As much as sun exposure and genetics may shape one’s skin, the little choices we make in our everyday lives plays a vast role in our skin's health and wellbeing. The skin is the body’s largest organ, meaning it absorbs and excretes chemicals, oils, and metabolic waste products all day long. This means that anything we eat, think, do, or apply to our skin will eventually show.
Skin manifestations can come in the form of eczema, pimples, psoriasis, tinea, itchiness, blotchy, discolored, or dull skin. If you are like most of us, it’s typically a mixture of all of these which seems like an ever constant challenge to handle.
One of the most essential steps that needs to take place, before our skin can begin its healing, is to remove all obstacles that stand in the way of healing taking place. If the root cause of the problem is never addressed, or at least given attention, the body will never be able to begin reversing the damage that was caused by the pattern initially.
In order to heal the unhealthy choices made during one’s lifetime, there has to be a conscious effort put forward. An honest look at what behaviors in our life cause our skin harm can give us an understanding of where we need to begin cleaning up our lifestyle choices and environment.
So, let's dive into some of our favorite ways to benefit our health and wellbeing and in turn - our skin health.
Avoid Harsh Personal Care Products
To be blunt, most skin care products available at your local drug store are filled with tons of synthetic ingredients that do nothing but harm our skin and increase the body's toxin load overtime. The skin care products we use pose one of the biggest threats to our skin's health. As toxins in the skin and body accumulate, the likelihood of developing diseases or skin conditions increases due to an intricate combination of inflammation, immune dysfunction, and hormone imbalance.
⋒ Always avoid these no-no ingredients in your personal care, skin, or cleaning products: BHA, BHT, Coal tar dyes, p-phenylenediamine, DEA-related ingredients, Dibutyl phthalate, Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, Parabens, Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance), PEG compounds, Petrolatum, Siloxanes, Sodium laureth sulfate, Triclosan, and color codes by CL followed by 5 numbers (ex. CL-55000).
⋒ Avoid using coconut oil, alcohol, mineral oils, or silicone based products as they clog pores, providing the perfect environment for acne bacteria to form a zit or blackhead.
⋒ Avoid over-exfoliating and stripping the skin of its protective layers and oils that help balance pH and the skin's natural microbiome. Use gentle exfoliators and lightly scrub your face with your finger pads to work around the exofliant.
⋒ Avoid chemical peels.
⋒ Strong soaps such as dish detergents and traditional hand soaps will strip all the oil out of your skin. Even natural plant-based products that are concentrated, such as Dr. Bronners will zap any moisture out of the skin if it is not first diluted by adding a couple drops to wet hands and lathering.
⋒ Never leave makeup on for longer than you really need it.
Give Your Skin Some Love
Having a skin care routine, even a simple one, can make a world of difference for our overall health. When you take care of your skin, you are also helping fresh blood move to the areas of the body being treated while flushing away old waste products.
⋒ When washing your face make sure to firmly scrub your skin with a gentle cleanser, rinse with tepid water, and gently pat your face dry while avoiding excess irritation.
⋒ Always apply moisturizers and hair products after washing as the pores will be open and filled with water, locking in hydration to the skin and replacing natural oils lost during the cleaning process. To hydrate your skin - we recommend the Sunshine Skin Oil.
Stay Well Hydrated
Water is essential to help break up stagnation, mobilize toxins, and effectively excrete them from our kidneys. Water is, of course, essential for life. Generally, humans today do not drink enough water on a daily basis and may go their whole lives in a dehydrated state. Dehydration shows up in many ways and can often lead to feelings of hunger, tiredness, weakness, disorientation, and lightheadedness.
⋒ The next time you’re reaching for a snack or looking for something crunchy or carby, try drinking a whole glass of water and giving your body 15 minutes before diving into those snacks. In reality, many times when we are feeling “snacky”, it is just our body trying to communicate to us that it is starting to feel dehydrated.
⋒ The source truly matters when it comes to the water we drink. Due to the nature of osmotic flow, minerals and toxins flow across the membranes, such as the digestive tract, from higher concentrations to lower concentrations. With this in mind, too much reverse osmosis or highly purified water may deplete you of minerals and drinking tap water will load you with minerals, toxins, and heavy metals. A nice mineral spring water stored in a glass jug will likely treat you best as it has a balanced level of trace minerals, electrolytes, and won’t leach toxic compounds when being stored in glass. If that's not available, go for the next best water you can find.
⋒ Carbon filters such as the Berky filter or regular undersink reverse osmosis filters are great options for those who do not have immediate access to local spring water. But in these cases make sure to keep some mineral drops or celtic sea salt around to replenish the minerals that are being filtered out that are essential for proper hydration and bodily function.
⋒ Adding some mint, citrus, or cucumber makes it so much more enjoyable for those who have a hard time drinking water. Making a large batch of strong tea and diluting it in water is also a great option - we love a bottle of our chilled detox tea during a long hot day of work.
⋒ The water that comes out of your tap or shower in your home may be one the culprit contributing to a variety of skin problems from discoloration to blotches and blackheads. Many individuals who live in cities with old infrastructure or subpar sources of public drinking water, may experience an increased number of skin problems in comparison to people who have extremely clean sources of water flowing to their homes.
⋒ Heavy minerals and toxins in city water such as calcium, arsenic, and fluoride all burden the cells they come in contact with. Much like a faucet head will accumulate a white layer of calcium over time, our bodies, too, collect a layer of heavy minerals in its pores and outer layer of the skin that cause our skin to become dull and dry.
⋒ A shower head filter or an undersink filter is a great way to go if you are renting or don’t have an opportunity to set up a whole home filtration system. This will filter a large amount of the heavy compounds that would otherwise be flowing out of the shower head onto your skin. Make sure to change the filter every few months to keep your skin bright and healthy.
⋒ Being sleep-deprived causes the body to release stress hormones, which can exacerbate a number of skin problems. Avoid this by regularly getting a full night sleep (7 to 8 hours). This will also optimize the secretion of human growth hormone, which promotes cell turnover and collagen production, keeping the skin glowing and looking fresh.
⋒ Support the brain’s natural melatonin producing capabilities by avoiding blue light and strong bright lights for at least an hour before bed as they prevent melatonin production, a necessary hormone for us to easily enter our sleep cycle.
⋒ Keep your bedroom tidy and cool. Don’t spend too much time lounging in your bed or doing daytime activities as it will train the brain to associate the bed with engaging activities thus promoting wakefulness.
⋒ Take some long, slow, intentional breaths in and out of your nose to calm the mind and relax the body. (Described in more detail below).
Stress is another factor that plays a huge role in skin health. Excess cortisol production and also lack of cortisol production can greatly affect the body’s sex hormone balance, metabolism, and immune function which are all essential for maintaining optimal skin health and preventing disease.
⋒ Keeping a journal is one of the most effective ways to create change in our lives. Unexpressed thoughts and emotions root themselves in the body when they are not released. Expressing ourselves in every situation may not always be what is needed in the moment and many of our inner thoughts are sacred. Writing in a journal, in a honest and open conversation with ourselves, allows us to move the thoughts and emotions out of our body and minds, freeing up new energy that can be focused on improving oneself.
⋒ Meditation is a hit. Meditation and intentional breathing can drastically reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and nervous activity throughout the body. This harmony allows for us to be more resilient to stress, focus on tasks with a clear mind, and feel fulfilled by life. The quiet moments we take with ourselves are precious in a world that is constantly on the run and globally connected through the internet.
⋒ Sometimes the simplest way to meditate is to just take slow intentional breaths - feel the air move in from your nostrils all the way to the bottom of your lungs. With each exhale feel the release of all the tension and thoughts. There is no goal here. If your mind races your mind races, but just focus on continuously connecting with your breath and you will be meditating before you know it.
Exercise - flush toxins
⋒ Surprise, surprise… exercise is extremely beneficial for the body and overall well being. Exercise - be it running, surfing, gardening, dancing, or whatever you enjoy helps drive more blood to our tissues to flush toxins and metabolic byproducts that may be causing inflammation or pain. Furthermore, it stimulates the release of hormones throughout the body that boost cellular activity and directly increase white blood cell function.
⋒ The more a person exercises, the healthier they will be, with an immune system that is primed to fight off infections anywhere in the body. A good place to start is by committing to a nature walk outside, everyday, for 10-30 minutes with no phone, music, or distractions. Simply enjoy the walk and contemplate the environment around you.
⋒ Always make sure to rinse yourself soon after you are finished exercising to clear the toxins off your skin that were brought out through sweat. This will stop your skin from reabsorbing them, keeping skin cells healthy and happy.
Eat a Healthy & Balanced Diet
⋒ Eating certain foods and avoiding others can significantly improve your skin by providing nutrients to support healthy collagen production, immune function, and cellular cycles.
⋒ Foods that have been commonly linked to skin problems are those high in sugar, dairy products, and those containing unhealthy (trans) fats, sweeteners, etc. Instead, add healthy foods to your diet, such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon) and healthy greens (kale), which can help keep your skin looking and feeling healthy.
⋒ Make sure to eat enough fiber and add a probiotic digestive enzyme to your ritual.
⋒ Avoid food allergens: The most common food allergens include: dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, onion, pork, peanuts and other tree nuts, soy, eggs, and shellfish. Avoid these foods to ensure that you are not triggering any more allergic or inflammatory reactions in your body. Decreasing exposure to any immune reaction inducing foods or compounds is essential to giving our body a break so it can heal itself.
Avoid Common Sources of Toxins
⋒ Limit alcohol. Drinking alcohol in large amounts can cause a flare of a number skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne, and rosacea. Drinking alcohol can also dehydrate the skin, which can cause it to look flaky, dry, and dull. Drinking plenty of water and limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks can help you avoid these issues.
⋒ Avoid smoking. Inhalation of the many chemicals produced by smoking can also cause damage to your skin in a number of ways. Smoking decreases the oxygen in the blood, constricts the blood vessels, and can lead to visible signs of premature ageing, such as wrinkles and discoloration.
⋒ Avoiding GMO and large-scale commercial grown foods is an essential aspect of developing a healthy diet. These foods are typically grown with high levels of pesticides and absorb toxins from the soil they are grown in. This interferes with several critical processes of the body including hormonal balance and immune function. Canned foods, plastic-packaged food, polycarbonate lined baking tins or pans are typically the source of most toxins found in one’s diet. It is best to avoid these foods completely if possible.
⋒ Food additives are used to prevent spoiling or to enhance flavor; they include preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavorings, and acidifiers.
⋒ Avoid harsh cleaning products such as bleach, detergents, or concentrated cleaning solutions. Use plant based scent free laundry detergent and avoid the fabric softener to avoid irritating skin with clothes or fabrics that touch us everyday.
⋒ Hydrotherapy can essentially be understood as the use of water for therapeutic purposes, typically by heat or cooling the water. Hydrotherapy can be applied locally to areas through other forms such as water baths or wet towels. Alternating hot and cold water applications to the body creates a physical pump in the form of constriction and dilation of blood vessels, efficiently pumping blood, fluids, and nutrients throughout the entire body with the net effects being an overall sense of invigoration and vitality.
⋒ Instructions: Shower normally with warm-hot water for at least 3 minutes or up to 10 minutes, being mindful in areas prone to drought. Cycle completely in cold water for 30 seconds and then turn the heat back on for another 3 minutes or more. You can repeat this a few times. Always make sure to end the shower with 30 seconds of cold water, drenching oneself as much as possible. During this time, ground your intention into your feet while taking deep inhales and exhales. At first this exercise may be difficult, but with time you will notice that your increased energy & focus after showering will lead you to enjoy this experience and eventually crave it.
⋒ Infrared saunas have become extremely popular lately as an easy on the go solution to getting an effective, detoxifying sweat during the day. Saunas and steam baths encourage pores to open, facilitating a healthy stream of sweat, the sign of a successful removal of toxins. Common benefits include improved sleep, increased immune function, and lower levels of inflammation.
⋒ Skin brushing is a daily exercise where one brushes their skin with a soft, dry skin brush with natural bristles. Doing this right before you bathe will gently exfoliate your skin and stimulate circulation and detoxification throughout your body.
⋒ Facial rolling works by stimulating blood flow so you get more nutrients and oxygen to your skin as well as drains fluids and stagnation.
Skins supportive supplements:
⋒ Vitamin A (100 – 150,000 IU per day) - prevents acne heads from forming but keeping cells from sticking to each other and decreasing oil production in the skin.
⋒ Vitamin B6 (especially for premenstrual acne) (50 mg qd for 1 week pre-menses, 100 mg tid) - helps metabolize hormones.
⋒ Vitamin C (1000 mg q/day) - collagen and soft tissue support, wound healing, antioxidant, immune boosting.
⋒ Vitamin E (400-800 IU qday) - works with selenium and vitamin C to act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
⋒ Zinc (20-50mg three times a day) - wound healing and immune boosting, helps strong hair develop.
⋒ Copper (5 mg qday)
⋒ Selenium (200mcg qday) - GAG formation in collagen walls, aid in blood vessel health.
⋒ Folic acid (5-10 mg qday)
⋒ HCl with meals (10-50 grains, work up slowly)
⋒ Chromium (200 mg qday)
⋒ Biotin (8 mg qday) - deficiency is associated with seborrheic dermatitis, scaly and greasy skin, and alopecia.
⋒ Niacin (B3) 20mg/day - lowers oil production, prevents bacteria responsible for acne (p. acnes) from replicating, and decreases inflammation.
⋒ PABA - repigmentation 100mg TID/QID x 6 mo
⋒ Activated charcoal
Herbs and Plant Based Medicine
Plants are our skin's best friend. Whether we are eating them, frolicking in them, or using them as medicine. When it comes to inflamed and sensitive skin, plant based medicine offers some of the most effective ways to effectively treat it. Check out a few examples below.
⋒ Sounds a bit funky, but we swear it’s magic. Soak cabbage in water for 10-20 minutes and then lay them on your skin to ease agitated, inflamed, itchy, burnt skin. Leave in place for at least 15 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes. Cabbage is high in glutathione, our master detoxifier, which helps quell local inflammation and clear toxins from the skin while nourishing it with vitamins and minerals.