Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chocolate Really Does Cause Pimples

Everyone has heard the old myth that chocolate makes your skin break out. Most of us have read or heard about articles debunking this idea and explaining why chocolate really doesn't cause acne. When scientists finally got around to testing chocolate as a cause for acne, however, it turned out that chocolate really is something acne sufferers, especially men, need to avoid.

Why the Experts Used to Think Chocolate Was Safe

For many years, nutritional experts told us that the old advice that chocolate causes pimples was a reasonable misunderstanding. Chocolate is rich in the amino acid arginine. The viruses that cause cold sores and similar infections of the skin are activated by processes that require large amounts of arginine.

Chocolate, the experts reasoned, increases available arginine that leads to the activation of the virus, but the effects of arginine are canceled about by another amino acid, lysine. Just eat foods that are rich in lysine, such as beef, chicken, catfish, kidney beans, pinto beans, soy, and quinoa, and eat all the chocolate you want. A researcher named Dr. Samantha Block at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, however, found out that the experts were wrong.

Eating a Lot of Chocolates Causes a Lot of Zits, At Least in Young Men

Dr. Miller recruited male volunteers to eat up to 8 oz (224 g) of pure chocolate (up to 3 milk chocolate bars) at her lab once a week, giving them instructions not to eat any chocolate the rest of the week. At the beginning of the study, the college men had an average of three pimples. Just four days later, they had an average of 13 pimples. At the end of the week, Dr. Miller's volunteers had an average of 18 pimples, and those who at the maximum allowable 8 oz of pure chocolate had an average of 70 pimples.

There was absolutely no doubt chocolate made these young men's faces break out. But would chocolate affect other acne sufferers the same way?

Pure Cocoa May Have Been the Problem

The University of Miami study used chocolate bars made with pure cocoa. Any 100%-chocolate bar contains a lot of two chemicals known to aggravate acne, namely, caffeine and theobromine. Acne sufferers who eat "the cheap stuff" may not break out as severely or as fast.

If you have acne, should you eat chocolate? Dr. Miller's study suggests that eating just a little chocolate may not cause as many problems. The volunteers who stopped after eating just a single 4 oz candy bar developed an average of only 10 pimples. If you eat a small milk chocolate bar a day, you may not notice any effect at all.


The Basics of Baby Acne

Many proud new parents are dismayed 3 to 4 weeks after the birth when splotches of red pimples break out their beautiful newborn's face. Usually occurring at the time the baby is at his or her peak of gassiness and fussiness, baby acne brings photo taking to a temporary halt and causes most parents to wonder if something is seriously wrong with their child's health.

What Is Baby Acne?

The red pimples of baby acne result from a hormonal connection of mother to child that is completed just before birth. Just before delivery, the placenta allows testosterone to flow from mother to child. This hormone helps the lungs to mature to enable breathing, but it also stimulates the growth of the pores in the skin that make oily sebum. Three to four weeks after birth the baby's pores begin to clog with sebum, trapping infection inside.

What Are the Symptoms of Baby Acne?

Distinguishing baby's skin rash and acne is not hard to do. Baby acne usually causes whiteheads and pimples on the cheeks, forehead, and chin. When the baby is fussy, increased flow of blood to the face makes blemishes more visible. Baby acne is also more visible when there is skin irritation, either from contact with harsh soaps or spitting up on the face.

Which Babies Get Baby Acne?

About 50 per cent of all babies develop acne several weeks after birth. Baby acne occurs in babies of all races and all skin types. It usually goes away in four to six months. Some similar looking conditions that are not actually acne, however, are more common in babies who have certain skin types rather than others.

What Can Parents Do About Baby Acne?

If you know how to give your baby a bath, you know the basics of how to get rid of baby acne. Most home remedies for baby acne are questionable, but there is one simple, effective, and inexpensive natural remedy for baby acne that really works. Blue light therapy devices for baby acne are going a little too far, but benzoyl peroxide for baby acne can be just the thing for blemishes that aren't too close to the baby's eyes. And every parent will want to consider vitamins for baby acne.

The First Line of Defense Against Baby Acne - Bathing Baby to Prevent Breakouts

If you want to clear up your baby's pimples, the most important thing to do is to keep baby's skin clean, just not too clean! The very last step in bathing your baby is what makes the day-to-day difference in fighting baby acne. And if your baby gets dry skin anyway, here are some suggestions.
You can take care of skin cleansing for baby acne at the same time your give your baby a bath. And if you have never given an infant a bath before, here's what you need to do. The ways of washing that clear up baby acne also take care of the rest of the skin. But everything about babies isn't serious!

Comfortable Skin Is Clear(er) Skin

First of all, make sure the room where you will be giving your baby a bath is warm, at least 75º F (24º C). Babies have small bodies that do not yet generate a great deal of heat, so avoiding chills is important.

Select a convenient place to give your child the bath. This can be a kitchen table or a changing table, or perhaps a kitchen counter. Cover the area with a towel to absorb splashes. Make sure your baby does not need a diaper change. If needed, change the diaper before beginning the bath.

What You Don't Need to Clean Your Baby or to Fight Baby Acne

Then assemble everything you will need to give your child a bath before you start. You will need a washing basin (preferably with a back support for your baby), warm water (preferably the same temperature as the room), a towel, a fresh diaper, fresh clothes, and everything you would need for a diaper change. For little boys who have just had a circumcision, this might include Vaseline to put on cut skin after the bath. You also need a washcloth, one that is soft, not rough.

What you do not need is soap. Most of the dirt that affects baby involves poop, snot, or spitting up. These body fluids are best removed with water. If your baby somehow managed to get genuinely dirty while lying in the crib, then you might consider gentle use of Burt's Bees Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap, but it is always best to use just water.

Baby Safety in the Bath

You will need to hold your baby's head above water the entire time you are giving your baby the bath. Supporting your child's head with one hand, remove clothing but not the diaper. With your free hand, dip your clean washcloth in the bathwater before putting the baby in. Then place baby's bottom against the bottom of the bath basin you have filled with 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of warm water.

Cleaning All Over

Continuously supporting baby's head with one hand, begin with the non-diaper areas such as the head, ears, nose, and face. Babies don't like to get their eyes wet, so use your hand to shield baby's eyes. Work your way down to the diaper line, and then start on baby's toes and work your way back up.

Now it is time to remove the diaper to make sure baby is clean all over. For little girls, wash from front to back. (This helps prevent bladder infections.) Don't be worried about a white vaginal discharge in newborn baby girls. Leave what does not come loose with one pass of the washcloth. Do not wash the head of a circumcised penis until it has healed. Complete the bath and get baby ready to dry off.

While it's OK to sing "Rub a Dub Dub" to your baby, it's not OK to rub your baby's skin dry. Always pat it dry. And if your baby has an incompletely healed umbilical stump, wipe with alcohol around but not over the stump to prevent infection.

The Part of Baby's Bath that Fights Baby Acne

What part of baby's bath treats baby acne? For baby acne, what you don't do at bath time is more important than what you do. Hot water causes flaky skin, and flaky skin traps oil in pores. You don't want your baby's bath to be too hot (or so cold your baby gets a chill).

You don't want to use soap. You especially don't want to use a highly scented soap like Baby Face by Lush. Despite the name, the jonquil, tangerine, and everlasting flower essences in Baby Face soap will dry out baby's skin and make acne worse. So will the lavender oil in Baby Salve by Green People. The perfumes and fragrances in soaps designed for adults also dry out baby's skin.

If You Really Need a Cleanser, Try These

The big reason not use soap when your baby has acne is that there is no way you can keep soap off your baby's face, and most soaps for adults will dry out baby's skin, tighten pores, and set the stage for more whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. But if you really have to use soap, and it is rare that parents really have to, then a (less expensive) product like Burt's Bees Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap will work.

What about body wash for babies? Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser for Sensitive Skin is one of the few products gentle enough for babies.

And if you have made the mistake of using soap and your baby has developed dry skin, which will cause new whiteheads to form, then try Eucerin Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment. Free of drying or allergenic perfumes and fragrances, this Eucerin product adds moisture to baby's skin. The moisture keeps the skin soft and pores open so new blemishes do not form.

Borage Dry Skin Therapy Natural Formula Children's Lotion by ShiKai is also gentle enough for use on baby's skin, although it's relatively expensive. This product contains a lot more aloe gel and jojoba oil than borage oil, but it's still a good, hypoallergenic moisturizer.

An Important Safety Reminder

You just want to use a "dab," the amount you can put on an adult fingertip, to moisturize baby's skin. And before you use any product on your baby's skin, you should make sure there are no adverse reactions by testing an even smaller "dab" on the the back of your baby's arm. Wait 24 hours and make sure there is no redness, elevation, or inflammation from this or any other new product you use on your child's skin.

Distinguishing Baby's Skin Rash and Acne

Are there other skin conditions besides skin rash and acne that look alike? It turns out there are a lot. Here is a quick guide to recognizing infant skin blemishes so you will know what to do.
Baby Rashes vs. Baby Acne

Baby rashes, also known as erythema toxicum, is also a skin reaction to pre-birth hormones from the mother. Unlike baby acne, baby rashes typically are white or yellow in the center and red around the edges. They usually appear by the second day of life and disappear by the end of the second week.


Hives are fluid-filled bumps that appear suddenly after an allergic reaction. Very few babies get hives.


Impetigo is a staph or strep infection of the skin. It can cause blisters that break and leak almost anywhere on the baby's body. Or it can cause a small red or yellow blister that "leaks" a honey-like substance, usually on the face. Staph infections usually start in the nose and spread to the skin. They are less serious than strep infections, which usually start on the skin and spread to the throat, causing strep throat, and, in rare cases, scarlet fever or kidney disease.


Milia are tiny plugs of keratin protein that clog pores in the newborn's skin. They usually occur at the tip of the nose or the tip of the chin, and less commonly on the cheeks and forehead. As the baby's skin grows, the milia naturally fall out of the skin. This usually takes 3 weeks to 3 months.

Mongolian Spots

Mongolian spots are gray, brown, or black-and-blue birth marks that can be confused with bruises. Most Asian, Hispanic, and African-American babies have at least one Mongolian spot, often on the buttocks, while most white babies do not.

Stork Bites

"Stork bites," also known as salmon patches, are flat, gray to pink areas of skin leftover from the linkages of blood vessels while the baby was still in utero. These patches occur in about 1/3 of babies after birth (and 100% of babies before birth), and usually disappear during by the first birthday.

Transient Neonatal Pustular Melanosis

Transient neonatal pustular melanosis causes pustules (pus-filled, blister-like elevations of the skin that may or may not be red) on the chin, forehead, neck, back, and buttocks, and sometimes on the palms and on the soles of the feet. The pustules usually burst soon after birth and begin to health within 24 hours. Transient neonatal pustular melanosis occurs in about 0.6% of white babies, 2.2% of Asian and Hispanic babies, and 4.4% of Black babies.

Should You Use a Blue Light Therapy Device for Baby Acne?

Blue light therapy kills acne bacteria with specific wavelengths of blue visible light. It really works, but it's not a treatment suitable for babies.
How Blue Light Therapy Works

In blue light therapy, first the skin is treated with a photosensitizing agent that makes it absorb more light. Then painless, non-burning low-intensity blue light is focused on the skin where there are blemishes. Acne bacteria contain blue pigments that absorb blue rays of a very specific wavelength. These pigments overheat and the acne die.

Great Home Blue Light Therapy Devices for Adults

Blue light can be a great way to stop active acne on adult skin. The Trophy Skin Blue MD Dermatologist Grade Blue Light Kit (retailing in the US for $199) and the Baby Quasar Light Therapy Device for Acne (retailing in the US for $299-309) are even available for treatment at home. But just because a product has the word "Baby" in its name does not mean you should use it to treat acne in your infant!

But Not for Babies

One of the reasons blue light is not for babies is that it requires the use of a photosensitizing chemical called aminolevulinic acid, or ALA. Creams of this kind of ALA (not to be confused with alpha-lipoic acid) can cause burning, itching, redness, and blistering. This is not an improvement for baby's skin.

Moreover, especially if your baby has golden, brown, or "black" skin tones, any kind of irritation can cause lasting discoloration of the skin, discoloration that is almost impossible to remove later. ALA in the eyes can cause permanent damage, too. Baby acne, on the other hand, usually resolves even if you don't treat it.

Just say no to blue light for baby acne. It's an adult technique that has no place in everyday infant skin care.

Home Remedies for Baby Acne That Don't Work (with a Link to One That Does)

There are many natural remedies for mild to moderate acne in teens and adults. There is just one natural remedy for acne in babies. Before telling you the one natural remedy for baby acne that is safe, effective, and even inexpensive, first let's consider why not to use some of the common natural remedies for adult skin blemishes.

Why Not to Use Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil kills acne bacteria just a little slower than benzoyl peroxide and takes the redness and inflammation out of pimples at the same time. It stops staph and strep infections in addition to treating acne. Many of the tea tree products you find at the cosmetic counter, however, such as BeautiControl Skinlogics Cleansing Gel, contain other fragrances that dry out baby's delicate skin. A product like Derma E Tea Tree and E Face and Body Wash would probably be gentle enough for a baby, but since it is a rinse, the tea tree oil does not stay in contact with the skin long enough to do any good.

And you do not want to dab pure tea tree oil directly on baby's skin because the vapors can cause headaches and stomaches. There is just no place on the baby that is not close to the baby's nose!

Why Not to Use Vinegar

Vinegar masks may make their teenaged and adult users smell like a pickle factory, but they are a good way to remove dead skin that blocks pores. You don't want your baby smelling like a pickle factory, either, but there is a bigger problem. Vinegar is an acid, and baby's skin just can't stand up to acid. But there is a natural treatment for baby acne that is both safe and effective for baby acne.

Honey as a Natural Remedy for Baby Acne

Pure and natural honey often can clear up baby's skin. It's not just a food, it's an antiseptic.

Honey is amazingly antibacterial. It's so antibacterial that some cosmetic surgeons even use it in skin prep before cosmetic surgery. Bees have to protect their hives from all manner of infections brought into the hive, and the propolis in honey is how they do it.

Just so we're clear, what we are talking about here is putting a tiny dab of honey on baby's blemishes. A spoonful of honey can also help the medicine go down, but the way to use honey as a natural remedy for baby acne is on your baby, not in your baby. You don't have to add sugar to your newborn's diet to get rid of acne!

How does honey work?

The royal jelly contains compounds that activate keratinocytes, the skin cells that make the collagen that helps pimples heal. Dutch researchers have found that medical-grade honey applied to the skin takes just 48 hours to eliminate 99% of Enterobacter cloacae, Enterococcus faecium, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Klebsiella oxytoca bacteria.

Over 240 scientific studies confirm that honey kills bacteria. To be absolutely honest, however, no study proves that honey kills the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that cause acne. Even so, honey is completely non-toxic and likely to work. It doesn't interfere with any other treatments and it is very inexpensive—you can always eat the rest of the jar.

How do you use honey on baby acne? 

As you would with any other product, test a tiny amount of the product on the back of baby's arm for 24 hours to make sure there are no allergies or adverse reactions. Then place a tiny, tiny amount of the blemishes, let it dry for 20 minutes, and then wipe off with a soft, warm, moist, clean wash cloth. Repeat twice a day until pimples clear up. The effect will not be immediate on existing pimples, but it will stop the formation of new pimples, and allow baby's skin to get rid of existing pimples all on its own.

Benzoyl Peroxide for Baby Acne

When baby acne persists, many doctors recommend using a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide cream to kill the bacteria so healing can begin. But it's important not to use a stronger product that can dry out baby's skin.

The Pros and Cons of Benzoyl Peroxide for Baby Acne

Benzoyl peroxide is the most commonly used treatment for disinfecting pimples. A series of clinical tests show that it kills about 99% of acne bacteria in about 48 hours.

While this common chemical treatment is a terrific disinfectant, it has some serious limitations from a cosmetic point of view. Benzoyl peroxide does not "get the red out." It's not anti-inflammatory. It does not correct the baby's transient hormonal imbalance that is causing the acne, and it does not treat whiteheads and blackheads.

Benzoyl peroxide just stops the bacteria that can clog more pores. Since the infant's skin is growing rapidly, it will naturally open up clogged pores if the skin infection is checked.

Getting the Right Strength Is Essential

This product is available in prescription and non-prescription strengths from 2.5 to 20%. The 2.5% strength most doctors recommend for babies is an over-the-counter treatment, and finding the right strength in a product that stays on the skin is the key to success.

Stronger products can dry out baby's skin, creating tiny passages for other kinds of infection. That is why it is keenly important to get the right strength product. It's also why it is essential to test first by using just a little dab on the back of baby's arm and waiting 24 hours to see if there are any adverse reactions.

Some Benzoyl Products That Work, and Some That Don't

With those precautions in mind, it's not hard to find a product that works, although prices vary by nearly 800%. Here are some appropriate (and inappropriate) products parents can easily find.

  • Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Wash would seem to be the right product (even if it is pricey at $30 a bottle) except for one thing. It's a wash. The benzoyl peroxide goes right down the drain without staying on the skin long enough to do any good.
  • Neutrogena On the Spot Acne Treatment is by far the least expensive of any commonly offered over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide products in a 2.5% strength. It contains clay, so it can dry out skin, but it should be OK for treating single pimples, just not large areas of baby's skin.
  • Paula's Choice CLEAR Acne Fighting Treatment 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide offers the right strength in a product that stays on the skin. The 2.25-oz container retailing for $16.95 is probably more than you will need before blemishes go away.
  • Proactive Solution Renewing Cleanser is problematic for two reasons. It can cause eye irritation, and even though it is in the recommended 2.5% strength, it's a wash, and the antibacterial part of the produce goes right down the drain.
  • Skin Medica Acne Care Treatment Lotion also offers the right strength in a formula that stays on baby's skin. The only cause for concern is the tiny amount of witchhazel used to give the product a nice scent, so be sure to do a test spot first. The willow bark in this product will "get the red out" and also stop itching and inflammation. At $50 for 2 oz., this product is pricey, so it would not be the first I would try.
And if any product causes an adverse reaction when you test it, don't use it. Take it back or send it back to the vendor and ask for a refund.

Want to read the medical literature on benzoyl peroxide for babies? Here are two places to start:
  • Katsambas  AD, Katoulis  AC, Stavropoulos  P.  Acne neonatorum: a study of 22 cases.  Int J Dermatol.  1999;38(2):128–130.
  • O'Connor NR, McLaughlin MR, Ham P. Newborn skin: Part I. Common rashes. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 1;77(1):47-52. Review.

What About Vitamins for Baby Acne?

Literally thousands of skin care products use vitamin A and vitamin A derivatives to treat acne. And we all know that vitamins are vital. But your baby needs vitamins that work from the inside out.
These are usually not from supplements, and never from infant skin care products.

Vitamin A, in particular, is essential to the infant's skin. It helps the skin grow so that pores stretch open. It greatly reduces the risk of viral infections of the skin. It helps babies who are exposed to measles survive this once-common childhood illness with far fewer complications.

But babies don't need vitamin A if they are breastfed, and even if do need a vitamin A supplement—which is something you give in a 50,000 IU dose no more often than twice a year (overdosing vitamin A also causes acne)--they don't need retinol, retinaldehyde, retinyl palmitate, or other vitamin A products applied directly to the skin. These products are irritating to infant skin and cause more harm than good.

Breastfed babies sometimes don't get enough vitamin D, but giving your baby vitamin D drops or cod liver oil (the old fashioned remedy for vitamin D deficiency that still works) won't change the outcomes in acne.

What about all the other vitamins for baby acne? If your baby was a preemie, or if you are breastfeeding, chances are your pediatrician has already made sure your baby is getting needed vitamin supplements. Otherwise, cleansing makes a lot more difference in clearing up baby's blemishes than nutritional supplements.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


About the Author

I'm Robert Rister, and I'm the author of five books on natural health and the formulator of a line of skin care products sold in China. I've always found that the largest group of my readers is concerned about skin care health, so I'm putting up this site to provide timely information in more depth than I can in my books.

I'm a stickler for factuality, so you'll often see footnotes in the postings, connecting to peer-reviewed medical literature. I use Google Adsense advertising for my own revenues, of course, but also because Adsense can take you exactly to the product you are really looking for, even it that's not the product I've described on the page. Thank you for visiting my site!

The Fine Print

This site is intended to convey the author's insights and information about skin care products for acne. This site does not give medical advice and cannot be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The information on this site and any links on this site provide information only. Do not use this site as a substitute for a doctor's care. Always consult your physician about your use of any over-the-counter health products, and make sure your doctor knows which products you are using.

Everyone's skin can react negatively to an allergen, toxin, or environmental influence from to time to time. These reactions can occur when skin care products are used, and when they are not used. If you develop a skin reaction when using any product listed on this site, stop using it immediately and see your doctor.

Every effort is made to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of the information on this site. Sometimes manufacturers, however, change their product formulations without prior notice. When this happens, the appropriate pages on this site are updated as soon as new information is available.

Comments and questions are welcome, but all comments are moderated, and may take up to 24 hours to appear. Links may be accepted in comments, but spam will be deleted. All content in this site is copyrighted and may not be duplicated without the written consent of the copyright holder.

(C)1998-2011 Robert S. Rister

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Does the Lap Band for Weight Loss Really Work?

Tens of thousands of type 2 diabetics have received lap band surgery for overweight, and some have experienced nearly immediate remission from diabetes. But does the procedure work over the long term?

Doctors in Belgium surveyed lap band recipients 12 years after surgery. There is really good evidence that the procedure helps diabetics take weight off and keep it off. Even 12 years after the surgery, the average surgery patient had managed to keep off 42.8% of excess weight.

But the procedure is not complication-free. Half of patients had to have their bands removed. Sixty per cent had to have additional surgeries. Nearly 40 per cent reported "serious complications."

Still, more diabetics reported being satisfied with the procedure than not. Before you submit to any surgery for weight loss, however, make very sure you have tried the one diet that really works: Eating less. And if the only way you can eat less is to have the surgery, then choose your doctor carefully and make sure you are fully informed.