The beauty industry is built on the idea that the path to good skin is paved with expensive topical products. Don’t bother trying to map an alternative route, it taunts, because such a thing does not exist! This is a very effective strategy, and one that has ensured the industry is worth upwards of $532 billion today.

Don’t get it twisted: Topical skincare routines are important, but they’re just one piece of the breakout banishing puzzle. A comforting thought if you’ve tried every product under the sun, but still struggle to keep your disobedient skin in line.

As the largest organ of the body, our skin has a very taxing job of taking care of us. After all, the environment by which our skin lives is incredibly harsh. Think of it like a commune of survivors after a zombie apocalypse. Everyone has a job to keep the facility safe and as comfortable as possible, however it is important that it is well managed because mismanagement can, frankly, bring about an unsafe environment. Our skin’s microbiome (or skin flora/microbiota), like our zombie safe commune, is colonized by symbiotic microorganisms. Be them bacteria, viruses, fungi and/or protozoa—these living organisms strive to live harmoniously together, protecting against the invasion of pathogens, and to strengthen our immune defenses! This environment is also known to be represented in the gut and have mental health implications as well (aka the “brain-gut-skin axis”).

When we think about skincare, we are generally thinking about the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis). Most bacteria on the skin are found on the superficial layers of the epidermis and the upper parts of hair follicles. These bacteria can prevent pathogenic organisms from colonizing on the skin surface (by outwitting nutrients, secreting chemicals, or stimulating the immune system.

While many of these organisms are benign at worst and helpful at the best, organisms like Cutibacterium acnes (or C. acnes) formerly Propionibacterium acnes, are long thought to contribute to the inflammatory skin conditions like acne. Found in sebum (oil) rich areas, C. acnes has been shown to be in excess in inflammatory acne where other helpful bacteria are deficient.

A lot of acne is hormonally driven—including the type that plagues teenagers during puberty—but, as Dr. Samer Jaber of Washington Square Dermatology in NYC states*, “When most people talk about [hormonal acne], they’re talking about acne in adult women.” According to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, roughly 50 percent of women in their 20s and more than 25 percent of women ages 40 to 49 are affected by hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne is generally related to a woman’s menstrual cycle and the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that accompany it. Convinced this could be you? To decipher whether the cause of your acne is hormonal, some signs to look out for are cyclical flares each month, dotted along the lower face, jawline and/or around the mouth. These zits are usually deeper, painful pimples (as opposed to blackheads, whiteheads and blocked pores).

Taking a multi-pronged approach is your best bet in saying ‘laters to hormonal acne. ZitSticka KILLA patches aside, a change in diet and the incorporation of key vitamins can help to alleviate hormonal zits. Many evidence-based studies suggest cutting dairy and sugar can help to reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts. According to Anne Chapas, the founder of Union Square Laser Dermatology, “The spikes in blood sugar which arise from eating high-glycemic foods causes oil production, which in turn causes acne… We know that those cause a harmful hormonal environment.”

So far, research has learned that optimum skin health (and gut health) is achieved by improving the biodiversity of the microbiota. Agents like probiotics and prebiotics, when applied to the skin, can help to suppress the growth of acne causing bacteria as well as improve the overall health of the microbiome and its defenses

SO, WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS AND HOW DO YOU GET THEM?

Probiotics are live microorganisms extracted and isolated from humans and then cultured in a lab for supplementation. They have the capacity to survive in the gut and immune system to enhance the natural environment in the way that  natural good bacteria does. Probiotics like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium regulate skin inflammation by working with the gut environment. They also help to promote an overall healthy immune system. Streptococcus thermophilus has shown to improve ceramide production, a lipid molecule known to trap water in the skin, thus strengthening the skin barrier. These can be found in fermented food sources like yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, kimchi, and pickles. And if you don’t quite like the acidity component to these foods, supplements like ZitSticka’s SKIN DISCIPLINE provide blended doses of probiotics often supplemented with additional vitamins which help dial down internal inflammation that shows up externally as breakouts.

AND PREBIOTICS?

Prebiotics are the food source for the helpful bacteria in our intestinal tract and skin. Since our digestive system cannot break down prebiotics, they survive only to reach the colon where they can be consumed by the healthy bacteria, helping them grow and thrive. In terms of the skin, they provide a nutrient base for the healthy bacteria! Foods like fiber-rich fruits, veggies, whole grain, starchy potatoes, bananas, onions, asparagus and garlic are where prebiotics are derived.

Just as it is important for your hydration levels to consume actual water, it is equally important for probiotics and prebiotics to be present in your diet as well!

Fun fact: Did you know that stress impairs the normal gut microflora? Psychological stressors can cause intestinal microbes to produce stress related neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that result in an overarching system inflammation.

I know what you’re thinking: “Here we go, again! ANOTHER beauty fad to add to our shopping lists. When will it end?” And I get it. But, think about it this way: As diverse a species as we are, “healthy” may look a number of ways. The one key factor is that it starts from the inside. Providing our bodies with the nutrients and hydrants to defend ourselves are the means by which we can achieve our healthiest body, most beautiful skin, and our best selves. And now we know that another mechanism we should be mindful of is this wonderful thing called the Microbiome. Beauty, skin-deep.

Want some more tips on taking care of your skin from the inside, out?

Aromatherapy’s Effect on Moods and Minds

Aromatherapy’s Effect on Moods and Minds Researchers have shown that lavender and rosemary administered through aromatherapy positively affect psychological and physiological functioning. In a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, first published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers assessed the effect of lavender and rosemary on alertness, mood and the brain’s electrical activity, and on subjects’ ability to perform math computations.

In the study, 40 adult faculty and staff members of the University of Miami Medical School were randomly placed into one of two groups, and were asked to inhale the scent of either lavender or rosemary essential oil for three minutes. Those in the lavender group were expected to show an increase in alpha and beta band activity, suggesting relaxation. Those in the rosemary group were expected to have a decrease in alpha and beta band activity, suggesting greater alertness.

Results showed that study expectations were correct: Participants in the lavender group experienced an increase in beta band activity, suggesting drowsiness; an improvement in mood; a feeling of greater relaxation; and better performance on math computations. The rosemary group showed a decrease in alpha and beta power, suggesting alertness and lower levels of anxiety; and were faster but not more accurate at performing math computations.

Subjects first took three assessment tests: an anxiety-inventory questionnaire, a profile-of-mood-states questionnaire and a series of timed math computations. While seated in a massage chair, each subject was then given a vial containing a dental swab soaked in a grapeseed-oil base with three drops of either lavender or rosemary essential oil. The subjects were instructed to sit quietly and breathe normally through the nose with their eyes closed. After three minutes of aromatherapy, the subjects again took the two self-report tests and did the math computations. For three minutes before, during and after the aromatherapy, EEG readings were taken through a cap worn on participants’ heads to measure the electrical activity of their brains.

Results of the self-assessment test data indicated that both the lavender and rosemary groups experienced lower levels of anxiety and felt more relaxed after the aromatherapy. Only the lavender group reported a significantly better mood. The rosemary group reported feeling more alert.

Math test results showed that the lavender group experienced an increase in drowsiness, while the rosemary group showed EEG patterns that reflected a greater state of alertness.

 – Source: Touch Research Institute, Originally reported in the International Journal of Neuroscience

Wellness, Amid The Current Covid-19 Scare

We are all feeling apprehensive during this very challenging time. These are unfamiliar, extremely rough waters for all to attempt crossing, but the human race has conquered tougher times and emerged stronger and wiser for it. Perhaps now is a time of awakening and self-reflection.

We tend to move so fast trying to achieve various personal goals that at times we overlook the Universal Force that all beings share. Look beyond the “things” of the day and look at all things with your heart. Unity of the body, soul, mind and environment is vital ! As more people recognize the importance of diet, exercise, stress management and nontoxic medicines as part of overall good health, it is essential to remember that our existence must be in balance with one another and nature as well. The emotions, attitude, beliefs and responses to life’s situations all play a part in instigating or worsening an illness of the body. Case studies have shown that deep emotions, such as anger or bereavement, can depress lymphocyte activity, therefore weakening the immune system. (Behavioral Kinesiology Report” Mt. Sinai Hospital NY). In Karma it is believed that Envy created illness in another. A positive frame of mind can become a lifeline during crisis. Focus on establishing new and more constructive habits and attitudes rather than simply alleviating the symptoms can bring about true long-term wellness.

The truth of the matter is that individually down deep we rather like ourselves as we are – with all our past prejudices, hatreds, superior/inferior feelings, bad habits, mistakes, ill tempers, etc. – because basically as individuals and groups we created ourselves, mentally and emotionally. As such we resist change of anything other than our superficial natures and “like continues to attract like” Harmony and Peace must first be within SELF, if it is to be between one another. One will never find harmony by finding fault with what the other does. The indissoluble trinity of body, mind and spirit are taxed during any crisis/illness and lessons are to be learned if the “disease” is going to be conquered. If we, as individuals have all of the elementary forces that make to the bettering of life, and have now love in our hearts – we have nothing, Nothing. Attitude becomes fact !

Look to your left, right in front, in back, above and below you…acknowledge and admire the splendor in all that life on Earth offers Every Day. When we run so quickly that we disconnect with the energy around us The Universe will abruptly force us to slow down and re-engage. Willie Nelson wrote a beautiful song “Turn off the News…Build a Garden” that may motivate you to take a long look at the path we have been heading and inspire us to re-establish the unions between Energy, Relationships and Self. Man is an eternal being, spiritual in nature, creative and capable of building through the powers of the mind attunement and energy. Life is Precious! Slow Down, Appreciate all the lessons, Lead with your Heart. Wellness is an intertwined system of Awareness, Attitude and Action.

May Health & Peace be with you all.

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