Milia, and KP, and burns…oh my!

Ok, I know we were on schedule to talk about serums and elixirs today – and then someone asked me about milia bumps. These little bits of keratin deserve some attention here because they are confusing and concerning if you’ve never had them and all of a sudden you do.

Milia are small dome shaped bumps of keratin. They can occur in all ethnicities, genders, and ages of people. The majority of the time they are not painful, though they can make up for that in annoyance factor. Sometimes friction from rough clothing or bedding can cause them to appear red and irritated. The bump itself is made of an excess of keratin that has accumulated under the skin’s epidermis. In a nutshell these are an accumulation of dead skin cells that did not get sloughed off (naturally or mechanically) and which became engulfed and grown over by lower layers of skin due to a variety of factors (keep reading!) This creates a little pocket of cells which can feel rough and scaly if the epidermal layer is thin, or smooth and like rash bumps if the epidermal layer is thicker. Most are very tiny, being more of a tactile sensation of unevenness than a visual one.

There are 2 types of milia: 1) Primary milia: the trapped keratin described above, and 2) Secondary milia: these look like primary milia and they develop after a duct in the skin becomes clogged after injury (burns being the most likely source of said injury). Keratosis pilaris (KP) is similar in appearance to milia but is the result of keratin building up around hair inside the hair follicle. It can be responsible for the condition commonly known as ingrown hair.

Milia on adult face
Keratosis pilaris on adult arm

It’s worth mentioning too that Milia have nothing to do with acne, and are not part of the immune response – they really are just skin cells temporarily in the wrong place. Causes for how they got there are varied though a lot of reasons consist of environmental damage:

  • blistering injuries and skin diseases (poison ivy/poison oak/porphyria cutanea tarda/herpes)
  • burns (sun/chemical/heat)
  • long term use of steroid containing creams
  • using comedogenic (skin clogging) creams & oils on very thin skin
  • skin resurfacing procedures such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing
  • lifestyle (lack of sleep/smoking/poor hygiene)
  • aging

Please keep in mind that we are chatting about adult milia. There are a lot of scare-tactic articles on juvenile milia and different causes for juvenile types of milia that will probably freak you out a good deal if you’re a parent looking at milia on your child. Remember not to chase zebras though – most milia (adult and juvenile) have nothing to do with basal carcinomas, or lupus and the majority are going to have a fairly short and transitory span of time that they exist.

The exception to milia being fairly short-term and transitory in nature are those milia that are caused by liquid paraffins/petroleum derivatives (mineral oil is one) or those milia that are caused by self-induced chemical burns. There is a LOT of lotion that has petroleum products in their formulation. Read your labels!! Additionally, some people love hot wax treatments for their hands as part of a manicure, or warm oil massage candles. My advise is to use an organic massage candle which does not contain any paraffin ingredients and which are applied at a temperature not more than 10 degrees above body temp. Your skin will thank you.

Tip: The FDA does not require candles to have ingredients listed, even if they’re going on your skin. Any reputable maker can and should provide this information up front, and definitely not hedge if you ask them what their candles are made of. Our ingredients are disclosed and they are paraffin free and made of oils and butters that are good for your skin, too.

I’m going to step aside for just a moment to talking about self-induced first, second, and third degree chemical burns of the face. Some people do them quite frequently and think they are minimizing the chance for milia (or even treating them) when just the opposite is happening. Self-induced first, second, and third degree chemical burns of the face, aka Chemical Peels, aka Radiance Masks, aka Resurfacing products, etc., are an invasive method of removing complete layers of skin. Peels are designated light, medium, and deep (depending on how much of your skin you wish to destroy at one time.)

Illustration of skin layers

Light chemical peels remove the epidermis and cause reddening and peeling lasting for about a week. This peel can be performed by an aesthetician. It is “recommended” to burn the epidermis off once a month for best results. Cost is about $250 each time. Remember from our previous chat that the epidermis renews itself in 30 days, so following this timeline an individual would be continually burning off their newly formed epidermis each month. Remember that that tight feeling is not healthy skin, it’s damaged skin. The individual would be better off (have healthier skin) with a penetrating humectant, and a sugar scrub a couple times a week.

Medium chemical peels must be done in a medical office with doctor supervision. The entire epidermis, the papillary region of the dermis and half of the reticular region of the dermis are removed. Recovery usually takes several weeks and there is active shedding of skin bits for about 7 days. Burning the skin in this manner costs about $2K and it is recommended to wait a year before returning for another round.

Deep peels are performed in a surgical setting with the patient under general anesthesia (completely “out”.) Only a physician can perform a deep chemical peel. There are serious side affects such as permanent skin discoloration (bleached look and a definite line of demarkation) as well as dangerous heart arrythmias that can occur during this procedure. The epidermis, dermis, and most of the subdermal tissue are removed and the skin oozes and scabs. This is an induced third degree chemical burn leaving only a few cell layers of skin behind. In some cases scabbing and scarring will involve the underlying muscle tissue as well. Healing continues well into three months post-surgery and it is recommended (by practitioners) to never have a second procedure of this sort in one’s lifetime. Deep peeling will run about $6K.

Chemical burn from medium peel

Anyone who thinks I’m being overly critical or dramatic is invited to Google “chemical peel gone wrong”, and click over to the Images tab. There are lots of people waiting to share their cautionary tales with you.

Ok, back to milia….aging poses some unique problems as it is out of our control for the most part. The majority of people I’ve spoken with who underwent the above type of burning peels have shared with me that the results did not rewind their clock to the degree they expected once the skin healed and most agreed that their skin never behaved “normally” afterwards either. There are some things we can do about milia though and that’s what we’re going to spend the rest of our time chatting about.

It’s important to not address milia or KP in an aggressive manner. It might sound like grabbing a loofah and scrubbing away is a great idea, but that can trigger skin to make even more of the protein that’s causing the milia in the first place. My personal method of handling milia is a steamy shower to get the skin as receptive as possible, then a brown sugar scrub (see my previous Blog Post ) Remember that sugar naturally contains a small amount of glycolic acid and can help your skin attain a gently exfoliated state. Moisturizing with lotion is also going to be your friend when it comes to getting rid of your keratin bumps.

Most of the time milia will go away on its own, even without brown sugar scrub and lotion, but those couple of months can seem like an eternity. There are physician office treatments such as cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen), deroofing (picking the keratin out with a sterile needle), laser ablation, diathermy (destroying the keratin and surrounding cells with extreme heat), electrodessication (burning through the epidermis to torch the keratin with electricity), and destruction curettage (surgical scraping and cauterizing with heat). Each individual will have a different view on these procedures and thus value their effectiveness after weighing the process vs the outcome and effect on one’s skin.

Thorough cleansing and removing makeup before bed is the number one step cited as ways to preventing milia from forming again. That brown sugar facial scrub as a manual exfoliant is also very important to keep skin cell build up at bay. Choose an eye product that penetrates effectively, avoid comedogenic oil bases, and limit sun exposure to give your skin a preventative boost, too.

I hope you are enjoying this series on skin and the products effective in its care. Next week we’ll do our dive into toners, serums, and elixirs. Thanks for hanging out with me!

Discover #greenbeauty #cleanbeauty skincare at Cats Paw Farm.

Is Your Acne Treatment Making Your Skin Worse?

Now that we’ve chatted a bit about the layers that make up skin, and how thin this layer is, it is easy to consider just how crucial it is that skin is not damaged during the most important step in skincare – cleansing. Many cleansers, particularly those that foam, are designed to strip oils from the skin. While this can feel wonderful at first, especially if you have an oily skin type, stripping the beneficial oils from your face leaves a telltale tight, uncomfortable feeling. There are also ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and alcohol that can be harsh and damaging to skin. That all of these ingredients are approved for use in skin care does not mean they are good for skin, only that the FDA does not object to their use. Read the ingredients on your cleanser and avoid products containing synthetic ingredients which are not supportive of good skin health.

Because oil is created by the skin, an entire industry has risen blaming any and all skin oil for every malady of the skin – especially acne. However in most cases there is a lifestyle component. For Example: Acne is not the result of oily skin. Most times it is a hormonal condition driven by androgen combining with surface bacteria and fatty acids that are naturally occurring that create pimples and blemishes. This is why most acne cases are typically a condition of teens, in women about a week before menstruation, and person’s under stressful situations.

Milk, alcohol, and high-glycemic foods cause increases in insulin, which controls blood glucose levels, and studies show that insulin influences skin to over produce sebum. There are ingredients commonly used in commercial makeup, hair care, and skin care that have been linked to acne. Sulfates are common in commercial shampoos and commercial detergent bars (I can’t call them soap as they’re just a pressed bar of synthetic ingredients) and are hidden in products using hundreds of different names. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to cystic acne. In addition there are medications that cause breakouts, and genetics do play a part as well as specific medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Bottom line is that acne is not all about the oil on your skin.

A vicious cycle that many commercial acne treatments create:

  • An acne breakout occurs (actual cause unknown and doesn’t matter.)
  • Commercial acne “treatment” excessively dries out the skin to combat the acne, sometimes chemically damaging the skin in the process.
  • Skin attempts to regain oil balance by producing oil to lubricate, protect, and heal itself.
  • Acne persists – because at no point was the cause of the acne (diet, chemicals, lack of sunlight, hormones) addressed. This acne will persist and most likely will become worse.

One day I hope that a marketing campaign will advocate a good diet, exercise, and non-synthetic treatments as the best acne treatment though there are some of the largest conglomerates in the world with an interest in continuing to tell acne suffers that they need to get rid of skin oil.

Now that we have a handle on acne, let’s take a look at how to cleanse skin effectively and gently. It is my hope to foster a sense of working with one’s skin rather than against it. There are a myriad of facial cleansing product categories. Several are viable alternatives to harsh cleansers, and others masquerade as gentle while only being a harsh cleaner in the disguise of pretty packaging and misleading marketing. Here are the gentle and effective alternate cleanser categories…

Oil Cleansing
Oil cleansing is the most gentle form of facial cleansing available. Oil Cleansing may sound counter intuitive, but don’t be afraid of applying oil to your face. Oil by itself does not create blemishes. Those are caused by many factors such as skin’s own sebum combining with dead skin cells, bacteria, hormones-and in conjunction with each other these factors lead to pimples, blackheads, cysts and other blemishes. Oil cleansing dissolves these hardened impurities from your pores.

While there are oils that will clog pores, Oil Cleansing (OCM) uses non-comedogenic oils (non pore clogging) and warm moisture to soften sebum and the impurities contained within, combines with it, and moves it to the surface of skin to be wiped away. The principle of this method lies in like attracting like. Because skin’s natural oil excess is being naturally removed, skin is allowed to return to its own natural production.

OCM for Acne Skin
OCM for Mature Skin
OCM for Oily Skin

Cats Paw Farm has a full line of skin-type specific OCM products. I’ll be happy to work with you and help you determine the right one for your facial cleansing.

Cream Cleansing
Do you remember Cold Cream? While towards the end of its popularity there were some questionable ingredients slipping into the formulation (petroleum products to be specific), the cold cream of the mid twentieth century was petroleum free. Cream cleansing is very similar to oil cleansing but care must be taken to ascertain noncomedogenic ingredients as there is no warmth used during this type of cleansing to integrate sebum containing impurities with the cleansing. I find cream cleansing to be a great makeup removing step if followed by a step more suited to removing both the cream cleanser and skin impurities. Look to cream cleansers for a surface cleanse, but not to remove trapped dirt.

Clay Cleansing
These cleansers (obviously) contain clay and are renowned for their detoxifying benefits (similar to clay masks.) They can draw out surface particles and impurities from pores but can also absorb too much oil as well. They’re best used infrequently.

Micellar Water Cleansing aka No Rinse Cleansing
Micellars are the lightest form of facial cleansing and can be rather deceptive. Their look and texture is very like plain water though they are created with micelles, tiny molecules of oil that remove dirt. Micellars are usually applied with a cotton pad or ball and do not require rinsing. They’re a great multi-purpose product which can provide light cleaning, remove makeup, cleanse and tone skin.

Cats Paw Farm Micellar Waters are available in a variety of formulas and all are organic.

Lavender Micellar
Sandalwood Micellar
Peppermint Micellar

Facial Bar Soap
Bar Soap designed for facial use is formulated differently than body soap. Facial bars contain more moisturizing and nourishing ingredients and are designed to balance pH levels. If you’re not ready to move away from soap, my suggestion is to go for a soap formulated specifically for facial needs. Cats Paw Farm crafts many facial specific bars and I can help direct you to choices that are right for you.

Charcoal & Rose Clay
Witch Hazel & Thyme

Additional types of cleansers are available, though they utilize a variety of synthetic ingredients which are harsh and create damage to the skin’s oil balance (even when they masquerade as “new”, “trending”, etc) often causing more problems to the skin than they purport to remedy: Gel cleaners, Foam cleansers, Powder cleansers, and Cleansing wipes.

I hope you are enjoying this series on skin and the products effective in its care. Next week we’ll delve into toners, serums, and elixirs. Thanks for hanging out with me!

Discover #greenbeauty #cleanbeauty skincare at Cats Paw Farm.