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Abortion Home Remedies: Know Your Options

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If you’re experiencing an unintended pregnancy, know that you’re not alone, and you have options. You can safely and legally end your pregnancy if you want to.

This is still true, even after the United States Supreme Court voted in June 2022 to overturn Roe vs. Wade — the 1973 case that guaranteed the legal right to abortion.

However, in the wake of Roe‘s fall, many social media users concerned about increased restrictions around legal abortion have shared “advice” on how to self-manage your own.

While some tips are evidence-based — for example, many folks point out that self-managing an abortion via approved medication is safe, effective, and legal nationwide — many alleged “abortion home remedies” are under-researched.

They may be ineffective at best and life threatening at worst.

Some common “abortion home remedies” that people try include:

  • herbs and teas, including pennyroyal, mugwort, black cohosh, and parsley
  • physical exercises
  • self-injury
  • over-the-counter medications like vitamin C, caffeine pills, and birth control pills
  • alcohol and criminalized drugs

Read on to learn more about why attempting abortion via these “home remedies” can be harmful — and how to access safe alternatives, no matter where you live.

It’s difficult to quantify how many abortions take place globally. Estimates range from 56 million to 73 million abortions per year.

Of those, about 25 million are considered unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion may lead to about 70,000 deaths and 5 million serious complications yearly.

Some of these abortions involve visiting traditional medicine practitioners or other community members who perform surgical procedures outside of a clinical setting.

Others are SMAs that may involve using ethnobotanical and folk remedies, including herbs and teas, or attempting self-injury.

This is nothing new: People have long used traditional medicine and other methods to induce abortions. But many of these practices are under-researched, and those studied are often found to be ineffective, unsafe, or both.

For example, one study found that people with uteruses who are not cisgender — including transgender men, genderqueer folks, and other gender-expansive people — reported high interest in SMA.

Of the people surveyed, 19% said they attempted an SMA without aid. Methods included taking herbs, causing physical trauma, using vitamin C, and using drugs or alcohol.

In a 2018 U.S. study, 55% of people who reported past attempts to self-abort said they used herbs or vitamins, while 36% said they used alcohol or non-pharmaceutical rugs.

A 2021 study found that U.S. youth experiencing homelessness often default to SMA using harmful methods like physical trauma, substance misuse, or intentional starvation.

Youth participants reported feeling that other abortion methods were too expensive or otherwise inaccessible due to their age or location.

One 2019 study among women across Mexico who had abortions found that it wasn’t uncommon for people to use traditional medicines like herbs alone or alongside pharmaceutical abortion medication, especially in abortion-hostile areas.

Many vitamins and herbs are touted as abortifacients (abortion-causing substances) when taken orally in high doses, brewed into teas, or inserted into the vagina. However, there is little evidence to support their use.

In one 2021 study, about half of participants who attempted SMAs used vitamin C, parsley, Dong Quai, rose hips, ginger root, chamomile, and black cohosh. Others took analgesics, antibiotics, birth control pills, and caffeine pills.

None of these substances are approved or recommended for inducing abortion, and some can cause serious harm — even in small amounts.

Some of the most commonly attempted “home remedies” include pennyroyal, black cohosh, mugwort, parsley, and vitamin C.

Pennyroyal oil and pennyroyal tea

Pennyroyal is the name given to a herbal extract or oil derived from a few plants that belong to the mint family: Mentha pulegium or Hedeoma pulegoides. It’s long been used in folk medicine to induce periods and abortions.

However, pennyroyal oil can cause serious side effects, even at doses as low as one tablespoon (15 mL). Side effects of ingesting pennyroyal oil — or tea made with pennyroyal oil — may include:

  • fainting
  • seizures
  • coma
  • cardiopulmonary collapse (sudden failure of the heart and lungs)
  • liver injury, liver necrosis, or liver failure
  • renal insufficiency
  • multi-organ failure
  • death

In addition to its potential to harm you, some research suggests that pennyroyal oil does not have the ability to induce an abortion or affect contractions of the uterus.

Therefore, consuming pennyroyal to attempt an SMA is not a good idea.

Black cohosh

Also known as snakeroot, black bugbane, or rattleweed, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemosa) has been used in traditional Indigenous medicine for centuries.

It’s been suggested that black cohosh may treat pain, fever, cough, pneumonia, and menstrual irregularities, induce labor and support reproductive health.

Some people take black cohosh supplements to treat menstrual cramps and menopause symptoms.

However, there isn’t much evidence supporting any of these claims. Plus, research into the side effects of black cohosh is limited.

There are some weak associations between black cohosh supplements and gastrointestinal upset, breast pain, infection, abnormal vaginal bleeding, liver damage, cramps, headaches, and rashes.

There is no evidence that black cohosh at any dosage can induce an abortion, but there is evidence that taking it can cause side effects. Black cohosh is not a reliable or recommended method of SMA.

Mugwort

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) also has a storied history as an Indigenous medicine, with some suggesting that it can treat digestive problems, menstruation irregularities, high blood pressure, and stress.

However, little scientific research supports using mugwort for any of these conditions.

Some people take mugwort to attempt abortions, as it’s been found to potentially influence miscarriage and affect animals’ pregnancy outcomes. That doesn’t mean it’s effective at causing abortions in humans, though.

The herb is generally recognized as safe when taken as an over-the-counter supplement, but large doses of some variations of mugwort may cause side effects.

These include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • nervous system damage
  • high blood pressure
  • stomach cramps
  • brain injury
  • vertigo
  • insomnia and restlessness
  • urine retention
  • seizures
  • tremors

Mugwort is also said to have high allergen potential and may cause allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. It’s not a safe or effective method of SMA.

Parsley

Parsley — and oils that are drawn from it — have been used in SMA attempts for many years. However, taking concentrated parsley oils has been associated with hemorrhage (severe bleeding), neurotoxicity, and death.

That’s because oils derived from parsley’s leaves or seeds contain high levels of a compound called parsley apiole, which can cause poisoning in large doses.

Research has found that parsley apiole poisoning can lead to miscarriage, but it comes with other side effects that can be fatal, such as:

  • fever
  • severe abdominal pain
  • vaginal bleeding
  • convulsions
  • vomiting and diarrhea

In one 2021 study, taking parsley apiole caused fatal liver and kidney toxicity in every mouse that took it. While results of animal trials don’t always apply to humans, liver and kidney damage may still be reasonable concerns.

Parsley also contains a compound called myristicin. Like apiole, myristicin can cause uterine contractions and may be associated with miscarriage.

However, parsley-based treatments are not recommended or proven to be safe methods for SMA due to the risk of side effects. It is also not clear how effective parsley is in inducing abortion.

(Remember that most studies involve concentrated oils derived from parsley’s leaves or seeds — not parsley itself.)

Over-the-counter and prescription medications

It’s never a good idea to take more than the recommended dose of any over-the-counter or prescription medication. Even vitamins and supplements can pose risks when taken in excess.

Those that don’t cause direct harm may just be ineffective. For example, despite some myths, vitamin C cannot cause an abortion.

You should also never use alcohol or criminalized drugs to try and induce abortion, nor should you engage in self-injury. You deserve safe, compassionate, judgment-free abortion care — and options are available.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest risks associated with common abortion “home remedies.”

Incomplete abortion

An incomplete abortion is an abortion that didn’t completely work. This means that products of the pregnancy remain in your body, so you’ll likely need medical treatment to complete the abortion.

Untreated, an incomplete abortion can lead to heavy bleeding and potentially life-threatening infections.

Infection

All surgeries involve a risk of infection, which is why medical facilities work hard to keep their environments as sterile as possible.

Some abortion home remedies call for inserting an instrument through your cervix to reach your uterus. This is extremely dangerous, even if you think you’ve properly sterilized the instrument.

An infection in your vagina, cervix, or uterus can cause permanent damage, including infertility. An infection in this area can also spread to your bloodstream, causing life threatening blood poisoning.

Hemorrhage

Hemorrhage refers to any sort of major blood loss. If you or someone without medical training tries to perform a surgical abortion on you, you run the risk of accidentally severing a major blood vessel, causing internal bleeding.

Keep in mind that internal bleeding may not be visible until it’s too late.

Scarring

In addition to hemorrhaging, a surgical abortion provided by someone without medical training can result in scarring.

This scarring can affect your external and internal genitalia, resulting in infertility and other health conditions.

Toxicity

Herbal remedies may seem harmless because they’re “natural.” But even common herbs can have powerful effects and quickly become toxic.

Not to mention, most herbal abortion methods require consuming much more than the recommended dosage.

If you ingest more than the amount known to be safe for humans, your liver has to work overtime to filter out extra toxins and other compounds from the herbs. This can lead to liver damage or failure.

Many people who attempt to self-manage an abortion via a home remedy do so because abortion is illegal or restricted where they live. And since it’s difficult to research illegal activities, we don’t have much data about the effectiveness of abortion home remedies.

One small 2020 study based in Texas, where abortion access is limited for many, surveyed people who attempted abortions on their own.

Many of them tried home remedies — primarily herbs and vitamins (43%), birth control pills or other medications, certain foods, and alcohol or drugs — instead of or alongside abortion medication.

None of the people who reported using home remedies alone said they were successful in ending their pregnancies.

Those who used home remedies often tried several methods over weeks without success before visiting an abortion provider in person.

Older research from rural Tanzania asked women who presented to medical facilities with incomplete abortions about what abortion methods they’d tried.

Two-thirds reported they had attempted an abortion outside of a clinical setting or without pharmaceutical medications. More than a third said they had used plants.

The researchers found that of 21 plant species participants reported using, 16 did have some ability to encourage uterine contractions. However, using plants for abortion runs a high risk of complications, including incomplete abortions that require follow-up medical care.

Overall, most abortion home remedies appear not only dangerous but ineffective as well.

If you’ve decided that an abortion is right for you, there are safe, legal alternatives to herbs, self-injury, and out-of-clinic procedures — and you can still self-manage your abortion at home.

There are two main types of abortion:

  • Medical abortion. A medical abortion involves taking pills or dissolving medication in your vagina or inner cheek. Medication abortions can be safely self-managed at home.
  • Surgical abortion. A surgical abortion is a medical procedure involving suction. It’s done by a provider in a medical facility, and you can usually go home after the procedure so long as you bring someone to drive you.

When considering your options, remember that medical abortions are usually only recommended up until week 12 of pregnancy.

Most states don’t allow surgical abortions after 20–24 weeks or the end of the second trimester. They’re usually only done after this point if the pregnancy poses a serious health risk.

Learn more about the different types of abortion, including timeline and cost information.

If you’ve already taken steps to have an abortion using a method that may pose risk, make sure to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Go to the emergency room if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • bleeding that soaks through a maxi pad in under one hour
  • bloody vomit, stool, or urine
  • fever or chills
  • yellowing of your skin or eyes
  • severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis
  • vomiting and loss of appetite
  • loss of consciousness
  • inability to wake up or stay awake
  • sweaty, cold, bluish, or pale skin
  • confusion

Several U.S. organizations can offer guidance on your options, help you find a provider, and assist with covering the costs of an abortion.

Information and services

If you’re unsure where to start, consider reaching out to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, which you can find here.

Clinic staff can counsel you on your options and help you weigh the pros and cons of each.

Once you’ve decided, they can provide you with discreet, lower-cost services, including medical and surgical abortions.

Other options include INeedAnA.com and the National Abortion Federation’s U.S. Abortion Clinic Locator.

The National Abortion Federation also operates a hotline that can help you find an abortion provider or financial support for your abortion.

Financial assistance

Abortion funds are organizations that help people pay for abortion care. They can help you find abortion providers and arrange appointments, too.

Some abortion funds you can contact for help include:

The above list is far from complete, as many local and regional communities have abortion funds. The National Network of Abortion Funds can connect you with local organizations serving your area.

Telemedicine

Depending on where you live, a physician or abortion provider may be able to prescribe you abortion medication, and you can take it in their office or at home. You can also order pills online.

Pills ordered online appear just as safe as those administered in person.

One US-based study analyzed pills sent from 16 websites that provide medication abortion. The websites all mailed safe, legitimate medicines as advertised, and they usually arrived in a timely manner.

Plus, a 2017 study involving 1,000 Irish women found that medical abortions done with the help of an organization called Women on Web were highly effective.

Those who did have complications were well-equipped to recognize them, and nearly all participants who had complications reported seeking medical treatment.

Abortion access varies widely by country.

The Center for Reproductive Rights offers more information on abortion laws worldwide, along with a map you can use to check the abortion laws in your country.

If you live in Canada, you can call the National Abortion Federation hotline at 877-257-0012 for a referral to a clinic near you.

British Pregnancy Advisory Services can offer more information about your abortion options if you live in the United Kingdom. They also provide abortion services and support to international patients.

Humans have used ethnobotanical practices and other methods to end their pregnancies for centuries. Today, marginalized communities and people living in areas that criminalize abortion are most likely to try methods like these.

Since the fall of the right to legal abortion in the US, well-meaning folks have increasingly shared advice on “abortion home remedies” via social media.

However, few of these methods — including herbs, injury, alcohol, or drugs that have not been FDA-approved — have been studied for safety or effectiveness. Those that have been studied have generally proven risky and could harm you.

That means it’s best to avoid them. However, this doesn’t mean that you are out of options.

If you need an abortion, you can access safe alternatives like FDA-approved medication (either obtained from an in-person or telehealth provider or ordered online) or a procedure at a verified clinic.

Regardless of the laws and regulations in your area, you deserve the right to make decisions about what happens to your body.


Rose Thorne is an associate editor at Healthline Nutrition. A 2021 graduate of Mercer University with a degree in journalism and women’s & gender studies, Rose has bylines for Business Insider, The Washington Post, The Lily, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and more. Rose’s proudest professional accomplishments include being a college newspaper editor-in-chief and working at Fair Fight Action, the national voting rights organization. Rose covers the intersections of gender, sexuality, and health, and is a member of The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and the Trans Journalists Association. You can find Rose on Twitter.



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Health

Your Skin on Stress: Acne, Hair Loss, and More

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Stress can present itself through skin conditions like acne, inflammation, and more. How can you tell it’s from stress?

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. External issues can be a telltale sign that not all is well underneath.

While bottled serums and sheet masks possess a certain level of aesthetic and soothing allure, a solid skin care routine may not be enough to provide calm for your body’s complex systems.

The increased jump in cortisol can jumble up the messages your nerves decide to send, causing anything from an outbreak of hives to fine lines.

While this correlation between stress and skin has been known since ancient times, formal studies revealing the deeper connection only date back to the last two decades.

And yes, your diet or skin care products can cause skin concerns, but it’s also important to consider stress as a potential culprit — especially if a rash appears out of nowhere or persists long after you’ve tested for everything.

We’ve outlined eight proven ways that mental, physical, and hormonal stress changes your skin. But more importantly, we also tell you what you can do about it.

Even before looking internally, there’s one beaming factor that can physically stress out your skin and weaken its defenses: ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A carcinogenic (cancer-causing) component of sun exposure, it can have a negative effect on the skin.

Whether in the form of natural sunlight or more artificial means such as tanning beds, ultraviolet rays signal blood cells to rush to the exposed area in an attempt to repair it. This manifests as sunburns.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation may lead to darkened blemishes, moles, and even skin cancer. The best way to combat UV rays and sun stress is by applying sunscreen every morning.

On top of sunscreens, you can also oppose sun damage from the inside out. Research has linked certain nutrients to the ability to boost your skin’s natural sun protection.

Limonene, a chemical derived from citrus peels, has been studied for use in cancer prevention medicines. Eating citrus peel might also provide sun protection.

Fruits high in antioxidants and vitamin C (like strawberries and pomegranates) have the ability to protect your cells from the free radical damage caused by sun exposure.

It’s important to remember that eating these foods does not replace wearing sunscreen. You should still wear sunscreen in addition to considering eating foods high in limonene, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

Hives, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea are often a result of inflammation, but studies also show that when your brain is on overdrive, it can actually compromise your skin’s protective abilities.

In other words, stress makes it harder for your skin to regulate and stay balanced. It’s no wonder you might have an extra breakout during a sleepless week or after an intense argument.

Inflammation can also cause acne. But remember, some skin conditions like rosacea can look like acne, too. It’s important to note the difference before treating the conditions, including whether your irritation is a result of stress, allergies, or a harmful product.

Fighting stress inflammation begins with eliminating the cause. Finding out the exact reason behind your stress might be difficult or impossible, but there are still ways to tame the fires with food, exercise, or therapy.

Whether it’s the impending dread of finals week or spontaneous heartbreak, we’ve all likely suffered at the hands of a stubborn pimple (or two).

Stress is highly associated with acne, especially for women. It can mix up our skin’s nerve signals, causing imbalanced hormones and chemicals that increase oil production.

While it’s nearly impossible to remove stress from the equation entirely, there are ways to overcome it. Keep 5- and 10-minute stress-relief tricks handy, and try longer stress-management techniques, like exercise, to increase your body’s abilities to adapt.

And most acne reacts to topical treatments, too. The secret ingredient in our most beloved anti-acne products is often a beta-hydroxy acid known as salicylic acid.

This oil-soluble chemical penetrates pores extremely well for unclogging and cleaning, but this doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from its own set of cons. Too much or too strong salicylic acid can dry out and even irritate your skin.

So with careful application in mind, nightly spot treatments are helpful for targeting troubled areas without harming the skin in the surrounding areas.

There’s no one way to experience stress. Have you ever unconsciously pulled your hair, bitten your fingernails, or picked at both? That could be the stress hormone, cortisol, triggering your body’s fight-or-flight response.

Before you assume it’s stress, though, you might want to check in with a dermatologist and doctor to rule out other potential issues. For example, scaly or waxy skin could be eczema. Or hair loss or peeling nails could be due to insufficient nutrition from skipping meals.

In the time being, avoid extremely hot showers to prevent further damaging your skin and scalp. Bring more consistency to your day by aiming to exercise regularly and eating a nutrient-dense diet of fruits and vegetables.

The skin might get thinner in cases of abnormally high cortisol levels. Cortisol results in the breakdown of dermal proteins, which can cause the skin to appear almost paper-thin, as well as bruising and tearing easily.

However, this symptom is most noticeably associated with Cushing syndrome. Also known as hypercortisolism, this hormonal disease includes additional symptoms such as glucose intolerance, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system (you may experience increased infections).

If you think that you may have Cushing syndrome, make an appointment with a healthcare professional. In most cases, medication can be prescribed for the management of cortisol levels.

In the face of severe stress, your epidermis can quickly become weakened, increasing your risk for infections and environmental pathogens. This also slows down your skin’s natural ability to heal wounds, scars, and acne.

To repair your skin barrier, you can use products with glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

The same remedies you use to combat sun exposure apply here, too. Consume antioxidant-rich food for a similar effect and strengthened internal healing.

In addition to keeping skin hydrated internally (through water consumption), focus on using products based on zinc, sal (Shorea robusta), and flaxseed oil. These ingredients are shown to your keep your skin moisturized and provide a packed healing punch for wound healing.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a comment regarding the undeniable dark circles around your eyes, then you know just how much sleep deprivation reveals itself physically. And yep, that’s stress, too.

Our bodies keep adrenaline running on a constant cycle while in fight-or-flight mode, including late at night.

If you’re already trying meditation and yoga for sleep, ramp up your bedtime routine by using essential oil diffusers, turning on white noise machines, and avoiding screens in the 2-hour time span before sleep.

For sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, CBD oil and melatonin pills may act as more reliable remedies.

From the furrow of a brow to a frown, psychological stress inevitably finds a way to make permanent evidence of our emotions.

So what’s one to do about it? You can try face yoga. Arguably safer than Botox, face yoga can lead to similar results, although the commitment to doing this every day might a hard to do.

By targeting the facial muscles we subconsciously use every day, through pointed massage techniques in high-tension areas such as our foreheads, brows, and jawline, these exercises can counteract developing wrinkles and leave skin flexible and resilient.

For additional assistance, applying facial pressure with a chilled jade roller activates the lymphatic system, which can also reduce puffiness and the appearance of stress damage on the skin.

Stress does not manifest the same in every person, but every person ultimately experiences stress to some extent. Instead of comparing stress levels with others to gauge whether your stress is “all that bad,” choose to care for yourself when you need it.

While we can’t control the myriad ways stress rears its head, we can control how we choose to react to it. Remembering to care for ourselves and for our skin is one of the small ways we can slowly but surely reduce stress.

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Skin Barrier Function and How to Repair and Care for It

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Your skin barrier protects your body from free radicals. Harsh environments are often the cause of damage. Keep it protected using oils, ceramides, and more.

Beauty boutique and drugstore shelves are packed with products that aim to protect and rejuvenate your skin. Some of them exfoliate, some plump, and others moisturize.

All these products share the fact that they act on your body’s outermost layer, which is called the skin barrier.

But what exactly is your skin barrier, what’s its purpose, and what can cause damage?

In this article, we’ll help answer those questions and also explore the steps you can take to protect and restore this vital defensive layer.

Your skin is made up of layers, each of which performs important functions in protecting your body.

The outermost layer, called the stratum corneum, is often described as a brick wall. It consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes that are bound together by mortar-like lipids. This is your skin barrier.

Inside the skin cells, or “bricks,” you’ll find keratin and natural moisturizers. The lipid layer contains:

  • cholesterol
  • fatty acids
  • ceramides

This fantastically thin brick wall is literally keeping you alive. Without it, various harmful environmental toxins and pathogens could penetrate your skin and cause adverse effects inside your body.

Additionally, without your skin barrier, the water inside your body would escape and evaporate, leaving you completely dehydrated.

Your skin barrier is essential for your overall health and needs to be protected to help your body function properly.

Daily, your skin defends against a barrage of threats, many of which come from outside your body, and a few come from within.

Some of the external and internal factors that can affect your skin barrier include:

The role of the acid mantle

Your skin barrier is slightly acidic. This acidity (the acid mantle) helps create a kind of buffer against the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could damage your skin and lead to infections and other skin conditions.

It’s especially important to protect the acid mantle around wounds since the skin’s acidity is necessary for many of the biological interactions that occur during the healing process.

Sometimes, a health condition like diabetes or incontinence can change your skin’s acidity, weakening this buffer. For people with these conditions, experts recommend slightly more acidic skin care products.

When your skin barrier is not functioning properly, you may be more prone to developing the following skin symptoms and conditions:

Given the importance of maintaining your skin barrier and acid mantle, what can you do to keep them both healthy and functional? Let’s look at five strategies that can help.

Simplify your skin care routine

If you’re performing a complicated daily skin regimen involving a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Consider talking with a dermatologist or another skin care professional about which products are essential and most effective.

If you’re exfoliating, notice how your skin reacts to the method you use. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those with sensitive skin and darker skin tones may want to use a soft cloth and a mild chemical exfoliant.

Some types of scrubs and brushes may temporarily damage your skin barrier.

Pay attention to pH

Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 4.7. But the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 to 8.2.

Researchers recommend cleansing with a product that has a pH between 4.0 and 5.0.

Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level may help protect you from skin conditions like dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne, and Candida albicans infections. Although not all products list their pH, some do.

Try a plant oil to replenish your skin barrier

Research from 2018 suggests that certain plant oils may help repair the skin barrier and also prevent your skin barrier from losing moisture. Many of these oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, too.

Some of the most effective plant oils to consider using on your skin include:

There are many ways you can use plant oils on your skin.

You can apply creams and lotions that contain one or more of these oils as an ingredient. Or you can pour a small amount of the oil into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until it’s absorbed.

Look for formulations that include ceramides

Ceramides are waxy lipids found in especially high concentrations in the stratum corneum. They are crucial for making sure your skin barrier functions properly.

Research from 2019 shows that products containing pseudo-ceramides may help improve the dryness, itchiness, and scaling caused by a poorly functioning barrier. Ceramide-rich moisturizers may also strengthen the structural integrity of your skin barrier.

Ceramide moisturizers may be especially helpful if you have acne. In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired, and acne treatments can leave skin dry and reddened. Products containing ceramides may also help protect darker skin. According to a 2014 review of studies, darker skin tones were shown to contain lower ceramide levels.

Try moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid, petrolatum, or glycerin

Dry skin is a common problem, and moisturizers are the often-recommended solution.

An occlusive moisturizer aids the skin barrier by reducing the amount of water loss from your skin. These products leave a thin film on your skin that helps prevent moisture loss.

One of the most frequently recommended occlusive moisturizers is petrolatum, which experts say can block as much as 99% of water loss from your skin.

Like occlusive moisturizers, humectants can also improve barrier function. Humectants work by drawing water — either from the environment or from inside your body — and binding it into the skin barrier. Researchers recommend products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, honey, and urea.

How to use

Gently apply moisturizer to your skin immediately after you get out of the shower, when your skin is moist.

Not all skin care ingredients work for everyone. That’s why you may want to try a few different products to determine which one works best for keeping your skin healthy, protected, and well moisturized.

The outermost layer of your skin, known as your skin barrier, defends your body against environmental threats while simultaneously protecting your body’s critical water balance.

Symptoms such as dryness, itching, and inflammation can alert you to a disturbance in this important barrier.

You can help repair your skin’s barrier by:

  • simplifying your skin care regimen
  • using products with a suitable pH
  • using a moisturizer that contains ceramides or a humectant like hyaluronic acid

Moisturizers with petrolatum can also help your skin barrier seal in moisture.

Your skin barrier is your body’s frontline defense against everything the environment can throw at you. Keeping it healthy is much more than a cosmetic concern.

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‘Apple’ Body Shape: Does It Matter for Health?

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Bodies come in different shapes and sizes, making us all unique.

Though there is immense pressure from society to look a certain way, it’s important to prioritize your health over beauty ideals — and to keep in mind that “health” looks different for everyone.

For some time, people have described body shapes by comparing them to fruit, particularly pears and apples. People who have “pear-shaped” bodies are often thought to be healthier than those with “apple-shaped” bodies.

But is this true?

This article dives into the apple and pear body shapes, the research behind them, and whether they truly mean anything for your health.

People have used fruit terms to describe body shapes for many years because this is an easy way to describe body types without using more scientific, formal terms.

The “apple” body shape is known in the scientific community as “android,” meaning that most of the fat is stored in the midsection and less fat is stored in the hips, buttocks, and thighs.

People with android body types tend to have a larger waist-to-hip ratio, meaning their waist is larger or close to equivalent in circumference to their hips.

In contrast, the “pear” body shape is known as “gynoid,” which means more fat is stored in the hips, buttocks, and thighs than in the midsection.

People with gynoid body types often have a smaller waist-to-hip ratio, which means their hips are usually wider than their waist.

Though there are more formal terms to describe body shapes, the average person can better imagine an apple or a pear than an android or gynoid body type.

First things first: The way a person’s body looks does not automatically tell you whether they are healthy.

That said, certain body shapes may be at an increased risk of negative health outcomes, according to numerous research studies.

One 2020 review of 72 studies found that people with greater fat distribution in the stomach area (an apple shape) had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes than those with pear-shaped bodies.

In one 2019 study involving 2,683 postmenopausal women, those who had an apple body type — more fat in the midsection and less fat in the legs — were three times more likely to have heart disease than those with a pear body type.

Interestingly, having a pear body type had a protective effect against heart disease, reducing risk by up to 40%.

Another study found that apple-shaped bodies were significantly associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, regardless of body mass index (BMI). (Remember: The BMI has limitations as a predictor of health, especially for People of Color.)

Also, a small study including 49 males found that despite having the same BMI, body weight, and body fat percentage, men with more android fat had lower endothelial function, which leads to poorer blood flow in the body.

They also had higher insulin resistance, blood lipid levels, and heart rates, suggesting worsened heart and metabolic health.

Finally, a 2021 review of 31 studies found that excess weight around the midsection is significantly associated with greater risk of heart disease.

The review found that for every 10-cm (3.9-inch) increase in waist circumference, there was a 3% and 4% increased risk of heart disease for women and men, respectively.

Other negative health outcomes — such as kidney disease, lung and colorectal cancers, and even cognitive decline — are linked with central obesity (the presence of excess fat in the midsection).

Ultimately, most research suggests that fat distribution — not necessarily body weight or BMI — can affect health outcomes.

Though using fruit metaphors to describe body types may be convenient, it’s not ideal.

Using objects to describe a person’s body type creates the opportunity for others to make general assumptions about someone’s health and body.

For instance, people with higher body weight and body fat tend to experience weight bias in healthcare settings, meaning that healthcare professionals may focus only on their weight, regardless of their reason for seeking medical care.

This can cause people to lose trust in healthcare professionals and can delay diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Making assumptions about people’s health based on their body type can also be a disservice to those with pear-shaped bodies, as the healthcare professionals they interact with may not screen for health conditions based on their body type.

Further, using such terms can worsen a person’s body image by suggesting that they do not have the “ideal” body type. The binary nature of these terms also fails to recognize that there are other body types besides pear- and apple-shaped ones.

What’s more, positioning one body type as superior to another can lead to judgment and stigma against people with other body types. No one needs to modify their body to resemble another’s, and research suggests that body shape isn’t a choice, anyway.

Genetics can play a role in your body shape. Some people have longer torsos and shorter legs, while others may have shorter torsos and longer legs or be somewhere in between. Your height and limb length can play a huge role in the way your body looks.

Hormones can also play a role. For example, hormonal differences between men and women can lead to differences in fat storage. Men often store more fat in their stomach area, while women tend to store more fat in their hips, legs, and buttocks.

As women’s estrogen levels decline with age, their bodies tend to store more fat in the stomach region and less in the lower body.

While research has linked apple or android body types to greater risk of chronic disease, this is not always the case. Someone with more fat in the stomach area can be in terrific health, while someone who has a different body type may not be.

Finally, the available research is mostly based on observational data, which means it can’t confirm cause-and-effect relationships. Thus, while apple body types are associated with increased health risks, it’s not certain that the apple body shape is the cause of those risks.

There are many ways that you can better understand your body composition and health risk, such as:

  • Waist circumference: A larger waist circumference (greater than 35 inches or 85 cm in women; greater than 40 inches or 101.6 cm in men) indicates greater body fat in the abdominal area and greater risk of chronic disease.
  • Waist-to-hip ratio: This ratio compares the difference in waist and hip circumference, which can help indicate fat distribution. A ratio of greater than 0.80 in women and greater than 0.95 in men suggests greater fat stores in the stomach area. Those with a higher waist-to-hip ratio are at greater risk of chronic disease.
  • Body fat percentage: This can tell you how much fat is stored in your body. While this may be generally helpful, not all tests tell you where the fat is stored.
  • Lab tests: Blood work can tell you and healthcare professionals how your health is, regardless of your body type.

While these measurements and tests can be helpful, healthcare professionals shouldn’t rely on a single test to make a judgment about someone’s health. Instead, they should do follow-up tests if they have any concerns.

Also, it’s important to look at health from all angles, including diet, physical activity, sleep habits, stress, genetics, and mental well-being.

People often use the terms “pear” and “apple” to describe how bodies look and how fat is distributed. Historically, these terms have been used as indicators of a person’s health.

Numerous research studies have found that greater fat distribution around the midsection — an “apple” or “android” body type — may be linked with a higher risk of chronic disease and poor health outcomes.

However, because many of these studies are observational, the results do not clearly indicate how big of a role body type truly plays in health.

Additionally, it’s problematic to use a person’s appearance to make generalizations about their health, since bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Such generalizations also promote weight bias, which can lead to delayed care and treatment.

Instead, it’s important for you and any healthcare professionals you work with to look at your health holistically by considering all aspects of health, including lifestyle, genetics, and age-related factors.

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