Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oil cleansing

In fifth grade we learned about acne and its causes out of an ancient health book.  I remember where I was sitting, on the third row from the right near the back of the room.  This is strange because I have a horrible memory.  I have this same memory about all the important first lessons though, math, letters, phonics, cursive, algebra, even when I first learned about time and years (1989, first grade, second row from the left, second desk back).  Why I can remember strange details like this and not what I did last week is beyond me.

So I was in this health class, looking at all these drawings that were done in the seventies.  First of face shapes (I didn't think I had any of them), and then a few pages later, different kinds of acne and what caused it.  The basic idea was keeping your skin clean, eating healthy food, and not touching your face.  I remember the part about not touching your face the most.  That was the day I started training myself not to sit with my face in my hands.  I was a girl that took things I learned seriously.  When people told me I didn't want to grow up, I believed them and began to seriously worry about it.  When I learned about varicose veins (in the same class) I made a concerted effort to sit correctly.  When we learned etiquette (not even as part of a class, just because my teacher felt like we should know) I started making sure I didn't put my elbows on other peoples dinner tables.  When I learned to keep my hands away from my face and to keep it oil free by cleaning it regularly, I took it seriously.  I had seen acne and didn't want to get it, so it seemed like good advice at the time. 

It wasn't completely wrong.  Keeping my hands away from my face was a good habit to learn.  Even washing it, I think, was a good lesson.  I wasn't what you'd call the cleanest person in the world.  I went from taking a bath or shower once or twice a week and my sister helping me with my hair when it was too gross for her to even look at, to showering twice a day and actually styling my hair myself in the course of a year...I think it was this year, the year I learned about cleanliness and also started playing basketball (a mistake that only lasted a year) and didn't like how sweaty I was when I got home.

So far I have to say the book was wrong about oil.  Oil hasn't made me break out (yet).  I've had a breakout, but the oil wasn't the cause and it didn't make it worse.  The texture of my skin is better.  Before, I don't think there was any part of my face that I could touch without it feeling bumpy, whether it had any obvious reason to be or not.  There are still some areas that feel that way, but its much smoother.  The process has stayed the same, and there's nothing new to report.  I am learning to like the smell more though (tea tree oil mostly).

Here's what's new.  I decided to stop using regular moisturizer even on my off days.  I thought I really wouldn't like it.  The first day I felt like it was too oily, and was thinking I'd been right, and also kind of missing the clean feeling I usually have right after cleaning my face.  After a few hours though, I realized that it was just taking longer to soak into my skin.  When it did the oily feeling went away, and my skin felt less oily than a few hours after moisturizer.  My moisturizer soaks into my skin fairly quickly and makes a good base for makeup so I didn't really expect this.  Its not like I haven't gone without moisturizer before, in fact, it's only fairly recently that I broke down and bought a decent one so that I could use it every day hoping that it was part of my problem.  That would be my oily skin that still manages to peal and look like its dry.  It didn't seem like the moisturizer was making my skin more oily, and my skin did stop pealing for the most part, so why would this be a problem?  The only thing I can think of is that the jojoba oil is helping my skin regulate itself better.  It is easy to put too much on, so I do have to be careful, but it doesn't stay too oily for long.  I just have to wait awhile before putting makeup on and then its fine.  


Its okay

You might as well say it...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pictures from Victoria

On the way to Craigdarroch castle, someone built onto the older wall and made cute steps into their garden.  I think it must be enchanted.

At the castle, staring into the sun...the only sun we got the whole day in fact, perfect timing of course.

This window reminds me of the fairy tale about the girl and the geese, so of course I loved it.

After seeing the drawing room I decided I wanted to live there.  The picture with the lion is just part of the painting that was on the ceiling.  I fell in love.  Why don't we paint murals on our ceilings anymore?

So this castle, wasn't really suppose to be a castle, but since it looked like one and is so huge, everyone started calling it that.  It has four beautiful floors and a tower.  Tons of amazing woodwork, paintings, stained glass, and interesting historical tidbits.  It was definitely worth the half hour walk (uphill, should have known they'd put it on the highest point).

The pictures of animals were part of my favorite exhibit in the Museum.  It was very realistic.  It looked like a forest that opened up to a beach off in the distance.  Its possible that since this is the biggest museum I've ever been too my expectations were set a little lower than they should be, but it was very strange to suddenly walk from a dark room with things I expected to see into a forest.  For a second I thought I'd found a magical portal...

Thats it.  I didn't take very many, and even fewer with people but thats just the kind of pictures I take I guess.  It didn't help that it was rainy and cold, so I wasn't very motivated to keep my hands out of my pockets and ready to take a picture.  Also, it seems weird to always be asking people to take pictures of me...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Oil cleansing-Day I'm not going to try to count anymore.

Last weekend I went to Victoria B.C. and in walking around the city exploring, we suddenly came upon this beautiful cathedral.  It was sunday morning, and it looked like there was probably service going on, so we didn't go in.  But the sun was rising behind it, and I couldn't help but be the typical tourist and stop in the middle of the street to take a few pictures.  I love stained glass windows, and I can only imagine what this one looks like when the sun is on the other side of the sky, shining straight through it.  What does this have to do with my skin?  Not much.  I'm not going to try to say my skin is a stained glass window just waiting for the sun to be in the right position in the sky to start glowing.  However, there is something about this picture.  The sun just out of reach.  The old building permanently dirty from too much rain, and age.  Even the filter I gave it that caused some dark spots.  Its still beautiful with all those things.  Its still lovingly cared for by the people who call it their own.  

I once had someone tell me my acne, and the scars that came along with it, gave my face more character and they liked it that way.  At the time I thought they were just being nice.  I don't know how it even came up.  I'm not the type to put myself down in front of others, because its typically interpreted as fishing for complements (not to mention unhealthy for my mental well being).  Sometimes, though, I slip up and say things that are just truths to me.  I say them as facts, feeling nothing about them (I have, after all, lived with these scars for quite some time, until I realize too late that it won't be taken that way.  I think thats what happened here, and thats why I assumed the person was just being polite and giving me the supposedly fished for complement.  It's something that I've thought a lot about since then though.  I don't necessarily have to hate my skin because its not perfect.  Its my skin, and its not going to change, and I don't really want it to look like plaster or like the photoshopped images we've all been trained to strive for.  I guess my point here is that I'm trying to accept the way I look more as I get older.  These scars aren't going away whether my acne does or not.  In fact they'll probably only get worse when they're deepened by lines.  I would like avoid getting any more, but I think I can be okay with the ones I have too.  I'm never going to have perfect porcelain skin, and possibly never even clear skin.  I could also say that I will never look average.  I'll never fit into someone else's box of expectations.  Isn't this something I always strive for?  I don't like things that are overly popular, and once everyone else starts doing it, thats typically when I stop.  So why can't this apply to my skin too.  I know, I know, in reality I can apply it to everything and in the end its just learning to be happy with who I am now.  I've tried working from the inside out though, so maybe this time I'll just start with my skin.

Monday I washed my face with oil.  I was especially tired, but managed to get through the whole process without cutting corners.  I'm actually breaking out slightly, so that was my motivation not to hurry through it or skip anything.  There's not really anything new to report about the actual washing part.  It continues to take a long time to get all the oil off, no matter how hot I make the water.  I have gotten better at getting it off though, and I feel like I'm getting faster out of having something of a process.  I don't feel like my face is any less oily than it ever has been at this point.  I don't know if its because I don't do it every day, or maybe because I still moisturize on days that I don't do it, or maybe its still just too early to tell.  I still like the texture of my skin right now.  It doesn't seem so clogged and unhealthy looking.  The breakout I am having is miles away from being as bad as the last one that's still healing.  I do have a spot on my neck that has gotten pretty bad, but I don't remember if it was there before and just got more irritated or if its new.  

I think part of the breakout problem is that I didn't take my Clarisonic with me, so on the days that I would normally be exfoliating, I really only had towels to use.  The other things that could have contributed were, being in a city with more pollution than my house in the country, a different climate, limited options for food (since apparently only rich people eat out in Victoria), and more people around causing me to have more stress.  

It seems a little better now that I'm home and back on the rest of my routine, but the breakout hasn't stopped yet so we'll see how far it goes.  It's good to see that the process I set up for myself was a good one though.  Sadly, while I remembered to figure out a way to take the oil with me, I completely forgot to grab the Clarisonic and blue light for the other days.  I guess I need to remember that, while they aren't new, they are still part of this experiment and apparently, shouldn't be left out.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oil cleansing- day 7

Yes, what you see there is oil in a contact case. Let the nightmares about accidentally putting my contacts in oil and being blind commence. I had to find a way to keep doing it even though I wouldn't be at home. Since this process involves about four different bottles of oil, I needed something to put just enough for one night in. I looked around at Fred Meyer and Target with no luck...everything was too big or wouldn't seal. So, in a moment of inspiration I realized I had something that was the perfect size and would seal tight. A contact case.

The oil cleansing went well at the hotel. I definitely like using other people's towels so I don't have to clean them. It had been kind of a long day and I had to be up early the next morning so I felt a little like skipping it. I stuck to my plan though and made it through the process, while realizing I wasn't too fond of the washing off part. It takes a long time, and I'm impatient and usually just want to hurry up and get to bed. I'm glad I'm not doing it every night.

I really do think the texture of my skin is improving. Between this and the charcoal mask my current breakout seems to be healing up ok and my face isn't dry like the rest of my body, so I think that's a good sign. So far I'm encouraged with my results and that will motivate me to keep it up.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Charcoal Mask

Activated charcoal.  Its good for so many things, but the basic idea is that it draws out toxins and traps them.  Its used in hospitals to treat some poisonings, can be taken internally (with caution) to clean up the colon, and applied to wounds to draw out and prevent infection.  My first experience with it was when I was little and got ear infections.  My mom would make a poultice, strap it to my head with some cloth, and make me lay on it until the infection had been drawn out.  It always worked (the things you learn growing up without health insurance!) and now its one of the few natural remedy ingredients that I keep on hand.  There's not a lot of information on whether or not it treats acne.  I would guess not, since many things cause acne, and especially hormones can't be treated this way. There is a lot of stuff coming into contact with our skin on a daily basis though.  Makeup, pollution, chemicals, things we touch with our hands and then touch our face, bacteria from our phones and other things that must be there that I don't want to even think about.  This is why I think charcoal can be helpful.  While it can't treat the underlying cause of acne, it can certainly get rid of the extra stuff that will definitely be irritating my already sensitive inflamed skin.  Also, it helps wounds keep out infection so why can't it help my skin heal faster after a breakout?  

I actually have tried the charcoal mask before, and liked it, but it gets very messy.  Things that make me have to clean more tend to not get done very often.  Since I've decided to add it to my current experimental new treatment, however, I'm going to have to just deal with the mess and see if its truly worth it.  

Activated charcoal is special.  I didn't just scrape some off the bottom of my toaster oven and grill and call it good!  This charcoal is made in a special way, usually using coconut shells or vegetable fiber, that creates tons of tiny pores all over it for the toxins to get trapped in.  It's very small particles and I always find it all over the place after I'm done because it just gets everywhere.  Its not easy to wash off and if you apply it to an open would it could actually have a tattooing affect that takes awhile to come out.  It only works while its wet so leaving it on for a really long time doesn't really work unless you plan to moisten it with a warm cloth every so often.  

I added some aloe vera gel, water, tea tree oil, rose hip oil, jojoba oil, and mixed it into a paste.  The recipe's I found online usually used rose water, and initially I had some but I don't know what happened to it, and I think regular water (maybe filtered so the charcoal isn't also removing things from that) works just as well.  I mixed it up (carefully because, seriously, have I mentioned it gets everywhere?) and applied the paste to my face and neck and then took a hot bath while it did its job.  A black sink, cloth and hands later, and my face feels very clean.  Maybe its my imagination but charcoal is something I have lots of confidence in, so I do think my face is healthier after the mask.  Inflammation seems less red, white heads seem smaller and fewer, even black heads seem to have been reduced which I'm not really getting with the oil cleansing.  I sprayed a witch hazel toner on it afterwards and used a little moisturizer, and called it good.  Now I just have to be consistent and see if using this once a week or so is helpful.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oil Cleansing Day 4

I'm not the type to just sort of do things.  In fact if I don't completely invest myself its very unlikely I'll succeed at whatever I'm trying to do.  I can't decide to cut back on sugar, or only exercise a few times a week, or wake up earlier sometimes.  It just doesn't work for me.  I have to stop eating sugar because I only have will power if I never start.  If I don't have a set time every day to exercise I find reasons not too until I stop altogether.  If I allow myself to hit snooze I might as well have never set the alarm.  It gets to the point of not being able to do things I'd normally be able to do if someone else is involved because I'm not in complete control of it.  I should be able to do those things, but its very difficult for me for some reason.  I'm either all in or all out and if I get stuck in between I just sort of get lost and don't know what to do.  

The reason I mention it is because, only a few days in, I'm having a hard time just doing this a few times a week.  I want to jump all the way in and possibly add other things, like more supplements and other oils or treatments that could help.  I want to do anything and everything I can find all at once.  I hate taking it slow.  It went well the first night so why not just do it the next night and maybe rub it into my skin a little longer or maybe even leave it on all night.  I guess this would have made me a bad scientist if I had actually gone that route as planned.  I need to stick to my plan though, and give it some time before I decide to do it more or even add other things.  Two nights of washing my face with oil is not enough to tell if its helpful or harmful.  Adding too many things to the experiment will make it impossible to know which things work.   I did start taking a vitamin A supplement for something else and it could have an affect, but I don't think it will be drastic enough to mess with the results.  

Last night I washed my face with oil again.  I didn't add anything else to it (though that didn't keep me from thinking about what I had that I could add)  I might have spent more time rubbing it in this time, but I'm not sure.  I think I might have to start timing it so I don't go overboard.  When I started wiping it off, it seemed a little too clean and I don't know if it got all my makeup off, but like I said before, mineral makeup so its possible that it could have just worn off more than normal during the day for whatever reason.  I tried to leave the hot towel on my face longer hoping it would dissolve more of the oil and leave less on my skin.  It did, but there was definitely still a residue that didn't seem to want to come off.  I must have gotten more off my neck though because it actually felt a little dry and I had to put a little jojoba oil back on it.  This could also be because my neck the most inflamed part of my skin right now and it might just be extra dry. 

This morning my face was more oily than normal but less oily than the first time, so I either succeeded in getting more of the oil off, or my skin is starting to regulate oil production better (like its suppose too).  Right now, it definitely feels a little oily but, I don't think its more than normal in an afternoon.  My cheeks seem to be the oiliest, and my forehead the least (strangely since bangs usually mean more oil).  The skin that isn't inflamed looks healthier than when I started.  I was breaking out pretty bad so I don't know how much of what's healed is from the new treatment or just the natural healing that would have happened anyway.  However, for the sake of recording it, the white heads have definitely decreased though I still have quite a few on my chin and neck.  Black heads don't really seem to be affected by the oil, or if they are I'm just not noticing.  I mostly only have them on my nose and its not horrible so I guess it might just be hard to tell.  Any inflammation that was there before isn't any worse but doesn't seem any better either...this could be a good thing though, because typically things get way worse before they get better so I would be ok with it just stopping the breakout and letting it heal.  I don't think there's anything new, but its hard to say...

So there you have it.  I'm not going to make any judgements on whether its working or not yet because I've only done it twice.  I think the fact that I'm writing it down in a blog will make it easier for me to stick to my plan, but we'll see. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oil Cleansing Experiment-Day 1

I'd like to say this experiment was an act of bravery...but in reality its an act of frustration and desperation.  I've had acne since 7th grade.  Before that, I remember being really proud of my skin because somehow even though I never washed it, it remained smooth and clear, much to my older sisters irritation.  It was just waiting for my hormones to kick in and then all hell broke loose.  Well, I guess thats being a little dramatic, it really didn't start off as being all that bad.  In fact I think my mother was more worried about it than I was.  I doubt I would have thought much of it besides being slightly worried it would turn into something worse like my brother had, and that might be why my mom almost immediately had my start taking tetracycline and Retin-A.  They didn't work.  The Retin-A came and went through the years but the tetracycline was given up on completely after awhile.  After those things I tried just about every promising product that came along.  Proactive was expensive and useless but there are so many people that it works for I've given it more than one try.  I went on a special diet to no avail.  I went to a dermatologist that gave us a discount if I agreed to do a before and after picture for their advertisements.  This one seemed to help to begin with, and there were a few progress pictures taken but eventually, like everything else I've tried, it stopped working and the final after picture was never taken.  There's been so many different cleansing programs that I've tried I can't even remember them all, but after everything was tried and failed, and it only seemed to get worse and completely ignore any treatment, I finally went to a doctor that agreed to let me go on Accutane.  This is pretty strong stuff, and I knew it, but by that time I was in high school and my appearance did matter to me and I was finally to the desperation that has never really gone away.  Every time I went in for a check up I had to have a pregnancy test and got lectured about what would happen if I got pregnant and was shown horrible pictures.  Every time I picked up my prescription I had to wait for the pharmacist to have time to come out and give me the same lecture because they are required too.  I had to sign a waiver saying I wouldn't get pregnant and if I did I wouldn't hold them liable (though I was told it was unlikely any baby would survive).  I wasn't worried about that because I knew it wouldn't happen but looking back now it seems like it should have scared me a little more to be taking something that strong.  However, it worked, and I was thrilled.  The only side affects I seemed to have was really bad bloody noses and dry skin and mouth.  My skin cleared up for the most part though of course I still had scars.  By the time I was out graduating high school I could quit taking it.  So, I was a little worried it would come back.  I knew it would stay in my system for a long time and slowly the levels would go down until it was eventually gone, but it would take awhile.  Here's what happened.  As it went out of my system the acne slowly started coming back.  Not as bad as before, so I wasn't too upset about it, but definitely there.  Long story short and probably thousands of dollars later, here I am with adult acne that, while different than the pre-Accutane acne, is almost as bad if not worse at times.  I actually think its hormone related and will probably never go away unless I want to spent a lot of money on tests and hormone therapy (another conversation altogether), but it doesn't really stop me from trying.  The thing is, there are so many people out there making money off of people like me.  Desperate, tired of trying things, will put pretty much anything on their face no matter what the cost.  And the cost is high, monetarily, and in the damage it does to the skin.  Not to mention the emotional cost when it fails and you realize you just fell for yet another scam.  I guess here I should say there are good products out there and companies that really did get started to help people like me.  Unfortunately those products are incredibly expensive and some can't even be purchased unless you go to a dermatologist or specialty store, and unless I start playing and then win the lottery I can't use those products on a regular basis.  

The things that seem to work the best for me is exfoliation, and regular washing.  I have tried washing less thinking maybe that was part of the problem but I just ended up with worse breakouts that took longer to heal.  We recently got an Ulta in our area so I started trying out some of the nicer products they had.  I'm probably their favorite customer now...but I stopped liking my trips there and now I wish they'd never shown up and have resolved to only buy makeup and hair products there from now on.  So I decided if my skin is going to refuse to get better why waste all this money on it.  I started looking at home made skin cleansers.  I found a few promising recipe's but the one that intrigued me the most was the oil cleansing method.  Most of them mix Castor oil with another oil and somehow that is suppose to dissolve the oil on your face, break down plugs in your pores, and give you healthy self-healing skin.  At first, of course, I thought it sounded a little ridiculous since I've spent a lot of money keeping oil off of my face, but after reading a few articles and blogs it started to sound like it was at least worth a try.  After looking a little longer I found some people who had had some bad experiences with it.  This wasn't just failure.  This was really bad deep cystic acne breaking out all over their skin.  I can't even explain to you unless you've had it how horrible that particular form of acne is to have.  I have a few minor areas with it and would do just about anything to get rid of it.  They last for what seems like forever and they can be very painful, especially if their is a lot of them.  So it started to worry me a little.  I have it bad enough, I certainly don't need it to get any worse.  However, with some encouragement from my health conscious sister, I decided I would give it a try (carefully).  My plan is to only do it two nights a week as more of a treatment than a nightly washing routine.  I'll alternate it with a natural face wash that I found that claims not to disrupt the acid mantle of the skin.  After awhile if all goes well I might try increasing how often I do it, but this is where I'm going to start.  I can't help but hope it will be the one thing that will clear up my skin, but I'd be happy with it keeping the breakouts to a minimum and making the actual quality of my skin look more healthy.    

Last night I tried it for the first time.  I mixed equal parts castor oil and jojoba oil with a drop of tea tree oil and a few drops of rose hip oil.  It smelled ok, the rose hip oil smells, well, I'm sure you know what it smells like, not wonderful, but not bad either.  I rubbed it into my skin for a few minutes then as directed put a hot wash cloth on my skin to dissolve the oil and wipe it off.  This took a few tries.  More than I expected.  I had the water pretty hot and left it on for what seemed like a pretty long time, but in the end it didn't really feel like I had gotten it all the way off.  I decided i'd leave it since I didn't think it was a good idea to start scrubbing on my face with the washcloth.  It did remove all my makeup but since I only use mineral powder with a little cover up in the worst spots I don't know if thats really saying much.  This morning I used the natural wash that I bought to alternate with and that took off the residual oil and what had built up on my face over night (which is generally a lot and last night was no exception).  I noticed that the white head breakout that had been happening on my neck seemed better by maybe 70%.  So that made me happy since it sort of looked like a rash it was so bad.  It didn't really seem to help blackheads which is sort of what I was expecting from reading other peoples experiences.  So like I said I'm going to keep it to more of a treatment than a constant thing and hopefully that will keep anything awful from happening.  I'll use the natural cleanser for a few nights and then do the oil again and see how it goes.  The other things I'm using are an exfoliation brush (but only with the cleanser not the oil) and a blue light (which seems to keep the inflammation down and tighten my pores a little).  I will also be trying to make my own charcoal masks again (I've done it before and liked it but sort of stopped because of the mess it makes).  Today my skin seems a little oiler than normal.  I don't know if thats my imagination because I'm expecting it or if its really cleared out pores releasing built up oil like is suppose to happen.    So here I am back to this not being brave.  Taking Accutane was an act of desperation and so is this.  A healthier risk to be sure but still desperation, and if it fails I'll be right back to where I end up after everything I try.  Hopefully, at least, not worse off...