What is your acne telling you?

I always knew that the once-monthly spots that overtook my chin were the result of not-so-stable hormones. However, when my dermatologist took one look at the sudden outcrop of angry zits on my nose and asked me to get my blood pressure checked, it introduced me to a whole new (actually old) science of face mapping, which is pretty much the key to unlocking the mysteries behind problem skin.

Face mapping, which is fast taking centre stage at most clinics nowadays, combines Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine with cutting edge dermatologists’ prescriptions to explain how certain parts of your face are connected to other areas of your body. Put simply, think of your face as a map and blemishes as X’s on that landscape. Spots in different zones correspond to different problems. So, with this “map” as your guide, you can address the underlying causes of blemishes and not only make the unsightly zits vanish but also treat the underlying health problem in time.

Pretty awesome, right? Try it out: Here is how to decode breakouts in the basic areas.

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1 & 2: Digestive System — Eat less processed or junk food, reduce the amount of fat in your diet, step up water intake and opt for cooling things like cucumbers.

3: Liver — Cut out the alcohol, greasy food and dairy. This is the zone where food allergies also show up first, so take a look at your ingredients. Besides all this, do 30 minutes of light exercise every day and get adequate sleep so your liver can rest.

4 & 5: Kidneys — Anything around the eyes (including dark circles) point to dehydration. Drink up!

6: Heart — Check your blood pressure (mine was slightly high) and Vitamin B levels. Decrease the intake of spicy or pungent food, cut down on meat and get more fresh air. Besides this, look into ways to lower cholesterol, like replacing “bad fats” with “good fats” such as Omegas 3 and 6 found in nuts, avocados, fish and flax seed. Also, since this area is chock-full of dilated pores, check that your makeup is not past its expiry date or is skin-clogging.

7 & 8: Kidneys — Again, drink up! And cut down on aerated drinks, coffee and alcohol as these will cause further dehydration.

Zone 9 & 10: Respiratory system — Do you smoke? Have allergies? This is your problem area for both. If neither of these is the issue, don’t let your body overheat, eat more cooling foods, cut down on sugar and get more fresh air. Also keep the body more alkaline by avoiding foods that make the body acidic (meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar) and adding more alkalizing foods like green veggies and wheatgrass juice. Another thing that most of forget – dirty cell phones and pillow cases are two of the top acne culprits and this area is what they affect the most!

Zone 11 & 12: Hormones — This is the signature zone for stress and hormonal changes. And while both are sometimes unavoidable, you can decrease their effect by getting adequate sleep, drinking enough water, eating leafy veggies and keeping skin scrupulously clean. Another interesting point: breakouts in this area indicate when you are ovulating (and on which side).

Zone 13: Stomach — Step up the fibre intake, reduce the toxin overload and drink herbal teas to help with digestion.

14: Illness — Zits here can be a sign that your body is fighting bacteria to avoid illness. Give it a break, take a yoga class, take a nap, take time to breathe deeply, drink plenty of water and know that everything always works out!

So, the next time you break out or notice dark under-eye circles, look to your face map: your skin is probably trying to communicate on behalf of the internal organs. However, do remember that, as with all medical issues, it is always best to see your doctor or dermotologist for a proper prognosis. This is just a general guide to head you off in the right investigative direction – just becuase you break out between the brows doesn’t always mean you have a bad liver!

Also read: What is your body acne telling you?

6 super-weird beauty tricks that work wonders

When you have been backstage at enough red carpet affairs and fashion shows, nothing surprises any longer. Putting cellulite cream on the face? But naturally! Getting into a bubble bath after making up your face for a party? Of course! Using Pepto-Bismol as a face mask? Duh! Here are some of the staple beauty shortcuts that I have personally seen in operation over and over again. And each one of them delivers fab results!

bathGet steamy to set your makeup

It sounds counterintuitive but almost every celeb I have met swears by the ritual of applying makeup and then stepping into a hot bath for 10 minutes (no bathtub? Stand near a hot shower!). The steam sets makeup, while the mega-dose of moisture makes skin look plump, fresh and dewy.

Dodge a double chin

Want to get rid of a pudgy chin in a jiffy? Rub a caffeine-rich cellulite cream along the entire jawline. How does it work? Caffeine, being a diuretic, will suck out all excess fluids and reduce puffiness. The effect will only be noticeable for three or four hours but that’s long enough to parade around a party or get through a hot date. Just make sure this stuff goes nowhere near your eyes!

pepto-facialA Pepto-Bismol facial

A tablespoon of the anti-acid Pepto-Bismol (or Gelusil or Digene) not only takes care of your insides before an anxiety-provoking event, it can also save skin. That’s because it contains bismuth subsalicylate – an antibacterial active agent that’s very similar to salicylic acid. So, smooth on some Pepto-Bismol onto your face, let it dry for 20 minutes, then rinse with plain water to help tighten skin, shrink pores and dry out zits. However, it  dries out the skin so use occasionally and not a substitute for a daily acne regimen!

Erase the acne

Have you noticed that celebs never look cakey on the red carpet? That’s not because they always have perfect skin – it’s just that they know how to banish even the reddest zit instantly. Instead of piling on concealer, they dab the spots with nasal spray and Visine (Clear Eyes and All Clear work just as well) eye drops. These contain vasoconstrictors, which shrink blood vessels, thereby taking away the redness and bringing down inflammation – the effect is akin to that of a topical steroid.

De-bloat with apple cider vinegar

Feeling like a bloated mess and nothing fits? Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with half a glass of water and drink up! Within 30 minutes, the vinegar’s enzymes will slow down your gastric juice production and start flushing away the bloat.

Lash booster

Forget all those controversy-laden lash boosting concoctions – simply dab a bit of flax seed oil on your lash line every night. Flax seeds contain Omega-3, -6, and -9, along with B vitamins and lecithin to repair lash damage and stimulate their growth.

Emergency cortisone shots for acne: A first-hand experience

You know that old saying about God laughing when you make plans? Apparently it applies to skincare and beauty beliefs as well. Else why would someone like me, who has always vowed to keep away from anything injectable/cuttable/scalpable for my face be lying flat on my back in a dermatologist’s clinic, willingly submitting to three scary-looking injections being poked into me chin and forehead?

In my defence, the syringe was full of a cortisone solution and not Botox. And the problem was two humungous, painful zits that just wouldn’t go away and were impossible to camouflage with even industrial-strength makeup. Plus, I had a huge ‘do to attend in about three days and a pimply, bumpy face is definitely not the best networking accessory! So, as a last resort, I made an appointment for a cortisone shot.

Cortisone, dermatologist, Injection, Corticosteroid, Cyst, pimple, acne, beauty, skincare, skin, blemish, steroidWhich brings us to the question: What exactly is a cortisone shot with reference to beauty? Intralesional corticosteroid injections – often simply known as steroid or cortisone shots – are used to treat deep papules, nodules or cysts that go down into the deep layers of the skin and are hence resistant to topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin. These pimples are often painful, can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to three months for healing and leave scars.

To counter these, a dermatologist can inject a diluted corticosteroid (cortisone is a natural chemical which is released in our bodies to tackle inflammation; it should not should not be confused with “anabolic steroids”, which are drugs used for increased strength and muscle size) into an inflamed pustule. This speeds up healing and dramatically reduces inflammation. Over the next 72 hours, the blemish softens and flattens out by 40-60%.

Most lesions heal within a week after treatment. Corticosteroid injections also lessen the chance of developing scars. This is especially valuable if you are prone to scarring or hyperpigmentation.

Side effects?

These are unusual, but the most common one is a “sunken” appearance where the pimple used to be. This is temporary and usually vanishes within a month.

Ok, science lesson over – back to the real world. Knowing how squeamish I am about pain (and about syringes coming into my face!), my doc first numbed the area with chilled ice water. Then, she injected the spot with cortisone and quickly followed up with another ice pad.

It wasn’t that painful, though I did let out a few yelps and did not think it was the most comfortable sensation. Good thing is that the whole matter was over in about 20 seconds and there was no pain afterwards. All I had to do was take an anti-histamine and then go about my day as normal. The cost? Around US$125 (or about INR 500 in India, and other places in Asia, where it’s much cheaper).

By nighttime (roughly six hours after the shot), I had some redness at the injection sites. By the next morning, the zit was much less obvious and the cystic pain had vanished. A day later, there was almost no sign of the blemish – and none of the scarring that I had suffered from similar monstrosities in the past.

Cortisone, dermatologist, Injection, Corticosteroid, Cyst, pimple, acne, beauty, skincare, skin, blemish, steroid

Before the cortisone shot

Cortisone, dermatologist, Injection, Corticosteroid, Cyst, pimple, acne, beauty, skincare, skin, blemish, steroid

Six hours after the shot

Cortisone, dermatologist, Injection, Corticosteroid, Cyst, pimple, acne, beauty, skincare, skin, blemish, steroid

20 hours after the shot

Cortisone, dermatologist, Injection, Corticosteroid, Cyst, pimple, acne, beauty, skincare, skin, blemish, steroid

48 hours after the shot

Would I do it again?

Definitely, especially if there is an emergency or the cyst is painful! Which leads me to wonder – would I change my mind about other dermatological interventions in the future when the need actually arises? Is the next stop – ugh! – Botox? 🙁

What about you? Have any of you gotten cortisone shots? Or dealt in any other was with a pimple that was so bad you started to panic? Share the details so others can benefit from your experience!

The New Silk Route: How a Fabric Makes You More Beautiful

Once considered the gold standard for luxury textiles, silk is fast gaining a brand new identity – as the hautest new ingredient in foundations, perfumes, skincare and haircare products. From  Guerlain’s Lingerie de Peau foundation to Elemis’ Japanese Silk Booster Facial and Vidal Sassoon Silk Essence Hair Treatment, these mulberry-derived fibres are popping up in luxe goodies everywhere. But how exactly does a fabric work in beauty products?

In haircare, the filaments usually take the form of hydrolyzed silk proteins that are derived from degummed silk worm cocoons. These form a transparent film on the hair that increases the elasticity of your tresses, boosts shine, binds moisture and step up volume  – the perfect antidote for dry or damaged locks.

Skincare products call on silk proteins, which are a natural, water-soluble source of acid derived from liquid silk. These precious acids aid moisture absorption and help heal damaged or stressed complexions.

In a foundation, silk filaments are used to create a micro-mesh, which gives the pigments an elasticity that helps them bond and move with the skin. This allows the foundation to give lasting coverage.