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My SD Arsenal (also makeup for men WTF)

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  • Acne is still an issue on my chin, but I've noticed something positive recently: flaking in my beard area has much reduced. This is abnormal because usually these two concerns are reversed (i.e. acne tends to be a mild issue whereas beard flaking is a persistent problem only solvable by shaving).

    ZZ cream has done nothing with regards to beard flakiness -- in fact, no kind of topical treatment has ever made a significant dent in it. But the only thing that has recently changed in my routine is that I've started using a simple DIY mandelic acid/colloidal silver toner in the mornings.

    If you research "acidification" and "skin barrier" you'll come across quite a few articles about how the pH of inflamed skin invariably climbs towards neutrality, and that regularly acidifying the skin strengthens the skin barrier and can treat various dermatoses like eczema. The skin's acid mantle is its natural antimicrobial defence.

    The acidic pH is critical to the overall function of the skin, and a number of specific mechanisms have been elucidated which highlight its importance. The skin’s antimicrobial properties are optimal at acidic pH. Staphylococcus and other pathogenic bacteria favor neutral pH and are inhibited in an acidic milieu [26,27,28]. In addition, antimicrobial proteins produced by keratinocytes, such as dermicidin, are more effective in an acidic stratum corneum [29,30]. Desquamation of the stratum corneum is a controlled process critical for ensuring correct thickness, and a key factor is enzymatic degradation of corneodesmosomes by serine proteases, particularly kallikreins 5 and 7 [31,32,33]. These enzymes act on desmoglein 1, and the process is relatively slow at acidic pH [34]. When pH rises to the enzymes’ optima (neutral), the degradation occurs much more briskly, leading to inappropriate desquamation and decreased integrity of the stratum corneum [35,36]. Another function of kallikrein 7 is to activate IL-1 beta [37], which has also been noted to increase at neutral pH, initiating or perpetuating chronic inflammation.

    Ceramide production is yet another pH dependent process, with acid sphingomyelinase and beta-glucocerebrosidase functioning best at a pH of 4.5 and 5.6, respectively [38]. Increases in pH have been shown to reduce their enzymatic activity and impair barrier function, which ceramides are critical for maintaining [35].

    I'm no stranger to using hydroxy acids, but there's a kind of balancing act involved here, because the most commonly used acids aren't without their side effects: glycolic acid can be irritating due to its small molecular size and fast penetration, and salicylic acid can be drying because it dissolves sebum. Since the key is to regularly acidify the skin without putting any strain on it in the process, it's more sensible to incorporate acids that are known to be gentle because of their high molecular weight. Mandelic acid, gluconolactone, and lactobionic acids fit the bill.

    Unfortunately these acids are still the new kids on the block and it's rare to come across a product with them, despite the fact that they have the typical benefits of hydroxy acids but without the side effects. This is likely because they're just not as well known as glycolic and salicylic acids, and so it's difficult to sell them to the average consumer, who will just buy things with actives they've heard of.

    So my workaround was to simply buy a mandelic acid peel (which also contains smaller amounts of gluconolactone and lactobionic acid), and dilute it so that the final concentration of mandelic acid was 5%. I diluted it in a solution of colloidal silver, mainly because silver acts as a preservative (although the acidity of the formulation would probably mean a preservative is unnecessary, but I wanted to err on the side of caution). Topical silver is also useful as an antimicrobial, so I figured it couldn't hurt.

    So now I finally have a very gentle, no-frills acid toner that I can use daily. I've used mandelic acid in the past but only as the occasional chemical peel, and I've used topical nanosilver in the past but didn't notice any improvement in flaking, so it could very well be the regular gentle acidification that's been helping.

    It's just a theory, but I think the skin's pH is a factor that is often neglected, in part because the acidification approach probably seems so counterintuitive to the average person: if skin is compromised and inflamed, why on earth would you put an acid on it? Yet ironically they have no qualms with using high-pH soaps and cleansers (don't even get me started on the whole "washing with baking soda" craze).
    Senior Member
    Last edited by sejon; 13 November 2018, 09:23 AM.


    • I've used up my tub of ZZ cream finally. It lasted for almost 4 and a half months, probably because I was using it minimally and only every other night. I won't be repurchasing.

      I'm glad I gave it a trial because it indicated that there was indeed a Demodex factor, although in my circumstance it's associated with the acneiform lesions and not the dermatitis.

      But as I've said before, the ZZ cream is very crudely made and overpriced in my opinion.

      But since I find sulphur at a sufficient concentration to be a highly useful ingredient, I'll be using the De La Cruz 10% sulphur ointment to replace it. It's also very crudely made, being just sulphur dissolved in polyethylene glycol, but I find that mixing it with a moisturiser helps a fair bit with the greasiness when leaving it on overnight. It's a fraction of the price of ZZ cream and without any unnecessary irritants such as menthol.

      I've also purchased Nu-stock, given people's positive testimonials for it, although it's very strong stuff even if mixed 50/50 with a cream, so the plan is to use it only very intermittently and if my acne is completely resolved I'd fall back on using solely the De La Cruz ointment as maintenance.


      • An update almost a year later.

        As I've mentioned in a few posts in other threads here (particularly Nick's Benzyl Benzoate thread) I've been treating what I had diagnosed as demodectic acne for over a year, but with mixed results. I had brief moments of clarity, but all in all, the past year I've dealt with significantly worse acne breakouts than I've had in the past decade. For instance it's been the first time I've developed cystic acne since my mid 20's, and I'm now 35. A couple weeks ago I concluded that it was time to give up on this approach because I was ultimately doing more harm than good.

        To recap on all I've tried:
        Two rounds of ZZ cream, each for about 4 months -- promising at first, which led me to the demodex acne self-diagnosis, but ultimately proved ineffective
        Sublimed sulphur added to De La Cruz ointment, for a couple of months -- this was the biggest mistake and caused the worst of my cystic breakouts
        15% benzyl benzoate in MCT oil, applied once or twice daily, for a couple of months -- also ineffective

        So that adds up roughly to a year of using acaricidal treatment in some form or another. I think that's enough time to conclude that it's not working for me.

        I don't doubt that demodex probably still plays a role in my chronic acne, but I've decided to shift my approach from attacking demodex directly with acaricidals, to simply using treatments that increase the cellular turnover rate of my skin and normalise keratinisation, thereby making it a less hospitable environment for demodex to proliferate.

        What has kept me comfortably clear in the past was the use of a retinoid, adapalene (sold as Differin gel). I would have happily continued using it, but my skin was dehydrated and sensitive presumably from abusing it with harsh treatments, and I figured Differin was contributing to that problem, so I quit it.

        My skin is in a much better state compared to back then (in terms of dehydration, not acne), but I still don't want to risk returning to adapalene and ruining the progress I've made on that front. Instead, I've had the luck of learning about retinaldehyde. Retinaldehyde is a form of vitamin A that the skin converts enzymatically to retinoic acid a.k.a. tretinoin (the only natural form of vitamin A that triggers cellular turnover), but is much, much gentler than applying tretinoin. There are other forms of vitamin A that are gentler than tretinoin (retinol, retinyl palmitate) but they're much less effective because they require more steps to convert to tretinoin.

        The process is like this:
        Retinyl Palmitate > Retinol > Retinaldehyde > Tretinoin/Retinoic acid

        Retinaldehyde requires only one conversion step yet is, quite surprisingly, just as effective as tretinoin. In comparison, it's been shown that retinol is about 20 times weaker than tretinoin, and retinyl palmitate is weaker still.

        For the past couple weeks, instead of applying an acaricidal treatment like ZZ cream nightly, I've been applying the Triacneal Expert cream from Avene, which contains 0.1% retinaldehyde. My skin is finally calming down. Moreover, unlike Differin gel, it doesn't dry my skin out at all, and in fact functions as a night moisturiser. So, with fingers crossed, I think I've finally found a retinoid my skin can agree with.

        In other news, and potentially a much more revelatory discovery, is thanks to reading Tom's post about Vitamin D. I normally supplement with vitamin D in the winter, taking 5000 IU a day, but haven't noticed any skin benefits in the past (it does however improve my mood and ward off the "winter blues"). I've decided this winter to up my daily dose to 10,000 IU. As it turns out, the RDA currently set for vitamin D could be far too low (read The Big Vitamin D Mistake, which argues the case for at least 8000 IU daily for adults). I've also started applying vitamin D topically, by adding one or two drops of vitamin D in MCT oil to my moisturiser, amounting to a topical application of 1000-2000 IU daily to my face and neck.

        Within a few days of this Vitamin D regimen, I noticed something quite remarkable -- my face's oiliness has reduced to the point of being normal again, which I thought would never happen. Just a bit of background here: I've always had an oily skin type, but for over 5 years now I've noticed that my face has been over-producing oil, to the point that I look like I'm constantly sweating. I'd wake up each morning and my nose would be covered in a thick layer of grease, and I'd have to blot with tissue many times a day just to look somewhat normal. I attributed this to my over-usage of benzoyl peroxide in my 20's, which wrecked my skin barrier and dehydrated my skin, leading to an over-production of sebum. This is the first time any treatment has noticeably addressed my sebum production -- I've tried 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors like topical green tea extract, liquorice extract, azelaic acid, etc., which claim to normalise oil production but never did in my case. Vitamin D has managed to do what I had until now assumed impossible, and I actually wake up and feel my nose and it's dry rather than saturated in oil. I'm absolutely floored by this.

        Even aesthetic reasons put aside (nobody wants to look like a teenage greaseball especially now that they're in their mid-30's), I think a lot of my skin issues have resulted from my defective skin barrier and the subsequent seborrhea (over-production of sebum). After all, acne-causing bacteria, the Malassezia fungus, and demodex all thrive off of sebum, so it seems logical that a reduction of sebum might have a hand in normalising their respective populations to the point that they're no longer overloading my immune system.

        In short, in the past couple weeks, a combination of topical vitamin A (in the form of retinaldehyde), and both oral and topical vitamin D, are already making much more headway than my year-long battle with demodex ever managed to accomplish. I hope progress will continue, especially thanks to the vitamin D normalising my oil production (at long last!).
        Senior Member
        Last edited by sejon; 5 December 2019, 12:47 PM.


        • Thanks for the update, sejon. Glad to hear your skin is doing well.

          Like you I've had nothing but positive results using vitamin D topically, including the oiliness of skin as you mentioned. It's definitely working to fix the keratinisation of skin because I find that anything I apply now sinks in better and doesn't just sit on top of my skin, can be washed off more easily and flakiness and skin texture has improved. Vitamin D was quite the discovery by Tom!

          I've been taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D for a long time with no change in my skin. Recently I've actually reduced my intake to 5,000 IU. I'm using a higher quality vitamin D supplement and I've seen studies that state vitamin D can be absorbed through the skin, so I didn't want to overdo it.


          • Yea, I definitely think it's applying it topically that's making the difference rather than oral supplementation. I only take vitamin D supplements in the winter (which is why I'm comfortable taking 10,000 IU, which is a reasonably high dose), but applying topically might become a permanent staple.

            Weirdly, though, I've noticed since applying vitamin D that the flaking in my beard and moustache has greatly increased, to the point that it seems to just be shedding off layers and layers of keratin, accompanied by redness and burning. Usually the flaking in this area is minor enough that it's only noticeable if I specifically look for it, but now my moustache is "frosted" with flakes. It's definitely down to the topical vitamin D, as opposed to the retinaldehyde cream, since the latter I've been using for considerably longer without any such effect. I'm wondering if the vitamin D is just boosting the immune system locally and causing this sudden upsurge in inflammation? Hopefully it's actually good news and not somehow causing problems (as I can't imagine how a small amount of topical vitamin D would be problematic for anyone, honestly).


            • Great news, Sejon! Just read your thread
              Hope you found your cure 😊 happy for you 😊 and, thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

              Do you have any tips regarding how to include vitamin-D in your lotion? I see Tom is saying not to break a vitamin-D pill into your lotion, but what if one is careful? This information might pertain to some of your posts, I just have not found it, so apologies in advance!


              • I just use Vitamin D drops which contain only vitamin D (cholecalciferol) dissolved in MCT oil. I mix one or two drops with my moisturiser in the palm of my hand. It's very simple, and no different from applying a serum or oil, which I've done many times in the past.

                A couple drops (equivalent to 2,000 IU with the drops I use) is sufficient to cover the face and neck, and it's more easily spreadable when mixed with a lotion.


                • Amazing, thanks! Just found some drops at a pharmacy in my city with MCT oil and vitamin D. Very low concentration and expensive, but worth it for a first test!


                  • Did anyone get a reaction from vitamin D? My nose and smiling lines (two areas of main concern) have had a reaction. I wonder if it could be a positive sign, or maybe just a reaction to the mct oil...


                    • Have you reacted to just MCT oil before?

                      As I mentioned in a previous post, applying vitamin D caused increased flaking and redness in my typical dermatitis hotspots (in the beard and moustache). I've never reacted to using plain MCT oil, so my only guess is it's a response to vitamin D. Vitamin D should be extremely well tolerated, so I've theorised that it might be boosting the immune system locally, which could result in inflammation in problematic areas. After about a week I noticed the inflammation calmed down somewhat (despite continued daily application of the vitamin D), although it's still higher than the baseline inflammation I normally have in these areas.


                      • Originally posted by sejon View Post
                        Have you reacted to just MCT oil before?

                        As I mentioned in a previous post, applying vitamin D caused increased flaking and redness in my typical dermatitis hotspots (in the beard and moustache). I've never reacted to using plain MCT oil, so my only guess is it's a response to vitamin D. Vitamin D should be extremely well tolerated, so I've theorised that it might be boosting the immune system locally, which could result in inflammation in problematic areas. After about a week I noticed the inflammation calmed down somewhat (despite continued daily application of the vitamin D), although it's still higher than the baseline inflammation I normally have in these areas.
                        I don’t think I’ve reacted to it before, and I use it from Tom’s lotion as well. It is just that I need 4 drops of my vitamin D solution to get 400 IU, so it is a lot of oil.
                        I struggle with the exact same oiliness on my nose as you described with yourself, so guess I was just hoping for a quick fix of dehydrated and dry skin, but my nose is also one of my two hot spots so... might be an immune system thing as you say.
                        This actually reminds me of my reaction to the oat groat mask when I think of it, which might support your hypothesis.


                        • I personally wouldn't consider just 4 drops of oil, for the whole face & neck, "a lot" of oil. If it still absorbs quickly, then you're probably not applying too much.

                          My face is still slightly dry to the touch rather than overly greasy, so it really seems that my oil production has been normalised by topical vitamin D, and that it wasn't simply a random occurrence. The increased inflammation is a bit of a nuisance, but it'll likely calm down further over time, and considering the benefits on my oil production I have no intention of stopping topical vitamin D anytime soon (if at all). That said, everyone's skin is different so I can't claim it's the solution for everyone with overactive sebaceous glands.


                          • Just to emphasize, I think my reaction is probably a good sign, or just coincidence (some other factor I’m not taking into account). I very much want to continue with vitamin D topically. I notice even my forehead has started to flake a little. I have never seen this before.

                            I’m only using it on certain areas of my face, and it hasn’t absorbed well, just sits on my skin. So that made me think it was too much. Anyway, wasn’t my intention to highjack this thread, will report back when I have something of substance 😊


                            • okay soo I've had Sd for several years now, but it's finally cleared up. It's strange that neither hydrocortisone nor antifungal creams don't work separately. cortisone gets rid of the inflammation, temporarily, as long as you keep using it, but it doesn't do anything about the fungal infestation. the antifungal works to clear up some, but since this fungal lives on your , your immune system sstill flags inflammation in that area

                              recently went back to a dermatologist and he prescribed me a mix of hydrocortisone 1% and a ciclopirox olamine cream. it got rid of flakes in my ears and on my scalp. using the hydrocortisone every other week to minimize rebound effect. and every other week use the Ciclopirox antifungal without the hydrocortisone.


                              • Guys, this is an old thead, but I can't seem to control the flakiness of my skin. Cleansers are harsh and the skin is left itchy since they don't actually fight the Malasazia on the skin. I'm currently trying E45 shampoo, but the skin is still flakey, I guess Tom busby did say it takes 10 months to work.