Your skin is often the first the thing that people notice about you. It is not only the outer most covering of your body but it can be a mirror that reflects your internal state of health. The skin is our largest organ with a role to play in the elimination of toxins and waste products – it is vital that it functions optimally.
There are a number of medical methods and process available to people who wish to achieve clear skin. And while these methods may yield results, they are often costly, involve painful procedures, harsh chemicals and may set in motion whole host of side-effects and could have long-term health implications.
By choosing natural methods to attain a healthier skin, it may seem like you have to go the long way around to get there. Natural methods are not a quick fix, single application, over-night solution – they may take a bit longer to see results and it may require hard work and dedication. But the methods are simple and harness basic principles that help bring into balance not only the skin but the whole body for total, holistic health.
Back to Basics
The skin has certain requirements for optimal functioning. By going back to basics and making small changes in these areas you can help normalize and enhance the skin’s vitality.
Blood flow to the skin is of vital importance. If blood flow is either excessive or deficient, it can lead to a variety of skin issues. A dynamic supply of blood to the skin brings nutrients and oxygen to nourish and support the skin as well as assists in removal of waste products and toxins.
The cell turnover rate is the speed at which old, damaged or injured cells are exchanged for healthy cells. At the uppermost layer the oldest cells die, fall off or get scraped off and these are replaced with new cells. The new cells make their way from the bottom (basement layer) to the surface skin that you can see (epidermis). Luckily the skin has a quick rate of cell turn over which means, on average, we get a completely new skin about every 2 weeks. But as we age, this number increases and it takes longer for new cells at the bottom to reach the top surface layer. But there are ways to extend the youthful properties of skin.
Removal of dead skin cells or exfoliation is one way of stimulating new skin cells to form and to increase the cell turnover of your skin. Another means is through long term, balanced and healthy nutrition.
Hydrated skin is happy skin. Water that we drink can to a small degree help improve moisture levels on the skin but mostly water helps the skin to breathe better. Water in the blood that supplies the skin is the medium that waste products can filter into, to be taken away to other eliminatory organs and excreted. Skin is one of our body’s routes of elimination but is not the main choice. Help your skin by putting less strain on your liver, kidneys and colon – when these organs are functioning well the skin can function better too.
Collagen in the skin is what gives our skin plumpness and fullness. When collagen production slows down the skin loses elasticity and become “floppy” – wrinkles form and skin starts to sag. There are many factors that influence collagen production in the skin and there are many products on the market that promise the world. But good nutrition throughout your lifetime is the best way to prolong healthy collagen levels and beautiful skin.
Keep it Simple
A gentle cleansing & moisturizing routine are the foundation of healthy skin. In an ideal world you would be able to wash your skin with pure water and need nothing else but unfortunately today we are exposed to extra pollutants and chemicals, some of which we willing apply every day. It is good practice to remove these daily and afterwards you might need to also put some moisture back with a moisturizer. Find a cleanser & moisturizer that suit your skin type and your pocket.
The sun is your best source of vitamin D and spending small amount of time each day in sun can boost vitamin D levels do wonders for your general health and mood. Vitamin D has a regulatory effect on skin.
A healthy diet is the make-it or break-it determinant in terms of skin health. Our skin is battered by environmental pollutants and lifestyle stressors such as smoking and drinking almost constantly and when in combination with poor nutrition it’s no wonder that skin conditions are on the rise. The best way to achieve good skin is to closely monitor what you put into your mouth. Skin is nourished from the inside out – eat clean, healthy food and your skin will glow.
Pollution comes at us in many forms – environmental toxins in our air, water, food and the products we apply are compounded by the internal toxins we produce and all of this can affect skin health. Often it is difficult to avoid external sources pollution but where possible reduce your exposure to them and especially avoid pollution that you do have control over. Cigarette smoking, even second hand smoke is very detrimental to skin health.
Stress and the hormones that our body produces in response to stress can also have a negative impact on the skin. Find ways to cope with or manage stress your stress levels and your skin with thank you.
Sleep is a time that the body rests, repairs and recovers. Adequate sleep is a key ingredient in maintaining a healthy and youthful skin.
Exercise is great way to get the blood flowing around the body and to the skin. It is excellent for stress relief; it can bring about more restful sleep as well as improve mood and digestion
Excessive sun exposure could just look like sunburn on the surface but certain of the sun’s UV rays (or in tanning beds) can have far reaching effects to the lower levels where the skin cells are formed. Repeated deep cell damage can result in alterations to your DNA, change in the rate of new cells and even influence the kind of cells produced. Thankfully there are ways to protect your skin from the inside out.
Alcohol if consumed in excess robs the body of nutrients and causes dehydration. Alcohol also damages the liver. In Chinese medicine liver heat can result in redness and irritation in the skin of the body. Sugar and meat can also increase liver heat and cause a sluggish liver which means the other organs of elimination like the skin will suffer.
Stress and the subsequent release of adrenaline and cortisol cause blood to be diverted away from the digestive organs and skin and instead to the muscles and brain as part of the fight or flight response. If this reduction in blood flow to the skin happens repeatedly as in cases of chronic stress the skin is effectively starved of oxygen and nutrients.
A diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables will provide the skin and body with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to keep the skin looking and functioning well. The colorful pigments are healing and maintain blood vessel health to ensure good blood flow to the skin. It is always better to get all nutrients we need in the form of food by eat a varied balanced diet. Choose green leafy vegetables, yellow/orange vegetables and berries.
Make sure you eat a small amount of protein every day. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are required to make new cells and keep the skin healthy. Choose organic lean, meats, fish, eggs even nuts and seeds contain protein.
Healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados and almonds work from the inside out to normalize skin function and secretions. If the body is lacking in essential fatty acids it can disrupt the cell turnover rate – the old cells can build up at the surface and the skin can feel and look hard and dry. A study published in 2000 found that people with an essential fatty acid deficiency were more likely to have inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis; and that these conditions improved with EFA supplementation.
Vitamin A, C and E are strong antioxidants which fight free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that damage our cells and speed up the aging process. Although merely breathing produces free radicals we can minimize external sources of free radicals like from pollution and also reduce internal free radical production by eating good healthy diet. Supplementing with these antioxidant vitamins can also help. Always choose natural forms of these nutrients as synthetic forms are not as effective.
Vitamin A additionally helps the body to produce healthy skin cells. Vitamin C is an essential component of collagen production – the scaffolding that gives the skin fullness. Vitamin E is also a healthy fat that keeps the skin soft and supple.
Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin and stimulates blood flow. If taken in high doses it can cause a “niacin flush” in which a great deal of blood rushes to the skin and causes deep redness and tingling. Although you don’t want this effect everyday small amounts of niacin (ideally in a B complex) will improve blood supply to the skin.
Vitamin D produced by our skin when exposed to sunlight has a normalizing effect on the cell turnover rate of skin. Studies have found that most cases of psoriasis, suffers were deficient in vitamin D and the skin quickly improved after vitamin D supplementation.
Omega 3 is atype of oil mostly derived from fish. This kind oil is called an essential fatty acid because our bodies cannot produce it and it is essential to get it from food or supplementation. Omega 3 is strongly anti-inflammatory, assists in sebum production in the skin and keeps the skin smooth and younger-looking.
Evening primrose oil is a type of omega 6 fatty acid. Generally our modern diets are too high in omega 6 and especially the processed and damaged kinds. When we have too much bad omega 6 it can push our body into a state of inflammation. However a good quality evening primrose oil would provide you with a healthy form of omega 6 and GLA – another healthy fat that helps fight inflammation and maintains a healthy lipid barrier in the skin.
Another antioxidant with protective effects in the skin is astaxanthin. It is a colorful compound produced by a type of algae in response to UV light exposure. Similarly, when we consume astaxanthin the compound helps our skin shield itself from harmful UV rays – like a built-in sunblock! Astaxanthin also helps fight inflammation, boosts the immune system and may improve cardiovascular health.
Horsetail is a herb that is rich in minerals and naturally occurring silica. These minerals help to strengthen the skin structure, can stimulate new cell growth and reduce the formation of fine lines and wrinkles and improve the skin’s texture. Horsetail also contains those handy antioxidants that delay the aging in the skin and body.
Ginger is an excellent peripheral circulatory stimulant to encourage blood flow to the skin to help heal wounds and scars, fight infection and nourish the skin and remove toxins. Topically ginger is also antiseptic and is also a powerful antioxidant. If your skin is very inflamed use only small amounts of ginger at first as it can be very stimulating.
Chamomile is perhaps best known for its sleep inducing effect but it is actually also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb. Due to its flavonoids, it helps heal the skin, slow down the aging process, calm inflammation as well as modulates allergic reactions. Sometimes skin conditions can be traced back to poor gut health. Chamomile can improve these types of skin conditions as it also has a healing and calming effect in the digestive tract.
There is so much information available on when and what to do to achieve healthy skin that it can at time be overwhelming. Disregard the fancy headlines and big budget beauty campaigns. Methods of achieving and maintaining a healthy, clear and youthful skin should not have to be expensive and complicated. The skin cannot be treated in isolation from the rest of the body. Follow the basic principles to improve your overall health and your skin will thank you.