Skin

Cinnamon + Honey Facial Mask

By Camilla

Nothing crazy new or enlightening here: cinnamon and honey are really good for you, inside and out. But while these two pantry staples have been around for ages (literally), I'm constantly surprised and impressed by the science behind why they're so healthy.

I've been giving myself honey and cinnamon facial masks for quite some time. It started a few years ago when money was tight and I didn't have the funds to buy expensive skin care products for my very broken out skin. Knowing that honey had antibacterial and healing properties and that cinnamon was anti-inflammatory, I mixed the two together and spread the sticky stuff on my face and hoped for the best. I was so surprised with the results. I wrote about my skin problems recently, and while I've tried many things, nothing seems to calm my face down as much as this face mask. Of course I need to get to the bottom of why I have acne in the first place, but when I do get bad, painful pimples, this concoction helps immediately. I can feel the inflammation reduce and I can literally feel the wounds start to heal. What's more is that my skin feels soft and soft and clean after this face mask, as if I don't even need a moisturizer (though I always dab some nigella oil on afterwards). And what's so great about these ingredients is that I always have them, they always work, and I can use them often without worrying about any harmful ingredients. So what's the science here?

Let's start with cinnamon, shall we?

Cinnamon is actually the bark of a tree. How cool is that? The reason it's so flavorful and spicy is because it has a very high content of oil, mostly made of cinnamaldehyde (chemical structure to the right because I like science). A study in 2007 demonstrated that cinnamaldehyde and the proanthocyanidins within cinnamon have strong antibacterial properties against several types of bacteria, indicating that these may be able to fight off the bacteria that causes acne. This is pretty great, right? It gets better. Other studies, including this 2008 one, have shown that cinnamon has pretty impressive anti-inflammatory capabilities! Specifically, trans-cinnamaldehyde inhibits the production of nitric oxide which is an important piece of the inflammatory process in our bodies. This would explain why after these facials, I literally feel the inflammation go down and the pain reduce. One last thing — in addition to being antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, cinnamon is also an antioxidant, which can also help with skin issues.

OK, a little more science. Let's talk about honey now. 

Honey is an ancient wonder compound made from the very creatures that help us grow food and keep ourselves fed. First — honey is a humectant. A humectant is a compound that attracts and retains moisture. Yay for our skin! Next, natural enzymatically produced hydrogen peroxide in honey acts as an effective antimicrobial agent. Some honey, like the very powerful Manuka honey, retains its antimicrobial properties even when the hydrogen peroxide is destroyed by heat or catalase. In fact, the antibacterial capacity of honey is so powerful, that it is used to treat wounds that don't respond to conventional treatments, and it has even been effective against MRSA. That blows my mind. So while Manuka honey is the more impressive and effective variety, all raw honey is beneficial. Read more here. Raw honey also contains a lot of antioxidants, which can also help with inflammation and promote wound healing. I truly believe in the power of honey.

So let's see: moisturizing, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidizing properties. Sounds like a dream mixture for problem skin, not to mention an affordable one! And indeed, I have found that it works wonders.

To make this quick and easy facial, mix raw or Manuka honey with ground cinnamon and apply gently to a clean face. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes, while you oil pull (February health challenge! More on this soon) or watch a few of your favorite youtube videos. Wash your face with warm water. Be gentle because the cinnamon works to exfoliate a little bit. Sometimes after this facial, my face feels flushed for about 5 minutes afterwards but a bit of nigella or coconut oil help to calm that right down.

Use leftover cinnamon-honey mixture on toast with butter for a yummy treat, or stir into a cup of hot water for a healthy, sweet tea. I usually keep any extra mixture in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before using it for more facials.

Keepin' It Real: Adult Acne Sucks

By Camilla

Ok. I'm going to get real with you about something that I'm really insecure about: my skin. Mostly on my face. But also on my chest and sometimes back. I am like horrified just typing that out. But it's the damn truth.

I never had acne in my teen years. Maybe a hormonal pimple every now and then, but nothing that made me want to hide my face in a pillow. Once I became an adult, I started getting more and more breakouts, and I can honestly say that there hasn't been a single pimple-free day since I was 20 years old. 

There are worse problems to have in the world and I know that, but this really bums me out. It makes me sad when I look in the mirror. It makes me embarrassed to see people sometimes, because I almost always get a comment wondering if I got attacked by mosquitos or bitten by some awful bug. I am constantly looking at other people's skin and wondering how it must feel to not have gross red painful bumps all over the place. It doesn't help that I have a bad picking habit — likely caused in part by the anxiety I get from my skin — so any small pimple becomes totally exacerbated and probably spreads to create more. It's a habit that I, frankly, can't seem to figure out how to stop, and it becomes a vicious cycle. If there was nothing there to pick, I wouldn't pick at anything. 

So what it comes down to is that while I eat mostly healthy, rarely wear makeup, and generally do my very best to take care of my skin, I still have acne and I can't seem to get rid of it. I've avoided going to the dermatologist for 9 years now for a number of reasons, but primarily, I don't want to be put on any hardcore medicines. I'm hopeful that my fitness journey will have a positive effect, and I'll be trying many things this year to see if I can pinpoint the problem. I'll share some of the things I try and experience here. I'd love your thoughts and opinions if any of you have had similar skin problems.

First skin challenge: no picking my skin for a week. This is going to be harder than it sounds because half the time I don't realize I do it. And I think I even do it in my sleep sometimes. But I'm going to try. Even if it means wearing gloves at all times...