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For Feet First

Why cooking is a good hobby for my health

by Terry  

Like any pleasurable thing that you want to keep on doing and have no plan of discontinuing in the future (sounds like addiction defined to me), I sometimes find a need to justify why I should continue cooking as a hobby. 

There is a slight guilt to it, I guess, especially when my cooking takes on the shades of decadent tastefulness to sinful indulgence. I wake up heavy some mornings, with too much carb and protein eaten over dinner. Then I worry, too, when my kid starts preferring cheeses, and meats, and dairy. I can’t blame them, if you ask me!

Hence, I need to convince myself that cooking is not at fault here. Here are reasons why cooking shouldn’t be faulted over expanding waistlines, kids’ picky taste buds, and budget going overboard. Honestly, gourmet food ingredients don’t come cheap; and we haven’t even mentioned organic yet. But that’s quite another issue; so again, here are the reasons why I shouldn’t give up on cooking:

1. Even when it’s making an impact to the budget, cooking your own fare is definitely way much cheaper than buying already cooked or dining out.

2. With discipline, you can control the amount of salts and sodium, altogether eliminate offending additives, and substitute ingredients for healthier fare. Okay, underscore “with discipline.”

3. Cooking has a uniting effect to the family. It brings you closer to each other. Whoever said that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I think he was also talking about families. And that’s not just the core or immediate family; it also works for the extended family. They are easier gathered when they hear I’m cooking (sounds like there’s no modesty there).

4. Cooking is a sweet quieting time -- until I start banging on pots and pans or scratch my best nonstick cookware. If you ruin them, the Cookware Nation has pretty good reviews of the best nonstick cookware and the best ceramic cookware, as well. You'll find it easy to pick out a new ceramic cookware set after reading reviews

I am a lone cook, much like Mom, I guess. I think my son would have to grope in the dark about cooking not unlike what I did years ago, because he can’t learn from me. I love to cook on my own, and he finds pleasure romping outdoors (Except when he chases the pets to the kitchen and around the kitchen island; of course, that’s when I yell). 

5. Cooking opens other interests – gardening, for instance. We have also incorporated our love of food and (my) cooking with travelling. It is a great bonding time to visit places, try their food, second-guessing how they are prepared, and replicate them in my kitchen.

I can actually go on and on with the reasons; it will be endless. I will be more healthful and attentive to the calories, taper the fats and sugar, and be less indulgent in the choice of ingredients. But cooking isn’t something I am about to give up. Unless everyone agrees we all give up on eating, too. 

What Can Organic Food Do For Your Health

by Terry  

You’ve seen organic products take a significant part of the food market share. At first, it looked like a fad, but now we see that there is a real demand for it and more people find benefit in converting their junk consumption to organic food diets. 

What do organic food products do for you? 

Here’s what:

1. They reduce your exposure to pesticides and potential cancer-causing toxins. 

Conventional farming practices introduce huge amounts of contaminants and toxic materials into your food. Organic products reduce exposure to the following agents: 

Chemical-based farm inputs – commercially grown food products had been amply applied and sprayed with chemical fertilizers to ensure growth and yield, synthetic insecticides to protect from pests, chemical herbicides to reduce weeds, animal antibiotics to treat diseases and plant hormones to stimulate growth. A large part of these inputs had been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as potential carcinogenic agents.

Heavy metals – machinery used to package and process commercially produced food are also exposed to cadmium, lead and mercury. Cadmium is a lead agent that causes cancers in the lung, prostate and testicles. Lead and mercury residues, which are high in canned food, are associated with impaired hearing, nerve functions and hemoglobin production. 

Solvents – benzene and toluene are used to produce additives and to dissolve components of food in processing. Excessive exposure to these elements is associated with many forms of cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Constant exposure, as when we habitually consume food containing solvents, will increase our risk to these health hazards and lower the body’s natural immunity against diseases.

 2. They increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.

While it has often been debated upon, organic food products are generally richer in nutrients than their commercially produced counterparts. Certified organic foods on the average have 15% higher nutritional value. Nutritional content will vary with the quality of soil, plant material and farming practices, so even organic foods will differ from one agricultural area to another. 

3. They help your planet become healthy.

A healthy Earth makes for healthy earthlings, and farming organically means farming in a way that benefits the earth. That means sustaining this planet so that it will continue to be beneficial, not only to this generation but the future generations as well. The conventional and commercial way of growing foods (both plants and animals) had been very harmful to the environment. Synthetic inputs have hurt and polluted the planet. 

A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group in 1996 showed that pesticide residues found their way, not only into food and the soil but also into the tap water across the US.   

Commercial agriculture has also significantly polluted the air we breathe and contributed to global warming. It adds to carbon emissions in the production and transportation of synthetic farm inputs. 

Organic farming self-contains its activities, conserves the soil and water, reduces pollution, introduces biological diversity and balance of the species, and lessens man’s impact on the planet. 

How does organic farming achieve this? 

The organic way of farming adheres to USDA-approved methods of agriculture. Among many things, they use the following:

1. Natural fertilizers – only natural fertilizers are applied as input to the agricultural production. Manure or compost is used to fertilize and spur the growth of crops, fruits and vegetables. Animals are fed on pesticide-free feeds only. 

2.  Natural pesticides, medicines and methods – pests and diseases are reduced using beneficial insects and animals. Traps and disruption of mating are also used as some of the methods.

3. Manage weeds naturally – weeds are uprooted manually in small farms. Mulching, crop-rotating, and tilling are also some of the methods. The methods are more labor-intensive, but they also remove the harm done by synthetic weed-killers.

4. Prevent diseases in animals by allowing them regular access to the outdoor, keeping their housing clean and sanitized at all times, and adopting rotational grazing. Feed them with organic food.

Check the label of the food you buy and make sure you know what you’re getting. A food product that is completely organic bears the USDA seal and the 100% organic label. These are usually single-ingredient products, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs; although these can also be products made of multiple ingredients, all of which are organic. If the label says “organic” only 95% of its ingredients are organic and 5% of the ingredients are un-organic. The label that says “made with organic ingredients” means only 70% of its ingredients are from organic sources.

Next time you go to the supermarket, bring your glasses and read the labels. 

How to Tell If You Have a Healthy Weight

by Terry  

The more obese a person is, the higher risk he or she has for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gallstones, and some forms of cancers. It would be to your advantage to be able to say whether you are approaching the border of being overweight or if you are already obese. 

Unfortunately, the mirror doesn’t always tell if you are obese or not, because the eyes could be subjective.

You could go to a medical clinic, where information given will be objective. These health professionals spent years of their education learning about health. Think about the tiring process of how many years it takes to become a registered nurse. After that much education in nursing school, do you think they would steer you wrong with subjectivity?

If you are unwilling to go to a clinic, there are several ways to tell obesity or unhealthy weight with more objectivity by yourself. Measurement of any or combinations of the following are used to make objective interpretations: age, height, weight, bone density, waist circumference, hip circumference, and muscle fat.

 

Photo credit: UrbaneWomenMag at http://www.flickr.com/photos/88092208@N06/9243899595 | CC BY 2.0

Here are different methods which are useful for determining your healthiest proportions:

1. The Body Mass Index (BMI)

This method is most commonly used in determining the ideal body weight because of its relative simplicity. It takes into consideration your weight relative to your height.

It is computed using the formula below.

BMI metric units = weight in kilograms / (height in meters)2

Start making sure that your weight and height are in metric units as stated in the formula. Divide your weight with the square of your height. For instance, if you weigh 80 kilograms and stand 1.8 meters, using the calculator you solve first for the square of 1.8:

1.8 x 1.8 = 3.24 (this is the same as 1.82)

Solving for the BMI in metric units:

80 divided by 3.24 = 24.69

Therefore, the BMI metric units = 24.69

The resulting BMI is interpreted as follows:

  • Below 18.5 - underweight
  • 18.5 to 25 - ideal
  • 25 to 30 - overweight
  • Above 30 - obese

2. The Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR)

Health experts say that the BMI is rather too simplistic a tool to accurately predict unhealthy conditions. Hence, another method can be used with it. It is the WHR which measures the circumference of the waist and the hips, both in inches.

The formula is:

WHR = waistline in inches / Hip circumference in inches

Measure the waistline along the narrowest waist circumference and the hip along the widest circumference. For example, a woman with a waistline of 32 and a hip circumference of 42 will have a WHR of:

WHR = 32/42 = 0.76

The resulting WHR is interpreted in relation to the level of risk for cardiovascular health problems, hypertension, and diabetes, as follows:

For Women

  • Below 0.8 - low risk 
  • 0.8 to 0.89 - moderate risk
  • 0.9 and above – high risk

For Men

  • Below 0.9 - low risk
  • 0.9 to 0.99 - moderate risk
  • 1and above - high risk

3. Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR)

Another tool for health screening is the WHtR method which states that the ideal waist circumference is less than half the height of a person. This method reliably predicts risks for heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.

This only implies that you keep your waistline trim – at around half of your height. If you are 5’4’’ tall (64 inches), then you have to keep your waistline at less than 32 inches. The waist circumference measures the abdominal fat accumulated and too much of this visceral fat is harmful to the heart, kidneys and the liver. For those working out to control their weight, the WHtR is very simple to remember: Your height divided by 2 should be the maximum circumference of your waist. Use the same units of measurement for the height and waist, meaning, all measurements must be in the same units. If you use inches to measure the waistline, then use inches as well for the height.

4. Body Fat Percentage

Doctors and most high-tech health gyms have devices that measure the body fat, such as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, bioelectrical impedance analysis, and near-infrared interactance. Experts believe that measuring the body fat is the true measure of a person’s healthy body fat composition. The body fat percentage is computed by dividing the body fat by the total weight. Acceptable body fat percentages are:

  • Men: 18% to 25%
  • Women: 25% to 31%

Beyond the maximum limits of 25% for men and 31% for women, a person can be either overweight or obese.

There are more sophisticated ways available today, such as the body fat percentage method, for weight-conscious people. The first three basic methods mentioned, however, are the quickest ways to tell if you have a problem with your weight or not. They are available to you at your home right away, with only a body measuring tape or a bathroom weighing scale, and must not be eliminated because of their simplicity.

These methods are a good start for you on your way to good health and better lifestyle.

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/ 
http://differentmedicalcareers.com/how-long-is-nursing-school/
http://differentmedicalcareers.com/how-many-years-does-it-take-to-become-a-nurse/ 

What You Need to Know about Micro-sleeping

by Terry  

Micro-sleeping has occurred to most of us, whether we are aware of it or not. And it is not a big thing if it happens while you are reading a newspaper and then nod briefly to a state of non-awareness. If it happens while you are driving, though, then the consequence will be quite grave. Why does this fleeting snoozing happen? Here are some interesting things about micro-sleeping that you need to know.

1. How long is a micro-sleep?

A micro-sleep is brief. Its duration runs from around a second to a few minutes. You may even slip in and out of micro-sleep without being aware of it. It looks more of an episode of unresponsiveness and loss of attention rather than a real sleep. Another way to describe it is a tired brain region’s way of taking a nap.

2. What causes it?

When a person is deprived of sleep or experiences extreme exhaustion, depression, narcolepsy, and idiopathic hypersomnia, he or she may drift into a micro-sleep without warning or intention.Several regions of the brain, such as vision and coordination, undergo localized sleep in a micro-sleep. During this episode, the other regions remain active.

Drivers suffer a type of micro-sleep, also called “highway hypnosis,” when the monotony of the road sends them into a sleepy state. Micro-sleep was observed even in young people. Teens, for instance, often lack sleep due to their late sleeping tendencies and early school classes. This poses a hazard when they are behind the wheel and have accumulated sleep debt. When persons with sleep disorders and sleep debt perform monotonous tasks, they are highly at risk.

3. What are the dangers of micro-sleep?

Many accidents on the road and at work were results of micro-sleeps. There are times at work when you suddenly jerk your head to consciousness and you realize that you’ve been briefly sleeping. That’s fine if you are simply catching up on the files on your table. But if you are responsible for the airport control tower or if you are an engineer of a passenger train, micro-sleep can have fatal and disastrous results.

4. How do you know if a person is having an episode of micro-sleep?

Be wary when you observe your driver staring with a fixed but droopy gaze, closing the eyelids in slow motion instead of quick blinks, and nodding the head. What follows will be the inability to respond when you ask something or when there are sudden changes on the road, such as curves or cars approaching. But then that would be too late; it would be better to nudge the driver on the first telltale signs and suggest that he pull to the side for a brief rest.
There are ways to confirm a habitual micro-sleeping tendency.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings show brain wave patterns and measure electrical activities of the brain. These recordings will quantify the alpha to theta waves that occur in the brain activity. A prevalence of theta waves indicates micro-sleep. The EEG will show in persons with micro-sleeping tendencies that some nerve cells of the brain “take a nap” even when the other regions are awake and active. This will impair that person’s ability to perform a job that requires alertness.

5. What can be done to avoid the hazards of micro-sleep?

Micro-sleep reduces one’s ability to respond to critical situations; and while only few of us monitor and control air traffic or drive a metro locomotive, most of us drive cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that around 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries of the vehicular accidents yearly were due to drowsy driving.

To be on the safe side, you must make sure that you have adequate sleep and rest especially if you drive on a daily basis. Address fatigue, lack of sleep and other sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. Control the daily rush; you may start early to avoid the urge to drive in haste. Critical jobs, such as air traffic controllers, school bus drivers, emergency hospital professionals, and train engineers, must have proper shifts that take into consideration the human need to rest and restore itself through sleep.

Lawmakers and policy-makers responsible for regulation must look into work conditions, treatment opportunities for workers with sleep disorders, policies governing shifts, mandatory rest intervals, and measures to ensure that sleepiness during critical shifts are avoided.

Your daily activities may require you to extend your working hours, rush home, do more domestic chores, cut on sleep and rest, and then rush to work again the next day. It’s a cycle that accumulates sleep debt every day. You have to slow down and start paying that debt now. Or micro-sleep will creep in at the most unexpected situation and make you pay dearly for it.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/epsos/6749663099

5 Things to Remember to Help Prevent Alzheimer's

by Terry  

Reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. The health of your brain significantly dictates how fit you will be in the years ahead. Can dementia or Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Genetics and aging are the main factors that increase your likelihood of acquiring the disease. Both risk factors are things you can’t help. However, a healthy brain and a healthy lifestyle may contribute to a delayed or milder onset of the said conditions.

The brain, like other parts of your body, will lose its agility and sharpness as you age. But without proper care, it runs the risk of deteriorating fast. Caring for the brain and preventing Alzheimer’s disease may involve making brain-healthy life choices. Here are some ways to help prevent it, or delay if preventing were not possible.

1. Be physically fit

Blood flow to the brain is maintained with physical exercise. This is necessary to generate new brain cells. A good blood flow reduces major illnesses such as stroke, diabetes, and heart attack which are risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Being physically active does not require strenuous activities. They can involve regular gardening, riding a bicycle, aerobic exercise, walking and tai-chi. These simple activities, if undertaken every day for at least 30 minutes will pump the heart and increase oxygen intake. These combined effects benefit the brain and improve its functions.

2. Eat healthy

Adopt a healthy diet that is low in fat and cholesterol, and rich in dark fruits and vegetables. What is good for the brain is also good for the other parts of body. The brain, like the rest of the body, needs a well-balanced diet to function at its optimum level. Enrich your diet with spinach, broccoli, pomegranates, blueberries, seeds and flax high in omega-3 oils. Get enough antioxidants, such as green tea and vitamins C and E, to ward off free radicals.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase the risk for the many forms of dementia. Therefore, avoid foods high in trans fats and saturated fats. Instead, use polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Bake or grill your food, avoid frying if possible. Take docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplement. This boosts brain health and reduces plaque buildup which is associated with high incidence of Alzheimer’s.

3. Have a social life

Enjoy the company of other people. Social connections reduce stress and strengthen brain connections, too. Engaging in social interactions keeps the brain alive and animated. Social interactions can take place in cultural, sports, and personal encounters. Persons who have strong emotional support appear to have lower risk of Alzheimer’s than those who live alone.

4. Stimulate the mind

Mental stimulations are believed to strengthen brain cells, reinforce connections, and even create new brain cells. Low level of education is often associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s. This could be attributed to lower level of mental stimulation. If mental activities are increased or introduced to one’s lifestyle, regardless of educational attainment, this could have a protective effect against Alzheimer.

Find things to do that challenge the mind - every single day. Learn a new language. Travel to a place you’ve never been to before. Memorize the phone numbers of your family members. Solve a puzzle. Learn a musical instrument. Write your autobiography. Remember all the names of your classmates in your grade school graduating class picture. Try writing or reading backwards. Put your watch on the wrong wrist, for example your right wrist instead of left. This will exercise some parts of the brain which are seldom used.

5. Stress Less

Stress produces brain-damaging hormones, called cortisol, and wears away the mind’s healthy brain functions. Do mind relaxations, meditation, yoga, and relaxing hobbies to manage stress. Here’s one technique to bust brain dysfunction due to stress. Go to your quiet place, and loosen your clothes, belt, and footwear. Inhale for 7 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for another 7 seconds. Repeat 7 times to lower cortisol levels. Do this technique 3 times a day or whenever you feel stressed out.

Do yourself a favor, start now to protect yourself from the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. It does not require you to make mind-boggling changes in your life. It only requires you to incorporate important changes to your lifestyle, which can be fun and healthy. Start with a short and leisurely walk. The next day, memorize the streets that you pass by, or the surnames of your neighbors. Have a breakfast of nuts, leafy greens, and wild blueberries. No sooner you’d be challenging yourself to Sudoku.

Remember always, though, that all the pointers given above work best if combined together than if applied singularly. This means that you shouldn’t depend on a healthy diet while living a life in the fast lane. The secret is simple: follow a healthy food regimen, exercise regularly, keep the mind working, lower the stress and socialize. Now don’t forget these little secrets.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04

Hypothyroidism

by Terry  

I've been in research mode for a while. One thing I've been researching is hypothyrodism. Because I don't want my research to go to waste, I've written this as a record for me.

What is hypothyroidism?

The prefix "hypo" means below. The root word "thyroid" refers to a gland below your voice box, in the front of your neck.

The thyroid releases hormones that regulate and control your metabolism. The suffix "ism" means related to a condition. When we combine the parts, we learn the word relates to a condition of the thyroid organ not producing enough thyroid hormone.

The thyroid produces two main types of hormones, including T4 and T3 -- both of which affect almost every tissue in the body.

If we are producing the right amount of T3 and T4, our body is operating efficiently and don't notice any signs or symptoms of a problem. When we have an under active thyroid, we may start to notice subtle changes.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism

Those changes can include constipation, hard stools, becoming more sensitive to cold, fatigue and weakness, muscle or joint pain, pale or dry skin, sadness -- even depression -- hair or fingernails becoming brittle or thin, weight gain, a decreased sense of taste and smell, hoarseness, puffy face, hands and feet; skin becoming thicker, eyebrows thinning.

Testing for hypothyroidism

A doctor will do a physical examination of your body. This will include inspection, palpation, auscultation, and percussion. Although this sounds complex, it boils down to: looking over the body, feeling the body with fingers or hands for any abnormalities, listening to the sounds the organs make, and tapping on areas of the body. During the exam, the doctor may notice the brittle nails, thinning hair, swollen arms and legs, pale or dry skin and coarse features of the face.

But if a a physician suspects a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, he or she may order a laboratory test to confirm an under active thyroid.

The labs will test thyroid function with a TSH test, T3 test, and/or T4 test. These labs involve a small amount of blood to be drawn and will be measured for the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone in your blood and amount of T3 and T4 hormone, as well.

The labs provide an accurate diagnosis because you will be able to tell by the value of each of these hormones in your blood.

Your doctor may also do cholesterol level tests, complete blood counts, liver enzyme tests, prolactin and sodium tests, too.

TSH, T3, and T4 values

The normal range for a TSH test are from 0.4 to 4.0 milli-international units per liter, and this range varies depending on your symptoms, other thyroid lab tests, and if you are currently being treated for a thyroid problem.

If you have a higher than normal TSH level, you may be diagnosed with an under active thyroid -- also known as hypothyroidism.

But you may not notice any signs or symptoms of an under active thyroid, which happens when your TSH level goes above 3.5 mlU/L buy the T4 test stays normal. This is what is called borderline hypothyroidism -- more commonly referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism.

A T3 test has a normal range value of 100 to 200 nanograms per deciliter. A lower than normal level does can be from many different factors, including a short or long term illness, swelling or inflammation of the thyroid, starvation, or an under active thyroid gland.

A T4 test has a normal range value of 4.5 to 11.2 micrograms per deciliter. When T4 is lower than normal, the cause can be an under active thyroid, illness, malnutrition or fasting, and the result of certain meds.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

According to the National Library of Medicine, hypothyroidism is treated with medication such as Levothyroxine. Because the thyroid regulates hormones, if you have an under active organ, you may need to take these type of medications for life.

After being on medication, you should start to feel less fatigued and have an increased metabolic rate, which can help you lose weight.

WebMD lists that there are alternative medicine options available. Those include natural extracts from pig thyroid glands that contain thyroxine and triiodothyronine.

Borderline hypothyroidism

If you are diagnosed with subclinical or borderline hypothyroidism -- a slightly elevated TSH levels, with normal thyroxine levels, and mild or no symptoms -- you may not need medication. Some doctors would rather monitor your values. As you may expect, there is considerable debate about the medication vs. no medication route in the medical community.

Many doctors don't want to add medication, which has side effects, to a patient who has no symptoms. The risks of medication may outweigh the value of the treatment and potentially cause over treatment -- i.e., a patient could end up having hyperthyroidism.

Before a physicians decides to treat, he/she takes into account other factors:

High total or LDL cholesterol levels Blood tests that show auto-antibodies indicating a future risk for Hashimoto's thyroiditis or other forms of other autoimmune hypothyroidism Blood tests that show TSH levels greater than 10 mU/L Goiter Pregnancy Female infertility associated with subclinical hypothyroidism

Although treatment is optional in many cases of borderline hypothyroidism for folks who have no symptoms and normal cholesterol levels, some physicians will treat to make sure that the patient won't progress into hypothyroidism and develop a heart disease -- not to mention increase a patient's well-being.

Hypothyroidism diet?

Although doctors will say there is no hypothyroidism diet, your diet does influence your cholesterol levels. This means that if you have high total or LDL cholesterol levels and symptoms of mild hypothyroidism, it is possible you could be on medication. However, if you could eat right and bring the cholesterol levels to normal, it is possible a doctor may not treat you. This is especially true if you are a borderline hypothyroidism patient.

Sources: Hypothyroidism on PubMed Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001393/#adam_000353.disease.causes Source: http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/how_hypothyroidism_treated_000038_7.htm#ixzz2QujM78g1 Follow us: @UMMC on Twitter | MedCenter on Facebook

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

by Terry  

Blackheads do not look as ghastly as angry-looking pimples. They are not as glaring, either; just don't peer close into the mirror. Squinting closer, you might find that the pores on your nose are beset with small dark plugs. Even when they are not as visible to others, the fact that you know they exist right on your nose is irritating. Not to mention, un-beautiful and unhygienic. Blackheads are precursors to acne; at which stage, bacteria has invaded the pores. It can also advance to a pimple, or a pustule.

What are Blackheads?

 

Blackheads, or open comedones, are small plugs of sebum that block the pores especially on the face. Since the top layer of the gunk does not have skin covering, the air oxidizes the melanin and turns it into a dark or black color.  Unlike whiteheads, they may recur quite as quickly after you got rid of them. 

Due to hormonal surges, the sebaceous glands cause the skin to become greasy. It is not surprising then when eruptions occur on the skin during teenage years and pregnancy stages. Plugs, which are the build-up of sebum, dead skin cells, dirt, and cosmetics form on the pores. These in turn show as black points on the skin, known as blackheads. Their favorite hangout is the nose, being the oiliest part of the face. People with oily skin and large pores are usually prone to blackheads.

Simple Ways to Remove Blackheads

Whatever you do, never squeeze blackheads with your fingernails without undergoing preliminary loosening of the skin. Here are several ways to remove them properly.

* Exfoliate weekly. 

For people with oily skin, exfoliation is top on the to-do list. You will need water, 4 spoonsful of baking soda, lemon juice, and sugar. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Squeeze the lemon into the mixture. Pour water in small portions until you have a thin paste. Wash your face, and apply the mixture directly on the affected surfaces in light, circular motions. Give special attention to the nose area. Leave for 10 minutes, then rinse well. Try to make this a part of your weekly ritual.

You might want this variation using nutmeg and milk. Mix the scrubby nutmeg with milk. Buttermilk is preferred because it has higher lactic acid which is effective in breaking down dead skin cells. Use the pasty mix to scrub your face for around 5 minutes. Rinse well.

* Use egg white mask to pull out blackheads.

Try using egg whites to pull out the gunk. With your fingers or a soft paintbrush, spread the egg whites on your face. Concentrate on the affected surfaces first with a thin layer. Leave it to dry for a moment. Spread the second layer over the top and let dry. You can add a third layer on areas heavily laden with blackheads. Let the mask stay on your face for 15-20 minutes and feel it go taut on your face. Wet a towel or washcloth with lukewarm water and scrub the egg whites off your face carefully and gently.

* Try clay mask for maximum oil absorption.

If you are particularly oily-skinned, try concocting this facial clay mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of cosmetic clay with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Stir the mixture thoroughly until it becomes thick and pasty, with no lumps in it. Spread the mixture evenly on your face and let dry for 20 minutes. With a warm and wet washcloth, press on the mask for a few seconds to soften it before gently scrubbing it off.

* Pull out plugs, disinfect and anti-oxidize with honey.

Honey can be an effective remover of blackheads. It also acts as mild antioxidant and antibacterial, preventing any gunk remnants in the pores from further oxidizing. Pour just enough amount of a very gluey kind of honey on your fingers and dab it over the blackheads. The honey then sticks to the plug and pulls it off as you remove your fingers. Rinse off after 3 minutes.

* Steam face before extracting blackheads.

Facial steaming can also be done to loosen skin pores and unclog them before extracting. After washing your face thoroughly, place your face for ten minutes over a large bowl of hot water mixed with essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or any available aromatic herbs in the house, and a few drops of lemon. This opens up the pores. With clean fingers and nails, push the gunk gently and be careful not to further injure the skin. 

How to Prevent Blackheads

  • Maintain a clean face. The oilier your skin is, the more frequent you should wash your face.
  • Avoid washing with abrasive or harsh cleansers as these could make your skin overreact and produce even more sebum. Use non-soap facial wash.
  • Keep your pillowcases, blankets and bedcovers clean at all times. 
  • After every wash, apply astringent like apple cider vinegar to close and tighten up the skin pores. Follow it up with a moisturizer. This helps eliminate any remaining gunk from the skin pores.
  • Perform the facial steam process at least once a week to help open the skin pores and relieve them of dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells.

If you do not always have the time for DIY skin care, the market abounds with skin care products designed to eradicate blackheads. Use those with microbeads and sea salts for effective, yet non-abrasive, exfoliation. Facial cleansers that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) or lactic acid are formulated to dissolve impurities that may cause the clogs. Peeling masks or blackhead strips can also be used to pull stubborn blockages. There are various chemical-based products like carbon-dioxide slush and peeling pastes to help accelerate the cure. 

Hopefully, next time the monster rears its ugly black head, you know what to do.