We all love facials - the ritual of steaming, masking, pore cleansing, facial massage. Blackhead removal - not so pleasant. I'd love to hear what you like about getting a facial! Please share.
However, I bet here's something you didn't know. If you are dark skinned, blackhead removal can actually do more damage to your skin. Why? The curse of pigmented skin is its very easy tendency to scar. Squeezing out blackheads bruises skin and tends to leave behind scars that last forever. Remember that next time someone tries to de-blackhead you!
So what can you do? First we need to understand blackheads.
Blackheads are caused by two things: excess sebum (oil) and debris like dead skin cells. When the opening of a hair follicle gets clogged by these two, a comedone (bump) develops. If the bump is above the skin surface, it gets oxidized resulting in a blackhead. If the bump is below the skin's surface, it is a whitehead. If the comedone gets infected by bacteria, it is a pimple. There's a lot of hooey stuff on the internet with no scientific backing about how to manage comedones and acne ranging from "non-comedogenic" products to oil cleansing. If we were to address the root cause of blackheads, we need to control the amount of sebum produced and prevent the accumulation of dead skin cells. How can we do this?
Turns out that controlling the sebum production is not easy - it is dependent on hormones which are a bit tricky to manage. We can do something about removing dead skin cells. This is a good review published in a scientific journal about methods to manage acne including alternative therapies. The paper indicates that clay masks are effective in clearing out dead skin due to clay's excellent absorptive and adsorptive properties.
This paper also indicates the benefits of using clay masks for mild acne although it was sponsored by a company that makes and sells clay!!!
There are different types of clay to use. I think it's OK to use any of them although skin care marketing will have you believe otherwise. These are Bentonite, kaolin, French Rose, French Green, Fuller's earth (Multani Mitti) ... In general the French clays and Kaolin clay are gentler and less drying.
What you need to know about applying a clay mask:
1) Cleanse face first
2) You can use water, yogurt, honey, apple cider vinegar as your liquid medium. Water is perfectly fine.
3) Test your skin to sensitivity. If your skin is sensitive, apply a thin layer and leave on for 5-10 mins and wash off. If your skin is not too sensitive, you can leave the mask on for 15-20 mins.
4) Frequency of application - no more than once a week depending on how your skin likes it.
Some other helpful tips to manage blackheads:
1) Cleanse your face with a mild Ph balanced cleanser no more than twice a day - morning and evening. One of the key problems with liquid cleansers are that they are very hard to completely rinse off. It is vitally important to rinse the cleanser off COMPLETELY or the chemicals in the cleanser will clog your pores. A rule of thumb is to wash your face with water 10 times after applying the cleanser.
2) Steam your face to open your pores once a week.
3) Minimize the number of products you use on your face.
Lastly and most importantly - let your confidence make you beautiful, blackheads or not. Don't obsess - just follow these simple hygiene tips, eat sensibly, and live your life!
I have never been into makeup. I know it's quite exciting for a lot of women, but for me it's just a bother. Why?
To illustrate what makes me feel gorgeous, I need to make an analogy to Ramit Sethi's pyramid for productivity (with due apologies to Ramit). When you think about it, there are a few key fundamentals which when taken care of pay huge dividends when it comes to the quality of your life. Beauty is an aspect of quality of life - it adds to self confidence. So, here are the fundamentals Ramit talks about that are the basics of leading a productive life. Interestingly, the same is true for looking gorgeous as well. (Below is my summary and not exactly Ramit's words).
One of my clients told me that good skin care needs to be cultivated like good oral hygiene. Just like it's automatic for us to brush our teeth so they are healthy, so should it be with skin care so our skin is nourished and glows with happiness. And just like brushing teeth, we need to start with kids when they are young so the habit becomes ingrained.
One of the most common issues I hear about is dry skin. Ranging from scaly and itchy to hard white spots particularly on young children's faces. Such problems can easily be avoided by practicing the following on a daily basis.
1) Only use warm, not hot water for showering. Young children who bathe on their own are notorious for taking long, hot showers. This combined with a lack of basic skin care is the best recipe for dry skin. Ask me, I have experienced it with my daughter. Convincing her to cut the heat and time took long, but the next step below really helped in the interim.
2) Use a gentle soap. I recommend a pure glycerin soap like this one. Vegetable glycerin is an excellent humectant - meaning it attracts moisture to your skin.
2) Apply a body cream with a significant amount of humectant (like vegetable glycerin) when skin is still slightly moist. Many Indians like to use an oil, like coconut oil. However, while oil is good, by itself it is is not enough for chronic dry skin which needs water that's found in creams and a humectant that draws moisture to the skin.
So there you have it - simple and effective. For stubborn dry spots, try the Resuscitate serum, proven to be effective and safe.
6/14/2017 0 Comments
If you do a search on the internet, you will find a myriad number of websites touting the benefits of drinking lemon water. Many of them are unsubstantiated by research. When I began drinking lemon water every morning (a few months ago), I started because:
a) I was impressed by what topical application of ascorbic acid was doing to my skin (see here for details)
b) I have a lemon tree in my backyard and figured why not use them and see what happens?
Drinking warm lemon water is legendary in the practice of Ayurveda. The fact that this is an age old practice and has consistently been praised for it's detoxifying abilities is a good start to why it might be worthwhile to cultivate this habit. However, I wanted to see what modern science has to say on this subject. I found this excellent summary by Dr. Alison Chen which looks pretty thorough in the vast body of papers and research that she has summarized in her article.
I think making this change has added a new dimension to wellness for me. I drink the juice of about a quarter of a lemon diluted with warm water. Everyday (unless I am traveling). Below are the daily short term benefits I realize:
Final words: skin health is very tangibly linked with overall wellness, of both body and mind despite what most skin care companies would have you believe. There are no miracle drugs or products that can give you glowing skin. You need to cultivate good habits and discipline to enjoy great skin and I believe ascorbic acid is a good tool to have in your toolbox.
Unless it's fruit and vegetables.
I recently went on a team building event from work to a place where we baked some goodies as a team. One of the items we made was red velvet cake. I bit my tongue as we dumped a couple of tablespoons of the red dye into the dough. Did I do the right thing in not speaking up about the hazards of using artificial food coloring? I don't know. . .
It seems there are two camps these days on food, bath and body ingredients - the alarmists a la Food Babe and the "I'm cool with parabens because that's the best thing there is to preserve things for 5 years without fearing icky mold and bacteria growth". Kind of like American politics conspicuous by the lack of a balanced point of view.
Below is how I feel about artificial food coloring. I wrote this as a comment in response to a blog post from a lady who has her own natural products line. You can read her post here.
While I commend the spirit with which you have written this article, I still think it is very important for consumers to become smarter in choosing both food and bath and body products. A couple of examples: artificial food coloring. There are now a ton of products that have food coloring. Three of these dyes that are used widely in the US have benzidene which a study published in an NIH paper shows to be a human and animal carcinogen. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
The FDA of course approves of this to be used because the concentration is too low to cause harm. Which is the same argument used to permit the use of lead acetate in a men's hair product to cover grey. There are scientific papers written that conclude there is NO safe level of exposure to lead.
Although most of the Questionable ingredients are present in low concentrations, the lack of transparency in labeling products and the absence of audits in the bath and body industry, exposes consumers to risks - and given that the combination of multiple food and bath and body products consumed, concern about the cumulative impact of the effects of these substances on health is understandable. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of consumers to vet out what is in food and other products to ensure safety, ethical practices in mass manufacturing especially when it comes to children. The truth is we will never be able to isolate a health issue to a certain ingredient. But like you say, the way everything we put in our bodies can interact with each other, how they build up due to cumulative effects etc. are common sense concerns.
I do agree that consumers must get smart about vetting out scientific studies from alarmist blogs or websites written by people who have no formal training or credibility in health or chemistry. Just because this needs more effort does not imply consumers can blindly consume if they have any regard for what they are putting in their bodies. This article in the Scientific American illustrates the impact consumers can have on changing the way big companies approach what they put in their products. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-artificial-food-coloring-contribute-to-adhd-in-children/
Thanks for reading my long comment!
So what do you think about artificial food coloring? As I wrote this comment, I realized that the key reason that I chose to start my own skin care line was really inspired by the concept of minimalism. I am not an alarmist - I did eat the red velvet cupcake - but I believe we need not resort to unwanted and un-needed things to make our food (including skin food) nutritious, beautiful, and tasty.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this guide on food colorants by a then toxicology Ph.D. candidate: https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf
I am sorry if I completely change how you feel about soap. I thought about whether to write this or not and finally decided to write it after a recent conversation I had with a friend about her chronic dry skin.
What kind of soap do you use to cleanse your body? A bar? Liquid soap? Other? No matter what you use, please bother to look at what its ingredients are. If you use a bar, I'm pretty confident you will see "sodium tallowate" listed in the ingredients. I want to discuss this. I am a vegetarian - initially due to upbringing that has religious and cultural roots and now because I choose to be. I care about animals and choose not to consume anything that involves killing an animal. I was not always this way - I have bought leather goods before - now I choose to buy furniture, shoes, purses etc. that are not made of leather. I do not eat meat. I do not support animal testing or any cruelty to animals so that we humans can consume more and more. If you feel the same way as I do, ditch the bar soap with sodium tallowate. Tallow is a fat derived from certain animal parts (mainly cows) and is saponified with sodium hydroxide to form soap. Given the quantities of soap manufactured, I can't begin to imagine the condition of the animals from which it is derived.
Traditional soap is made by saponifying vegetable oils like olive oil. Saponification is the reaction of sodium hydroxide with the fats in oils that produce soap and other byproducts. So why is tallow (or lard - derived from pigs) used? To cut costs - it's a cheaper byproduct of the meat industry.
Liquid soap is made of synthetic surfactants. The sulfate surfactants (which are now notorious) are examples. A common surfactant is cocamidopropyl betaine. I don't have a huge principle issue with liquid soap. But my main problems are a) they have very little beneficial chemicals (most surfactants are drying and irritating), contain hardly any amount of beneficial oils or humectants (chemicals that draw water to keep skin hydrated), and b) since they contain a good bit of water, you need a preservative to ensure shelf life.. Too complicated. If you see a label that says natural liquid soap, it's a lie. Tallow is natural, synthetic surfactants are not.
So what kind of soap should you use? If you suffer from chronic dry skin, start evaluating your soap. I recommend a glycerin soap. This brings me to one of the great ironies of the skin care industry. Glycerin is one of the key byproducts of soap making. However, this chemical is removed from soap as it is used extensively in the beauty industry. So manufacturers can sell you a crappy bar of soap and make more money selling one of the most beneficial ingredients in soap separately. Glycerin soap is soap from which the glycerin has not been removed. Glycerin is a humectant - it loves water and draws moisture to your skin when t is present on skin. It is almost impossible to find commercial soaps containing glycerin. A couple of brands I have seen is Kiss My Face olive oil soap and the famous Pears (that got into a controversy for changing its recipe adding a bunch of unhealthy ingredients). I encourage you to seek out hand made soap - there are plenty of people who make amazing hand made soaps - these will have the glycerin in them and your skin will thank you for the trouble. Or you can be like me and buy melt and pour glycerin base and customize this to your liking by adding oils, essential oils etc. Or you could learn a new skill and make your own soap. All you need is water, sodium hydroxide, and an oil! But this needs a bit of skill and caution. I have a packet of unopened sodium hydroxide - one day ...
It's really sad that the beauty industry peddles cheap unhealthy stuff at ridiculously marked up prices and makes all kinds of claims that are false. We need to get smarter about reading the ingredients and making good conscious choices just like we would for food.
Image courtesy: https://allevents.in/blog/international-yoga-day/
I realized the importance of treating my body with respect when I hit forty. It's not like I really abused it before - I did pay attention to what I ate etc. The issue was stress got the better of me and I was plagued with a host of inconvenient symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, racing heart, pain in my joints that would come and go at will etc. For the longest time, I could not accept that these physical symptoms were caused by my state of mind rather than some physiological condition. I went through a battery of tests and nothing was wrong. My doctor sat with me for an hour and gently explained that stress is the number one reason for doctor visits and can manifest in any random physical way imaginable. I still didn't believe him. Then one day, I called our family medical consultant and explained what I was going through. He heard me patiently, asked questions and then said something that finally made me understand:
1) If you have a pathological condition causing some issue, it will get worse with time
2) All my symptoms occurred randomly - there was no noticeable pattern to when, how, and what I felt. One day it was pain, another it was a feeling of lightheadedness, another it was a racing heart. The only thing that was consistent was the insomnia. This indicated, he said, a feeling of not having my life under control.
Finally a light bulb went on - that was it!!!
And that's how I began my journey to heal my mind. Little did I realize that that would lead to a pleasant side effect.
I want to make it clear that this journey has neither been easy nor short. It started in early 2015 and it took dedication. If you feel suboptimal in your body, are stressed out, or are just plain unhappy, you can turn things around - but only if you are wholly committed to it. That's the only rule. In my case, I was desperate to feel good in my body again. I had begun to accept that the aches and pain I was feeling was a sign of my growing old, or hormonal issues or some such. The fact is we're living much longer today - so the more we take care of ourselves, the better our enjoyment of our longevity. Below are the steps I took to get my life back.
1) I started with reading. I read all kinds of positive, uplifting books on philosophy, spirituality, and healthy living. Reading helped me feel better.
2) I talked about my fears with close friends. I remember a conversation I had with one of them who was also going through tough times health wise. She said "What's the worst thing that can happen?" I replied "I will die". And somehow that helped. Speaking out my irrational fear helped me feel lighter.
3) I started going on long walks almost daily. These helped calm me down and have a slice of joy that comes with being out in nature every day.
4) I looked deep and hard inside myself. I made some decisions - found a new job, started a skin care line. Those gave me renewed confidence and added a freshness to my life that was enjoyable.
5) I was beginning to feel a lot better after a year of this. What took it to the next level was a Surya Namaskar or sun salutation challenge I accepted with a couple of coworkers. The challenge was to complete 108 cycles of these yogic poses in six months. I started slowly and built up to 60 cycles I'm still not at 108 but that's less important for me now). I do these stretches almost daily at 36 cycles. I have realized unbelievable benefits from this.
A few things to keep in mind when you are experimenting with weight loss. Your body weight fluctuates within a day. Use a good digital scale and an app like this to keep track easily. The green line indicated where I want to get to - that's the lightest I've ever been in my adult life!
Dont try too hard - like yourself no matter what your weight is. Being thin and shapely is something you mostly want to do for others, not yourself. Your goal must be to feel good about yourself - trust your instincts.
This is kind of an odd topic for a skin care blog but I had to write about it. After all, clothing can make you look great, just like good skin care. The package of good skin care, clothes, and good mental and physical health will invariably make you look stunning.
Several months ago, I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and my I underwent a pretty significant change in how I thought about clothes. When I was a teenager, shopping for clothes overwhelmed me. I had no sense of personal style nor did I feel motivated to cultivate one. So when I went shopping for clothes, I was always stumped by the choices, and as a result ended up with a significant amount of clothes I didn't really love.
Things improved only slightly when I moved to the USA and I had my own income and personal space to develop a fashion sense. Deep down I didn't care much for clothes - after all I was a chemistry grad student and if I didn't look downright dowdy, that was a good enough deviation from the stereotype. .
I continued to own a somewhat mishmash wardrobe with a good percentage of clothes I hardly ever wore until I read Kondo's book. Then it was as if I finally saw the light - it was a perfect storm of my daughters' clothes becoming completely unmanageable and my gradual shift towards getting rid of stuff - I think the book found me at the right time! One weekend, we went through our entire wardrobes, did the spark joy thing and I learned to roll clothes the Marie Kondo way. And I fell in love with how our closets looked - it the clothes looked so beautiful now that they were rolled and visible.
And that was when I started to really see what I was wearing everyday.
I did have pieces of clothing I loved. But I saw that my wardrobe did not fully meet my needs. For the first time, I deliberated on what I needed and picked out stores to go look for pieces rather than randomly going to a store that was close to where I happened to be doing something else and had a half hour to to get some random item of clothing. I realized that huge department stores like Macy's overwhelm me. So I found smaller department stores that carried clothing that suited my taste. Once I had bought a couple of tops I really loved, I read about capsule wardrobes. Our closets are tiny by American standards. When we moved in, I felt like I was going to be greatly deprived because I did not have s giant walk in closet. But I guess that has been a blessing in disguise.
The concept of capsule wardrobes completely appealed to me. I've been working on a seasonal capsule. My spring ensemble has about 45 items - a bit on the higher side considering that there are at least 5 pieces in here I do not LOVE.
My spring capsule consists of
- 6 cardigans - I think that's two too many
- 3 blazers - I love all of them!
- 4 jeans - two dark ones that I wear for work a lot (I'm in the Bay Area after all!) and two skinny jeans
- 3 work pants - one of them is a classic black pair of trousers that I got from the Gap twelve years ago! It's still in great shape - a real quality buy. (And please note - I still fit in them!!!)
- About 4 shirt dresses - I like wearing these with jeans or leggings as tunics. One of my quirks.
- 7 dresses - for warmer weather and of these, one is the "little black dress". I love this one. Another is a long flowing one for dressier wear. Not sure I LOVE this one though.
- 7 work tops - mostly solids that I pair with cardigans or blazers depending on the circumstances. I think I love every single one of them.
- 3 casual every day tops - I have about 5-6 more in a drawer.
- Two adult party tops 😜. I don't party too often so that's good for now. And as these parties tend to be with different sets of people, I can switch between them without causing too much boredom.
That's it! I love how my closet looks now and dressing is a breeze. No decision fatigue in the mornings. And I now totally enjoy the process of getting dressed because I truly like my clothes finally!!!
Now of course, I have a bunch of Indian clothes as well. Indian clothes are a bit more tricky to control as there's not as much freedom to mix and match. I also need to figure out my personal style when it comes to sarees and other Indian outfits.
One last story on clothes. Almost eighteen years ago, I bought a Jessica McClintock gown for a dinner on a cruise during our honeymoon. I am one size bigger now and yet can't bring myself to part with it. My oldest daughter has asked me keep it for her - I think it's a great idea.
Now this is a skincare blog after all so I can leave without a skincare tidbit. This is particularly for Indian women. We Indians, by the nature of our DNA, don't reveal our age through wrinkles, but rather through the sagging of the eyes, the dark circles, and age spots. We are very prone to pigmentation. So what can you do? The best thing is prevention - work on hydrating your face really well, definitely when you hit forty. Pigmentation issues like melasma etc. are exacerbated by hormone changes, stress etc. So my recommendation is hydrate your face with a humectant rich serum (like Rejuvenate for example) and use an oil based serum (like The Antioxidant serum) right after. Do it every single day. I also strongly recommend using a good vitamin C serum (I plan to start selling one shortly). The effect of this routine, coupled with good physical activity, is amazing. I will describe my holistic regimen for looking great in my next post. It has been eye opening and I'm excited to share. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your wardrobe stories 🙂.
I totally dig black eyeliner. I believe I have worn eyeliner every.single.day since I was born! Black lined Indian female eyes are gorgeous - a wonderful enhancement to the typically large eyes they're born with. Back when I was a kid, my mother would line my eyes with the ubiquitous Eyetex kajal. The kajal came in a a little round tin and she'd stick her pointer in the gooey black stuff and flick her kajal lined finger on my lower lid expertly. Of course the thing would smudge like crazy and most times I'd end up looking like I had black eyes, a raccoon etc. Yet, I preferred smudgy black eyes to unlined eyes.
Then as I grew older, there was a great new invention - that of the kajal pencil. You didn't have to use a finger or stick anymore!!! It still smudged though. Until came the liquid Lakme black eyeliner. But it stung and I was not happy with the extremely fine lines the brush made. I had gotten a bit used to the smudgy/smokey look. So I went back to the pencil. And then I went to the US and found a variety of eyeliners in different shapes, sizes, formulations and colors. However, none of them were black enough for my taste. Recently I went to India and found a new generation of twist-up eyeliners - like this one. I really loved it - it was BLACK, did not smudge, I had no irritation, and it looked absolutely gorgeous. BUT, there was this huge problem - I couldn't find the full list of uingredients anywhere. And while I used it in India out of desperation (yeah, I do love my eyeliner), I couldn't continue to use it without knowing what the heck was in it. So then I decided to try my had at making my own.
I started with activated charcoal as the pigment - used beeswax, coconut and castor oils. Many many issues with this one. It was not black enough no matter how much activated charcoal I used, it smudged and the application (with a thin brush) was terrible. I kept working on a formula and switched the pigment to black iron oxide. I was able to get a stiffer formulation with a mixture of carnauba and beeswax, used castor oil and caprylic triglycerides. And I took this and poured it into a empty Lakme eyeliner pencil and voila.
Definitely much better! Very happy with the pigmentation. It smears a bit - I am more than a bit hesitant about adding any polymers that will make it smudge proof. However, the pencil is too thick. I now need to look for an appropriate pencil to fill. And master the art of filling a thinner pencil - this can be way more difficult than actually making the eyeliner!!!
Vitamin C is one thing that has made a significant impact on my skin. Read on for more info.
Image credit: http://www.suggest-keywords.com/YXNjb3JiYXRlIGFudGlveGlkYW50/
There's a ton of information and misinformation on using topical vitamin C - collagen boosting, scar fading and healing, wrinkle busting etc. And then there's the debate on what form of vitamin C is best - water soluble ascorbic acid, or fat soluble ascorbyl palmitate? Here's a reasonable article on vitamin C. But in the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Does it do what is claimed?
Short answer, it fades scars, brightens up the skin. I can only show you proof of the first as the 2nd claim requires precise photography at similar exposure etc. to demonstrate.
Above is a close up shot of my cheek - I apologize for the gory details of all the imperfections. The picture on the right is the before picture with a little scar from a blackhead in the center. The picture on the left is the after picture - the scar is very visibly diminished, (though there's a new one below). I had had the scar (that's faded) for at least 6 months. I started using my vitamin C serum late August and I think it took about three months to fade completely. So I think the serum definitely helped.
However not all vitamin C serums are created equal. Ascorbic acid is notoriously unstable in the presence of water and oxygen. It also needs to be highly concentrated (at least 20%) to work. This means one needs to be very careful when choosing a vitamin C serum. How do you do that? For starters look at the ingredients and make sure ascorbic acid is listed right after water. If it's somewhere in the bottom of the ingredient list, don't waste your money. Secondly, if you want to be nerdy, check the pH (pH paper is pretty inexpensive and can be used to test a variety of things at home). However this can only be done after you've bought the serum. The pH should be lower than 4 to be effective. Just for laughs, I measured the pH of things with some acids that are good for skin - ascorbic, citric, lactic acid.
Lemon and my vitamin C serum have the lowest pH at 3. Fresh orange juice has a pH of 5 and yogurt a pH between 5 and 6. So clearly lemon and my vitamin C serum are most potent.
After using the serum now for more than 4 months pretty much every night, below are my conclusions.
1) It fades scars - takes a couple months to disappear.
2) Acts as a good cleanser - I can visibly see the dirt on the cotton ball even after I've washed my face with soap.
3) Brightens face. This does NOT mean whiten. It makes it look less dull than it used to be. This is because acids are good exfoliators.
Regarding stimulating collagen production - don't know as I can't test for that. One last thing - if you are using a concentrated vitamin C serum, use it only at night as increased levels of ascorbic acid can make your skin extremely photosensitive.