Skin care is a huge topic and multi billion dollar industry. We all want perfect skin, flawless and glowing with health and so, we are sold anything and everything to make that happen.
I used to buy all sorts of products for my skin, to preserve and maintain my youth, avoid breakouts and keep a good complexion. Soon, however, I realized that a lot of the products in mainstream shops are not that great at all, despite the perfect marketing and packaging. I also recognized that, aside from what goes onto our skin, what we put into our body has just as big of an impact, if not more!
Before diving into the understanding that the skin we want and deserve, comes from within, I do want to point out that what we apply on it is imperative to have, not just beauty, but health!
The skin is the biggest organ in our body and also the first point of contact, for our system, with the outside world. What we put on our skin will be absorbed within and, our internal health will manifest externally through it. Amazing isn’t it?
So starting from the outside: choosing the right skin care products is essentially choosing what we put inside out body too. Most commercial products, to be “affordable” and profitable, are made with cheap ingredients, one of which is prominent in all: mineral oils. An example of mineral oil is petroleum. Yep; if it sounds familiar and similar to petrol that is because it comes from the same place! With that, the villains like: Parabens, SLS, SLES, Fragrances, perfumes, alcohol… you name it, and it is in them!
Long term, those same ingredients start damaging the 3 main layers of the skin (from outer to inner layers): Epidermis, Dermis and Hypodermis, and we start noticing things like pigmentation (one problem I had until I stopped using commercial skin care) or even wrinkles.
Our skin tissue is made of cells and those cells, like all cells in our system, have the job to work hard to reproduce, to keep us healthy! Skin cells are some of the fastest reproducing cells in our body, continuously creating new ones, so a healthy skin is dependent on how we nourish those cells.
Given this undeniable and holistic link, choosing the right ingredients for skin care is a must! This is why I love Miss Organics. The products are pure, transparent and completely natural. I have been personally using the face balancing oil and people have told me that the lines I had on my forehead have disappeared, on top of the pigmentation marks I started to have. That is HUGE! I feel my skin is happier, smoother and, although some breakouts due to hormones or digestive unease at times appear, it is mostly clear and glowing!
Now that we understand the importance of skin care, what about our inner health’s impact on our skin? I gave a hint above: at times the skin can react to hormonal changes or digestive issues and that is not by coincidence.
The body will use the skin to expel things it does not want within, or to manifest internal issues needing attention. In Chinese medicine, practitioners use face mapping to identify what is happening in our body. For example: if we have breakouts on our forehead, it is said to be reflective of the small intestine. The middle of our brows stands for the Liver. Breakouts on the chin area are both hormonal and link to issues in the large intestine (the colon). I find face mapping completely fascinating and I truly believe it in, and it helps that Western science is now also exploring the link between gut and skin, with this research speaking about Acne Vulgaris, a rather difficult skin issue which does not only impact the skin but also self esteem of the people affected. Understanding the link to the gut can truly be a game changer here. I mentioned, at times I have breakouts and they always correspond to my hormones or how my digestion is doing or if I am eating anything that is irritating my gut.
All health issues, as well as wellbeing are mostly centralized in our gut, so we will focus on how digestive health can ensure a beautiful and healthy skin too!
Our digestive system starts in our mouth, with enzymes emulsifying and breaking down food when we chew, to our anus, where we expel waste.
Everything in between is a wonderful combination of chemical reactions that will separate macro and micro nutrients from our ingested food and make sure our body absorbs what we need and lets go of what we don’t.
Our gut (colon) is where we actually make sure that, what our body does not need, is on the way out. Moreover, more than 70% of our immune system is behind the gut wall, meaning that how we digest, how we absorb our food and how healthy the structure of our gut wall is, will impact our immune system a lot and our skin too as a result.
As a Coach and Nutritional advisor, I have clients who come to me with severe skin issues, like Eczema and Psoriasis or even Acne. They have tried everything with their medical practitioner to heal their skin (especially steroids, antibiotics) and nothing solves their problems. The issue, in reality, is in their gut and a lot of the medication suggested by medical professionals makes the gut worse.
The way we absorb nutrients and expel toxins are the defining factors. So how can we make sure our gut and skin are happy? Here are a few tips to get your started:
- Start healing the Microbiome: Microbiome is a term invented and made popular by Donna Gates at Body Ecology. Her interest in gut health and especially healing Candida, is where the acknowledgement and care for our gut health started. She started studying the very large population of bacteria in our gut, from good to bad and how our diet, lifestyle (including skin care products, household products, touching our skin) and emotions affected the gut. We need bacteria, they are life; in fact we have more bacteria than even cells in our body but we need the right ones. Good bacteria, or what we refer to as Probiotics, are key to staying healthy. Start taking a daily dosage (of 5 billon minimum) probiotics daily. Lactobacillus acidophilus are the most popular probiotics for gut health (there are strains within strains that can be explored) and it is a great place to start with. At times we may need a specific amount and strain to guarantee healing. I love using Optibac, as they truly specialize in gut health and have created, and continue to create, products with strains that match ailments. You can also check out their research on the link between probiotics and our skin. Probiotics can also come from food such as Sauerkraut, Coconut and Water Kefir or Miso, to name a few. Basically fermented foods!
- Drink Apple Cider Vinegar in the morning: Staying within the Probiotics topic, ACV is a great add-on to our daily routine! Starting the morning with a pint (500ml) of water and 1 spoon of raw ACV can really help wake up the digestive system. Moreover, ACV is great to eliminate parasites, which lodge in our gut wall and absorb all the nutrients we need for health. Drinking ACV first thing in the morning is also a great way to make sure you have enough water daily, which keeps you hydrated and helps clear the skin too.
- Consider an elimination diet: Unless food allergies are prominent, a lot of people ignore food sensitivities and it is hard to tell if we are sensitive to any food (most commonly gluten and dairy) if we do not remove them from our diet. A short, one week, elimination diet is sufficient to find out. After a week, the foods that have been taken off are introduced one per day and if a reaction is immediate then you know. People with skin rashes, who struggle to find out the cause through blood tests, have found this method to be very helpful. As the immune system is right behind the gut wall, any trigger will create an immediate reaction, so it is a reliable way to experiment.
- No to dairy! As a continuation to tip n.3, dairy is perhaps the single most irritating factor for our gut. Dairy is not all that marketing campaigns make it to be and although the industry doesn’t allow research to be easily shared , the evidence is coming through slowly . One of the reasons dairy is actually terrible for the gut and skin is down to hormones. Most of the cows used in dairy farming are pregnant, therefore hormones such as progesterone and insulin growth factors make their way into the milk. When we consume milk and other dairy products we create inflammation, skin breakdown, aging and acne. There is also puss that is found in milk, and that is toxic to our body, over-stimulating our immune response and manifesting on our skin. There are a lot of amazing plant based options which will really help you clear up your skin and soothe your gut without taking away the taste of your favourite latte!
- Say no to inflammation: Inflammation is overall a deterrent for our health and making sure our gut is not inflamed is important. A few tips to prevent inflammation are given above; by changing some of our dietary choices we can prevent it but we can also ease inflammation with amazing herbs and remedies. Turmeric is my go to anti-inflammatory; it is the gold standard for health. My favorite brand is Wunder Workshop, as I believe how the root is treated impacts its potency and their turmeric is very well grown, harvested and roasted. CBD oil is another wonderful remedy that has slowly gained a lot of momentum and that can really help with gut issues. CBD is particularly powerful for the nervous system and if we think about how many nerve endings we have in our gut, we can guess how helpful this is! Other herbs and supplements we can look at for great skin via a healthy gut are: garlic, zinc, chamomile and nettle (which are great for balancing hormones too) and chlorella, a great detoxifier and cleanser which has been proven to be amazing for the skin!
Although those 5 tips are not exhaustive, they are very good starting points, offering us the opportunity to get to know our gut and slowly see the improvements within with the reflection on the outside. Perfect skin does not need to be a dream at all; it can be a reality with some mindfulness and better choices.