As most people already know, skin needs to be taken care of externally for it to stay in good shape. Weather, sun, exposure to environmental pollution, bacteria, smoke, soaps, perfumes, dyes, chemicals, poor quality hygiene products, and improper cleansing methods can damage it. What often goes overlooked, or isn't even known, though, is that the skin is also a direct extension and reflection of our general health, especially the liver, and therefore also relies on internal care to be radiant, healthy, and beautiful.
As someone who's cared about holistic health FOR EVER, and even became trained and licensed as an Aesthetician to help people with their skin, and someone who has studied nutrition, health, and herbalism extensively, I put this blog piece together to cover some of the basics, when it comes to skin health. I've broken it down into a "good list" and a "bad list." The goal is to incorporate into your day the things from the good list and avoid in your life the things from the bad list. In my experience, a lot of these things are crucial to having better skin.
Really, the best option is to have a personal consultation with either an aesthetician, holistic practitioner like an herbalist or naturopathic doctor, or a skin specialist, depending on the route you feel most comfortable taking. I do online consultations with people; email me if you're interested in one. Otherwise, here's a helpful list of things that will help or hurt your skin.
GOOD FOR SKIN
A major aspect of skin healing (and any healing), health, and beauty is good circulation. Our cells rely on healthy blood to bring nutrients to them and remove wastes from them. Good circulation creates a rosy glow and soft, radiant skin. Healthy blood flow is so important and nourishing to our internal bodies that the skin reflects it and you'll see the difference when you improve circulation. Especially over the long term.
For improved circulation:
Oxygenate your blood! Practice long, deep breathing through your nose and get out and move. Get your heart pumping! Exercise daily.
Use ginger, cayenne, and garlic in your diet; they get your blood moving. Ginger is also known for helping to break down unnecessary fat. Herb Pharm, here in Oregon, and on amazon.com, produces excellent herbal tinctures for improved circulation such as their "Warming Circulation Tonic" and their "Healthy Veins Tonic."
Unless you have daily access to your very own massage therapist (dreamy!), skin brush before you shower with a naturally bristled (no nylon) dry skin brush. You start at the soles of the feet and move the bristles along your skin in small circles up towards the heart. This is excellent for skin, circulation, and the lymphatic system.
Flush the skin by alternating water temperatures in the shower. First hot then cold then hot then cold. The cold becomes more and more easy to bear! This has a remarkable influence on the sluggish lymphatic system, be warned. The lymph removes waste that's too big for the blood, but unlike the blood, it doesn't have a heart to pump it. Although it can be moved gently by breathing, and lymphatic massage benefits the lymph nodes and helps move lymphatic fluid, really the key to a healthy lymphatic system is being regularly physically active. Physical activity will pump your lymph fluid and have it eliminating cellular waste like it's supposed to! If you're not active, though, your lymph becomes sluggish; when you flush your skin with alternating hot and cold water, you may stir the waste that hasn't been eliminated and end up feeling like you've come down with a nasty cold! If you do "get sick," come back to hot and cold flushes once your body has recovered. This technique is incredible for skin and lymph health.
Other great things for the skin:
DAILY Vitamin C. FAR better than a supplement, drink lemon water! --- Every morning (on an empty stomach) drink 1/2 - 1 whole lemon's juice followed by a glass of warm water -or combined as lemon water. Or if you have a juicer you can remove the rind of the lemon (leaving the white PITH in tact, which is between the rind and flesh of the fruit, makes it especially vitamin C rich) and juice it. You can add it to freshly juiced ginger, apples and carrots for a sweet drink, or nutrient dense greens like kale, cucumber, and celery, or all of the above.
Freshly juiced juices are so powerfully cleansing and healing to the whole system. Focus on the greens -celery, cucumber, kale, spinach, etc.- as much as you can.
Sulfur! Take MSM tablets to improve skin's health and radiance.
Consumption of essential fatty acids from flaxseed oil (always kept COLD in the fridge), high quality olive oil from dark bottles only (oils are light and heat sensitive and rancid oils, which often go undetected, create free radicals in our bodies and are extremely bad), and fish.
Care for your liver! Liver cleanses, avoiding liver aggravators, and a liver supportive diet are important. Milk thistle tincture is incredible for soothing, protecting, and rebuilding the liver, and I prefer the Herb Pharm company. In addition, read Dr. Sandra Cabot's Liver Cleansing Diet on www.amazon.com ASAP.
Avoid free radicals (think deep-fried foods and hydrogenated oil in foods) and up your intake of antioxidants (fruits and vegetables).
Hydration is so incredibly important to the entire body. Make sure that you drink at least 64 oz of water DAILY. And when I say water I mean WATER. Not milk, juices, teas, bottled drinks, coffee, kool-aid, etc.
Support your skin through the use of quality skin care products suited to your skin type.
BAD FOR SKIN
Using lotions, cleansers, and any skin care products with mineral oil and other petroleum based ingredients, sulfates (which are great for cleaning your carpet, but not your skin), artificial fragrances, and parabens.
Consumption of alcohol. It's dehydrating, acidifying, and taxing to the skin (and brain, liver, kidneys, cardiovascular system, and more). People who drink, even just a glass of wine at dinner, have smaller, more dehydrated brains than people who never do, according to Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist "Brain Scan Doctor," Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen Clinics. If you prefer to drink, in moderation, consume extra green juice and lemon water to compensate.
Not getting enough water every day. Human bodies need a minimum of 64 ounces for optimal health and vibrance. I drink 2-3 liters/quarts per day.
Other fluids like caffeinated tea, coffee, and sugary drinks require EXTRA water to make up for their diuretic, acidic, and dehydrating effects. If you prefer to drink them, consume extra green juice and lemon water to compensate.
Skin needs to be stimulated and renewed, NOT stripped. Exfoliate (including enzyme peels and other masks or scrubs) only 1-2 times a week and otherwise use gentle cleansers avoiding the bad ingredients listed above.
Lack of dietary plant fats (oils), especially omega-3's (flaxseed oil and fish) and consuming fried fats and excessive amounts of animal fats.
Interestingly, hormone imbalances can create acne that just won't back down, but the healthier the liver is, the easier it can process our hormones properly. The liver, which conducts hundreds of other important functions in our bodies, as well, is easily bogged down by a typical diet of french fries, pizza, birthday cake, and soda; it's easily bogged down by poor dietary choices, by filtering pollution in our environments, by an overly acidic system, even by the chemical reactions of puberty, stress, motherhood, and the effects of becoming upset. A good, deep, herbal liver cleanse and lifestyle change will often make the difference when it comes to hormonal acne, in my experience. Be sure to check with an herbalist or naturopath if you become interested in addressing your hormone levels and liver health safely and naturally.
Here's to our health!
(I achieved my two year diploma in Medicinal Herbalism from The American College of Healthcare Sciences in Portland, Oregon in 2006 and my training as an Aesthetician from the International Beauty School in Springfield, Oregon in 2009.)