
Stretch marks occur frequently on the abdomen and breasts of pregnant women and on the thighs, hips and buttocks of women who have been overweight - particularly women who are deficient in zinc, vitamin B6, or both. A sudden increase in weight or volume of an area of the body or the swelling of breasts and abdomen in pregnancy results in these unsightly lines, which are difficult to eliminate.
prevention and cure
Ensure that you get adequate zinc, silica and vitamin B6 in your diet - if necessary by supplementing it. Women who are on the Pill are particularly susceptible to deficiencies of these two nutrients. If you gain weight or become pregnant, treat your skin from outside with preventative measures by rubbing on an aromatherapy oil for your skin type twice a day or by the use of cocoa butter.
There is supposed to be no cure for stretch marks once they are formed, for the consistency of the skin itself in that area has changed to resemble scar tissue and therefore remains permanently disfigured. What I have seen is that old stretch marks improve greatly with aromatherapy treatment and connective-tissue massage, which appears to bring life back into the tissue by increasing circulation in the area. But while I have seen them fade greatly - enough for the woman to wear a bikini again without fear of looking ugly - I have never known them to disappear completely.
blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples
A blackhead consists of a solid plug of oil that clogs the pore and then blackens due to oxidation on exposure to the air. If it is left alone it will simply stay there in the skin. Blackheads do not cure themselves.
A whitehead looks like a tiny white lump on the skin. Once formed, it will remain unless the chemistry of the oil follicle changes, in which case the whitehead turns into a pimple.
prevention and cure
Blackheads on oily areas of the face (such as around the nose and chin) that are not inflamed can be removed easily by first steaming the skin to open the pores and loosen the oil material. Then gently, with scrupulously clean hands and the tips of your fingers wrapped in facial tissue, you can ease out the plugs. Never use your nails. Finish off the treatment with the application of an antiseptic cream.
If you have many whiteheads it is best to follow nutritional and treatment advice for oily skin. The elimination of a dormant whitehead can only be done by a professional. Besides care in keeping skin clean and nutritional prevention of excessively oily skin, little should be done with a pimple other than to allow it to take its course.
don't let age get under your skin
Nothing betrays age like the state of your skin. When you are young, it is thick, glowing, soft and elastic. As the years go by, a number of changes take place. To slow down this process and to keep a young healthy skin as long as possible you have first to retain a young, healthy body. This is a total, ongoing process depending on good nutrition, stress control, exercise, and protection from the environment. There aren't any shortcuts. But the good news is this: these skin aging changes appear to be not so dependent on the passage of time as they were once believed to be. There is much, therefore, you can do to retard them.
to tan or not to tan
A tan is a protective reaction. It results from the formation of melanin, the skin's natural pigmentation produced by special cells whose action is triggered by exposure to ultraviolet rays. Every woman has a unique capacity for melanin production, depending on her genetic inheritance. Dark, thick, Mediterranean skins produce more melanin. This is why they will turn a darker brown than the `English rose' skin, which produces far less.
There are some important things to remember about tanning and how to protect your skin from aging and cancers:
There is no way to get a safe tan.
Never use a sunbed. They filter out UVB burning rays but let the UVA in deep. They are automatic aging machines.
SPF numbers don't tell you about UVA protection from wrinkling and aging. Most only deal with UVB protection against burning.
For the safest protection from aging and burning read labels. Shun chemical sunscreens in favor of physical sunblocks - products based on micro minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which do not absorb the sun's rays or react with your skin.
Apply a sunblock a quarter of an hour before going out into the sun.
Water resistant products are not what they seem. Their effectiveness is compromised by sweat and swimming. Reapply them often.
If you are using or have used any kind of AHAs, Retin-A/Renova or any other pharmaceuticals on your face, wear a hat which shades your face as well as a physical sunblock and don't spent a lot of time outdoors.
Never get sunburnt. The damage it causes continues to get worse for 24 hours after the initial burn appears, and when severe it can last a lifetime.
Think twice before taking oral contraceptives or HRT. Use of these hormone-based drugs is correlated with a three times greater risk of melanomas in women under 40. they make you prone to irregular pigmentation - age spots- as well.
Take a tip from the Arabs, who know a lot about sun protection. Cover your body well when you plan to spend long hours outdoors. Always wear a hat.
Use one of the excellent new non-reactive, mineral-based makeup products on your face (such as Jane Iredale) which lasts all day, looks natural, covers your skin and reflects UV rays for extra protection.
forget the cigarettes
Smoking also makes skin age rapidly. This is probably because of a substance called benzopyrene, which is found in cigarette smoke and which uses up the body's supply of vitamin C rapidly, making it unavailable for the support of healthy collagen. So the skin wrinkles earlier.
The skin of smokers wrinkles and ages up to twenty years sooner than that of nonsmokers. But the problem with cigarette smoke doesn't end there. For it is not only the smoker whose skin can suffer from it. So can the nonsmoker's. She may take in considerable quantities of benzopyrene, tar, carbon monoxide, and other irritating substances just by being in a room with others who are smoking.
Some dermatologists concerned about the dangerous effects of cigarette smoke on skin recommend that every smoker supplement her diet with additional vitamin C at a rate of 25mg for each cigarette she smokes. But if you are serious about preventing aging, give up smoking altogether - no matter how difficult it seems, and no matter how many excuses you can make for yourself about why you think you can't just now.