Skin ageing and its causes

Skin ageing is increasingly becoming a more coommon concern even in the younger age group of people. Stressful lifestyle due to lack of adequate sleep, faulty eating habits, smoking and alcohol consumption on a regular basis along with exposure to ultraviolet radiation of sunlight, leads to early appearance of ageing signs.

Ageing signs include pigmentation, which causes uneven skin tone, freckles, melasma and age spots, fine lines around the eyes called as crow’s feet, deep wrinkles on the forehead and brow area and laugh lines. The person tends to appear much older than their biological age. Early greying of hair also adds to the ageing effect.

We will now analyse how most common factors causes skin ageing.

  1. Sleep deprivation: Long working hours have become the norm for most professional working class. Computer use is mandatory but it causes havoc to your skin when used execessively. Puffiness, fine lines and dark circles are very common in those who stay up late night, either working or idling away sleep time on social media. Whatever may be the reason for you to stay up, if you are not getting enough sleep, then the harm done is more than ageing. Cortisol is a stress hormone, which gets released in excess amounts when the body and mind are sleep deprived. Getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep is mandatory for good health, which reflects in the form of glowing skin.
  2. Diet: I have writtten a separate blog on diet alone. The saying that, ‘We are, what we eat’ cannot be more apt than in the case of diet and skin relationship. A healthy diet comprising of proper proportions of complex carbs, proteins and fats is absolutely essential for a healthy body. If there is any nutrient deficiency, then the first signs almost always appear on the skin. Consuming fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds on a daily basis is a must. Avoidance of junk food, which is mostly processed ready to eat, will keep excess body fat away and ageing signs can be halted significantly.  Vitamin E, C and B complex are essential for building healthy skin cells, the lack of which, will result in collagen breakdown, pigmentation and dull skin. The loss of lustre in hair and nails also is attributed to nutrient deficiency. Excess consumption of sugar and dairy products are also detrimental to your health, specially skin. Keep your diet  diet as raw and simple as possible, so that all nutrients are preserved and you get the best of nature. Go vegatarian for short periods of time, which will help in detox of your body and skin.
  3. Water:  Drinking excess water is unnecessary and harmful, but not drinking enough water also leads to early ageing signs, by causing dehydration. Drink 8-12 glasses of water daily. Depending on your lifestyle, body type and weight, you will need to decide how much water to consume. A good indicator is the color of your urine. If its almost white or a very light yellow, then it means that you are drinking optimum amount of water.
  4. Smoking and alcohol consumption: Nicotine literally breaks down the collagen and elastic fibers in the skin, leading to all possible signs of ageing. Regular intake of alcohol causes dehydration and robs your body of essential nutrients too. Limit your alcohol consumption to as less as possible. An entire blog needs to be elaborated on smoking and alcohol, so I shall write on it seperately.
  5. Unprotected sun exposure: The ultraviolet radiation of sunlight is a major factor, leading to pigmentation in the form of age spots, freckles, melasma and general tanning of the face. The skin appears blotchy and dull. Breakdown of collagen leads to appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Application of a good quality sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 is mandatory, half hour before stepping out in the sun. Avoid strolling in the afternoon heat between 12:00-5:00, when the harsh rays of the sun are at its peak.

While ageing is inevitable and the mortal body will age, no matter what we do or don’t do, we can at least try to age gracefully. Regular practice of yoga with meditation also helps to keep the body and mind fit. It helps to destress us and boosts our immunity. If you do not like yoga then light exercise or a brisk walk of 30 minutes is also very beneficial. Breaking a sweat on a daily basis will help to increase the blood circulation in the face, which will help you look younger for longer. Use of good quality skin care products also help to repair daily damage that happens to the skin. Anti ageing skin treatments do help tremendously to reverse the signs of ageing, but ultimately its your lifestyle, which will help you maintain the results. Ultimately, it all comes down to a healthy lifestyle, which will help you not only to look apt for your age, but will also keep you active.

Healthy diet for healthy skin and hair is a must!

Most often people think that having certain foods will enhance the appearance of their skin. This is actually a myth, because your skin is a reflection of your inner health and is an integral part of your body. When body is healthy, skin will naturally glow with radiance. A person cannot be unhealthy, while have glowing skin! How can you expect a rotten banana to have bright yellow colour?

Maintaining healthy diet is essential, because it provides the much needed nutrients for optimum health. Skin, hair and nails are external parts of our body and so any problems with these structures indicate disturbance in your health.

So, what constitutes a healthy diet?

Healthy diet comprises of right portions of carbs, proteins and fats. Depending on your body type and frame, you will need a certain quantity of calories, which you can get it figured out with the help of a dietitian. I am outlying below few general guidelines on what to consume more often and what to avoid.

Good stuff:

  1. Fruits and raw vegetables: These are absolutely rich sources of vitamins and minerals. 2-3 servings of fruits and salad should be consumed on a daily basis. Seasonal fruits are the best, because they are appropriate for that particular season and will be grown organically.
  2. Nuts: Unsalted and non- roasted nuts, specially almonds are good for general health, which reflects in the form of shiny hair and radiant skin. Vitamin E is abundant in almonds. Soak a few handful almonds overnight, peel off the almond skin next morning and consume it for breakfast.
  3. Green tea: Green tea contains antioxidants and refreshes each time we consume it. Try to substitute it for your regular tea and coffee. Now adays, a lot of flavoured green teas are available in the markets, which you can try for variety and fun.
  4. Water: Nearly 70-75% of our body is mostly made up of water, and so its essential to consume enough water through out the day to keep the body well hydrated. When adequate water is not consumed, then over a period of time, skin will tend to appear dehydrated and dull. Drinking excess water is also not recommended. On an average, each person needs about 8-12 glasses of water but the need can vary depending on age, gender, body type, weather conditions and physical activity.
  5. Exercise: This is the last but not the least requirement. Working out daily for at least 30 minutes tremendously boosts your over all health, emotions and mental health. Sweating leads to release of body toxins and the blood flow into your skin shows up as a nice warm glow. Its mandatory to get some form of exercise done daily. If you do not like to do strenuous workouts, then even gentle yoga will do wonders for your health.

Bad stuff:

  1. Sugar: The single most detrimental to out health, which also causes accelerated ageing, obesity and diabetes is sugar. It is present in almost everything that we consume, specially soda drinks, Indian styled tea and coffee, sweets, bakery items and the list is almost endless! Be cautious of your sugar intake and reduce or avoid it, where ever its possible.
  2. Fried and junk foods: Leads to obesity, high cholesterol, acne breakouts and eventually bad skin texture. Avoid it as much as possible and if you wish to consume it, then have home made fried foods, which is prepared using quality oil.
  3. Alcohol and smoking: Alcohol causes dehydration and so all effects of dehydration will show up on skin. Under eye bags and puffiness of face is commonly observed in alcoholics due to water retention. Nicotine causes collagen breakdown, leading to wrinkles and early ageing.
  4. Excess of dairy products causes acne eruption. The commercial production of dairy products involves hormonal injection, which gets indirectly consumed by humans also.
  5. Processed foods: Anything that is ready to eat and has an expiry date, should be avoided. All artificial colouring and flavouring agents have potential to cause allergies, which present as hives. They are loaded with excess calories, which are devoid of nutrition and hence should be best avoided or limit your consumption.

Remember always, your skin and hair is an integral part of your body and it cannot and should not be treated separately. Live healthy and enjoy beautiful skin.

Causes of acne are more than skin deep

Acne is a condition characterised by repeated breakouts in the skin, leading to brown spots and in severe cases, causes also scarring. Though the condition appears on the skin only, its causative factors are various and a person may have one or more of these causes. The main problem in acne is excess activity of oil glands and their blockage. Once the blockage of the oil glands occur, inflammation sets in, causing pain, redness and warmth over the acne spot. Eventually the acne spots breaks open, and heals by leaving behind brown spot or even a depression (scar). The various factors which cause excess activity of oil glands are discussed below.

  1. Hormones: Insulin, Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) and androgens are the main culprits. Androgens are higher in concentration in those girls, who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome. While one cannot control the production of androgens; insulin and IGF-1 can be controlled by consuming healthy diet. These hormones also increase during excess stress.
  2. Diet: Diet very strongly impacts those who are prone to acne. Unhealthy diet, containing excess of sugar, carbs, fatty junk foods and dairy products. One should pay special attention to their diet and avoid the consumption of the mentioned food items. Instead consume more of vegetables, fruits and drink adequate quantity of water. Inclusion of green tea is also recommended.
  3. Stress: Stress has become a part and parcel of modern hectic schedules, which does not just affect the skin but entire human body, including emotional and mental health also. Stress causes imbalance of hormones and most people report to have almost overnight breakout due to excess work load and lack of sleep. The only effective and natural way to manage stress is regular exercise, meditation and yoga. Everyday, dedicate 30 minutes for your health and you will observe dramatic improvement in your over all health.
  4. Pollution, humidity and environmental factors: This is actually the least important factor and will worsen only existing acne. Dust and air pollutants only clog up the skin pores, which further aggravates acne.

Almost all the time, there is an underlying cause for acne, which is overlooked by most doctors. Treatment of acne goes beyond just treating the skin and when the actual cause gets addressed, acne will disappear for good!

Winter Care for Skin

Winter is the time of the year, when the humidity levels drop significantly, which cause the skin to become dry. One should take special care during the winter, so that skin remains soft and supple. Dry skin tends to appear dull and wrinkled. I am sharing few tips on how to manage skin during the winter.

  1. Apply a light oil on your body before you take bath. You can apply coconut, olive or sesame oil. Oil forms a gentle barrier between the harsh effects of soap/water and skin. This is especially important if the water supply is hard water from boring wells.
  2. Minimize your bath duration and keep them as short as possible. Do not indulge in long baths as the drying effect of water will damage the skin. Do not use very hot water as that damages the skin too. Use sparingly warm water which feels just comfortable.
  3. You can also add a few drops of oil like Olemessa oil in your last rinse. This will leave behind a moisturizing film on your body.
  4. Use a mild soap, preferably liquid soap. Use soap also sparingly, specially on the legs and hands. Soap cleansing is more important in the folds like under arms, groin and under the breasts because in these areas bacterial growth occurs and leads to odor.
  5. Immediately after bath, apply a generous amount of thick cream or even plain petroleum jelly. You will feel sticky for sometime but as the skin absorbs the moisturizing agent, your skin will feel soft and comfortable. Lotions are useless as the effects disappear after a few hours and skin tends to feel dry again.
  6. Wear cotton clothes and keep yourself protected from excessive wind and sun exposure.
  7. Consume almonds, flax seeds and healthy nutritious diet daily to keep your body healthy, which will reflect in healthy skin and hair as well.
  8. Lips also tend to get dry and chapped. Apply a rich lip balm or chap-stick, through out the day. Women who like to wear lipsticks should avoid matt lipsticks completely and instead opt for gloss.
  9. Hands and feet are usually ignored. Massage a good rich cream specially formulated for hands and feet at night and leave it on. You can also wear socks some nights so that the cream works better on your cracked feet. Moisturex cream is a very good brand for hand and feet care.
  10. Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Lack of water causes dehydration and leads to further dryness of skin.

A white patch on the body does not always mean Vitiligo/Leucoderma!

There are various conditions, which can cause white patches on the body. Briefly, I have mentioned below common conditions.

1. Pityriasis Alba:

The most common being Pityriasis Alba, which is seen among school going children, occurs on the face. Many parents get worried and start to wonder what’s happening to their child, but this condition is absolutely benign and self-limiting. It goes away on its own over a period of time and should not cause unnecessary concern. These patches are not absolutely white but definitely lighter than rest of the skin and they are almost circular always. They tend to appear more during summers when rest of the skin gets tanned. If it bothers you a lot, please see your dermatologist who can prescribe creams to rectify it. It can be sometimes seen even in adults.

2. Sun allergy:

Also known as polymorphic light eruptions, sun allergy can cause white scaly and itchy patches on the face and hands. These appear suddenly and cause alarm in the patient. If they are very itchy, do not get worked up! See your dermatologist and get help. Meanwhile, you can apply a soothing moisturizer and take tablet Cetrizine to control the itching. Use sunscreen regularly to prevent sun rashes.

3. Post-Inflammatory Hypo-pigmentation:

Mostly seen in babies and infants, these rashes appear after a rash or some injury has occurred to the skin. Specially, it has been noticed that in infants who suffer from eczema rashes, when the rash goes away, it leaves behind the white discoloration, which can cause worry to already worried parents. Do not worry, in a matter of time, the skin does get back to normal and this is just a transient phase. It is similar to when adults get injured and develop dark areas after injury; infants are prone to developing hypo-pigmentation. Many a times, even adults can get this after injury or rash. Prolonged use of topical steroids also causes localized hypo-pigmentation.

4. Leprosy:

The sinister disease dreaded since ages! It starts with a light colored patch anywhere on the body. If you feel lack of sensation there, then immediately see your dermatologist. Leprosy is not just limited to lower socio economic class but sometimes even economically better class of people can get it. Do not delay and get it checked up right away. It is a treatable condition.

5. Vitiligo/Leucoderma:

The most important reason for white patches is a condition, which is auto-immune in nature. These appear as absolute white colored patches and can occur anywhere on the body. They can spread rapidly or slowly or sometimes they may remain localized. It is not an infection and will not spread to anyone who comes in contact with the person suffering it. It’s caused when your body’s immunity rebels against your melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells, which produce the melanin pigment responsible for the color of our skin. When your own anti-bodies target melanocytes, they get destroyed and so melanin is lost, leaving a white discolored area. We still do not understand auto-immune disorders completely. Various applications, phototherapy and surgical grafts can treat the white patches. Speak to your dermatologist.

6. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis:

It is seen in elderly people as small white dots around the hands and legs. Not a concern at all; it is a part of aging but sometimes it is seen even in young people.

By Dr. Sofiya Rangwala

Vitiligo- A skin condition which affects not just the skin but also the psyche.

Vitiligo- A skin condition which affects not just the skin but also the psyche.

Known commonly as the white patch disease or leukoderma or vitiligo, this is a condition of the skin. The skin in small or big patches start to turn white. The condition may be slowly progressive or may rapidly progress. It affects 0.5-2% of the world’s population.

What causes Vitiligo?

Let me give example of our defence forces. Their job is to protect us from external forces like our enemies. Now imagine our own defence forces turn rogue and start to work against us by killing us. This phenomenon in medical science is known as ‘Autoimmunity’, in which our antibodies turn against our own body cells. These antibodies as we all know function normally to protect us from external bacteria, viruses and parasites. Why do these antibodies turn against our own cells is poorly understood. In vitiligo, antibodies work against the melanin producing cells called as melanocytes. So when melanocytes get destroyed, melanin is not produced and hence no color, which leads to white patches. Melanin is the pigment in our skin responsible for our skin color. Indians have more melanin than Caucasians and Blacks have the maximum melanin pigment. Melanin also increases in production on sunlight exposure, which we commonly refer to as tan.

Can it be treated or cured?

So far, medical science is inadequate to treat autoimmunity but in severe cases in which progression occurs rapidly, we try to control it by giving oral steroids. However, oral steroids can also only control the progress of the disease and may not be able to cure it. Good news is that we can treat vitiligo patches. We have multiple treatment options to get back the color. It takes time to see the results but there is definite hope and one has to be regular with the treatment. Phototherapy plays a significant role in getting back color. I personally have been able to get visibly good results in many patients with the help of phototherapy, but as many as 30-50 sessions of phototherapy sessions may be required. Phototherapy is a form of light therapy; can be in the form of narrow band UVB or UVA light. Along with that, certain creams and ointments will also be prescribed which the patient has to use regularly. There are different types of surgical options, in which normal colored skin is implanted at the site of white patches. The results will depend on the skill of the surgeon and how well your skin takes up the graft. Usually surgery should be opted after phototherapy also has failed.

Social impact:

Stress contributes majorly in vitiligo in my opinion. Getting worried and depressed about it does not help but only aggravates the condition. The social stigma attached to this condition is severe. Some people may suffer depression or lack of self-worth even if they have small patches. Young people find difficulty in finding suitable partners for marriage. Even the most accomplished ones suffer emotionally and parents play a significant role here. Most often it’s the parents who are responsible in making their child feel inferior. In India, sadly so much emphasis is given to skin color. If one is dark then also it’s a problem and if one suffers from vitiligo then it’s the biggest problem! It’s saddening that we all give priority to external beauty and blindly ignore all other positive attributes of a person like their intelligence and pleasant personality. It is not contagious and so there is no reason for people suffering from vitiligo to isolate themselves from others. If you know someone who suffers from vitiligo, be kind and sensitive towards them. Color of the skin does not determine the true value of a person. Let us not judge people based on their skin color as external beauty is only skin deep.

Acne skin care

Pimples or medically known as Acne vulgaris is a common problem faced by everyone at some time or the other. It’s a disorder of excessive activity of the oil glands and overgrowth of bacteria on the face. There are known factors which contribute to pimples formation, most important being
hormonal changes in the body. There are some things that you should and should not do at home to control mild acne.

What you should do?
1. Keep your face clean. Wash your face using a face wash containing salicylic acid at least once a day. You can also use Tea tree containing face wash if your skin is sensitive. It is mandatory to wash your face at night.
2. Include exercise in your daily routine. This helps in clearing up your skin. Sometimes, you may notice increase in your pimples but that is transient so don’t worry.
3. You can apply a gel or cream containing Retinol in it, only on the pimples; be sure to apply only at night and NEVER apply in the DAY time. Retinol can cause irritation so be careful and discontinue using it if you feel discomfort. A dermatologist can help you overcome the irritation in
such situation.
4. See your dermatologist if your pimples are getting worse and not settled after a month also. If you get a pimple every week, then its better to get expert treatment. You may be in need of oral antibiotics which your doctor can decide for you.
5. Wipe your face with clean towel/napkins or use a fresh tissue paper after you wash your face. Most of the time bacteria resides in towels which further contribute to pimples.
6. Get dandruff treated as it can aggravate pimples.
7. Wash your bed linens once a week.

What you should NOT DO:
1. DO NOT APPLY HOME MADE THINGS! This is the most important thing to keep in mind. Please, for the love of God in who you believe in, do not apply things like toothpaste, ginger, garlic, lemon, pappaya or gram flour! I have seen many patients come to me with severe irritation and superficial burns. Internet is flooded with wrong information and so please do not resort to such practices.
2. Do not pick on your pimples no matter how tempted you are. Picking on your pimples will cause scars (depression) in your skin which is much harder to treat later.
3. Avoid oily food, dairy products, excess sugars and anything that is considered as junk food. Diet plays a very important role in triggering oil glands.
4. Do not wash your face too frequently. Limit to washing 2 or 3 times maximum in a day.
5. Do not lose your confidence if you have severe acne; this condition can be controlled if you seek help from a good dermatologist.

Dandruff- Recurrent nuisance and how to keep it under control.

Have you been struggling with dandruff for a very long time and it just does not seem to go away no matter what shampoo you try?

Dandruff is one of the most common problems everyone faces every now and then. You need to understand few facts about these annoying flakes, which ruin the appearance of your dark colored clothes.

Dandruff is medically referred as Pityraisis capitis. The more severe form of dandruff is when flakes start to appear over the eyebrows, around the nose and ears also, it’s called as seborrheic dermatitis.

If you have dandruff that causes big flakes and just does not respond at any antidandruff shampoos, then you might be suffering from Psoriasis of the scalp. This condition needs to be checked by a good dermatologist who can differentiate and give you appropriate treatment. Psoriasis does not respond to anti-dandruff shampoos.

Dandruff can get aggravated by illness, psychological stress, fatigue, change of season and reduced general health or sometimes it’s just always there. It is known to be caused by a fungus, which produces substances that irritate the skin and hence causes flakiness.

What can you do?
1. Medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, used thrice weekly for at least a month and if necessary, indefinitely. You can try Nizaral, 8X, Arcolane or Triatop shampoos. All these are available only in pharmacy.
2. Remember that dandruff can just be controlled and may never go away completely! You need to treat it regularly first by using medicated shampoos 3 times a week and then maintain the effect by using twice or once a week depending on the severity of your dandruff.
3. Applying oils like coconut/olive/almond oils half hour before washing your hair also helps.
4..The medicated shampoo should be used only for cleansing the scalp. If you long hair then use your regular mild shampoo for cleansing the hair and then apply the medicated shampoo for 2 mins and then rinse it off.
5. Please avoid using regular anti-dandruff shampoos (Head and Shoulder, Clean and Clear etc.) as they are too strong and will lead to hair fall if used for prolong period.

Restore the Smoothness and Shine to your Frizzy Hair

Frizzy hair can make hair appear unruly and difficult to manage. For healthy and shiny hair, try the following recommendations.

1. Hair oil:
Yes, our mothers and grannies have always vouched for hair oils, yet we dismiss them. Time to make use of the old tradition to beat dry hair. Oil your hair 30-60 mins before you shampoo them. You can also apply hot towel on oiled hair for better penetration. Oil nourishes and moisturizes the hair. Try the new Dove hair oil or simply good old fashioned coconut or almond oil.
2. Conditioner:
Apply good quality rinse off conditioner after shampoo is washed off. Take care to apply conditioner only on the hair and not scalp as it will make the scalp sticky. Keep conditioner on hair for a good 2-3 minutes. Conditioner replenishes the hair with the moisture lost due to cleansers in the shampoo.
3. Hair Serum:
If your hair feels dry and frizzy even after conditioner, then you can apply hair serum on towel dried hair. Hair serum is non sticky and will help give a glossy effect to hair.
4. Avoid ironing your hair or using hair dryers on high temperature. These techniques only make your hair more dry and frizzy. Instead, use hair dryer at lower temperature just for about 2 minutes and let the hair dry naturally as far as possible. Us heat protection hair spray before drying or styling your hair.
5. Avoid using hair sprays and hair gels. These products are damaging for your hair. If you use hair colour, then you must follow regular oiling of your hair to keep them moisturized.

Simple Hair care tips for Monsoon

The monsoon brings relief from scorching heat and makes weather so pleasant, yet one problem that almost everyone faces is sticky, itchy scalp and dry, frizzy hair. Here is how you can deal with it:

1. Itchy scalp:
Due to excess humidity, the scalp skin, just like your face skin, tends to get sticky.
– Do not oil your hair specially when you step out as this will attract dirt and fungus, leading to dandruff and scalp infections.
– Use a mild shampoo suitable for your hair type. You can shampoo even daily if needed. Gently wash off your scalp in under 2 mins.
– Concentrate on washing the scalp than the hair. The shampoo will run down over your hair and its enough to cleanse your hair.

2. Dry frizzy hair:
Hair tends to absorb water from humid air fast and becomes dry and difficult to manage.
-Apply good quality rinse off conditioner after shampoo is washed off.
-Take care to apply conditioner only on the hair and not scalp as it will make the scalp sticky.
– Keep conditioner on hair for a good 2-3 mins.
– Conditioner replenishes the hair with the moisture lost due to cleansers in the shampoo.
– If your hair feels dry and frizzy even after conditioner, then you can apply hair serum on towel dried hair. Hair serum is non sticky and will help give a glossy effect to hair.