Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Meditation and Your Skin September 18, 2013

Filed under: beauty,Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 1:00 pm
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In the quest for beautiful skin have we missed out on a technique that can both quiet our mind, improve our health, and help our skin?  Can you meditate your way to perfect skin?

While the health benefits of meditation are well known – reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, strengthening immunity, and inducing calm – what about the skin benefits?

Celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville writes about the connection between meditation and appearance:

I became convinced about the power of meditation after I witnessed significant changes in the skin of several of my clients who practice it.  It really made me aware that I may be able to help someone topically or assist her in altering her diet, but if I can’t help her find a way to stop her brain craziness, she’s simply not going to look her best.

Meditation is a state of deep physical relaxation combined with acute mental alertness, and there are many ways to achieve this state.  Almost every religion incorporates meditative practices such as praying and chanting, and you might be able to find one in your belief system.  Other purely physiological techniques involve sitting and focusing on something that will hold your attention: a word, an image, your breath, or a visual cue.

(From Complexion Perfection! pages 36-37)

According to the online article Meditating for Better Skin as you practice meditation you reduce your stress levels and help your skin:

Meditation is practiced worldwide as an excellent way to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Did you know, however, that meditation can also help improve your appearance?
When practiced properly and consistently, meditation is one of the few natural ways to improve the quality and tone of your skin, and even combat any number of skin ailments, ranging from acne to rosacea to premature wrinkling.
How stress affects your skin
The body responds to duress by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol, while necessary in small quantities to help you deal with “fight or flight” situations, is not meant to be sustained at high levels for prolonged periods of time. Continued production of cortisol can result in a variety of negative health issues including fat gain around the visceral organs, blood sugar imbalance, decreased bone density, higher blood pressure and of course, skin problems.
Cortisol can result in an increase in oil production, which can lead to acne and acne-related problems.
Additionally, when cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in our bloodstream go up. Increased blood sugar promotes glycation in our skin, which damages collagen. Damage to collagen can lead to more lines and wrinkles.
As soon as cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process called glycation in our skin which damages the collagen. Collagen is what makes your skin both firm and pliable. The breakdown of collagen leads to fine lines and eventually wrinkles.
Cortisol acts to dehydrate the skin by decreasing your skin’s production of hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer for the skin. And it compromises the skin’s barrier, which allows hydration to evaporate instead of staying in the skin.
Another byproduct of stress that works negatively on the skin is adrenaline, which decreases blood flow to your skin and leads to a pale, wan complexion.

Better skin through meditationResearch has shown that meditation is a powerful stress-reliever. When you meditate, you slow your heart rate and produce less cortisol even as your immune functions improve. While difficult to adjust to initially, a consistent practitioner of meditation reaps myriad mental and physical benefits, including reduced stress responses and improved immunity to stress.

Reduction in stress naturally leads to reduction of stress hormones like cortisol, which allows your skin to continue to regenerate normally .

People have found that after consistent meditation, they see fewer lines and wrinkles, improvement in acne, fewer dark circles or bags under the eyes (due in part to improved quality of sleep that comes with meditation), and a healthy glow.

Note: For maximum benefits to your skin, do not shower immediately after meditation. Some studies have suggested that chemicals produced during meditation can be beneficial to the skin. Showering would not only wash off those beneficial chemicals, but also produce a shock to the nervous system, increasing the stress response which is the opposite of the intended goal. If you must shower post-meditation, try to wait at least half an hour to an hour. Ideally, avoid any kind of water exposure or submersion post-meditation.

There are many, many different ways to meditate.  Personally I suggest starting off slow – trying to sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes each day if possible.  I’ve found that guided meditations work best for me; I’ve even found some excellent free phone apps such as Take a Break and Omvana that make meditating anywhere easier.

Sources and Further Reading:

Image from http://www.organizationalwellness.com

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Dairy, Carbs, Sugar and Acne: Is There a Connection? September 12, 2013

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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I’ve written a lot in this blog about the connection between food and acne and diet and skincare in general.  (See the links at the end of this post)  This post will highlight new research that has emerged about the connection between diet and acne.

From the Skin Inc. article Long-term Research Links and High Sugar Foods to Acne we learn the following:

Review of 50 years of clinical studies indicates there may be a link between diet and acne after all. It’s been a subject of debate for decades, but it seems diet really does have an impact on a person’s complexion.

A landmark overview of research carried out over the past 50 years has found that eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne, but in some cases triggered it, too.  …

Since the late 19th century, research has linked diet to acne, with chocolate, sugar and fat singled out as the main culprits. But studies carried out from the 1960s onwards have disassociated diet from the development of the condition.

Jennifer Burris, researcher and doctoral candidate within New York University’sDepartment of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health in Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, says, “This change [in attitude] occurred largely because of the two important studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne.

“More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.”

Eating high GI foods – foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly – is thought to have a direct effect on the severity of acne because of the hormonal fluctuations that are triggered. High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production. A 2007 Australian study showed that young males who were put on a strict low GI diet noticed a significant improvement in the severity of their acne.

Milk is thought to affect acne because of the hormones it contains. A 2007 study carried out by Harvard School of Public Healthfound that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne. Interestingly, those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44% increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink.

Another Skin Inc. article expands on what I referenced above:

“The strongest evidence we have to date of a link between diet and acne comes from the glycemic index studies,” says Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, who is the lead author of the article “Diet and Acne,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. “These studies show that low-glycemic index diets may improve acne. The consumption of high-glycemic index foods appears to trigger a cascade of responses, which can lead to acne through effects on growth hormones and sex hormones,” Bowe adds.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-rich foods based on their potential to increase blood sugar levels. For example, high GI foods include white bread, chips and white potatoes; low GI foods include multi-grain bread, peanuts, vegetables and beans.

A study of 23 Australian males ages 15–25 who followed a strict, low-glycemic load (LGL) diet experienced significant improvement in acne severity by adhering to a LGL diet. However, the participants in the LGL group also lost weight, which means the LGL diet may not solely be attributed to the outcome. Specifically, studies have also shown that acne improves when the patients’ blood sugar levels are controlled and a low-carbohydrate diet stabilizes hormones.

In addition, a web-based survey assessing the role of a low-glycemic diet in the treatment of acne found that 86.7% of the 2,528 dieters who completed this online survey reported improvements in their skin while following this diet. Still, based on some of the flaws in the design of the study, the results must be interpreted with “cautious optimism,” says Bowe.

Although there is weak evidence that dairy also impacts acne, Bowe says there’s still a possibility that an association may exist. While there were several flaws in the studies, “Dairy does appear to be weakly associated with acne, with the strongest association being skim milk,” according to Bowe. While the exact mechanism behind this association is unclear, she suspects that hormones and growth factors in milk might play a role.

While more clinical research is needed to determine dairy’s impact on acne severity, Bowe advises patients to speak with their dermatologist to determine if certain dairy products aggravate their acne. She also says patients who choose to limit dairy products should supplement their diets with appropriate levels of calcium and vitamin D.

(From Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?)

Still not convinced about the connection between acne and diet?  Check out the following information about societies that ate a plant based diet and acne:

Rural cultures with diets high in fruits, nuts and root vegetables have been observed to have a very minimal incidence of acne. Communities of Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and Achè hunter-gatherers of Paraguay were observed to not even have a single comedo while eating their native diets rich in fruits, coconut, wild foods and fish, with minimal amounts of Western foods. Similar rural cultures, which have zero incidence of acne, suddenly experience breakouts when introduced to a Western culture and diet.  This suggests that the disorder cannot be solely attributed to genetics, but is likely sourced from differing environmental factors.

These studies point to whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as having a positive correlation with clear skin. This makes sense: Plants are, by and large, some of the strongest anti-inflammatory food sources available. By increasing daily intake of fruits, greens and vegetables, clients biologically increase their immunity and could potentially decrease signs of acne.

(From The Diet-Acne Connection – Skin Inc.)

So how can you change your diet in order to prevent breakouts?  Here are some suggestions:

Choosing low GI foods

  • Only carbohydrates have a GI rating.
  • Because low GI foods take longer for the body to break down they help you feel fuller for longer too.
  • High GI foods include sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, chocolate, white bread and potatoes.
  • Low GI foods include fruit and vegetables, wholegrain options such as brown pasta, basmati rice, couscous and pulses.
  • Not overcooking your pasta and vegetables helps lower the GI.
  • Watch for food triggers that may seem to aggravate acne.
  • Keep a food diary and share it with your dermatologist.
  • Be patient. It may take up to 12 weeks of a diet change to determine if certain foods are contributing to acne.
  • Continue following your regular acne treatment routine. Diet changes are only a small part of an acne treatment plan and are meant to be used in conjunction with proven medical therapies for acne.

Have you seen a connection between your diet and your breakouts?  Please share your experiences below.

My Related Posts:

Image from allparenting.com

 

Is Your Pillow, Pillowcase, Or Sleeping Position Giving You Wrinkles? September 3, 2013

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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If we don’t already have enough to worry about when it comes to skin aging it turns out that perhaps how we sleep or on what we rest our head can hurt our skin.  As with most skincare subjects this topic is highly debatable so let us check things out more closely.

It’s hard to sleep on your back but should you do so in order to prevent wrinkles?  It turns out that a lot of experts actually say “yes, you should sleep on your back”.  Take for instance this exchange from The Huffington Post:

…  we’re pulling apart the thinking that the way you sleep can exacerbate wrinkles. New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, author of “Skin Rules,” breaks it down for us.

This all started a few months back when I was getting a facial. I asked the aesthetician why the fine lines around my eyes seemed to be more noticeable on the right side of my face. “Do you sleep on your side?” she asked. “Yes,” I responded. I’ve been faithfully sleeping on my right side my entire life. “Well, that’s why,” she pointed out. Dr. Jaliman concurs: “The way you sleep does affect wrinkles — that’s why some lines are called sleep lines. If you crunch your face against a pillow you can get them.”

“It’s best to sleep on your back, although most people find this difficult,” says Jaliman. Indeed. Every attempt I’ve made to become a back-sleeper usually ends back at square one, i.e., comfortably on my right side. “One way to do this is to put a U-shaped bucky pillow around your neck and to prop yourself with other pillows all around you so you don’t turn in your sleep,” advises Jaliman.

(From Does Sleeping on Your Side Cause Wrinkles?  Beauty Myth or Not?)

WebMD actually refers to the American Academy of Dermatology when telling readers to sleep on their back.  I had to find the original reference from the AAD and here it is:

  1. Try to sleep on your back. Do you wake up with sleep lines on your face? Sleeping on your side or your face causes these lines. In time, these lines turn into permanent wrinkles.

(From What Causes Our Skin to Age)

There are even pillows that help achieve wrinkle free sleep.  Allure explains:

Do you have fine lines, wrinkles, or crow’s-feet? Well, maybe it’s because you’re not sleeping on a pillow shaped like Transformers. At least according to the plastic surgeon who designed the JuveRest, a pillow that supposedly reduces the wrinkles acquired by smooshing our faces into our pillows while we snooze.

“My patients are often surprised to learn there are two types of wrinkles on their faces: those caused by expression and those caused by facial distortion from pillow contact during sleep,” says Goesel Anson, the inventor of the pillow. Side and stomach sleepers are the most vulnerable since they spend a third of their lives pressing their delicate visages into heretofore thought totally innocuous bags of goose down.

The Sleep Wrinkle Pillow’s totally un-pillowlike shape minimizes contact between the fabric and your face, thus reducing wrinkles … .

(From Sleep Wrinkles?  The Lego Pillow Might Be For You)

Don’t want to invest in a special pillow?  Can’t sleep on your back?  Maybe all you need to do is use a satin pillowcase.  Again I’ll refer to The Huffington Post article:
If sleeping on your back is absolutely impossible, don’t worry, all is not lost. “A few tricks to avoid sleep lines is to get satin pillowcases as opposed to the usual cotton pillowcases. The face slides against the satin pillowcase so that it doesn’t crunch against it, and no sleep lines are formed. Beauty sleep pillows are also an option, they are made with a special foam and have a unique shape which helps alleviate pressure on the face.”

Ok but does anyone disagree with the above advice?  The Beauty Brains certainly do.  Take for instance what they wrote in the post Does Sleeping on Your Face Give You Wrinkles?:

Long time readers of the Beauty Brains may recall the debate that raged over our post on “Are silk pillowcases good for your skin.” At the time, we took the position that there is no data showing that contact between your face and the pillow case causes wrinkles. A new study published in the June 2013 of Dermatologic Surgery seems to support our position.

The study, conducted by Dr. Brett Kotlus, evaluated whether or not sleeping on one side of your face causes an increase in wrinkles. Here’s a link to the study Effect of Sleep Position on Perceived Facial Aging however you have to be a member to download the entire article. So to make it easy for you, Dr. Klotus has provided a few key take away points:

  • The study shows no association between sleep side and wrinkles
  • Overall, more wrinkles were seen on the left side of the face (not related to sleep position) but instead attributed to to sun exposure while driving. Other studies have found more skin cancer on the left side of the face for the same reason.
  • The study also calls into question if anti-wrinkle sleep pillows are worthwhile.

In conclusion Dr. Klotus says “I do think that sleep lines come from pillow pressure, but other environmental factors such as sun are more important contributors to wrinkles than sleep position.”

And what about silk pillowcases?  Above I mentioned  the recommendation to use a satin pillowcase, but let us throw silk pillowcases into the mix too.  Plus The Beauty Brains post, Are Silk Pillowcases Good for Your Skin?, is too good not to share:

Stephanie says: Is it true that it is better for your skin to sleep on silk pillow cases?

The Left Brain believes:
There is some evidence, like this Pubmed article, that indicates special silk clothing can reduce atopic dermatitis in children who are prone to that condition. However, I have can’t find any evidence that sleeping on silk pillowcases is really better for your skin. Nonetheless, one brand, Silkskin Antiwrinkle Pillowcases, says they actually fight the signs of aging. Here are a few claims from their website followed by my comments:

1. Gives your skin the chance to breathe naturally

While your skin does perspire and while certain chemicals can clog your pores and cause acne, skin does not really “breathe” so silk doesn’t really make a difference in this regard.

2. Because moisture levels are being maintained throughout the night, deeper lines and wrinkles are not forming.

Moisture loss causes dry scaly skin, not wrinkles. A pillow case can not stop wrinkles from forming.

3. Different from run of the mill silk pillow case as it is made from organic silk which contains amino acids, the building blocks of your skin.

ALL silk is made of amino acids, so the fact that this silk is organic is completely irrelevant. And the amino acid profile of silk is different than keratin protein, which is what skin is made of. And, even if it were the same, it’s not like the amino acids leap off the pillowcase and attach to your skin.

4. Organic silk also has the same pH balance of your skin.

Measuring pH really only makes sense when you’re talking about a water solution. Yes, skin has a optimal pH balance, but the pH of fabric you’re sleeping on is really irrelevant.

5. When sleeping on this pillowcase, your night cream is fully absorbed by the skin and won’t rub off like it usually does, therefore allowing the cream to work to maximum effect.

I’m curious if Silkskin has any actual data to back up this claim. I suppose it’s possible that silk is less absorbent than cotton, which means it could absorb less oils and moisture from the surface of your skin. But even if silk is less absorbent, just the friction of your skin against the fabric as you move around in your sleep is still enough to wipe some of the lotion off your face. Without some kind of test data to show Silkskin has a beneficial effect, I’m skeptical on this claim.

6. Silk stops you getting the dreaded ‘bedhead’ as your hair will simply glide over the pillowcase.

Bed head isn’t just caused by rubbing your hair across the fabric of the pillow. It’s also caused by the warmth and moisture of your perspiring scalp saturating your hair and reforming the hydrogen bonds (also known as salt bonds) in your hair, which results in the bizarre hair configuration you wake up with. Since silk doesn’t stop you from perspiring, it probably has little effect on bed head. But once again, if there’s test data to the contrary I’ll gladly reconsider my position.

7. Dust mites cannot live on silk so the pillowcase is excellent for allergy sufferers.

This is the most intriguing of all Silkskin’s claims. While I found references to very tightly woven pillowcases being used to prevent dust mites from penetrating into pillows, I could not find any legitimate scientific source that answered this question one way or the other.

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

There may be some legitimate benefits to sleeping on silk, but Silkskin makes a number of definitive claims without providing much information to back them up. Maybe it’s true that dust mites can’t live on silk, but I’d rather not take the word of the company trying to sell me the product as proof. A little independent confirmation would go a long way toward making me feel better about buying this product.

Bottom Line:   I have to say that I still debating this topic for myself.  Though I think The Beauty Brains, as usual, make a strong argument against back sleeping and special pillowcases and pillows I still wonder if making some small changes could result in fewer wrinkles down the line.

Further Reading:

 

Image from zuzafun.com

 

 
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