3
Aug

What’s My Skin Type?

Do you have oily skin, dry skin… a combo? Understanding the difference will help you know how to care for your complexion.

Skin is generally classified into one of four categories: normal, oily, dry, and combination, says Susan Van Dyke, MD, a dermatologist with Van Dyke Laser and Skin Care in Paradise Valley, Ariz. However, your skin type can change as you age, and other factors like genetics and even illness can play a part. “It’s multi-factorial,” Dr. Van Dyke says.

Normal skin, which has a good balance of moisture, small pores and an even tone, is the goal of most skin care regimens. Most people have normal skin, Van Dyke says, but to maintain its good condition, it’s important to minimize its exposure to the sun. A facial sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is ideal for preventing wrinkles and other sun damage.

“Put it by your toothpaste and use it,” Van Dyke says. “It doesn’t matter if it is snowing or raining — get in that habit so you always have it on. Incidental sun exposure is what gets you.”

Skin Care: Quieting Oily Skin

Oily skin is identified by an excess of oil (the technical term is sebum) on the face. Some people with oily skin begin to feel greasy only a few hours after washing. “A very oily person would feel the need to wash their face between noon and 5 p.m., because oil has built up during the day,” Van Dyke says. Oily skin can be an inherited trait, but it can also be caused by puberty, which causes oil glands to go into overdrive. You may also notice more oil on your “T-zone” because of all the oil glands in the forehead, nose, and chin.

People with oily skin generally don’t need a regular moisturizer, but sunscreen is still necessary to reduce exposure to UV rays. Choose an oil-free sunscreen, suggests Van Dyke says, one that’s specifically formulated for the face and are less likely to create blackheads and clog pores. “There are plenty of oil-free sunscreens available,” Van Dyke says. “Go to the drugstore, read labels, and try samples of different ones. There’s no excuse not to use sunscreen anymore.”

Skin Care: Soothing Dry Skin

Dry skin, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of natural moisture — there’s little oil to act as a surface barrier and lock in moisture. People with dry skin feel a tightness about their face, and their skin is often irritated. Flaking is another symptom, but it’s not always a sure sign of dry skin. “You can have flaky skin and not be dry,” Van Dyke says. Sometimes, severely dry skin can become itchy and painful, leading to a condition called eczema.

Treatment of certain medical conditions can sometimes lead to dry skin. For example, breast cancer treatment may stop hormone production which could in turn affect the quality of your skin. “This will throw people into a menopausal situation at an early age,” Van Dyke says. “Suddenly, there’s no oil production.” Naturally-occurring menopause can have the same effect; most women begin to experience drier skin as they hit their late forties. To care for dry skin, use a gentle, soap-free cleanser, and moisturize adequately. A second application of moisturizer may be needed during the day, Van Dyke adds.

Skin Care: Balancing Combination Skin

Combination skin is a blend of both oily and dry skin. People with combination skin usually find that their oily skin is concentrated in the T-zone, while their cheeks remain dry. Combination skin can be influenced by genetics and, again, by puberty, when oil glands increase their production of sebum. Sometimes a variety of products are needed to treat combination skin. “You may have to treat different parts of the face slightly differently,” Van Dyke says. For example, a mild cleanser and moisturizer may be needed on the cheeks, while an anti-acne product with benzoyl peroxide might be necessary on the T-zone.

If you’re still not sure about your skin type or the best way to nourish it, consult a dermatologist who can recommend an over-the-counter skin care regimen or offer you a physician’s line of products. Look for a doctor who is board-certified by the American Academy of Dermatology. “Your dermatologist is absolutely your best skin-care expert,” Van Dyke says.

3
Aug

The Skin Care Benefits of Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Add alpha hydroxy acid products to your skin care regimen for smoother, younger-looking skin.

Skin care fads come and go, but alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) have been popular for some time.

AHAs are a collection of compounds made from familiar food products. Among the most widely known are glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (sour milk), malic acid (apples), citric acid (citrus fruits), and tartaric acid (wine grapes).

The original seekers of younger-looking skin used these natural compounds many centuries ago, going back as far as the ancient Egyptians. In the United States, their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. First, dermatologists used them for in-office facial peels, then they found their way into many skin care products after their FDA approval for over-the-counter use in 1992. Today you can find AHAs in hundreds of items, ranging from face and body creams to sunscreen, acne products, shampoos, cuticle softeners, and lightening agents.

“Alpha hydroxy acids are great exfoliators and increase blood flow to the skin, so they can help to minimize fine lines and wrinkles,” says Kenneth Beer, MD, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., who is in private practice in Palm Beach, Fla.

Other potential skin care benefits include lightening of dark spots and a reduction in the appearance of blackheads and acne.

AHA Skin Care Products: Making the Right Choices

“There is no ‘best’ concentration, nor ‘best’ preparation,” says Robin Ashinoff, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J. It all depends on your skin type and the amount of improvement desired.

The main difference among alpha hydroxy acid skin care products is their concentration and pH. At over-the-counter levels, alpha hydroxy acids are generally safe for many people, though those with sensitive skin, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis may be more likely to get a rash and need to halt treatment or try a different brand. Typically, over-the-counter skin care products, such as moisturizers or lotions, contain less than 5-percent glycolic acid; medical-grade “cosmeceuticals” (products that are a cross between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, or drug-strength meds) have 8 to 14 percent. These products are designed for daily use, but it can take months to show improvement.

“Quicker, better results can be obtained with 20- to 30-percent glycolic acid peels, but results are temporary and need to be repeated frequently,” says Dale Isaacson, MD, an associate clinical professor at George Washington University Medical Center who is in private practice in Washington, D.C. These peels must be done by trained cosmetologists.

The best and longest-lasting results come from peels done at 50- to 70-percent concentrations, but they have the most risk of side effects and a doctor must apply them.

AHA Skin Care Products in a Nutshell

The pros:

  • Subtle improvement gives skin a fresher look.
  • With lighter peels, there’s fine-line reduction without any down time.
  • AHAs often lighten age spots and remove blackheads as part of the results.
  • Drugstore brands are inexpensive to try on your own.

The cons:

  • At-home products at low concentrations may take months to show results.
  • The most effective peels must be done in a doctor’s office and can be expensive.
  • Deep peels have a longer healing time; skin will look sunburned for a couple of days and then peel.
  • New skin is more sensitive to sun damage; you’ll need to be vigilant about sunscreen.

The next time you’re browsing for skin care products, look for those containing one of the alpha hydroxy acids. And be sure to buy extra sunscreen — not just because AHAs expose new skin to sun damage, but because a good sunscreen is also one of the best ways to prevent any further aging of your skin.

3
Aug

Oily Skin Dos and Don’ts

By Sara Calabro | Medically reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD

How not to treat your oily skin is as important as the right way to care for it.

If your skin is oily, you may be bothered by the shine, greasy texture, and breakouts. But don’t blame the foods you’re eating. “There is no data to show that you will produce more oil if you consume things that are more oil-based,” says Rebecca Kazin, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University and medical director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center in Baltimore. “The fact is that people who have oily skin were probably born that way. There is not much they did to get it and there is not much they can do to prevent it.”

Oily Skin Care Dos

The good news is there are several ways to manage oily skin, experts say:

  • Wash with salicylic acid. “Cleansers that contain salicylic acid penetrate into the pores and help remove fats that clog the pores and lead to blackheads,” says Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the University of Miami’s Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute.
  • Use a retinoid at night. Whether over-the-counter or prescription, retinoid products decrease oil production in the skin. “This helps reduce blackheads and may lower sebum production,” says Dr. Baumann.
  • Use oil-free foundations. To avoid creating more of a shine and potentially clogging pores, make sure your foundation is oil-free. Use a powder blush instead of a cream formula for the same reasons.
  • Use blotting paper. Washing your face during the day can be difficult, especially for women who wear makeup. Instead, dermatologists recommend blotting paper. “You can absorb the extra oil without washing your face, and they are not irritating to the skin,” says Dr. Kazin. Paper towels can be substituted in a pinch, but blotting paper is better because it contains a small amount of powder, which evens out skin color.

Oily Skin Care Don’ts

Knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing how to properly care for your oily skin. Experts weigh in on what to avoid:

  • Don’t use creamy or milk cleansers. “These types of cleansers deposit unnecessary lipids — oils — on the skin, which can make you feel even oilier,” says Baumann. Better to stick with salicylic acid or glycolic cleansers, or gentle liquid cleansers such as Cetaphil.
  • Don’t moisturize. Even better than searching for the perfect oil-free moisturizer is ditching this step altogether. Instead, use a gel or serum with anti-aging ingredients. Baumann recommends Skinceutical CE Ferulic or Replenix CF serum.
  • Don’t rely on SPF powders. Most sunscreens are formulated in oil preparations that feel and look greasy, so for people with oily skin, SPF (skin protection factor) powders are tempting. But Baumann warns: “They do not have enough SPF, even if it says so on the label. To get the SPF stated on the label, you’d need to use 15 times the amount of powder you would normally use.”
  • Don’t overwash. Oily skin isn’t a hygiene problem, so extra cleansing isn’t the answer. “If you wash too much, you can strip your face of the essential oils that serve as a barrier to a lot of irritants,” Kazin says. “This can cause your face to become red and raw. It’s better to wash twice a day and use blotting paper when you feel shiny throughout the day.”

Knowing how to care for oily skin is important. Follow these tips to keep your skin in the best health possible: Healthy skin equals beautiful skin.

3
Aug

5 Ways to Protect Your Skin

by Dennis Thompson Jr. | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Skin care comes down to practicing good habits. Here are five tips that can help guard against skin cancer, chapped skin, dryness, and more.

You need to protect your skin because of the vital role it has protecting your body. Skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.

These five skin protection tips can keep your skin looking and feeling great, by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to prematurely aging to skin cancer.

1. Limit Sun Exposure

You’ve heard the message a zillion times, and there’s good reason for that unrelenting repetition. Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Discolorations
  • Benign growths

Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful:

  • Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods.
  • Cover skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays.

2. Stay Hydrated

Keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection. Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and prevents chapped skin or scaly, flaky skin:

  • Drink lots of water. This is key to hydrating your skin.
  • Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin type and apply it right after drying off from your bath or shower. Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as this ingredient removes natural oils needed by your skin.
  • Take warm (not hot) showers or baths, and limit them to between 5 and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.

3. Take Health Precautions

Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Practicing skin protection means paying close attention to what touches your skin, to lower your chances of exposure to germs:

  • Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share drinks with other people.
  • Avoid touching your face with your fingers or with objects like telephone receivers that have been used by others.

4. Use Gentle Skin Care

Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells. However, scrubbing your face causes irritation that can lead to chapped skin that, in turn, can leave skin vulnerable. For best results, you should:

  • Wash your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Gently massage your face with a washcloth, using a circular motion.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
  • Pat your skin dry — don’t rub — then apply your facial moisturizer.

5. Know Your Skin

Pay attention to odd freckles, moles, and growths on your skin, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes. For example, a change in a mole can indicate potential skin cancer. Be sure to treat any cuts that may occur to prevent infection. Other skin conditions that merit a dermatologist visit include frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.

With proper skin care to pamper skin from the outside and with a good diet to nourish from within, skin protection comes down to a few simple steps. But should you ever notice any problems, get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.

3
Aug

All About Anti-Wrinkle Creams

By Marie Suszynski | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

A good wrinkle reducer will stimulate new cell production and keep your skin from thinning. But finding a good skin wrinkle cream is no easy task, considering the number of products, each making a slew of beauty promises.

Every wrinkle cream promises visible, transformative results,but the truth is, most tubes and tubs of wrinkle reducer creams being sold over the counter don’t make a dramatic difference.

That’s not to say that there’s no help for wrinkles. There is. The challenge is wading through all the products that have a minimal effect on any skin wrinkle and finding the ones that have big anti-wrinkle benefits.

How Do Wrinkle Creams Work?

The average over-the-counter wrinkle cream works by moisturizing the skin, which reduces the appearance of fine lines by improving skin texture and helping to reflect light, says Richard Eisen, MD, dermatologist and founder of South Shore Skin Center in Plymouth, Mass.

Wrinkle creams also tend to include alpha hydroxy acids, which help slough away dead skin cells and exfoliate, Dr. Eisen says. As a result, your skin will look smoother.

Some anti-wrinkle creams contain antioxidants, such as coenzyme Q10, kinetin, or green tea. Antioxidants can destroy free radicals, the unstable molecules are created by sun damage and can cause skin wrinkles. However, antioxidants work better at preventing future wrinkles than as a wrinkle reducer, Eisen says. So, if you’re going to use a wrinkle cream with antioxidants, wear it under sunscreen to help prevent further sun damage.

Retinol: The Wrinkle Cream Wonder Ingredient?

Wrinkle creams that offer real benefits include retinol, which you can find in products sold over the counter, and prescription retinoids such as tretinoin (Retin-A and Renova) and tazarotene (Tazorac and Avage). They’re all derivatives of vitamin A, used to stimulate the production of collagen and reverse thinning of the skin, which helps smooth wrinkles. Retinoids even improve the pigment of your skin by lightening brown spots.

The biggest reason to use a retinoid: They really do work. Retinoids have been studied and shown to be effective in reducing the wrinkles you already have, Eisen says. They also can help prevent new wrinkles. It takes about 10 to 12 months of treatment to see the full results.

Retinol, which is sold over-the-counter, can give you some benefits, but it’s not as effective as prescription retinoids because it’s a less potent form of vitamin A.

The Downsides of Wrinkle Creams

While skin wrinkle creams do offer benefits, there are some negatives to consider:

  • Limited results. They may help your skin look better, but over-the-counter wrinkle creams aren’t going to give you dramatic results.
  • The cost. Prescription tretinoin can cost $55 for under an ounce, which may or may not be covered by insurance. However, this is far less than some cosmetic-counter creams that don’t deliver on their promises, and it works. Also, because you apply just a pea-sized amount, a small tube lasts quite a while. Drugstore over-the-counter wrinkle creams can cost $15 for less than an ounce and a half, but may give you limited benefits.
  • Pregnancy caution. Because there may be a risk of birth defects, doctors don’t recommend using retinoids during pregnancy.
  • Irritation. Retinoids can cause redness and irritation. If you tend to have irritated or dry skin before starting treatment, retinoids may cause more problems. To get around that, Eisen often recommends that his patients either start with a retinol and move on to prescription tretinoin as their skin gets more accustomed to retinoids, or use tretinoin only every third or fourth night until their skin learns to tolerate it.

Retinoids aside, by far, the most important anti-wrinkle product you can use is sunscreen. Choose one with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 that protects against both types of ultraviolet rays, and you may not have to rely on wrinkle creams quite so much as you get older.

3
Aug

Kick Dry Skin to the Curb

Top dermatologist’s weigh in on the common problems of winter skin and how to get some relief.

Winters here and with it come the harsh winds of irritated skin. The routine of cold and dry outside and hot and dry inside is wreaking havoc on our precious skin. So, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, a lot according to Dr. Doris Day, MD, FAAD, New York dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift (Avery Books) and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo Miami dermatologist and author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin (Rodale) who share their winter-protecting secrets.

Be on a hot bath boycott.

In certain parts of the country, it’s chillingly cold. And it is precisely those cold temperatures that may lead many to a huge dry skin culprit:hot, long, baths. “Hot showers strip away your body’s natural oils,” says Dr. Day, leaving your skin dry and tight. Instead Dr. Day recommends taking not-so-hot showers, and then patting dry rubbing totally dry after so your body is a bit damp. “It’s about water retention,” says Dr. Day.

Still using summer products? Aint gonna cut it.

Using a rich cream instead of a lotion will make a huge difference in your skin,” says Dr Day, as lotions are thinner and not as emollient as their thicker cream counterparts. Instead, Dr. Day suggests switching out your light warm weather lotion for a richer, more penetrating cream.

Don’t worry about wrinkles.

“Women often see an exaggeration of wrinkles in the winter,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “because of skins dryness.” So if you look in the mirror and see more fine lines around your eyes and mouth, don’t add more stress to your sensitive skin by freaking out. It is most likely a temporary thing. Instead, defend yourself with a hydrating night cream and a good night’s sleep.

Soak in it.

“It’s important to put moisture back in your body,” says Dr. Ciraldo, and she means literally. Dr. Ciraldo recommends relaxing in a bathtub of tepid water until your fingertips are wrinkled, however long that takes “Your skin has a great capacity for holding water,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “it’s important to get re-hydrated.”

Read ingredients.

Because our skin loses lipids in the winter (the barrier that keeps water in) it’s important to use products that contain lipids, like the ever-popular Ceramides. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends looking for products with Stearic Acid (an animal fat) and Glyco-Lipids, that can also help in preventing moisture loss.

 Get oily.

This is a good time to get on the Flaxseed oil and Fish oil bandwagon. Besides, being high in good-for-you Omega-3’s, these oils help keep the skin supple. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can also help improve skin’s appearance and reduce the pain of stiff sore joints, caused by the winter cold and possible the increase of you staying indoors and couch surfing.

 Avoid Soap.

“Many soaps are drying, so it’s important to wash with a liquid non-soap cleanser,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition, Dr. Ciraldo suggests looking for cleansers or moisturizers that are possess botanicals, plant extracts like chamomile and lavender which are naturally body replenishing. Botanicals are often soothing as well; ideal for wind chapped or exposed skin.

3
Aug

How to Find the Right Skin Moisturizer

By Marie Suszynski | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Knowing what your skin needs will help you make the right decision. (Hint: Choose one with sunscreen.)

Feel overwhelmed when you want to buy skin moisturizer for your dry skin? That’s no surprise, as there are dozens to choose from at the drugstore and hundreds more at high-end cosmetics and department stores — creams, lotions, ointments, some with sunscreen, others with an exfoliant. Choices range from the basic $1.50 jar of petroleum jelly to a $500 five-ounce tub of designer skin moisturizer. And all the options in between can make your head spin.

While choosing the right skin moisturizer may seem confusing, it’s actually very simple if you follow a few guidelines, says dermatologist Monica Halem, MD, of ColumbiaDoctors Eastside in New York City. Dr. Halem’s first rule of thumb? Don’t spend too much money.

How a Skin Moisturizer Works

Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important skin products, particularly for softening dry skin. A skin moisturizer works by sealing moisture into the outer layer of the skin and by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer.

Key ingredients that seal in moisture are petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, urea, and vitamins help attract water into the outer layer of the skin.

Some skin moisturizers also contain an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates dead skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. AHAs are a good choice if you have very dry skin.

Finding the Skin Moisturizer For You

It may take some trial and error, Halem says, so be patient. Follow these guidelines as you shop and, if you’re not getting the results you want, try a new one the next time:

  • Note the first five ingredients. Look for common active ingredients, such as lanolin, glycerin, or petrolatum, Dr. Fusco says. Glycerin is less likely than lanolin to cause an allergic reaction, she says. She also recommends picking a moisturizer that’s made by a reputable company.
  • Go for added sunscreen. Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin looking young, so buy a moisturizer with a sun protection factor of at least 30. You’ll have to do some searching, but more companies are offering face and body moisturizers with sunscreen, Halem says.
  • Make it skin-type appropriate. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a different moisturizer on your face than you do on your body, Fusco says and recommends buying one that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores. Of course, choose one that’s right for your skin type. If you know you have sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic. If you have oily skin, go with a light, oil-free moisturizer. If you have dry skin, get something richer. And if you have combination skin, go with a lighter moisturizer for your whole face and dot drier areas with a heavier cream, Fusco says. Keep in mind that you may need a lighter lotion in the summer, and a cream or ointment in the winter.
  • Consider using a moisturizer with retinol before bed. Retinol is vitamin A for your skin, Halem says. It works by increasing the speed at which your skin cells turn over. You can find it over the counter or by prescription, but use it carefully as it may cause a skin irritation, red skin, or dry skin.

Relief by Prescription

If your skin is very dry, consider a prescription moisturizer. Prescription moisturizers contain the AHA lactic acid, which softens the top layer of your skin and can do a better job if over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t working for you, Fusco says. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tell your doctor if you experience burning, irritation, red skin, itching, or a rash.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream, which contains humectants that hold on to moisture longer, Fusco says. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers, she adds.

When to Moisturize

Once you find the right product, moisturize every day and you’ll go a long way toward preventing dry skin and even camouflaging wrinkles. While a skin moisturizer can’t get rid of wrinkles — because wrinkles begin much deeper in the skin due to collagen loss — it can plump up the skin and minimize their appearance, Halem says.

Whichever moisturizer you choose, it will work better if you apply it to damp skin. Think about a sponge that’s dried out, Fusco says. If you put moisturizer on it, it won’t go anywhere. But if you soak the sponge in water and coat it with moisturizer, the sponge will absorb it. Your skin works the same way, happily lapping it up.

3
Aug

How to Use a Skin Exfoliant

By Dennis Thompson Jr. | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Dead skin cells often need a little help to slough off. A skin exfoliant with ingredients like an alpha hydroxy acid or a beta hydroxy acid can leave you looking fresh and feeling smooth again.

Our skin is constantly renewing itself, growing new skin cells to replace the surface skin cells that grow old, die, and fall, or slough, off. Every minute of every day, between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells flake away.

Factors like age and dry skin can mean that dead skin cells don’t fall away as easily as they should. When these cells build up, they can make the complexion look rough and pasty and can also contribute to the clogged pores that lead to adult acne. The regular yet careful use of a skin exfoliant can help slough off dead skin cells and uncover fresh, more youthful skin.

There are two main types of skin exfoliants: mechanical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Both are commonly available, and both have pros and cons regarding their use and the types of skin conditions for which they are most appropriate.

Mechanical Skin Exfoliants

Mechanical exfoliants work by sanding off dead skin cells using mildly abrasive substances. These skin exfoliants typically are facial scrubs, creamy cleansers with tiny, rough particles. As you gently massage the exfoliant over the surface of your face and skin, the friction works to loosen the old skin cells.

Mechanical skin exfoliants are readily available in drugstores and easy to use. They are particularly good for people with oily skin or acne, as they remove skin cells and debris that clog pores, but only if you don’t scrub too hard as this can cause further irritation.

However, mechanical exfoliants can be harsh. When you use them, you’re literally sanding away the outer layer of your skin. Some contain particles so jagged and rough that they could actually cut the skin. Because of this, dermatologists recommend using a gentle motion when using a skin exfoliant, and skipping them altogether if you have sensitive skin.

Chemical Skin Exfoliants

A chemical skin exfoliant uses gentle acids to dissolve whatever bonds are preventing the outer layer of dead skin cells from falling off your face and body. There are two main types of chemical skin exfoliants, those that include an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and those that include a beta hydroxy acid (BHA):

  • Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from different foods, from fruits, such as apples and grapes, to milk. Some of the most common AHAs to look for on product labels are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and triple fruit acid. An alpha hydroxy acid is best for people with dry or thickened skin.
  • Beta hydroxy acids are the chemical cousins of alpha hydroxy acids, but are more oil-soluble and therefore better at exfoliating oily skin or acne-prone skin. The best known beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. On product labels, look for salicylate, sodium salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or tropic acid.

Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid skin care products tend to be less harsh on the skin than mechanical exfoliants. They also help refresh the skin in ways a facial scrub can’t: They lower the skin’s pH level and help smooth small, shallow wrinkles, improving the look of skin that is dry or sun damaged.

Finding the right formulation for your skin involves some trial and error. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should choose alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical exfoliants with an alpha hydroxy acid concentration of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. Beta hydroxy acid-based exfoliants containing salicylic acid are effective at levels of 1.5 to 2 percent. Using stronger solutions can cause skin irritation.

Another caveat: These types of exfoliants increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun for as long as a week after each use. Before going out, always apply sunscreen — a skin-saving recommendation for everyone.

How and When to Use Exfoliants

You should not use an exfoliant every day. Your skin needs time to regenerate its topmost layer, which exfoliation strips away. People with dry skin should only exfoliate once or twice a week, while those with oily skin can exfoliate two to four times a week. Stop using an exfoliant if you find your skin becoming irritated or developing a rash. Remember to moisturize your skin after exfoliating, to soothe it and keep it from drying out.

3
Aug

All About Afro: unravelling the culture behind African hair braiding

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She is exploring the mystique of Afro hair in a special six-part series for Stylist.co.uk, with her second edition unraveling the culture behind African hair braiding that weaves together a community and transcends generations.

Caring for my Afro hair was a Sunday night routine that I shared with my mother and two sisters up until our teenage years. Once our uniforms had been ironed, my mother would take on the tiresome task of washing, nurturing and beautifully braiding our tresses, in preparation for the school week ahead.

My sisters and I would often argue over braiding styles, because we each wanted to rock the best braids on the block or, in this case, playground. With a wide-tooth comb in hand and an array of Afro hair products within reach, my mother would sit us each down, one by one, on a plump pillow that rested on the ground in between her thighs to get braided up.

I grew to believe Black Hair has power, genius and magic in it, defying gravity and limitation. I mean, look at how marvellous it is: Black Hair grows up and out.

– Michaela Angela Davis, Writer

In a recent conversation with award-winning Afro hair stylist, Charlotte Mensah, I discovered that this ritual wasn’t unique to the women in my family. In fact, braiding, twisting and plaiting Afro hair echoes a nostalgic childhood story that resonates with many black women.

“It’s deeper than hair for us, it’s a culture that we share,” Charlotte explained. “At the age of one you probably sat down with your mother to let her groom your hair, braid it, and add oils to it. It’s almost like, as an Afro hair stylist, you can identify with the person that’s in your chair because you’ve been through that yourself before you became a hairdresser, so you share the same journey.”

"I discovered the braiding ritual wasn't unique to just my family"

“I discovered the braiding ritual wasn’t unique to just my family”

If we take a look back at where the art of African hair braiding all began, we’d be weighing up a hefty history that carries over 3,000 years worth of culture, tracing as far back as 3500 B.C.

In Ancient Egypt, braids signified status and wealth as they were practiced on wigs created for royalty. In other African cultures, braids served as a form of identification, as different tribes would adorn their crowns with unique braiding styles to represent their country of origin.

The act of braiding hair would also create a social solace for many African communities, where women would gather around and share stories as they took it in turns to get their tresses twisted with the utmost precision and attention to detail. Fast forward hundreds of years, and this sense of community and culture still prevails in Afro hair salons across the world.

If you log into Instagram and search for #braids, you will find they’re having somewhat of a fashion moment. So, what has caused this change to happen? Has time really adjusted how Afro hairstyles are looked upon?

Arguably, when celebrities with highly influential followings such as Kim Kardashian-West endorse anything, it’s inevitably going to become the hot new thing. Think Regina George from Mean Girls nonchalantly flinging on a vest with cut-outs on the chest and making it look cool: that’s exactly what it becomes.

Regina George successfully manages to make tops with holes in "a thing"

Regina George successfully manages to make tops with holes in “a thing”

When Kardashian-West showcased her newfound love for cornrow-style braids via selfies on Instagram, all of a sudden they were cool. But when she rebranded a hairstyle known by African communities as ‘cornrows’ for centuries as her own ‘signature boxer braids’, it’s no wonder it cooked up a cyber frenzy.

Whether it’s fair or not to accuse Kim K for cultural appropriation is a debate for another day. But what is one to do when the largest digital database in the world generates images that present Afro hairstyles as unprofessional for the work place? Cue humble 23-year-old Botswanian, Bonnie Kamona, versus American multinational technology company, Google.

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It’s no surprise that Kamona’s search results, tweeted just over a month ago, went viral on the social network with over 13,000 retweets. Just by looking at the image results on the left in comparison to the right, several assumptions can be made about the perception of Afro hair.

According to the instant image results on Google, ‘unprofessional hairstyles for work’ referred to coiled and kinky hair with an Afro texture. When you think about hairstyles that are inappropriate for the workplace, you would think that that this would refer to unkempt hair that hasn’t been groomed, but based on the images generated by the search engine, it can be interpreted that the natural state of Afro hair is deemed unprofessional.

And things got more shocking for the Botswanian student when she caught a glimpse of what showed up as ‘professional hairstyles for work’: all of the images featured white women, with fair, silky-soft, European textured hair. Mind-blowing, to say the least.

We have to celebrate people’s natural hair. Obviously if it’s too long and it’s in the way, then fine, but we can’t change the texture. It’s outrageous.

– Jennie Roberts, Celebrity Session Stylist

Wanting to get my head around the fact that this kind of prejudice exists in the digital realm in 2016 or, for that matter, the real world, I hunted down Bonnie Kamona to get some answers on her Google-search experience.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I firmly believe the uproar is indicative of the awakening many of us have experienced with regards to racial prejudice and discrimination. I am no techie, nor do I claim to fully understand how it all works but I am aware that the Google search results are affected by algorithms, SEOs, forums and articles that the images are linked to. I do also believe in an era where technology is advancing at the rate that it is – search engines should develop ways to combat findings that would incite racial bias.

I have personally felt discriminated against because of my Afro hair and have had to braid or cover it up in order to look ‘presentable’ for interviews and meetings which I think is ridiculous to say the least. It is a pity that black women are finally celebrating their kinks and curls personally, yet still have to tone them down professionally. Surely, society should do better.”

For black women, braids have been our pride and joy for thousands of years. Our kinks, curls and coils perform magic when they are tightly twisted for both protection and practicality. The hours we invest in grooming our Afro hair proves that no matter what the circumstances, we will always look good, whether that be for a night out on the town or a corporate meeting. As Afro hair braiding styles and patterns become more beautiful and intricate by the day, it’s no wonder that the whole world wants to jump on the braid bandwagon. I guess it really is #AllAboutAfro.

You can join in on the conversation about Afro hair via @StylistMagazine on social media using the hashtag #AllAboutAfro

3
Aug

“It’s not easy being different”: Harnaam Kaur on overcoming bullying and embracing her natural beauty

harnaan insta 3.JPG

British-born Harnaam Kaur, suffered bullying throughout her childhood because she had what many other women didn’t: a beard. At age 11, Kaur began to grow a lot of body hair as a result of her Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. After suffering through a range of hair removal methods, Kaur decided to embrace her natural look. Now, aged 25, she is a model and body image activist, teaching other women to love themselves. Here, Kaur tells her story.


I’ve always been bullied, even as far back as nursery.

Over the years I was taunted for my weight and the colour of my skin. Then when I turned 11, the bullies found something new to pick on.

As I hit puberty I started developing facial hair. I wasn’t aware of it until the bullies pointed it out and it became the focus of their abuse – something that, more than a decade later, I am still subjected to every day. The doctor gave me an ultrasound which revealed that I have polycystic ovary syndrome, one of the symptoms of which is excess hair.

Harnaan on ITV's 'This Morning'

Harnaan on ITV’s ‘This Morning’

I spent a lot of time and effort trying to get rid of it. By the age of 12 I had tried every form of hair removal going: shaving, bleaching, creams, threading and painful waxing. My sensitive skin was left ripped and bleeding, with burns and scabs caused by the hot wax. Despite all of my efforts the bullying didn’t stop; no matter what I did, I couldn’t win. School was absolute hell and the only safe haven was my bedroom.  My friends told me to ignore it, but it’s impossible to ignore being abused every day of your life.

The more I attempted to remove the hair, the more it grew, and the relentless bullying got even worse.  It was incredibly hard, I felt beaten down emotionally and ended up self harming. One day I remember thinking: ‘Today is the day that I want to take my life’.

That was when the turning point came.

The more I attempted to remove the hair, the more it grew, and the relentless bullying got even worse.

It takes a lot of negative energy to get to a stage where you are considering suicide. But I decided to take that energy and turn it into something positive. We all have inner strength and I had to draw on mine to move forward and focus on living for myself. Around the age of 16, I stopped trying to get rid of the hair and started to grow it out. This led to an increase in bullying by the public. I get comments and sniggers everyday when I’m out and about, but I choose to look at is as fleeting occurrences that are only a couple of seconds of my life. I also know that a lot of comments are made because people are ignorant, they don’t know about polycystic ovary syndrome and its effects.

harnaan

Image: Instagram

As I was growing up I loved watching America’s Next Top Model, but I remember thinking that I looked nothing like the women on the programme. In 2014 an article about me was published which went viral and resulted in photographers getting in touch and asking to shoot me. At first I wasn’t confident or comfortable in front of the camera, but steadily I began to enjoy myself. Things really took off and earlier this year I did my first catwalk at the Marianna Harutunian Royal Fashion Day show. I’ve been laughed at many times about my modelling prospects, so it was amazing being a bearded lady and opening the show for such an incredible designer.

I’m more keen than ever to discuss the topic of model diversity. This is a subject that I’m really passionate about. I have been campaigning for industry change, working with people like Tess Holliday to call for an end to the notion of the one beauty ideal that we see across the board, and to encourage people to post images and celebrate the way they look. I feel the industry is starting to change, but there’s a lot more it can do. Fashion houses don’t need to make size zero clothing, anyone who wears clothes is into fashion, so it shouldn’t be for one certain type of person.

harnaan

Image: Instagram

I get nasty messages online all the time, and even death threats, but I also get people around the world contacting me to share their stories and to seek advice. There are many layers to my story and a lot that people can connect to; whether it’s a woman with facial hair and/or polycystic ovary syndrome, someone who has suffered racist abuse or anyone who has been bullied, self harmed or felt suicidal. Fighting to end all bullying is incredibly important to me.

If a girl asks me whether she should get rid of her facial hair or embrace it, like I did, I tell her it is a personal choice. She will need to be strong to stand up in the face of bullies, she also needs to consider ultimately what will make her happiest..It’s not easy being different, but it is possible and you can still achieve your dreams, I’m proof of that.


Harnaam is taking part in a debate about Model Diversity, chaired by fashion commentator Caryn Franklin MBE, at Southbank Centre’s new festival, Fashion Undressed with MasterCard. The festival, which celebrates real fashion for real people, takes place at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July.