Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dealing with adult acne

My friend Kirsten asked me about dealing with adult acne, so here we go.  Now, I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a nurse.  I'm not an esthetician.  I'm someone who has been dealing with breakouts as an adult, which are frustrating.  Especially so as I didn't really have any skin issues as a teenager.

First, what is a pimple? gives the following definition:

A pimple starts when a pore (an opening in 
the skin) gets plugged up.  The pore has a tiny 
hair in it and oil glands at its base (Picture 1).  
The cells which line the pores are so small that 
they can only be seen with a microscope.  
During adolescence these cells are shed 
quickly.  In some people the cells and oil stick 
together and form sebum which plugs the 
pore.  If the pore is open, the result is a 
blackhead.  If the pore is closed, a whitehead is 

The whitehead is the beginning of a pimple.  
It forms when the sebum escapes from the 
pore wall and gets under the skin.  The body 
tries to clean out the sebum and brings in the 
white blood cells to do the work.  The result is 
a pimple.  When the sebum gets deeper under 
the skin, a cyst can form.  A cyst is a deep and 
uncomfortable swelling of the skin. 

Unless they are squeezed, blackheads do not 
usually cause pimples.  Blackheads are not 
black from dirt, but from certain skin 
pigments (coloring) in the cells of the pores

In other words, there are skin cells inside your pores that shed.  They get stuck with the oil your skin creates and gunks up the pore.  If the pore doesn't have a lid, you get a whitehead.  Your bod tries to clear out the gunk with white blood cells that turn it white.  If the pore doesn't have a lid on it, you get a blackhead.  The dark stuff isn't dirt, it's the pigment from your skin.  I've also read that they turn dark due to oxidation, like an apple turning brown when you cut it open. 

Okay, now we know what it is, how to deal with the buggers?

My first bit of advice is to stop smoking if you do.  I recently gave them up (yes, again.  I know, I know. But it's something I'm going to struggle with my entire life I'm afraid) because they were making my skin gross.  

And, it's been said it's a myth, but drinking plenty of water really helps.  When I was consuming a gallon a day my skin looked outrageously good.  

You'll want to be careful with how much you wash your face.  Twice a day is good.  Make sure you get all your make-up off and change your pillowcase regularly.  A woman on Oprah once said you didn't need to wash your face in the morning because you hadn't done anything to make it dirty.  Uh, do you know how gross your pillow case gets?  Damn right my face is dirty!  Wash it!  

If you wash too much, you'll damage the inner wall of your pores, which is where the cells that plug things up come from.  That'll make the cells break off and muck things up more.  And, washing too often will dry things up and make your oil glands freak out and go into overtime production trying to get things back to where they think the oil level should be.  

One of the things that's hard for me is to not pick at my face.  I love to squeeze 'em.  There's very little in the world more satisfying that popping a zit.  There's even a website dedicated to videos of popping called "Pop That Zit".  I'll let you google it.  :)   However, it'll just make things worse, give you scabs that will scar and make your gorgeous self unattractive.  If you can't keep your hands off your face and you do get a scab, use an anti-bacterial cream on it at night and a drying treatment during the day.  This can be a horrid process because the cream blocks your pores and can cause a zit under there which means you have to top it off with the spot treatment stuff.  Meanwhile, you have this pimple you want to squeeze.  And the world goes 'round and 'round.

You're going to have to experiment with cleansers and such until you find one that works for you.  Go to the library and get a copy of Don't Go To the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun.  She reviews a huge number of products and has a nice list in the back with the ones she finds to be the best for treating acne and stuff.  

Start with Cetaphil.  You can get it in the drugstore or the supermarket and it's cheap for how much you get.  Use the one for all skin types first as I've found the one for oily skin can be too drying.  Combine the Cetaphil with an exfoliating technique twice a week.  You can use a washcloth (I prefer a baby washcloth), baking soda or the Olay cleansing brush that runs on batteries that I'm in love with right now.  Make sure to be gentle and not scrub.  Be nice to your skin!  

If that's not working, move on to something inexpensive.  Clean and Clear products are quite good and not much money.  Stay away from Noxema and cold cream, they just clog up the pores and make things worse.  Not the goal.  

In regards to benzoyl peroxide, I like the stuff.  Only use it on the pimple itself, not on your whole face.  It will dry things out and that can make things go in reverse.  

You can also talk to your doctor if you've tried everything and it's not working.  My cousin has had great success by using a birth control pill to level out her hormones that were causing the breakouts.  There are topical treatments that can be prescribed as well.  I will warn you that these are not always covered by health insurance and they can be pricey, but, if you can afford them they can be very beneficial.  

To recap:  

Don't smoke
Drink water
Wash your face with a cleanser that works for you twice a day
Exfoliate gently twice a week
Don't pick at it!
Use drying treatments only on the spots and not all over
See your doc if you're not finding relief on your own.  

Since today was just one big beauty tip I'll give you a household hint:

To keep your drains flowing treat them with baking soda and vinegar down the drain followed by a kettle full of boiling water. Always try this on clogs before you break out the Liquid Plumber.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Something I look forward to every year

Every Christmas my grandfather sends me a check.  I've always gotten money from him for Christmas.  Before my grandmother died the checks were signed by her.  (The Christmas after she passed away, we all received the gifts she'd already bought and wrapped.  She'd also written out our gift checks so it was signed by her.  There was much crying.)

And this year, as I do every year, I squandered it.  I figure that's what Christmas money is for, squandering.

As I've discussed before, I'm a sucker for gadgets.  I'm especially fond of grooming gadgets.  A while ago I saw a gadget in the supermarket made by Olay that is essentially a motorized brush that is used to exfoliate one's face. Check it out here I will embrace the fact that it had me at hello.  But, at thirty dollars it's ridiculously overpriced and not something on which I would spend the butter and egg money.  But I have Christmas money!  I can squander it!  What a fun word!  Squander! Squander!  Squander!

And squander I did!  The first thing I put into my basket at Target yesterday was that overpriced gadget that promised me a bright, shiny, clear, radiant face that would make me irresistible to the opposite sex and the envy of all the women who saw me!  It even came with a sample of their cleanser!  There are not enough exclamation points in the world to express how excited I was!

When I opened up the box I wasn't surprised to see that the box was a lot bigger than it needed to be, I'm sure it's to make me think the gadget was bigger than it actually is.  And no instruction manual!  What the hell?  I mean, I know I can figure this out on my own, but to not include the little pamphlet that suggests the other products I might enjoy and coupons for them?  What the hell?  But, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it got left out.

I used it right away and I love the damn thing!  I don't know if it works any better than a washcloth but I don't care.  It feels luxurious and I'm going to enjoy it.

Anyway, I got that little gadget and some new eyeshadows in the cosmetics aisle.  Then I moved on to music and got myself a Journey CD.

Shut up!  I like Journey!  (I saw Journey was touring earlier this year, but Steve Perry isn't signing.  Well, what's the point of that?) I'm going to listen to it in the car at the appropriate high volume and sing along to Open Arms and Don't Stop Believin' and Wheel in the Sky and you know you would too!  Journey is one of those bands that people say "eh" about but when they come on the juke box in the bar where you're hanging out everyone sings along.  It's like the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown".  No one but me admits to liking it but everyone sings along.

With my face clean and my throat sore from shouting along with Steve I'm very happy with my holiday spree.  Cheers!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't get me wrong, you can easily exfoliate your skin without a gadget.  A washcloth, baking soda, sugar or salt will work just fine.  Just don't use the super chunky kosher salt.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The happiest and sometimes saddest of holidays.

Today is Christmas.  I'm sad today.  It's just the four of us this year, not the first time we've spent the holiday with just our children.  We enjoy watching them open their gifts enormously.

This morning, Zoe screamed with excitement and joy at the things Santa left in her stocking.  She got more and more excited until she had to be told to take a nap.  Even then, she had to be held down until she fell asleep.  Will melted down pretty early but was much better after a rest.

As I do every year, I made french toast and bacon for breakfast and now the kids are going to be able to play to their hearts' content for the rest of the day.  They'll have to be inside because it's 42 degrees outside.  With windchill it feels like 35.  But there are new things to play with and they'll be happy until it's time to watch America's Funniest Home Videos at 6.

I get sad on the Christmases we spend without family.  I get homesick and miss my family and my friends in Cali.   I worry that the low-key, mellow nature of our small celebration isn't making memories for my kids.  I feel like I'm denying them something without the big gathering or massive piles of gifts.  We have our small traditions.  I just have to hope that they'll remember them fondly.

Maybe I need a nap too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Looks like I'm going twice a month here

It was pointed out to me by my mother just before she left for a 3 week holiday in Germany that I never posted how I did on my crazy exam and how is she supposed to know what's happening to me if I don't update my blog?

Okay mom, here:  I got an A!  Go me!  I went 5 minutes over but I completed everything.

On to other things.

My son is having his tonsils out on Wednesday.  They've been enlarged for some time and as of right now, they're trying to touch each other, usually succeeding.  It's been causing him to wake up in the night and it makes him a picky eater because he can't swallow chunky stuff.

We did the same thing with his sister 3 years ago.  The procedure is out-patient and recovery is about 10 days.  We opted to have our son go in just before the winter break at school starts.  He'll miss the last three days, but those are generally light on the learning.  We don't have any family coming in to town.  We're not traveling.  It's really pretty ideal.  We'll set him up on the sofa with movies and popsicles and keep repeating the process until he's feeling better.  He should be feeling fit and fine in time for all the Christmas festivities, low-key though they will be.

Our daughter has voted for a local buffet restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner.  We're cool with that.  Honestly, I think she likes to slide the tray along.  I'm wholly supportive of practicing these small joys whenever possible.  I like to make pasta because I like to shake the pasta in the strainer.  There's just something about tossing it around that's pleasurable.

We've got something interesting going on this year.   Last year, Zoe and I had the Santa talk. You can read about that here.  However, she's back to the Santa thing this year, asking questions about how he gets down the chimney and how he makes it to all the kids in one night.  The owner of the bakery where I'm doing my extern hours assures me that this is normal, kids will go back to it for a year or so and then will accept it.

She pointed out that Santa and the Toothfairy are the two things they are expected to take on faith, but then are told they don't exist.  They will try and go back to recapture that before they decide they'll accept it. It's one of the first steps to adulthood, figuring out that this aren't always what they seem.  (up there with the "I thought he was a nice guy who liked me" statement that is the beginning of many stories of heartbreak)

I was incredibly lucky and got to believe in Santa until I was almost 12.  I remember those holiday mornings fondly, with great appreciation for how much fun it was.  I love doing it for my kids now.  The whole ritual is great fun for me.

The next thing to do is actually procure the stuff Santa will be leaving.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  The ELF zit zapper actually works quite well.