Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Very Best Facial I've Ever Had - EVER!

I've had a hard week and now I'm going to treat myself to a steam facial this afternoon. It relaxes me and it opens up my pores for more effective cleansing. It is one of the best facials I've ever had and I do it at home for just a few bucks. It's like a soothing tea for your skin. The peppermint and lavender helps to control the oil, the green tea helps to sooth, and the lemon peel contains citric acid that is used in aha products, rose petals help to soften skin. If you read part 3 of my series on even skin tones, Acne: The Battle is On, when your skin is not exfoliated properly, oil and dead skin cells can collect in and around the pores causing breakouts. The steam helps to loosen debris and dead skin cells.

The ingredients for this facial are easy to find and inexpensive. When I do an at-home facial, I follow up my steam bath with an oatmeal and buttermilk mask. It doesn't smell great, but it works well. Oatmeal is a very good cleanser, it softens the skin and is effective for all skin types. Buttermilk also has AHA properties (lactic acid) which helps sooth the skin and even out the skin tone.

How I Do it:

loose green tea
pure peppermint extract
lavender petals
lemon peel
rose petals (they smell pretty)
very hot water
heavy towel (I like white)

Oatmeal/Buttermilk Mask

I run my oatmeal through my coffee grinder and mix in room temperature buttermilk by the tablespoon until it is a yogurt creamy consistency.

Bring water to a rolling boil, add ingredients, cover and let steep for a couple of minutes. Pour steam bath mixture into a heat-resistant bowl. Position your face over the bowl. Do not put your face too close to the steam it will do its work with your face about 6 inches from the rim of the bowl. Of course I don't have to tell you to close your eyes so you don't get sweat in them. I stay over the steam for about 8-10 minutes. Splash with tepid water, pat dry and follow up with the oatmeal/buttermilk mask. I keep the mask on for about 20 minutes and rinse with tepid water and follow up with a very gentle wash to cleanse the residue.

You can follow this up with your regular skincare regime, i.e., toner/moisturizer. I promise your skin will look a little clearer and feel softer. Try it and let me know how it worked for you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spoken Word Artist Breaks it Down

This video's got legs! One of the most interesting statements on Hip Hop I've heard in a long time by spoken word artist Taalam Acey. There's been a lot of conversation on Acy's assessment of Hip Hop culture across the Internet. What do you think about Acey's critical analysis of Hip Hop culture?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Hip Hop Project

In recent news, Hip Hop has been sentenced and convicted of a litany of crimes. The rap sheet for Hip Hop runs long and is accused of everything from corrupting the 'innocent' minds of suburban youth by inciting a misogynistic, big-baller mentality, the rape and assault of good, clean American social values, to the drugs, death and violence in our neighborhoods. Hip hop has been blamed for CBS's and MSNBC's former cash cow/golden boy, shock jock Don Imus's recent ignorant, racist and uninspired comments about the Rutger's women's basketball team.

With handcuffs jingling, and with the Chair and wet sponge waiting, more than a few activist groups are ready to pull the lever on Hip Hop and toss it into an early and unmarked grave. I am not the biggest fan of Hip Hop. I loathe how women are portrayed and I have to tune out the stuff that relies on the much overused 'bitch 'n ho' formula in order to make the cash register ring. But nor am I a fan of the disingenuous blanket of blame laid at the feet of a genre that is being accused of everything from shooting Aunt Nellie's cat out of a tree to the drilling down of America's social mores.

Every now and then though, something comes along to demand that we take another look and remember that every story has two sides. The Hip Hop Project, produced by Queen Latifah and Bruce Willis takes a look at Hip Hop and the lives of a group of New York teenagers who have used it to transform their lives. They tell their lives through their music. This documentary is the antithesis of the messages normally hyped in mass media. It is a message of hope, dreams and self-realization. The Hip Hop Project, debuted to rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival and is scheduled for nationwide release on May 11th. 100% of the net profits of the film will be donated to organizations that work with youth.

The Hip Hop Project an independent film, also tells the story of Chris 'Kazi Kharma' Rolle, formerly a homeless teenager, who created The Hip Hop Project during his time in Art Start, a program started in 1991 by a group of artists who got together to create art with homeless children in New York City. Kazi was born in Nassau, Bahamas, abandoned as a baby and grew up in orphanages.

Kazi created The Hip Hop Project in 1999. This intensive program connects its students with music industry professionals to record and promote their music. The program helps them to realize who they are and gives them skills that they can use from now on. Kazi now tours the country inspiring and motivating his audiences through lectures and live performances. He is also the co-founder of A.P. EX., an organization that hosts college prep classes and ends with a tour of HBCUs.

It would be very naive to think that Hip Hop is blameless. Over the past ten years or so, it has done nothing to help its case. Nor has it done much to elevate and inspire people beyond gripping a new set of spinners or 'tappin a piece of a**. If it were a defendant in a court of law, it would probably spend some time in jail for aiding and abetting or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, if the judge is very lenient.
At the end of the day, we can blame Hip Hop for everything or we can remember there are two sides to everything. Real Hip Hop, love it or hate it, has something to say we all should be open to hear. Real Hip Hop is the reflection and the lyrics of the lives of real people. And while I grant that there are many who have bastardized and commercialized this art form solely for profit, it is not ready to die as many of its detractors would hope. Hip Hop gives Mr. and Mrs. John Suburbanite, and little Buffy and Jeffy the vicarious luxury of visiting America's inner-cities to see how people live for real and not feel they have to clutch their purses and briefcases for dear life as they run back to the 'safety' of their homes. Its been called everything else, now call it a social studies lesson.

"Entertainment" TV has been celebrating the life for the last month or so of a perpetually drug-induced, former playboy bunny whose only talent it seemed was to demonstrate how far you can go with big tits, blond hair and no self-esteem . To lay blame squarely at the feet of Hip Hop for the social ills we face is the ultimate WTF moment in American social history.
Here's a call to action: Go see the movie. Not only for what it is but for what it can do.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Even Skin Tone: Acne - The Battle is On! - Part 3

Acne can do some pretty funky things to your skin. I developed acne in my mid-twenties and still have outbreaks more than ten years later. I tried some stupid and scary skin-fix remedies in an effort to control breakouts and to control the constant oil slick on my face. Some worked short-term but I believe caused long term damage.
The Problem.

Acne or Acne vulgaris, is an inflammatory skin disease that occur on the face, shoulders, chest and back.

One of the main causes of acne is associated with testosterone/androgen hormones which is produced at puberty and is found in women as in men. Hormones can trigger the sebaceous glands which produce sebum. This is not a bad thing, sebum makes the hair shaft flexible and moisturizes the skin but it also makes the skin more greasy. When the skin has an excess of sebum around a hair follicle or pore it can be come clogged. Propionobacterium (a bacterium bug) that normally lives on your skin can thrive in the blocked pore resulting in an infection that may cause inflammation. The inflammation is what causes redness and swelling of acne. In some severe cases a pore can rupture and cause scarring.

The Anatomy of a Pimple.

Cells that line the follicle are shed too quickly and begin to clump together. Excess sebum sticks to the dead cells and forms a plug, or comedo (also called comedones), that blocks the pore, which is not usually seen. When the follicle begins to bulge and show up as a small whitish bump mostly under the skin, it is called a whitehead. If the comedo opens up, the top surface of the plug darkens, and it is referred to as a blackhead. Pimples are the result of infected blackheads or whiteheads that rupture, releasing sebum, bacteria, dead skin, and white blood cells onto the surrounding tissues.

Some common factors that cause or aggravate acne flare-ups are hereditary, environmental factors, disease, drugs and cosmetics. A common but unfounded myth is lazy personal hygiene causes acne breakouts. What can cause flare-ups is a too-aggressive approach to cleaning your skin in an effort to get rid of the over-production of oil. This can actually cause an over-production of oil and make a bad situation worse.

Acne can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild is usually represented by the occasional whitehead or blackhead and may sometimes include a pimple or two. Moderate acne is characterized by pimples and pustules that pop up on the face. Pimples may also occasionally appear on either the back or chest or both. Severe acne is characterized by many nodules that are usually large and sore and appear on the face as well as the back, chest and other parts of the body. (I got them on my face). Severe acne will most likely leave scars, however if not treated correctly, all forms of acne can leave scars. If you suspect that you have nodular acne, discuss the situation with your dermatologist as soon as possible.

One thing that acne is not; it is not caused by eating french fries, pizza, chocolate, candy and other other greasy foods. This does not mean you can rush out for a grease and sugar cocktail. A healthy diet and lots of water which flushes toxins out of your system, is still a good bet for better skin. Water also helps to regulate body functions in all your organs (skin is the largest organ, the integummentary system) and helps to shed and eliminate dead cells faster.

Lazy personal hygiene is less of a culprit for breakouts than over zealous scrubbing. Aggressive scrubbing with harsh products such as products that contain crushed fruit pits, can create small scratches on the skin, over-stimulate sebaceous glands and at the end of the day, increasing oil production and exacerbating the problem.

While a outbreak can occur anywhere on your face (or other areas for some people), the T-Zone is the most acne prone area of your face. The T-Zone starts from the middle and sides of the forehead and extends down the middle of the nose including a little bit of the sides of the nose and goes down to include the chin.

One of the major reasons acne occurs in the T-Zone is because this area is touched the most, usually with dirty hands. The quick and easy cure for this is to stop doing that! We touch our face usually without realizing it so many times in a day that we are causing dirt to spread on the skin which can result in an acne flare-up.

The Fix.

Vitamins. The best source of course, is in a healthy and balanced diet. If you don't eat right, vitamin supplements are a must. Vitamins A, B Complex, C, and E are the heavyweights that can help control flare-ups. Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A which is used to reduce sebum production and control acne. Retinol also helps reduce wrinkles.

Vitamin B Complex has anti-inflammatory and humectant properties, metabolizes fats and reduces oil production. B Complex include the vitamins B3, 5, 6, and 12.

Vitamin C has antioxident and anti-inflammatory properties that helps prevent recurrent acne and may help repair acne scarring.

Vitamin E is another antioxident that may also help to heal scar tissue.

Probiotics/prebiotic foods can also help you treat your acne at home and helps to reduce breakouts while taking acne drugs such as Tetracycline, Doxycycline and Clindamycin. Foods such as honey, bananas, onions and artichokes are probiotic and added to your diet while taking antibiotics replaces the helpful bacteria in your system that is depleted while taking antibiotics. Be aware that all antibiotics can cause candida vaginal yeast infections in women. Tetracycline most frequently has this side effect.

Prescribed Medications.
Accutane is one of the best treatments available for acne. Accutane contains retinol which is a vitamin A derivative and is considered one of the most potent treatments for acne. It is also a very effective treatment for severe acne. Some people may experience side effects with Accutane, but the majority who use it report positive results.

Anti-androgens is any substance that inhibits the production of adrogens. Oral contraceptions are anti-androgens and are used as acne treatments effectively reducing oil production and reducing the hormones that enable the formation of comedones (the plug of dead cells and sebum that cause pimples).

OTC Treatments.

Over the counter treatments can be very effective in treating acne. Over the cunter acne medications work as exfoliative agents and dry out pimples. It doesn't make sense to try to list all of the over the counter acne medications here but there are some basics that you should know in order to choose your weapons selectively.

Acne medications that include salicylic acid are good for people with sensitive skin. The amount medication used in these medications are measured percentages and the stronger creams and gels will obviously have stronger concentrations of the active ingredient. Choose products that have the percentage of the active ingredient listed and complementing carrying agents as the first few ingredients on the ingredients list printed on the packaging.

Salicylic acid renews skin and unclogs pores. Salicylic acid is an exfoliative agent that removes the dead cells of the skin and helps the skin to regenerate faster and thus it decreases the blockage of the pores and formation of acne pustules and blisters preventing flare-ups.

Benzol peroxide kills the bacteria that causes acne. It acts as an antiseptic and oxidizing agent, and reduces the number of blocked pores. In 80 years of use, there has been no bacterial resistance to benzoyl peroxide; it is the cornerstone of acne therapy.

Tea tree oil and green tea cream are two herbal products that are claimed to work well in the treatment of acne. Tea tree oil and green tea cream can be found at any store that sells wholistic products.

Even though acne for the most part only lasts until the beginning of adulthood, it tends to leave life long scars - pockmarks and craters. The procedures used to eliminate these scars are numerous. Some were mentioned in Even Skin Tone - Pore Perfection - Part 2 of the Even Skin Tone for the Tone Deaf six-part series that discuss products and procedures that eliminate dark spots (hydraquinoine) and other skin imperfections. Dermabrasion involves abrading the skin resulting in the removal the top layers with a electrical machine. When the skin heals from the procedure it looks smoother and fresher. A chemical peel minimizes the appearance of acne-damaged skin. Laser resurfacing uses high-energy light pulses to burn away damaged skin. Laser resurfacing is also used to minimize wrinkles and fine scars. Another procedure that is used is punch grafting. The dermatologist uses small skin grafts to replace scarred skin. Here is how punch grafting works: a hole is punched in the skin to remove the scar, the hole is then replaced with unscarred skin usually taken from the back of the ear lobe. Punch grafting is usually used to treat deep acne scarring. All of these procedures should be performed by a liscenced dermatologist.

At the end of the day, as in all things, common sense is the best defense. Arm youself with knowledge and don't harsh out your skin with products such as alcohol, and abrasives (microdermabrasion, notwithstanding). Yeah, they'll dry the oil on your skin, but they will also get your glands going into overdrive and you'll end up spending most of your time battling the acne you helped to create by driving your sebaceous glands nuts! Gentle, regular cleansing with products that control oil and kill bacteria should be a basic first step in your skin care regimine. For acne conditions that is more serious than a mild case should be taken to your dermatologist. If any product claims to cure acne, put it back on the shelf. There is no known cure, only treatments--very effective treatments but, treatments only.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This is Serious Business People!

This will be a very short post, I've got to fix my hair.

After an experiment gone horribly wrong last night and waking up this morning sporting the 'Yaphet Kotto' 'fro, it looks like I'll be continuing my search for the best product for my almost natural hair for a while. After this morning's surprise, I'm willing to spend whatever it takes to get it right. If you happen to be traveling this same road I can tell you, I hit paydirt on Afrobella's blog with a number of natural sites that I will be exploring and am happy to share with you:

If you're in the same boat I'm in, surely you'll find what you need on any one of these sites. I am particularly impressed with Motown Girl, not only because she is from the 'D', but the girl's got it all if you're seriously looking for some information that you can use. They all have a wealth of information on natural hair care and products, transition pictures and how-tos. Enjoy!