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Ask ten women if they wash their faces with soap, and at least seven of them will probably answer, "No way!"
They say that after washing with soap, their skins feel tight and shiny. Some of them are allergic to soap, so they purchase and use a variety of cleansing creams and facial rinses to get rid of the daily dirt.
They are missing two important facts. The first is the basic difference between commercially processed soap and the kind you make in your own kitchen. The second is the process of pH balancing.
Homemade soap is usually based on vegetable oils rather than animal fat. It contains lots of natural glycerine, formed by the reaction caused when lye (potassium hydroxide) meets oils. This glycerine is prized for its skin-smoothing and soothing qualities, and should not be confused with the manufactured glycerine you use to make bubble mix, as this is a petroleum by-product. Natural vegetable glycerine treats your skin kindly.
Because you know exactly what goes into your soap, you can 'customise' it to avoid ingredients that cause allergies, and you can super-fat it to make it extra rich and luxurious. Just one problem - making soap is addictive and you won't be able to stop after the first batch! It also leaves your skin feeling cleaner than anything else you may have put on it.

Here are some simple rules for cleaning your face:
1. Remove heavy makeup. Plain yogurt works beautifully as a cleansing cream, and is absolutely safe.
2. Use a clean cotton facecloth (no nylon scrubbies, please), homemade soap and plenty of warm water. Give your face and throat a good, brisk scrub. Don't just pat at it, but get rid of oil traces and dead skin. Be firm with your face! Use a soapy loofah if extra exfoliation is needed. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
3. Now for a very important step. Even the best soap is slightly alkaline, so pH balance your skin with witch hazel or kombucha tea, sprayed or dabbed on. Allow it to dry naturally.
4. With distilled water or hydrosol in a spray bottle, mist your face and apply a natural cream while skin is still wet. Always apply cream by stroking UPWARDS, except for the areas around your eyes. Just pat in gently here, as this skin is fragile.

That's it. Do this twice a day and your skin will be very happy. It works for men, too.

The Acne Anathema 

There are only a few fortunate teenagers who escape the discomfort, embarrassment and self-disgust caused by acne. For the other 80% or so, it is probably the worst thing about puberty.

 Hormones are mostly to blame, especially testosterone, which causes the sebaceous glands (responsible for keeping skin moisturized) to produce excessive quantities of the skin’s natural oil, sebum. We think of testosterone as a male attribute, but it is present in the female system as well. With so much sebum in evidence, pores are likely to become blocked – at this point, a normal and usually harmless skin resident called Propionobacterium Acnes snuggles into the blocked area and infects it. White blood cells rush to deal with the P.A. and are trapped as well - then the chemicals that they produce make the area inflamed.     
From the time the pore is clogged to the time you have a full-blown pimple takes about three weeks, so obviously it is better to stop the beast in its tracks than to try and deal with it fully fledged. Here are some ground rules:
  1. Pay attention to the obvious things like diet, exercise and rest to keep your immune system primed.   
  2. Keep your skin clean, but be gentle with any infected areas – scrubbing them raw will make matters worse.     
  3. Don’t wear heavy makeup as it will lead to more clogging of pores. Many ingredients in commercial makeup are comedonic (that means that they cause pimples).  
  4. Don’t, don’t, DON’T touch your face. Don’t rub cheeks, chin or eyes, don’t rest your face on your hand and never, ever squeeze a pimple. Hands spread bacteria and need to be kept as far as possible from the danger zone. Most of us touch our faces habitually, and this is a hard habit to break, so get your friends to help you stop it.    
  5. Cell phones and telephones need to be kept scrupulously clean – they can harbour massive colonies of bacteria.   
  6. Drink more water than usual to keep toxins flushed out of your system.   
  7. At the first sign of tenderness, indicating that a pimple may be forming, take an ice-cube, cover it in saran-wrap and apply to suspect area for two or three minutes. Repeat three times a day as long as necessary. This is not infallible, but it can help. Don’t leave the ice-cube on too long though – frost bite is not the solution.

There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies for acne, but be sure to read the ingredients before you buy. Some common ingredients are salicylic acid (helps to unclog pores), sulphur (dries sebum), benzoil peroxide (kills bacteria), azelaic acid (normalizes skin), or glycolic acid (renews skin).

 Your doctor may recommend antibiotics for more serious cases. Tetracycline, erythromycin, minocycline and doxycycline are often prescribed. In general, they work by decreasing the number of bacteria, by eliminating the chemicals produced by white blood cells and by reducing inflammation. Although they are generally effective, be aware of their possible side effects: they may cause nausea, sun sensitivity, yeast infections in women and pigmentation of skin or staining of teeth. They also wipe out the good bacteria along with the bad guys.

Accutane, or isotretinoin can be prescribed in difficult cases. It is a Vitamin A derivative, potent and effective. However, possible nasty side effects include dry, fragile, itchy skin, thinning hair, dry, red eyes, nosebleeds or bleeding gums, muscle pain, vision problems, depression and severe stomach pain. In my estimation, this is a medication of last resort.

Natural cures that would seem to be worth a try include facial masks of grated cucumber or ground cloves and fenugreek, as well as green tea simmered with licorice and comfrey root and added to a mask base of fuller’s earth. Olive leaves would be useful as well, as they are naturally antibiotic, but they are not easy to find in this country.

A facial spray made of one of the following essential oils diluted in distilled water is soothing and healing for damaged skin. Choose from tea tree oil (reduces inflammation, promotes calm), bergamot (drying, anti-bacterial), clove (purifies), lavender (anti-bacterial, soothing), rosewood (reduces sebum), sweet orange (drying, antiseptic), litsea cubeba (cleansing, cooling), or cajeput (dissolves sebum).

 Finally, a myth-buster: I have always been a firm believer in the idea that bingeing on chocolate will cause your skin to break out. ‘Not so,’ say the latest articles. Their theory is that, since it takes three weeks for a pimple to develop, yesterday’s chocolates cannot possibly cause today’s spots. So, if anyone would like to perform an experiment in the interests of science, please pig out on chocolate and check your face in three weeks time.Let me know! (From 'Busy Bodies')