The ignorance within.

Recently, I went down a rabbit hole of the Vedic type as one does when you’re working on Ayurvedic self-study. I found myself immersed in the Isha Upanishad, specifically focused on the ideas of Vidhya vs. Avidhya.  Before going on, it’s important to briefly break down what each of these means in order to understand the depth of these concepts. Simply put, Vidhya can be described as the innate clarity, wisdom, and understanding of the world that we all possess. Conversely, Avidhya relates to spiritual ignorance or the forgetfulness that we are a part of everything. Avidhya essentially leads to the concept of ego and the manifestation of “I.” This relationship is beautifully portrayed in Hymn 7 of the Isha Upanishad:

When to a man who understands, 

the Self has become all things, 

what sorrow, what trouble can there be, 

to him who beholds the unity. 

~ Isha Upanishad, Hymn 7

The root of suffering comes from the ignorance of Avidhya as it is the consideration that ones Self is completely unique and distinct from the Self of others. When we believe that our problems or woes are different or even worse than that of another, we lack the spiritual unity of oneness (Vidhya) and may find ourselves trapped in the stories we tell ourselves. The Avidhya-affected individual must look beyond ego in order to end their suffering.

I remember this concept being planted in my brain during the first couple weeks of yoga teacher training. At that time I don’t think that the concept fully took root due to the abundance of information we received those first weeks, but it did provide me with inspiration to sit with. In my personal relationship with anxiety and depression, I’ve come up with plenty narratives in which I tell myself that my problems are worse than others (like the underdeveloped brain of a teenager saying “nobody understands ME!”). But, how selfish and closed minded is it to think that I am that unique? Every intelligent being in the universe experiences hardships or obstacles in their existence. If we wish to live a life free of suffering, we must be grounded in knowing that we share an anchored connection with the universe. Knowing that we ALL share the same inner dialogues or scripted personal narratives is actually refreshingly comforting and has given me an indescribable amount of clarity which brings me a profound sense of peace.

You are me and I am you. 


What’s an AHA?

If you’ve ever used any type of professional exfoliating product, chances are it contained an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). So, what are these acids and how do they benefit the skin?

AHA’s are naturally occurring acids that range from low to high exfoliating potential. Technically speaking, if you’re an organic chemistry nerd, they contain a hydroxy group on the first carbon chain (beta hydroxy acids contain a hydroxy group on the second chain). They assist in exfoliation by freeing the sebum that helps  our skin cells literally stick together. Exposure to AHA’s allow them to lift off freely and reveal newer skin cells that give us a brighter appearance. This can help to unclog skin, lighten areas of hyperpigmentation, and brighten dull skin. The most common of these include (ordered from strongest to most gentle):

  •  Glycolic Acid: Derived from sugar cane. It is the smallest in molecular size of the AHA’s and therefore can penetrate the deepest. It’s widely used in the skin industry and has particularly helpful effects for brightening the skin and correcting signs of aging. While it can be drying because of its strength and astringent-degreasing potential, glycolic acid is hydrophilic (water-loving), therefore it helps retain moisture after use. Best to use on oilier, less sensitive skin types.
  • Lactic Acid: Derived from milk. Another very common AHA that can be used for slightly more sensitive skin types. It will benefit those with uneven tone, premature signs of aging, and correct dryness because of its hydrophilic nature. Lactic acid can even be used on individuals with rosacea. Though, always consult with your skin care provider or dermatologist.
  • Mandelic Acid: Derived from almonds. A very gentle AHA that is beneficial at reducing hyperpigmentation and correcting acne. It packs a punch when combined with lactic acid. This acid can also be used on sensitive, rosacea prone skin. Personally, this is one of my favorites because it is the least irritating and consistently gives beautiful results for a broad range of imperfections.

All of these acids have a fairly low pH, therefore have an astringent and exfoliating effect on the skin after immediate use. Our skin has a natural pH that ranges from 4.5-5.5 called the acid mantle. AHA’s have even been shown to increase the efficacy of our skin’s barrier function when we use the appropriate pH (stick with an AHA cleanser close to your skin’s natural pH level. Cleansers that are closer to neutral or basic may have temporary beneficial effects but they weaken the barrier over time).

Products can range from cleansers, toners, brightening treatment solutions, moisturizers, and chemical peels. Peels will have the most dramatic effect due to the higher percentage and concentration of the AHA and the lower pH.

When using any kind of mild topical AHA at home like a toner or moisturizer, know that you want to avoid direct sun exposure directly after application. While the half-life (the time it takes for the ingredient to become half its original strength) of AHA’s are pretty short, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours, it still strips the outer most layer of skin from the surface. This outer most layer is what protects us from UV damage, therefore if you’re planning on being outside while AHA’s are in your skincare regimen it’s better to just use them at night, wait at the very least 12 hours post AHA use, and always wear a physical blocker (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sunscreen.

 

Reasons to avoid AHA’s:

  • You were recently waxed
  • Have an active sunburn
  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Are using prescription tretinoin (this can vary- for low percentage retinols, it can be fine to use)
  • Have extremely sensitive skin or severe rosacea
  • Are planning on being in the sun

 

I’d like to know, what are your favorite alpha hydroxy acids? Comment below if you have more questions!


Healing Atopic Dermatitis Through Food

I think it has become fairly evident that I like researching and writing about Atopic Dermatitis (eczema, as it is most commonly known as- refer to my previous post about winter skin to learn more). I was diagnosed with eczema when I was in the 6th grade and since then it has been the scourge of my skin! As an esthetician, nothing frustrates me more as having imperfect, problematic, sensitive skin! In my research over the years, genetics, stress and immune function, and nutrition have all come to the forefront of being primary antagonists or catalysts to eczematous breakouts.

Recently I have experimented with my diet a good bit, trying to identify triggers and soothers to my scaly, itchy patches of skin. Through trial and error, I have found that a diet high in fish, greens, and vegetables along with my regular supplementation of protein powder (I seriously love the Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein in Yerba Mate flavor- it’s the best and tastes great!), and drinking tons of water has been the most helpful in decreasing flareups and healing skin from the inside out.

So what’s the common denominator in a lot of these foods? High vitamin and omega levels increase barrier function.

Vitamin D: The research is still coming along, but there seems to be some evidence that individuals suffering from Atopic Dermatitis also have lower serum Vitamin D levels. In a meta-analysis by Kim  et al. which discussed the efficacy of Vitamin D supplementation in treating atopic dermatitis, there was varying evidence that showed increasing Vitamin D levels improved symptoms of atopic dermatitis in study participants. A limited number of studies have been done on this, therefore a strong relationship remains inconclusive.

Foods to look for: salmon, mushrooms, fortified yogurt, fortified orange juice, eggs

Omegas: Omega-3 fatty acid seems to show promising results in reducing the occurrence of atopic dermatitis. A study by Miles and Calder discusses the efficacy of increasing omega-3 and 6 through supplementation or food sources such as fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, in lowering the occurrence of atopic dermatitis in young children due to maternal consumption of these fatty acids. Study participants who were followed up with later in life showed less likelihood to be treated for asthma as well. While this study suggests the importance of maternal consumption of omega fatty acids, it is just as important for other age groups to consume. Increased consumption of linoleic acid has also shown to be effective in decreasing the occurrence and severity of acne!

Foods to look for: flax seed, walnuts, sardines, salmon, tuna, mackeral, soybeans, enriched tofu