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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My "Super Skin Saver Formula"

I was originally going to actually publish the following information in the form of an E-book to be entitled, The Super Skin Saver Formula.  However, I've since decided to go ahead and just share it with all who might visit this blog, and thus give it away for free instead.  Rest assured, you're not likely to find what you're about to read in duplication elsewhere (unless someone reads it, paraphrases it a bit and posts it on their own blog, at which point I guess I'll be mildly flattered).

It's quite a lengthy article, necessarily, so grab yourself some coffee, or what have you, and then enjoy a substantial perusal...

Before I present to you this very special formulation, a bit of autobiography is fairly essential.  Ever since adolescence, I've had problem skin.  By problem, I primarily mean acne-ridden, but there have been some other assorted issues here and there along the way.  Like most teenage boys at that time (yes, it was in the days when the Internet was just becoming a familiar concept), I had little recourse on my own but to accept it as a part of the growing process in its latter stages, as I couldn't really do much research on my own except for what was available in library books -- some of which had only old outdated information to offer, not to mention "remedies" which were in much the same disappointing category.  

My acne was so bad around the time of my junior and senior high school years that I ended up using several prescription medications issued by a dermatologist to try to keep it under some control, which they did to some degree.  I've never been a fan of prescription-anything, and even back then I remember being concerned about whatever potential side effects might result from using those things for too long.  My graduation photos were heavily airbrushed anyway, so in the end, there was little record of my adolescent breakout bouts.  But in those very impressionable years, my memories of dealing with this old nemesis of mine, acne, became quite solidly ingrained.  My best guess is that a great many adults have remarkably similar recollections.

And I hold it as a given that, at this very moment, teenagers everywhere are experiencing much the same physical and psychological discomfort as I and so many others once experienced.

Now, most young men basically accept acne as an all-but-inescapable but mostly transient evil with which most, if not all, early adults must invariably contend as a sort of side effect of adolescence.  They generally come to see it as something which shows up with often very inconvenient frequency but which also seems to depart for somewhat unpredictable spans of time, leaving the sufferer with at least occasional periods of clear skin.  Furthermore, aside from using some dermatologist-prescribed medication (the notion thereof still makes me shudder with loathing to this day), the consensus is that, otherwise, there's not much you can do about it.

But I've never been what you would call typical, or, frankly, even normal.  Whereas most of my male peers apparently didn't care to even try to understand a bit about acne and what, if anything, you could do about it on your own, such has never been the case with me.  And since acne certainly didn't depart from my skin much once my high school years were over, I thenceforth began a long investigative -- and often experimental -- quest to deal effectively and reliably with my acne but without poisoning myself in the process.

My acne problem, from past to present

It didn't take long for me to realize that, before I could develop a sustainable course of action to take against my acne, it would be crucial to isolate and identify, if I could, the foremost factors which were continually causing my breakouts.  I'll spare you all but the most salient conclusions I've since reached; these, even still, are inherently tentative, but I do believe I've narrowed them down very substantially.

The hormonal factor is one which forever seems to lurk at least in the background, and perhaps further to the forefront if one has a lot of natural hormonal (i.e., testosterone) activity.  As an aside, there was a time, about a decade or so ago, when the mainstream health community was seemingly demonizing testosterone, insisting it was ostensibly detrimental to a man's health.  A lot of us had serious doubts about this, though, and opposing voices began to be heard.  When those opposite viewpoints started coming from the health mainstream itself, a reversal of sorts occurred, and most recently we've seen television ads for medications indicated for the condition of low testosterone.  I've never really believed that the same hormone that makes a man a man would eventually turn around and somehow attack him.

But my purpose is not to hotly debate any issues, especially when mostly tenuous conclusions are the only available ammunition.  No, my aim has always been to objectively define the primary factors which have caused my own acne, all the while recognizing that these same factors have likely resulted in the acne experienced by other persons as well.  The bottom line is, rather unavoidably, that there does seem to be a connection between hormones and acne.  To me, and in me, there's clearly a connection.  It would explain in part why teenage boys, with their boiling hormone production, tend to have a lot more acne than girls.  Girls, of course, do have acne as well...but note that they also have at least a small amount of naturally-occurring testosterone.  I may not sound very scientific in so saying, but as far as I've ever seen, if you -- man or woman -- have testosterone in production, you'll very likely have some amount of acne as a by-product.  However, I, personally, would never want to be without my testosterone, and I've also surmised that the hormonal factor is far from the only one responsible for acne.  There has to be other things to consider, and I've long figured there would still be something else a person could safely do to greatly minimize acne flareups.  Possibly, I've thought, the key could be found in maintaining a skin health that was less susceptible to acne's inception.

When I say that there would have to be other factors to consider as to the underlying causes of acne, I'd also say this is very obviously so because of the frequent localization on acne on the body.  There would have to be reasons why one's skin doesn't break out evenly everywhere, and why it tends to show up predominantly in fairly localized areas.  I'm referring to the so-called "T-zone," across the forehead and down the nose to the chin, and also to areas such as the back and chest, for a lot of us guys.  I mentioned that my own early research into acne was largely done at libraries, as at the time of my teenage years, the Internet was not at all yet commonly accessible.  I remember reading excepts from health books published back in the '60s, '70s and '80s which emphasized the need to both keep your skin clean and also to avoid eating fatty and greasy foods like pizza, potato chips and chocolate.  At that time it was believed that acne was the result of increased oil production in the skin during the teenage years, exacerbated along the way by bacteria, which festered when sebaceous (oil) glands became blocked and which tended to be spread by what amounts to very direct contact.  They hadn't made much of a hormonal connection at that point, as far as I had seen.  I do remember, also, that beyond the aforementioned decades, the medical community became leery of the pure blocked oil gland/bacterial aggravation theory, because you had too many cases of young adults in different parts of the world who did not consume our offending Western foods but who still had just as much acne.  Doctors, themselves, became unsure that these were the only acne-predisposing indicators -- much as I, over the course of my own self-observations, eventually became skeptical that hormonal production was the sole causal factor of the acne I experienced.

So, if you can't totally blame hormones for acne, but neither can you completely incriminate excessive skin oil and directly-spread bacterial contamination, what would be the answer?  Could it possibly be that all of the above play their own role, to some degree or other?  This is what I have strongly been led to conclude, and actually, there have been some comparatively recent scientific studies which support that this is actually the case.  It has even been theorized that it's really Nature acting in favor of continuing the species, and all other concerns are secondary at best.  There's been talk of certain enzymes in the body that can either be used for hormone production or the metabolism of fats, but which are typically in relatively short supply in the body of a young adult.  Hypothetically, Nature chooses that these enzymes be used for the ample production of hormones (likely leading to sex and reproduction), rather than to expend them in the cleanup of excessive fats from the body, which Nature's providence deems not nearly as important.

But if you don't want to tamper with your natural hormonal production, which I really don't think anyone should, and if you're not inclined to shy away from eating fat-heavy foods, would that leave nothing at all that you could do to combat acne, aside from taking some kind of nasty medication (which is often just a topical antibiotic anyway)?

No, there certainly are things you can do, as I've come to discover.  They don't require a prescription, don't cost much, and won't interfere with your daily routine much.  What's more, they may also possibly confer additional skin benefits independent of keeping acne at bay, though that alone makes them worth it, in my opinion.

Things I tried which didn't work so well

Before I ultimately divulge my simple "formula" which has come to help me the most effectively (and safely) of everything I've attempted to use in my battles against acne, it's best if I talk for a bit about some things I've tried but which I'll say, at best, didn't prove viable in the long-term, or perhaps even the short, in some cases.

I've already discussed how, in my acne-plagued high school years, I was prescribed certain medications by a dermatologist to try to fend off the very excessive breakouts I was having at that time.  There were three of them, and I was instructed to use these in combination.  One was a topical antibiotic; the second was an internally-taken antibiotic, and the third was a cream which was intended to rapidly increase the skin-turnover rate, such as to prevent potential acne scarring (this last medication was the least offensive of the three, I believe).  Back then, antibiotics were virtually handed out left and right, almost without much consideration, whereas currently, and more fortunately, greater restraint is issued.  The problem with antibiotics, whether applied topically or taken internally, is that they are very indiscriminate in their action.  They tend to wipe out even the good bacteria which resides in your digestive system.  The medical community is slowly become more and more aware of the need to keep one's beneficial bacteria intact; witness the popularity of probiotic supplements even just to boost overall health and wellness (incidentally, probiotics are now often actually prescribed after an antibiotic course is over to re-seed what was lost).

Needless to say, even in those early years, it quickly became apparent that prescription medications were far from the answer, at least for me.  I wanted nothing voluntarily to do with them, and still don't.  They weren't even very effective anyway, notwithstanding their potential side effects had I continued with them for very long, which I thankfully didn't.

At around that same time, it wasn't long before I made the correlation between spending time in the sun and a proportional decrease in my acne outbreaks.  While on vacation at the beach in the summer, I would take to laying in the sun, and I would notice that my skin cleared up more than I had ever previously experienced since I first started to have acne (not to mention ending up with a nice tan on top of it).  However, I found the acne was only absent when I was actively (and frequently) tanning.  If I didn't "recharge" my tan quite often, the acne would slowly start to reappear.  Living in a temperate zone, and in particular, one which is notoriously known for a relative paucity of sunny days, it became hard to acquire the kind of consistent sun exposure outdoors I needed, and I eventually took to using the ever-controversial services of indoor tanning facilities.  Aside from the substantiated health hazards of indoor tanning, it was always an expensive proposition.  And when I pondered how both outdoor and indoor tanning had staved off my acne for as long as I was engaging in the activity, I came to believe it was from the joint effect of the antibacterial action of ultraviolet rays and also from a literal drying-out of my skin, as per much of its more oily content. I've entertained the possibility that vitamin D, as can be obtained through direct sun exposure, might have alleviated the acne (along with innumerable other purported benefits), but I just couldn't know for sure.  I'd consider it hypocritical of me to condemn tanning altogether given my history with it, but it became apparent to me that it just wasn't a viable answer to my ongoing acne problem in the long-term.  In summation, the action was too superficial, too short-lived, and the drying action was far too all-or-nothing.  It might have applied a drying effect to my over-active oil production, but it did so at the expense of my skin's total moisture quotient (which, I've since found, is of paramount importance, as I'll later explain).  Now, I certainly do still tan, but now it's purely outdoors, and it mainly occurs while I'm engaged in various outdoor activities.  And I don't even need to do it now just to keep my acne at bay, as I have something even better (i.e., my formula, which I will ultimately reveal to you a bit later in this discussion).

After I was basically done with the prospect of using tanning as my primary anti-acne weapon, I took to experimenting with all manner of natural oils and similar substances.  I found some favor with the likes of coconut and jojoba oils, but they were too messy, far too greasy, and in the summer, I got the impression that they prevented my skin from breathing as freely as it wanted, which I couldn't imagine was a good thing at all, no matter how natural the oils were.  I would apply raw organic coconut oil all over myself at night, before bed, and then I would feel like a greased pig beneath the covers.  It couldn't be made a comfortable proposition, no matter what.  Coconut oil, in particular, did seem very effective against existing acne, and this is likely because coconut oil is known to be very anti-bacterial in its constituents.  Yes, there was a degree of an emollient effect, which is often claimed of these so-called biological oils.  But, as I learned, there is a danger of applying even the most natural of oils to your skin excessively, and the trouble comes in the form of what is termed a feedback inhibition loop.  In the case of frequently applying oil to one's skin, what can often happen is that the body detects the presence of oil in the skin, through the topical application thereof, and thus, it cuts back on its own oil production (or even virtually shuts it down altogether).  I've reckoned this can't be good in the long-term, and that it would eventually lead to chronically dry skin (with subsequent premature visible aging a likely adjunct to this).

And with reference to dry skin, it's taken quite some time for me to have eventually identified it as an actually very prominent factor in my acne troubles -- perhaps far more of an important variable than I had originally even suspected.  If I set aside the hormonal component for just one moment, and evaluate the acne itself, I'll invariably conclude that an acne bump, if you will, begins to occur when one of either my oil or sweat glands becomes blocked.  This, alone, won't necessarily cause acne, but when bacteria becomes involved, such as that it has become trapped under or within the buildup and multiplies, that is when the acne appears.

Naturally, the question arises as to why the oil or sweat glands becomes blocked.  Well, with my own oil glands, yes, they may effectively be in a state of over-production.  Recall, if you will, the enzyme theory I mentioned earlier as a possible answer as to why my skin oil is not kept more in check; it's as good a theory as any I've ever heard.  I do tend to be a very "clean" person, as those who know me well will readily attest.  I typically take at least two showers a day, with an occasional third one thrown in if I feel it's necessary.  Does this have a drying effect on my skin?  Why, for certain, it does to some degree.  But remember also the now-classic health manuals of yesteryear which advised you to keep your skin clean if you were prone to acne.  And I've learned to avoid too much of a sweat-on-sweat condition, as when I sweat significantly (outdoor activities, exercise, etc.) and then shortly thereafter go on to another perspiration-inducing activity.  I've noticed that acne often results if this is allowed to occur, so I'll take another shower (that occasional third shower) to clean my skin before engaging in sweat production again.

I've accepted that as long as my body engages in regular testosterone production (which I do hope it will for quite some time to come), there will always be the potential for acne to develop.  And by now, with all I've said, you may be led to believe my acne has essentially won, as at least several factors would seem to be actively working in its favor.  But not so fast.  I'm pleased to report that, on the contrary, I've made some significant additional discoveries in recent years, and I've reached a very specific formulation that has helped me beyond anything else I've tried.

My secret two-component formula

I'd hinted upon, very briefly in passing, the importance of moisture in one's skin.  When I say moisture, I don't mean the naturally-occurring oil in the skin; I mean aqueous moisture, as in, the skin's actual water content.  As is often statistically quoted, at least half to as much as three-fourths of the human body consists of water.  And also, please consider that the body's largest organ is none other than the skin.  I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.  If there isn't enough water in your skin, doesn't it stand to reason that some type of problems will result?

Returning back to the plant-based oils with which I was experimenting, I'll say that I still think they are enormously useful for skin health.  To this day, I still apply coconut oil prior to my outdoor activities, in which I'll be out in the sun for a while.  When I do tan this way, naturally, I do feel my skin is better protected from excessive drying (and burning), and the resulting tan has a nice bronze tone.  And if I'm going to be in a part of our property patrolled by ferocious deer flies, as they seek their warm-blooded prey (which could be me), before I apply the coconut oil I'll add a few drops of citronella or clove oil, and they'll surely steer clear of me.

For keeping my acne under control, however, I wanted to find something that wasn't so messy when applied, and which could be used at night in any temperature range (I've found that when you cover yourself with oil, you tend to heat up pretty noticeably, which isn't so great on a warm summer night).  Ideally, I also wanted to find something that wasn't expensive, so that I could replenish my supply thereof regularly at no obnoxious cost.

I stand resolutely behind simple experimentation as a problem-solving principle in life, and so I continued to try various substances and combinations for my skin.  And after considerably more trial-and-error, in the end, I did happen upon a certain two-component mixture which clearly seemed to work in the manner I had long sought.

The first ingredient of my two-part mixture is itself a combination of ingredients, but very seemingly, the sum of its parts somehow greatly exceeds that of its individual components.  And this over-the-counter wonder product is...Udderly Smooth Hand Cream.  I reliably find this product at local Dollar Tree stores selling for, yes, $1.00 for a 2-ounce tube.  I usually pick up as many as a half-dozen of these at a time when I visit the store, to keep myself in supply of this remarkable product.  As to what makes it so special, I'll expound upon some specific substances it contains which I think are among the most important for my purposes.         - Lanolin.  Lanolin was at one time believed to be a relatively common allergen, but due to gross misinterpretation of some data, it was found that the actual irritating potential was exaggerated many thousands of times.  Derived from sheep, lanolin is what allows these animals to shed water from their coats; effectively, it's an organic water-repellent.  Lanolin can be separated into lanolin alcohols and lanolin acids; even individually, these two building blocks confer extraordinary properties when used on one's epidermis.  The lanolin alcohols allow water to be emulsified (dissolved) within oils, including those oils which are native to the skin, thus essentially allowing water to be contained within the skin.  The lanolin acids, on the other hand, contain a portion of alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs), which generally need little introduction for those already familiar with skin care, as these acids greatly help in the removal of dry, dead skin to reveal the newer and more lively skin beneath.  Furthermore, if the grade of lanolin is high enough (which I strongly suspect is the case in Udderly Smooth), it can also assist in the healing of wounds.
- Glycerin.  Easily obtained from plant sources (hence the term vegetable glycerin), glycerin is a very hygroscopic substance, meaning, it readily absorbs moisture from the air.  It also draws moisture from bacteria, which causes them to die.  As visible acne commonly involves a minor form of infection in the skin, such as when an oil gland becomes blocked and ends with an over-proliferation of bacteria, which eventually causes it to fester into a pustule, I've concluded the glycerin in Udderly Smooth serves to not only increase the skin's available moisture but also applies enough of an antibacterial effect to help keep things under control all the more.
- Allantoin.  The allantoin used in cosmetic-type products is either obtained from the comfrey plant or synthesized in a safe and non-toxic form.  It encourages removal of dead skin cells, is very anti-inflammatory, it increases water content of skin matrix (along with lanolin and glycerin), and it promotes healing of skin by a number of additional biochemical mechanisms.

I firmly believe it's primarily these three ingredients found in Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion -- lanolin, glycerin and allantoin -- that confer its unique effectiveness toward my two-part formula.  Please note that I've tried other remotely similar creams and lotions in its place, but they just aren't the same as Udderly Smooth.  That trio of very active ingredients really does seem to equip the skin to moisturize itself, rather than just applying a lotion which is supposed to add moisture to the skin but to little lasting avail.  And when your skin is truly moisturized, it's unquestionably healthier in all regards.  This would include a lesser propensity for blockages of oil glands to occur -- yes, the kind of blockages that often encourage the beginnings of acne.

Now, the other ingredient is one which I also very inexpensively pick up when I'm at the Dollar Tree, but you can find it in any drugstore, or wherever any amount of skin products are sold.  And this second ingredient is ordinary witch hazel.  The pictured bottle is the actual brand and size I get at the Dollar Tree (yes, again, its a mere $1.00, for a 6-ounce bottle).  I've found that one of these 6-ounce bottles is enough witch hazel for two to even three batches of my mixture, which makes it highly economical, to say the least.  Yes, I combine Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion with witch hazel, and therein is my "Super Skin Saver Formula," in a nutshell.

But why witch hazel, you might ask?  Well, regarding this liquid ingredient, witch hazel refers to the extract from a plant, Hamamelis virginiana, found in North America and several other locations in the world through related species.  It's one of those innumerable things which has very little "official" support from the medical community but has nevertheless been used for ages as a sort of folk medicine, for both external and internal ailments alike.  The Native Americans have long valued its usage as a topical remedy for insect bites, rashes and other forms of skin irritation.  In modern-day applications, it's still used for those issues, and in addition, many acne sufferers do use it to favorable effect.  And this is why it has become the other component of my skin formula.  In fact, witch hazel, in solution (as per what is sold in stores), does in fact demonstrate astringent properties which seem mostly responsible for its anti-inflammatory actions.  As an astringent, it tightens tissues, and if there's an excess amount of oil in the skin (remember the theory about excessively-oily skin contributing much to the acne problem), it tends to counteract the oiliness.
In my experiments, I had indeed found that if I regularly used witch hazel, my skin was in better and more acne-free condition.  But the thing I didn't like so much about just using witch hazel was that it was hard to apply evenly without splashing it all over the place and wasting a lot of it in the process.  It dawned upon me to try to combine it with some type of lotion or cream to be able to use it more efficiently, and when I chose Udderly Smooth as that base cream, my "formula" was born.  I've not since found anything to supplant this mixture in terms of usability and effectiveness -- not just for problem skin because of acne, but for having nicer skin, period, whatever the time of year.  The Udderly Smooth and the witch hazel blend evenly, and they seem to complement each other almost perfectly as they together mesh as a skin healer, softener, rejuvenator and acne-therapy all in one.  The Udderly Smooth keeps the skin moist, and also works a great deal to heal any existing lesions.  The witch hazel likewise soothes and mends the skin of whatever might have compromised its equilibrium, and in addition, it also keeps surplus oiliness under appreciable control.

If I were to condense my findings into a "recipe," I would say, you'll need some kind of wide-mouthed jar with a well-fitting screw-top lid to mix and hold the formula.  I'd suggest a jar that holds around 12 ounces, and with a wide enough mouth that you can easily fit your hand into it to extract the final product for use.  To make what I'd call a batch of it, I'd get, say, four of the 2-ounce tubes of Udderly Smooth (to a total of about 8 ounces of cream, when squeezed out), and a bottle of witch hazel, which doesn't have to be a big bottle as you won't need a whole lot of it.  Assuming you already have a suitable jar on hand at home, if there's a Dollar Tree in your area and you buy the components for a batch therein, your grand-total cost should come to $5.00, minus tax.

Squeeze all of the Udderly Smooth out of the tubes into the jar as you can.  Then, when it comes to adding the witch hazel, I would say, aim for either a 70/30 ratio -- 70% Udderly Smooth, and 30% witch hazel -- or a 60/40 percentage, doing your best to approximate.  A 50/50 mixture is not advisable because it tends to get too "runny" in those amounts, and becomes far too difficult to cleanly use.  You could could mix the cream and the witch hazel together with a spoon, but I find it far more expedient just to screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar up vigorously for around 30 seconds or so.  It mixes itself together quite well this way.

I'll caution you against applying the mixture too close to your eyes, because it does tend to be pretty eye-irritant if you get a bit in there (but not hazardously so).  Otherwise, you can more or less use it all over the body if you like.  If you elect to try it, I hope you'll be as pleased with the "Super Skin Saver Formula" as I've been for a long while now.  Winter, summer, spring or fall, it's my go-to therapy for any time of the year and all atmospheric conditions.  It makes it actually feel pretty good to be inside your own skin.

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