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Antiseptics, germs, acne and sweating.

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This has been my own experience. I thought I would share it with you to show why I think that perhaps germs aren't where the problem is. It's long, but hopefully some of you might find it interesting.

Out of personal interest, I thought I'd see how well spots can stand up to three of the most well proven antiseptics in the world. All three of these antiseptics are used as standard in almost every medical enviroment.

They were...

Triclosan -

Very well suited to killing the germs that could cause spots, as it is one of the few antiseptics that dissolves extremely easily through oils like those found in your skin. It is active with around 0.01% of it present. It's used in commercial grade soaps. It's also found in a lot of publically available products and is used to preserve the product and prevent it going bad. This antiseptic is particularly good for tricker to kill germs, as it's oil soluble characteristics mean that it can dissolve through the fat based walls of the bacteria.

Chlorhexidine Digluconate-

If you've ever been to the dentist, you've probably had this in your mouth. It's the pink or blue coloured mouth rinse you're given after having a hole filled or something similar. It tastes kind of sweet and tangy, and smells very medical. Typically used somewhere around 0.05% concentrations in mouth rinses.


Or to give it's full name, polyvynilpyyrolidone iodine complex.

This is the be all and end all of antiseptics. The brown / orange soap surgens use to wash their hands with and the areas of the person's body they'll be cutting into. Thought to kill just about every germ, virus and fungal spore known to exist on a normal human body.

These antiseptics are not even in the same realm as things like Tea Tree oil in terms of their germ killing capabilities. They usually take between 15 second and 60 seconds to kill 99.99% of an entire colony of bacteria.

To ensure that I wasn't being unfair, I tried concentrations of these antiseptics right up to 1% triclosan, three times more than you'd find in any off the shelf product, 4% Chlorhexidine Digluconate, tens of time more than a lot of products contain, and 10% PVP-I, exactly the same concentration as is used for surgical scrubbing.

I also tried leaving the antiseptics on my skin rather than rinsing them off.

Although they were producing an effect, the concentration, particularly of Chlorhexidine Digluconate, was too high for regular use. After a few days I noticed the edges of my lips were tingling, as though I had sunburn, a sign that the antiseptic was mildly irritating my skin. This left them feeling sore and dry.

PVP-I proved not very effective as it is very picky about what it can be mixed with and is also very, very messy, as it has such a strong colour. It leaves a light tan colour on your skin unless you rinse it off very well, meaning that it can't be left on.

Triclosan seemed interesting, however, it also has a number of very serious health risks attached to it. Due to the way it's produced, it is possible for the antiseptic to become contaminated with chemical called Dioxin, a carcinogen - and the most toxic chemical ever made by man, toxic at levels of just a few trillionths per part. I have had a parent die of cancer, and so I was reluctant to think about using Triclosan for more than a few weeks.

I also made sure that I didn't touch my face during this period, and that I kept anything that had to touch it very clean, like my pillow and bedding.

I noticed a moderate improvement in my skin, however, with all three antiseptics, the results just didn't make up for the problems they caused. The irritation caused by CHG being as much of a problem as it was trying to solve, the mess involved with PVP-I taking too much time and the long term health risks of Triclosan being too great.

These antiseptics are not brand names, but the are that actual chemicals that are used in the products you buy off the shelf to produce the antiseptic effects.

I now remember that by far the biggest improvement I have ever seen came as I started excercising by cycling. I cycled for about half an hour to fourty five minutes a day up the steepest hills I could find around where I live. This made me sweat, a lot!

When the hills became too easy, I filled a bag with four and half stone of sand, just under half my own body weight, and enough to buckle the back wheel on my racer. I carried the bag around with me on my bike, making it about the most well travelled sand ever. I was always kind of hoping someone would steal the bag from me just to know what they'd be thinking when they got it home! lol.gif

During all this excercise, I noticed my skin cleared virtually 100%. I was super happy!

Soon the cycling became too easy. I took the bag off and decided to cycle much futher, instead of quickly up hills. One day I cycled thirty five miles so hard that I had to get off my bike on a main road to be sick.

My skin slowly started getting worse again, despite the fact I was riding much futher, very quickly on my racer (18mph or so). And that I was also sweating less.

It seemed that by far the best way to keep my skin clear my, and get some good excercise, was cycling up hills. I would play around at the bottom of each for a few minutes and then cycle up it as quickly as I could (15 - 20 mph). An impact excercise.

My experience with medical grade antiseptics, and all the cycling I've done, has been making me think that perhaps the biggest single cause of acne is simply thickend oil in the skin's pores.

The cycling made me sweat so hard that my shirt would be soaked afterwards.

I think this is the body's main way of washing the pores clear, and preventing the germs from setting up home in them.

I let the cycling fall away when I buckled my bikes back wheel, but I think I will retry the hill cycling and see if it produces the same effect as it did initially. The result it produced the first time round was far to dramatic to simply be a coincidence. I could see massive changes on a day to day basis.

From what I can tell, the excercise has to be so demanding that you actually have a layer of liquid sweat running off your skin. So a few lengths in the pool won't be enough for it to work.

My brother, who is only two years younger than me, and much less careful about what he's doing to his skin, runs a mile or so every other night. By the time he gets back he looks like he's about to die, but his skin is quite clear.

To follow on the with the idea of thickend oil being the problem, I got hold of some ingredients called emulsifiers. These are used in cosmetics to make the oil and water based parts of the cosmetic mix together - like in a cream for instance. One end of the molecule binds on to the oil molecule, and the other on to the water - kind of like a daisy chain.

My theory was, perhaps the emulsifiers would help daisy chain oil out the skin.

No luck!

A lot of them also have the same risks associated with them as Triclosan - Dioxin contamination.

I have also tried a medical grade moisturiser. If anything, it made the problems worse as it seemed to block up the pores quite well. Neither did refined JoJoBa oil help much.

I'm not sure about scrubs. The TV shows now make out that you can 'scrub' problems away. The oils in your skin's pores that are causing them to become blocked are millimetres under the skin. If you were to scrub this depth of skin off you face, you'd be in hospital the first time you did it. So I don't see how scrubs are supposed to help. Also, the little bits of scrubbing agent in them can be small enough that they'd help clog pores if they were rubbed into them. A lot of them are produced by grinding or smashing plastics, stones, shells or seeds - so they contain a lot of very fine dust particles.

To me, it seems like the best way to keep your skin clear is to do enough excercise everday so that you're sweating a lot by the end of it. I'd usually drink a litre or so of water while I was out cycling.

If it doesn't work you have the added plus that you'll be very healthy anyway.

I thought I would share what I've found out with you to help you narrow down your searches.

You need to be aware that a lot of cosmetics manufacturers mix antiseptics in without thinking about how they'll interact in the mixture. Usually, the reaction is for the worst.

For instance, if you brush your teeth, the chemical in toothpaste that makes it foam, the surfactant Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, almost completely disables the antiseptic activity of the Chlorhexidine Digluconate used in a lot of mouthwashes. You have to wait roughly half an hour after brushing your teeth with toothpaste before the levels of surfactant are low enough that they won't harm the mouthwash. If you were to mix the two together in a product, you'd pretty much render it totally useless for killing germs. And this does happen quite often, since the surfactant helps the product spread out and foam - a major selling point for products now. Cosmetic companies actually do blind fold tests to see which bubbles the customer likes the most. I've even seen one company using electrical measurment of the facial muscle expressions to test which surfactants make the customer happiest.

The problem is, the germs causing acne are under the surface of the skin. So, unless you can somehow get the antispetics directly to them, it's very hard for them to do much to the bacteria already there. If they were allowed that deep into the skin, they would likely cause a lot more irritation. Also, remember that the majority of people who don't have problems with their skin, don't need to wash it with medical grade antiseptics every day to keep it that way. Suggesting that the bacteria all over their skin aren't causing them any problems.

Perhaps all the germ killing things you can buy off the shelf for treating skin problems are perhaps looking in the wrong direction?

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