If there are two things that I thought would slow down once I hit 45, it was menstrual cycles and body acne. But nope—my periods still run like clockwork and, it's fairly common for me to get a couple of zits on my back and shoulders once a month. Well, it's common if I'm not proactive in taking measures to make sure that I don't experience any breakouts.
I must admit that eating less dairy, getting more rest and washing with sulfur soap have done wonders to keep pimples at bay. But there are a few other all-natural intricate things that I've added to my skincare regimen that has definitely made it more difficult for acne—and the scars that they typically leave behind—to pop up on any part of my body.
If you've got body acne bouts that have been getting on your very last nerve, here's what you should definitely try out.
1. Make Your Own Soap
Black soap. Sulfur soap. Off top, those are two soaps that I can definitely vouch for when it comes to gently-yet-effectively treating body acne. But something else that I'm a fan of is making my own soap, because I can customize what works for me and what doesn't. An herbal soap recipe that will definitely give your breakouts a run for their money is a soap that contains neem, palm, tea tree and peppermint essential oils.
You can get the recipe here. Just make sure to moisturize your skin after using it with something like shea butter, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil or pure Aloe Vera gel to reduce any risk of inflammation. It's a great recipe but it is also a pretty potent one.
2. Apply an Apple Cider Vinegar Spritz
It really is another article for another time, all of the things that apple cider vinegar can do; one of them is kill the bacteria that causes acne. It's able to do that because of all of the acids that are in it—acetic, citric, lactic and succinic acid. The key is to use the kind of apple cider vinegar that has the mother in it (like Braggs) and dilute it with water (because it's very strong!). Do this by mixing one-part vinegar with three-parts water. I think it's best to put it in a spritz bottle; that way, you can spray it directly onto your skin.
Just make sure to close your eyes when you do (vinegar can burn) and that you do it 30 minutes for going out. That will give the stench of the vinegar time to go away.
3. Heal Scars with Frankincense Essential Oil
I think the thing that I hate the most about body acne is, no matter how well I treat it, some sort of mark is going to be left behind. Ugh. Just ugh. I will say that my skin heals pretty quickly (scars fade within three weeks or so), but that doesn't mean that a well-placed acne scar doesn't sometimes dictate what I will or will not wear.
If that is your dilemma, frankincense oil has got your back (pun intended). Personally, I like the scent of the combination of frankincense and myrrh, so I definitely have no problem applying this to my skin in order to treat acne scars. Matter of fact, I recommend applying the combo. Myrrh will help to detox your skin, and frankincense is able to soften up scar tissue so that it is less obvious. Something else that is cool about frankincense oil is it contains anti-inflammatory properties, is able to increase the growth of new skin cells and it contains a property called farnesol that will improve your skin's elasticity too.
4. Nix Foods That Have a High Glycemic Index (GI) and a High Glycemic Load (GL)
There is a whole science behind this part of the conversation, but probably the best way to put it is there are certain kinds of foods that kick our sebum production (a natural oil in our system and can sometimes clog our pores and cause acne) into overdrive. More sebum, more clogged pores. More clogged pores, more acne.
What kind of foods make the list? Sweet cereals, instant cereals, all-things-white (white pasta, white rice, white bread, white potatoes, etc.) and all-things-dairy too. Also, foods that you are sensitive to that can lead to inflammation should be avoided, along with whey protein and dried fruit because they trigger your insulin levels which can also cause acne.
5. Take Some Milk Thistle
Ever since I was in my 20s, I've had relatives who wanted me to add the supplement milk thistle to my diet. I didn't listen, but I should have because it really has done wonders for the quality of my health. Milk thistle is a flowering plant that is located in Mediterranean countries. For years, people have used it to treat jaundice, hepatitis, reduce cholesterol and insulin resistance, boost immunity and even stop the spread of certain types of cancer.
I use it because it also has a great reputation for detoxifying the liver and promoting skin health. It makes sense how the two work hand in hand because, the less toxins that are in your body, the less acne that tends to pop up. (Milk thistle also contains antioxidant and anti-aging properties as well.)
6. Drink Some Kefir
Kefir is fermented milk; it's kind of like buttermilk. So yeah, it's not necessarily the best-tasting thing in the world. And before you even say that you'll bypass its taste by eating yogurt instead, here's the thing about that—yogurt is fermented bacteria while kefir is fermented bacteria and yeast. Because it contains both, drinking kefir on a consistent basis will keep your blood sugar under control, keep your gut health on track, make you less lactose intolerant, help to heal vaginal and yeast infections and also reduce your breakouts.
On the breakout tip, it does that by healing your stomach and your skin with the probiotic lactoferrin. It works so well that one study reveals that drinking a glass of kefir, on a daily basis, can reduce acne lesions by as much as 39 percent (over a four-month period).
7. Dry Brush (or Use Exfoliating Gloves)
Clogged pores are what lead to breakouts, and one of the main causes of pore blockage are dead skin cells. Since our skin sheds a whopping 30,000 cells a day, due to the sebum and dirt that also sticks to our skin, it's important to exfoliate it too. You can do this by dry brushing (which is also an effective way to reduce the appearance of cellulite) or by putting on those cute exfoliating gloves that you should even be able to find at your local grocery store. Both of these will loosen up the dead skin on your body so that the cells will wash off instead of clogging up your pores.
8. Try Some Cinnamon
There really isn't too much that cinnamon isn't good for. It fights heart disease, reduces inflammation, decreases menstrual discomfort, fights infections and viruses, helps to prevent candida and yep, it's also really good for your skin. Due to the powerful antibiotic and antimicrobial properties found in cinnamon powder and oil (especially if you mix it with a little bit of raw honey), cinnamon can keep rashes, skin allergies and also acne at bay.
The reason why it works so well in the acne department is because it contains properties that are able to kill the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes. Just make a paste out of cinnamon and water or cinnamon water and honey. Apply it directly onto your pimples (it's best if they aren't ones that you have popped; cinnamon is strong and could irritate those), and let the paste sit for 15 minutes. If you do this three times a week, you should see a significant difference within seven days or so.
9. Take Off Your Bra When You Get Home
For the most part, I work from home. Because I wear anywhere from a GG to an H bra (depending on where I buy it), this means that I usually don't have a bra on. This also means that whenever I go out and put one on, there is a part of me that can't wait to get back home, just to take that bad boy off.
Sometimes, depending on what the weather is like outside, I will notice a pimple or two, right in the spots that my bra was covering. I know what's causing it—sweat and my skin's inability to breathe as much as it would like to. This is why it's important to wash your bras (every couple of weeks is fine) using a detergent that has as few chemicals as possible. It's also a good idea to get professionally fitted for a bra on an annual basis (because your shoulder straps should not be digging into your skin, which could also potentially lead to breakouts). And yes, so that your skin can feel free again, take your bra off as soon as you walk through your front door. (Spraying a little witch hazel onto your shoulders and back can't hurt either!)
10. Change Your Sheets Regularly
I'm hoping that you change your bedding every week, just like your mama made you do back when you were little. But if you do happen to skimp on that sometimes, here's a blaring reminder of how important it is to do. 6-8 hours of your life, every night, is spent in bed. This means that some of the dead skin cell shedding that we talked about earlier? Yeah, it happens, right in the midst of you catching some much needed zzz's. By changing your sheets, it helps to keep the cells from clinging to your pores. If you sleep naked, that's even better, because you won't sweat as much; that will reduce your chances for back and shoulder breakouts even more. Sweet dreams!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports