Getting Out My Kinks

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Do you want smooth hair with no frizz? Perfectly straight hair that will stay that way in all kinds of humidity? Well I’ve got the solution for you!

Well, actually, I don’t have a solution, but I wanted to get your attention and prove a point. Most of us are drawn to the statements above. We associate beauty with long, smooth, straight hair. It wasn’t until one day when I let my hair free that I realized that this desire for smooth, straight hair was a reflection of my own racism.

As a child I realized by adolescence that my hair was different from the other white girls in my community. Beauticians made sure to tell me. And their comments continued, no matter how upscale the salon, into my adulthood. “You’re going to blow dry that?” laughed a colleague of the woman working on my cut. She rolled her eyes. I’m right here, I thought. “I can do it with no problem,” I told her. “So I don’t need you to.” She looked relieved for the “out.” But I still felt like crap. I have bad hair, I came to the conclusion. But what makes it bad? It is long and full of coils. That sounded really nice, actually.

“I have black hair,” I told a dear black friend. She laughed. “You don’t have black hair,” she responded. Then what did I have? Maybe I had hair that reminded people of black people, a disenfranchised group with inferior status in society. So my hair became a symbol of inferior status as well, with all the messages that my hair was not “good.”

The problem was, I also did not like my hair. I wish I could have worn it with pride, shaking its kinks in people’s faces. But it simply was not beautiful to me. The subliminal racist messages of society on what was beautiful and what was not were internalized in me, though I would have denied this had anyone accused me of it.

I think we all have some racism in us, whether we acknowledge it or not. Vestiges remain from a society that rammed the superiority of white people down our throats for many, many years. Vestiges that we don’t even realize are there. What is good hair? What is a professional look? What is good music?  What makes a woman beautiful? Have we really come far at all since Clark’s famous doll experiment? Research which replicated that experiment in 2006 suggests not.

Perhaps it was my aging process, or a thoughtful examination of my own acquiescence to the status quo that led to my change of heart. Or maybe I have black women to thank for their ever passionate and growing movement to embrace their own natural hair that actually helped me to finally love mine. I now wear it with pride and I think it is beautiful, even when people tell me otherwise, whether it be with their ogling looks or with their questions. “Doesn’t all that hair make you hot?” is a frequent one that I hear.  My new answer is a smile and “no, all this hair makes YOU hot.” But it took me a long time to get here.

The oily skin is bad for acne myth

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Are you constantly trying to blot oil from your face, hoping that this will prevent another zit from forming? The idea that oil causes acne may be a myth, as there is no real concrete evidence that oil is the cause of acne. Although most of try desperately to dry out our (supposedly) oily acne causing skin, a consensus has not been reached by the medical community that doing so will clear our skin. When various dermatologists were polled regarding this issue, their answers were surprising. The all famous Dr. Oz states that The American Academy of Dermatology has found that acne is NOT caused by oily skin or poor hygiene (no duh). He further states that ALL types of skin can develop acne. Similarly, Dr. Bershad, a dermatologist with the Mount Sinai Health System, agrees stating that there are many people with oily skin and many of them don’t have acne. She further posits that drying out the skin will not cure acne. In fact, many people with dry skin often have acne, according to Dr. Zerker, also from Mount Sinai.

Acne does seem co-occur with oily skin, but co-occurrence, or correlation does not imply causation. Remember your high school or college statistics class? There are all kind of correlations that occur, but we are warned not to read too much into them. For instance, sleeping with your shoes on is correlated with waking up with a headache. Clearly, sleeping with ones shoes could not be the cause of the headache and more likely the headache is due to the fact that the person who fell asleep with their shoes on was drunk. Therefore although acne co-occurs with oily skin, oily skin may not be the cause at all.

Other potential causes for acne according to dermatologists include genetics, bacteria called  p. acnes on the skin, inflammation, and drying out of the skin (yes, you read that right). Drying out the oil on your skin because you thought it was causing your acne, is actually causing your acne!

Dr Cordero, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Virginia, claims that our skin needs its lipid (top) layer to protect it from irritation, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When we over dry our skin, we lose that lipid layer and lose our protection, leaving us vulnerable to developing acne.Dry skin can have microscopic cracks in it which can cause bacteria to settle and multiply there, and this too may cause acne according to Dr. Fusco, an Assistant Clinical professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Another problem with over cleansing and stripping our skin is that we disturb our skin’s natural homeostasis or balance. Our skin tries to maintain a decent lipid layer, to protect itself from a world of bacteria and other irritations. When we constantly strip that lipid layer away, our skin may try to overcompensate for the loss, and may overproduce oil as a result. This overproduction of oil is more than our skin can manage and as a result, blockage of pores and blackheads may result.

Perhaps the answer lies in hydrating our skin using oils that will not only moisturize, but which will also fight bacteria and viruses. There are many oils that are nourishing and hydrating to the skin while also being antiseptic (preventing the growth of bacteria), anti-inflammatory (reducing inflammation, irritation), antiviral (inhibiting of viruses), and antibacterial (active in reducing bacteria) in nature. Some you can read about in my other blog, The Skin You’re In, but I also offer some new ones here as well.

Jojoba oil – Pronounced ho-ho-ba oil, jojoba’s molecular structure is surprisingly similar to our own natural sebum. As such, jojoba use allows our skin to believe that enough oil has been produced and therefore our skin will stop its overproduction of oil. Jojoba is also thought to dissolve any sebum that clogs pores allowing skin to breathe more effectively. In addition, jojoba is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, thereby addressing two of the causes of acne according to dermatologists, inflammation and bacteria.  In a book by the National Research Council published in 2002, jojoba was cited as being able to slow outbreak of acne in the skin. People use jojoba for other conditions in addition to acne, such as psoriasis, eczema, sunburn and chapped lips. Jojoba can be applied directly to the skin. It will not clog your pores, in fact it will unclog them as previously stated. You can buy jojoba in health food stores like GNC and Trader Joe. It is not expensive and you will only need a few drops to apply to your face.

Tamanu oil – Tamanu oil comes from the nut of the tamanu tree, found in Southeast Asia. Although research is limited on tamanu’s effect on acne, research on tamanu’s ability to heal the skin is overwhelming. The Journal of Cosmetic Science found that tamanu aids in the promotion of scar healing. It has been used with success on skin rashes, sores, abrasions, scars and stretch marks. It is considered to have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antibiotic properties.  Since inflammation is a possible cause of acne according to dermatologists, tamanu may be worth a try. Lots of people swear by it, saying that it prevents acne while also reducing the appearance of already existing acne scars, but you will have to try it for yourself. On a Dr. Oz television show, model Carol Alt claimed to use it to prevent wrinkles, due to its antioxidant properties. I will be sure to include it in my next blog which will look at anti-aging oils. Tamanu oil is thick and can be used directly on the skin, but due to its density, you may prefer to dilute in another oil, such as jojoba oil or grape seed. It won’t be easy to find in stores and you should probably order it online. An excellent source for organic tamanu oil is Mountain Rose Herbs.

Grape Seed Oil – This oil is anti inflammatory and rich in a fatty acid called linoleic acid. According to Harvard Medical School, linoleic acid serves as an emollient or agent to smooth the skin and fill in spaces between the cells. Emollients are known for their ability to clear up acne prone skin. In addition, grape seed oil is an antioxidant, which neutralizes the damage done from free radicals. As such, it may also clear acne and prevent future breakouts. In addition, grape seeds is considered to be an anti-aging oil, so you will clear your skin and prevent wrinkles at the same time. You can buy cold processed grape seed oil from any supermarket. It can be used directly on the skin, undiluted.

Oregano essential oil – Oregano essential oil is powerful! It cannot be used directly on your skin but must be diluted or you will find it irritating. However, it can be an excellent tool in your acne fighting arsenal when used as a spot treatment. Oregano oil is naturally antiseptic and antibacterial. Try mixing equal amounts of oregano essential oil and either jojoba, coconut, or grape seed oil and apply to problem areas before bed. You may be able to find oregano essential oil in a store such as Whole Foods or Mrs. Green’s or else you can order it from Mountain Rose Herbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skin you’re in: natural solutions for acne

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I started making my own beauty products at vitapulita.com to help my family and friends find healthy alternatives to what exits commercially. Although products for acne weren’t initially on my radar, I became more and more interested in formulating a product since most products on the market simply use salicylic acid, which can be very irritating. One problem however, with natural remedies, is that formal scientific research is often lacking. When possible, I will supply whatever studies that are available on the products, in addition to safety concerns. So, if you are looking for a more natural approach to dealing with your pimples, here are some suggestions:

Tea tree oil – I love tea tree oil for skin tags! Just a dab each day and by the end of the week the skin tag will be gone. But tea tree, or melaleuca alternifolia, can be used in many other ways. This essential oil derived from the leaves of the Australian plant is powerful topical medicine! A clinical study compared tea tree oil to benzoyl peroxide in treating acne. The benzoyl peroxide worked only slightly better than the tea tree oil, but the tea tree was found to be less irritating. Given this, tea tree may be worth a try the next time you get a pimple. I use this oil in my facial detox soap and customers are very happy with it. To try it for yourself, buy a bottle of tea tree oil in any pharmacy or in Trader Joe’s. Use a cotton swab and apply a small dab to the pimple. Let dry. At first, only apply tea tree once a day because if used excessively, it can cause redness. So begin slowly. If pure uncut tea tree causes redness even in small amounts, it can be mixed with another oil to dilute it, such as grapeseed. Tea tree oil has had some impressive studies done on it. A 2004 NCCAM study on the effects of tea tree oil on bacteria in a test tube found that tea tree was a helpful adjunctive remedy for killing bacteria that was resistant to other antibiotics, such as MRSA. In addition, smaller studies have found that tea tree works well on athlete’s foot.DO NOT TAKE TEA TREE OIL INTERNALLY. It is not meant for oral consumption and is dangerous as such.

Neem oil – Oh man does this smell! Some people say that it does not bother them, but personally I hate the odor.It is described as a cross between garlic and peanuts, but I like both of those foods, so I disagree. However, neem oil my be worth looking into as an acne treatment. I use this oil in my facial detox soap and customers are very happy with its performance. Seeds of the neem evergreen tree, Azadirachta indica, indigenous to India, provide us with neem oil. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine uses neem oil for acne and other skin conditions as it is thought to be antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antiparasitic. Currently, most of the research on neem oil has concentrated on its use as a natural pesticide for organic farming, but less for cosmetic uses, although neem oil can be found in soaps, toothpastes, and creams. To try it for yourself, apply just a dab to a pimple. Leave on as long as your olfactory system can handle and then wash off. You will not be able to find neem oil in the stores easily, but an excellent source is Mountain Rose Herbs. Neem oil should not be taken internally, especially if you are pregnant, as it can act as an abortifacient. Similarly, neem oil should not be used by nursing mothers.

Argan oil – Argan oil, argania spinosa, is an extract of the nut of the argan tree, from Morocco. Argan oil regulates the production of sebum, therefore it is thought to prevent acne. It is naturally high in Vitamin E which may be helpful in removing or fading old acne scars. Studies on argan oil and its effects on the skin are lacking, but there is little to lose in trying it. It is nontoxic in all ways and can even be consumed internally with no ill effects. If you wish to try argan oil for your acne, opt to purchase a pure oil, not a cream that has argan oil in it, as the percentage of argan oil may be minuscule. I would again recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. Apply the argan oil as a moisturizer, either in the day or at night. Don’t worry that oil on the skin will increase pimples as this is untrue. In fact, some people believe that acne is the result of skin which is overly dry and attempting to produce oil to compensate for that dryness.

Organic virgin coconut oil – Coconut oil is the new perfect product and is currently all the rage with good reason. Coconut oil is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial; studies have shown that coconut oil improves skin and hair conditions, both by moisturizing dry rough scaly skin and by treating atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition. A study in the Journal of Dermatological Science found that coconut oil is effective against acne due to the presence of lauric and capric acid, both which have strong antimicrobial responses. Be sure to use virgin organic coconut oil, refined coconut oil will not work. Use the coconut oil as a facial moisturizer during the day or at night. If you wish to also use the argan oil, you may mix the two together. If the weather is cooler, you will need to melt the coconut oil before mixing it with the argan as it is solid in cool weather. Organic virgin coconut oil can be found in most health food stores such as Trader Joe’s, Mrs. Green’s, and Whole Foods.  Needless to say, virgin organic coconut oil is nontoxic and may be ingested as well as being used topically.