Tag Archives: acne


Therapy By The Sea. The Beauty Benefits Of Seawater.

October 1, 2013

 “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky; and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.” ~ John Masefield, Spunyarn: Sea Poetry & Prose

the beauty benefits of the sea

It’s so thrilling to finally live just a short drive away from the beach!

The blue shimmering waters, the sound of the waves, the fresh salty air and the warmth of the sun… hardly a day has gone by that I have not spent some time sitting at the beach, breathing it all in.

Nevermind that it’s always too cold to go swimming in the Pacific waters of Northern California!

Just standing next to the ocean alone helps to bolster an overall sense of well-being.

But the benefits are not all just in our heads.

The beauty and health benefits of seawater are numerous. And have been known throughout the ages.

The ancient Egyptians and the greeks, including Hippocrates, observed that seawater could clean and heal wounds.

And the French have even invented a term for seawater therapy, called Thalassotherapy, which advocates the use not only of seawater, but also seaweed, sand and the maritime climate to treat various ails, from rheumatism to depression.

Seawater is filled with minerals and elements that maintain overall health and improve inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and dermatitis.

The two main healers are salt and potassium chloride which help to seal damaged skin. Magnesium in seawater helps skin to retain moisture, so it will feel soft and smooth.

A certain amount of sun at the beach can also help treat skin ailments, by drying the skin and making it flake off and allowing healing to take place.

Sea air also provides respiratory benefits that can improve allergies and asthma. Negative ions, which are especially abundant in environments with moving water, increase our ability to absorb oxygen.

It’s no secret that relaxing at the beach can help to lower stress levels and rejuvenate the mind.


When I stand next to the ocean, I am always reminded that we are part of something vast. And I am humbled.

Because no matter how big we make our problems to be, in the grand scheme of things, our lives are nothing but a small drop in an infinite ocean.

And for me, having regular access to that perspective is incredibly therapeutic.

Sugar, Inflammation, Acne & Aging

Cool It With The Cookies! How Sugar & Inflammation Can Be A Recipe For Bad Skin

January 22, 2013

As a grown-up, I feel like I’ve earned the right to eat sweets. And eat as much of it as I want! But as someone who’s very mindful of skincare, I must exercise a little bit of restraint when it comes to sweet indulgences. In fact, reducing sugar intake happens to be one of my three new year resolutions. And this is an elaboration as to why.

The unhappy bottom line is this: a diet high in sugar is going to make you wrinklier faster and make you more prone to having pimply breakouts. 

When sugary foods, otherwise known as high-glycemic foods, are broken down in the body, they are quickly converted into glucose. This rapid surge of glucose in the blood is met with a surge of insulin and simultaneously signals the immune system to release pro-inflammatory compounds.

Inflammation & Acne

Many dermatologists would agree that the cause of acne is a complex interaction of changing hormones, clogged pores, excessive sebum, overgrowth of normally harmless bacteria and inflammation. However, many of these same dermatologists would also shrug off the link between diet and acne for lack of scientific evidence. But to me, it’s baffling how one could deny this existing connection between what we eat and inflammation.

So what exactly is inflammation? When you’re sick or injured, inflammation occurs as a result of your body trying to heal itself. This is known as acute inflammation, a response that is brief and lasts only several days. Inflammation is supposed to be a short burst of activity in your immune system. But when inflammation becomes chronic, meaning that it just hangs around and doesn’t go anywhere, it can cause gradual damage to the body and lead to a variety of diseases.

How Does Inflammation Cause Acne? 

Although there are many factors that can contribute to the formation of acne, the two main culprits are hormones and inflammation. A hormone imbalance can result in excess production of sebum (the skin’s natural oils) and excessive skin cell growth, which in turn can block pores.

Enter P. Acnes bacteria, the anaerobic bacteria that is known to trigger acne. In fact, this bacteria is usually present on our skin and pose no problems. But inflammation can cause oxidation changes in sebum and lower its oxygen content, thus giving the P. Acnes bacteria a more suitable environment to thrive and multiply.

Research shows that the initial key that triggers acne formation process is not the bacteria, but rather the oxidative damage to sebum caused by inflammation.

Sugar & Aging

Even if you’re lucky enough to have smooth, acne-free skin, it is still important to reduce your sugar intake. High amounts of sugar in the diet increase advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, which is a protein that binds to glucose molecules and can damage collagen and elastin, the proteins that give skin its plump and youthful structure (Read: Sugar and Aging, How To Fight Glycation).

Modifying Our Diet (Just A Little)

The fact is, we can’t completely eliminate sugar from our diet. And it would be silly to try! After all, glucose is also present in many healthy foods. All carbs eventually get converted into glucose, so the best thing we can do is opt for low-glycemic foods which releases glucose in a slower and more manageable way.

Examples of foods to heap up on are whole grains like brown rice, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and fruits that are low in sugar but high in antioxidants like berries. Also, good fats such as those found in avocado, nuts and fish are anti-inflammatory and very good at keeping the skin healthy and glowing.

In the end, if you really MUST get your sugar fix, the key is moderation in conjunction to a diet that’s abundant with wholesome nutritious foods. When enjoyed this way, a bit of dark chocolate or a slice of cake from time to time won’t hurt you. And can actually be very good for the soul!

Sugar, Inflammation, Acne & Aging

 Enjoy! In Mindful Moderation

Product Review: Effaclar Duo by La Roche-Posay

October 3, 2012

Plus, A Little Lesson On Treating Acne.

This is my first foray into pharmaceutical skin care products. Although La Roche Posay products are paraben free, there is little else that is natural or organic about them. And just in case you were wondering… yes, I am beginning to branch out towards products that are not necessarily labeled natural or organic! I have a couple of reasons for this. If you’ve read my article on The Bias Against Organic Cosmetics, you might start to get a feel for why.

But the main reason why I’ve specifically begun using La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo is to treat a skin problem of mine which has been lingering around for almost a year now.

A Mild Form of Acne

Last year, during the fall of 2011, my skin began to break out badly with acne. It took a few months to clear up, but ever since, the surface of my skin has continued to be marred by these little flesh-colored bumps. These little flesh-colored bumps are, in fact, a milder non-inflammatory form of acne called “closed” comedones. More popularly, they’re known as white heads. But white heads sound so gross to me, so I’d rather just stick to the technical term.

Closed comedones / white heads form when pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. When skin grows over this dried-up oil plug, oxygen cannot get into the pore and turn the material inside into a darker color. So the pore stays “closed” and the material inside stays “white”. The fact that the pores are closed is what makes getting rid of white heads so difficult, even with regular exfoliation.

By the way, if you want to see a video with images that show the difference between open and closed comedones, you can watch this: What are black heads and white heads? 


White heads do not necessarily have to be infected. But if the P. acnes bacteria is present on the skin and manages to infect the cells around the pore, the white heads can become infected and turn into the pustules which we more commonly think of as “pimples”.

In my skin’s case, however, this rarely happened.  For months I just had these little bumps under the surface of my skin, which never turned into actual pimples but never really went away either. It hasn’t been that problematic. But under certain lighting conditions, these little bumpy silhouettes on the surface of my skin could become really noticeable. Despite everything I did, like having a healthy lifestyle, cleaning my face regularly and routinely exfoliating, I wasn’t able to completely banish these little fellas from my life.

Treating Closed Comedones

After looking more into white heads and how to treat them, I figured that I didn’t really need to focus on anti-bacterial treatments like benzoyl peroxide because I didn’t have problems with acne infections. My problem was also mild enough that I didn’t want to turn to retin-A, which is a prescription strength treatment that can really irritate the skin. So this left me to look for products mainly containing salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid found in many acne treatment products. It works by dissolving the substance that causes skin cells to stick together, thus helping to slough away dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is especially helpful in treating comedonal acne because it can penetrate the pores and clear out cellular debris from within the follicles. Salicylic acid products are found in strengths ranging from .5% to 2% and can easily be acquired over the counter.

So off to the pharmacy I went!

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

La Roche-Posay is a dermatological brand that capitalizes on the therapeutic properties of the thermal waters found in the town of La Roche-Posay. Many La Roche-Posay products use this thermal water, which has a low mineral content and contains calcium bicarbonate, silicates and selenium. Clinical studies support the observations that the water possesses anti-inflammatory, anti free-radical properties. With over 30 years of experience in research and working with dermatologists throughout the world, La Roche-Posay has become a leading skin care brand in Europe, creating products suitable for various skin types and conditions.

Effaclar Duo Corrective and Unclogging Anti-Imperfection Care serves a dual purpose: 1) Fighting against bacterial proliferation and 2) Eliminating accumulated dead skin cells that are responsible for clogging pores.

The product works by using the thermal waters of La Roche-Posay and the combined effects of the following 4 main active ingredients:

  • Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3 and nicotonic acid, niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to treat an uneven skin tone and to mitigate acne and the red marks it leaves behind, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. (Source: Cosmeticscop)
  • Piroctone Olamine, also known as Octopirox, piroctone olamine is an anti-fungal compound mainly used in anti-dandruff shampoos to treat itchy scalps. But it also has anti-bacterial properties which help to control bacterial populations on the skin. (Source: Chemlink)
  • LHA or Lipo Hydroxy Acid is an exclusive pro-exfoliating molecule developed by La Roche-Posay to micro-exfoliate the skin and stimulate cell renewal, helping to even skin tone. The LHA molecule (lipo-hydroxy-acid) is a lipophilic derivative of salicylic acid that incorporates a fatty chain for improved affinity with the sebum in the epidermis allowing for faster skin regeneration. LHAis proven to exfoliate six times better than regular salicylic acid. (Source: PRnewswire)
  • Linoleic Acid is an essential fatty acid necessary for proper growth and development of the epidermis. It also is required for synthesis of the important long-chain ceramides necessary to protect against dry skin. (Source: iS CLINICAL)

Using This Product

I’ve been using Effaclar Duo for over three weeks now and these are my impressions so far:

The texture of the gel/fluid is light, absorbs quickly and leaves a glowing but non-greasy residue on the skin. The smell is subtle and pleasant. It can be applied morning and night. If applied during the day, it can serve as a non-comedogenic base for make-up. I’ve only been applying it at night though, after I clean my face. Usually, I don’t put anything else over it. No night creams and no moisturizers. I just leave my skin to breathe while allowing the product to work.  If you have dry skin though, using moisturizers in conjunction with this product shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, I didn’t know how my skin would react to using Effaclar Duo. So I started by applying small amounts only to the areas where I tend to have problems with clogged pores. My skin stung a bit and turned reddish where the product was applied. Over the weeks, my skin has become habituated to the product and reacts less and less to it. I no longer hesitate to apply it over my entire face.

Keep in mind that I have normal/combination type skin. But I have read reviews from others with sensitive type skin who have used this product with no problems.


When it comes to acne treatments, it’s very important to keep using a product for at least one month in order to make a solid assessment of its effectiveness. However, after using Effaclar Duo for only three weeks and seeing the positive results, I think enough time has passed to report my findings on here.

95% of the little bumps on my skin have cleared up.

My skin definitely looks smoother. Actually, around the second week of using this product, my skin got worse! More bumps had shown up. But by the third week, my skin has overall become smoother than before I started using the product. In the morning, I’ll find dry flakes of skin and peel it off to reveal smoother skin underneath. I realize how much this makes me sound like a snake, so go ahead and make fun of me.

Overall though, I’m pretty satisfied with the results of La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo. It got the job done without any fuss. Oh, I should mention that even though I was looking specifically for products containing salicylic acid, the LHA or salicylic acid derivative in Effaclar Duo was probably a better find. The 40ml tube which I bought for 12€ is not even half way done, but once I’ve completely used it up I will probably buy another tube. I intend to continue using this product even after my skin has completely cleared up.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve read many negative reviews about this same product from people who didn’t see any improvements or saw that it only made their skin worse. But I think where many people make their mistake is stopping the use of this product around the time when their skin begins to look worse.

Unless your skin reacts severely to a product, in which case you should definitely stop using it and mention it to your doctor or dermatologist, it’s very important to keep using the same treatment at least one month to really assess its effectiveness. Treating difficult skin problems like acne takes A LOT of time. Sometimes it can take up to six months. You have to be patient and to stick to one line of treatment, rather than switching to different products every couple of weeks because this can end up doing more damage to your skin in the long run. And even if you notice an improvement in your skin, it’s important to keep using the same  product for a little bit longer, because otherwise the same problems can easily come back again.

Where to find La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo 40ml: On Amazon.com. You can also read about it on the La Roche-Posay website

How much: 12€ at the pharmacy where I bought it, $19.40 on Amazon.com

So that concludes my review for La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo and my little lesson on treating the mild form of acne known as closed comedones (also known as white heads). I hope you learned something from it!