Monday, March 18, 2013

The Epic Battle For Clear Skin

If you've ever met me in person, you've probably figured out that I have been battling acne for years and rarely been successful. I've tried everything: chemical-filled over-the-counter washes and tonics, natural washes, ProActiv- and even some crazy home remedies like the one above. (FYI- honey and cinnamon BURNS!) My pursuit of clear skin wasn't my idea, actually. It was my mom's. She was so sad that my face made me hide behind my long hair that she swore she would do anything to help me beat the monster. I admit that acne was a downer, but since I had no vanity in my looks it took her intervention to get me started on fixing my problem. 

So, how my skin is normally: T-zone is horribly greasy with my forehead drenched and my cheeks dry. So, combination skin.
My acne: large, painful, and everywhere. My back is also suffering, although not as much.
What the dermatologist said: "Stay away from anything you are allergic to. You seem to have a sensitivity to the dye in clothing, so stay away from that, too. Apply this super cream to your back." Gee, thanks. Very little help here. Already staying away from the stuff I'm allergic to, no way I'm wearing white all the time, and the stuff for my back only peels it and makes it uncomfortable.

Time for a new plan.

After much trial and error, mom insisted on paying for a ProActiv prescription. Whereas before all the other treatments I had tried had an instant, short-lived success of two weeks, this felt better but didn't fix anything for over a month. Finally, clear skin started to emerge!! For the first time in my war on acne I could stand tall and look people in the eye. My hair started going behind my ears instead of over my face. (The view was so much better without the curtain in the way!) So my acne was mostly gone, only cropping up every now and then. A huge improvement.
You may be thinking, "Yay! You beat it!" but there were still a few problems with the picture: 
1. I had to wash my face at least once a day.
2. If I missed a day, things came rushing back.
3. My skin started to feel rougher after a while.
4. My face was still really oily.
5. Even though I never wore make-up and had always wanted to have cosmetic-free skin, I felt I would probably have to resort to it eventually to help my face look normal.
6. I couldn't touch or put anything on my face without consequences.
7. ProActiv is expensive!

So a few months ago, I quit paying for ProActiv. I was determined to beat this- without chemicals! After much searching on Pinterest as well as trial and error, I developed a new system. This little "potion" saved my skin.
This is my personal acne-fighter. He's strong enough to kill the bacteria and cut the grease, yet gentle enough not to kill or peel the skin. He's wonderful! With him, I've been able to cut my face washing down to when I shower and can even touch my face some without worrying that another bumper crop of zits is going to ruin my day! And I can wear my face and show off my beautiful skin- not my cosmetics.
To make your own Acne-Fighter, find a small container like the one above (I found mine at Wall-Mart) and fill it with:
1/4 Apple Cider Vinegar (preferably organic)
3/4 freshly brewed Green Tea (I use a green tea and lemon mixture since lemon is also good for your skin.)
1-2 drops Oregano Oil (Test your tolerance with one drop. More than two and you'll probably feel a heavy burning sensation, which we want to avoid. You should be able to find this product in a "natural" store.)

Simple, right? Yup! The apple cider vinegar helps balance the pH in your skin and cut the grease and bacteria, the green tea hydrates while its caffeine stimulates the blood-vessels in the skin, and the oregano oil also helps kill bacteria. 

How I use it: Firstly, wash your face around once every two to three days when you shower using a wet mixture of baking soda and milk. Leave that on your skin for a minute before apply a little water and scrubbing to exfoliate those dead skin cells and remove any persistent bacteria. Then, liberally apply the mixture you made above with a cotton ball to your face and down your neck a little to encourage an even look. Your face will probably look red and irritated, but it'll calm down quickly. Apply this mixture one to three times a day, depending on how oily your face gets. Moisturize with aloe vera as needed, but I've found this moisturizes my face plenty. 

More tips on helping this work:
1. Keep your nails either really clean or short! When you scratch your face or pop a pimple (which you will inevitably do- don't deny it!), you are getting that bacteria under your nails which you will then spread somewhere else. I can't help scratching and touching my face, so short nails are easiest for me.
2. Start with a weak Acne-Fighter solution, then up it as needed. For some people a quarter bottle of vinegar may not be enough or one drop of oregano oil may not be cutting it. Add more, but be careful not to burn or freak out your skin too much. If you added too much, just add more green tea.
3. Drink lots of water! Figure up your body's requirements, then carry around a bottle of water. Keep track of how many bottles you consume a day.
4. Lower your body's acidity! Do an at home pH test and see if you are too acidic. Acidic skin tends to have more problems, so eat more veggies and/or drink your water with a little lemon juice. I have to drink 8 to 9 glasses a day so I carry around my water bottle and add lemon concentrate- just enough that I can barely taste it. It makes you feel a million times better in just a few days!
5. Stay active. I know, I know, "that's what they all say", but the sweat is going to help clean your pores and encourage increased circulation to your face, so get movin'! :) I try to exercise three to four times a week if I can find an exercise buddy. Everything's easier with a buddy helping you along!
6. Try adding anti-oxidant rich foods. Fruits and veggies and even green tea and coffee (Gasp! Coffee's good for something!) are great to help boost your immune system and fight that ick in your skin. I love green tea. It's my anti-oxidant home-boy. :p
7. Drink a shot glass of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water every day. This is full of good-for-you potassium, acetic acid, and ash to help you lose weight, cleanse, and (like number 4) balance your internal pH.
8. Try oil pulling. The removal of bacteria in your mouth and detoxing your body will go a long way to kick that acne to the curb! New to oil pulling? Click here. There are a couple ways to do it and you can experiment with different oils, but the method is basically the same.
9. If you find the Acne-Fighter isn't quite working for you after a month or so, keep researching different natural oils and ingredients to replace/add to the mixture. I can guarantee that if I found something that works for me after nine years, you will, too.

Ok, a quick WARNING: Don't drink the mixture. I know, you probably weren't even thinking about it, but the oregano can be harmful if you don't know the right way to take it internally. 

There you go! Now you can let the Acne-Fighter go to work whoopin' up on that invading bacteria while you sit back and drink the rest of your freshly brewed cup of green tea. Power to the anti-oxidants! Catch you later, everybody!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Heart of a Child

...but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 19:14
 Last night Alyssa and I were blessed to spend time with the sweetest batch of cookies- er, kids- you've ever seen. Such cuties! And they don't even realize it.

These six kids live in a technically two bedroom apartment whose rooms are barely big enough to squeeze in a bunk bed, twin bed, two wardrobes and couch. The kitchen isn't long enough to lay down in, let alone have a table, and the bathroom is just big enough. Not only that, but they haven't had electricity in... well, I'm not sure how long. So these kids don't have TV, computers, or gaming consoles to entertain them. But do they mind that they have to play by candle light? They don't seem to.

In the short two and a half hours we were there, the kids were so happy. They ran around playing a pretty much impossible game of hide and seek with Alyssa (I became the hiding place for one of them), colored with crayons that were so hard to see in the dim light that we used my cell-phone, played a word game and Mancala tournament, and then eventually all but two fell asleep to a fairy tale book. And in the midst of it all, I paused mid-play to hear the sweet sound of a three year-old singing a few choruses from songs he had heard at church.

What was important to that little kid? Was he grumping over not being able to see by the light of that dim candle? Was he thinking about a cartoon he wasn't able to watch or a toy his brothers were playing with but he wasn't? No. He wanted to sing to Jesus. He just wanted to enjoy the gift of my sister's friendship that God had given him that night.
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;" -Matthew 11:25  

Jesus wants us to be like that little boy: innocent, trusting, and joyful in Him. How little do I find myself living like him! How often my pride pushes in on my joy and clobbers it over the head! How often I let my surroundings rob me of trust in God's providing hand.

Think about everything that is wrong in your life right now, then think about that little boy who has barely any toys or books, no electricity, lives with his brothers and sisters in a tiny apartment, and sometimes goes to bed with a growling tummy.

Why are you not trusting?