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Flawed Skin: Is There Anything You Can Do?

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Skin Flaws Dark Eye Circles Under-eye

Despite what glossy magazine covers will have you believe, nobody has perfect skin - dark circles, age spots, freckles, enlarged pores, broken capillaries…we all suffer from some of these conditions, especially as we get older and our skin ages.

But is there anything you can do about them, without resorting to invasive surgical techniques? Yes, there are several traditional and "natural" treatments for these skin conditions which may help - here is a round-up of popular skin flaws:

Under-eye circles

This is a very common complaint. Unfortunately, dark circles under the eyes are often genetic (hyper pigmentation), although they are made worse by a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle, lack of sleep, stress and they also worsen with age.

This condition can also be caused by the inflammation of the delicate skin around the eye (such as from vigorous rubbing or from allergies), leading to the delicate capillary network underneath becoming damaged and releasing red blood cells. These in turn contain iron, which becomes a dark pigment deposited into the skin - leading to the appearance of dark circles.

While you can buy many commercial products which claim to erase dark eye circles, few of them really deliver results and in any case, many home-made remedies can be just as effective. In general, to permanently remove under-eye circles, you have to aim for a healthy lifestyle, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and to drink 1.5 - 2L of water a day. However, for some instant methods, try the following:

  • Cucumber - one of the most popular remedies: apply thin slices of cucumber on the dark areas of skin for 5-10mins; not only will this remove dark circles; it will also cool and soothe the eyes. This treatment is also very effective for red, tired eyes after staying up late working, for example. Rinse eyes with cool water following the treatment.
  • Teabags - cold, drained teabags are another popular remedy as they also calm the skin and reduce swelling. The best ones are herbal teabags that contain chamomile, as this is an anti-inflammatory.
  • Teaspoons - a quick simple method: simply place 2 teaspoons in the fridge and when they are cold, lie on your back and lay the teaspoons on your dark circles.

Freckles and other pigmentation

Unfortunately, the only reliable way to avoid freckles and other unsightly pigmentation, such as age spots, is to shield your skin from the sun and to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (of at least SPF15) when you are exposed to sunlight. A predisposition to freckles is genetic although chronic sun exposure will lead to age spots or liver spots and sun exposure together with certain hormones (such as those in the contraceptive Pill) will cause melasma in women - patches of dark pigmentation across the cheeks and nose.

While you cannot completely remove freckles, you can lighten them. There is a host of lightening creams on the market and you can try these for results. Make sure they contain hydroquinone - the essential active ingredient. However, several time-honored "natural" methods may also be as effective:

  • Lemon juice - apply the juice with your fingers, similar to a lotion and avoid the sun directly after application.
  • Sour Milk/Cream - washing your face with sour milk or using a sour cream mask provides a gentle peeling effect from the lactic acid, without irritating or drying your skin.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Masks - made from mashed strawberries, apricots, cucumbers or red currants, do not remove the mask completely but simply wipe gently with a tissue and then apply a non-chemical moisturizer.
  • Parsley - parsley juice, either alone or mixed with lemon juice, orange juice or red currant juice. During treatment, exfoliate your skin daily to allow better penetration of the remedies. And most importantly, remember to always use a UVA-protective sunscreen which contains either zinc oxide or avobenzone - it is the UVA light which triggers the formation of brown spots and pigmentation.

Enlarged pores

While the size of your pores are genetically determined, the effects of aging and hormonal cycles do cause them to spread and enlarge. In particular, the sebaceous glands under our skin grow larger as we age; e.g. in the nose and forehead regions.

Coffee is a good natural remedy for enlarged pores - a mask made from coffee grounds, mixed with egg white and applied to the face via massage will help to clean, purify and minimise pores, as well as remove dead cells. When the mask is dry, remove with warm water and then apply a moisturiser.

Daily exfoliation during treatment is helpful. For commercial products, consult your dermatologist for a product which contains tretinoin. For severe cases, microdermabrasion can help, combined with leave-in lotions that contain salicylic acid and retinol.

Remember, while you can unplug the pore and clear it of oil and debris - thereby minimising the appearance of large pores - you will never really be able to shrink the size of the sebaceous gland underneath.

Broken capillaries /spider veins

The road-map of thin red lines across the cheeks is annoying and unsightly, and is often due to exposure to the elements, sun damage and contact with very hot and cold water. Like freckles, these flaws cannot be easily removed and cosmetic surgery techniques - such as pulsed-eye lasers and sclerotherapy - may be the most effective options.

However, there are some home remedies which can help to lessen these conditions. Apple cider vinegar, for example, is recommended for use on varicose veins, applied neat morning and night. Virgin coconut oil, combined with rose, palmarosa or parsley oil, is believed to be effective in treating broken capillaries.

Cellulite

Treating cellulite is one of greatest obsessions and while marketing and advertising will inundate you with the claims of hundreds of miracle cellulite creams, a home-made natural product can be just as effective. Why? Because most of the commercial anti-cellulite lotions contain caffeine as the main active ingredient and so a paste of warm coffee grounds and olive oil is a good substitute. Prepare the mixture then rub it into the areas of your body affected by cellulite, before rinsing off any excess. Another popular treatment for cellulite is virgin coconut oil mixed with grapefruit or orange oil.

Stretch marks

Again, these flaws can never really be removed although they will fade into tiny white lines with time. However, they can be lessened. Removal is most effective when they are just formed and still reddish in colour. Again, there are sophisticated commercial products specifically claiming to tackle this problem but some simple creams can work just as well. Cocoa butter combined with shea butter and Vitamin E, applied sparingly twice a day over problem areas, will fade the stretch marks over an extended period of time.

Acne scars

Unfortunately, the shallow "craters" which are the result of acne cannot really be treated effectively by home methods and your best bet is to consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Remember, true beauty lies in our individual asymmetries and imperfections. However, to prevent common skin flaws - here are a few final tips you can follow:

  • Wear high-SPF sun-screen every day - nothing ages you and causes blemished faster.
  • Never smoke and minimise your alcohol
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle - diet and exercise.

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