The beautiful face on most women's magazines shines with skin that is soft, clear, supple and has perfect moisture balance. For many of us these qualities can be challenging to achieve and for some they may seem impossible. However there are a number of things you can do that will improve how you feel and how you look (and you won't even need to be airbrushed like the magazine cover!)
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and naturopathic medicine use the health and appearance of the skin as a diagnostic tool. Is the skin red or pale? Is it lustrous or dull? Dry or moist? A practitioner will examine the particular qualities of a skin disorder where symptoms are located and what aggravates them.
Caring for your skin well can fit easily into a daily routine. When it comes down to it, having healthy, radiant skin involves caring for yourself both inside and out.
General skin care
- Filtered water - Ensure you are well hydrated by drinking plenty of filtered water. Depending on factors such as body type, diet, exercise and weather the amount you need to drink will vary between 1.5 - 3 litres daily. Drinking more water will aid the body in flushing out waste, preventing the build-up that can result in problem skin.
- Fibre - Fibre helps the body to eliminate unwanted waste products and prevents the toxic build-up that can result in inflamed skin conditions. Good sources of dietary fibre include wholegrains, legumes, flaxseeds, slippery elm, psyllium and of course fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid processed, deep fried and excessively sugary foods.
Chlorophyll - This green coloured extract from plants and algae has a gentle detoxifying action on the body. One of the easiest ways to increase cholorophyll in your diet is by eating more greens - two serves per day is ideal! It is also available in liquid form, which is very easy to take and can be mixed into your daily water.
- Lemon juice in water - Squeezing the juice of half a lemon into a glass of room temperature water first thing in the morning will stimulate your digestion and kick-start your liver for the day. Lemons are also high in Vitamin C - one of the most important nutrients for skin health.
Dry skin brushing - With a skin brush, start at the feet and brush the skin upwards, up the legs and torso, towards the heart. Then brush the hands, brushing up the arms and over the shoulders towards the heart. Do this before getting into the shower. It will help to slough off dead skin cells and stimulate good digestion
- Keeping your skin clean, fresh and with the right level of moisture is imperative. Every morning and evening wash your skin using a good quality cleanser, followed with a balancing skin toner (eg. rose water) and an appropriate moisturiser for your skin. Those that contain vitamins C and E are particularly nourishing for the skin.
- Be sun safe. Shelter your face from the sun to avoid sun damage. Here's a link to find out how much some you need to keep up your vitamin D (depending on where you live and what your skin type is).
If you wear make up choose a mineral makeup brand such as Jane Iredale which will not clog up your pores and also provide sun protection.
Inflamed skin conditions
Red, raw and inflamed skin is common in conditions such as acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Sometimes hormones can play havoc with our skin particularly around menstruation and with the onset of menopause. Although these conditions may have different origins leading to different treatments, common factors such as inflammation may be addressed similarly.
Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of good skin: they improve the moisture and elasticity, as well as reducing inflammation. Supplemental fish/flaxseed/evening primrose oil is often effective but dietary sources shouldn't be forgotten including nuts and seeds, cold pressed oils, avocados and oily fish.
Vitamin A and zinc are specific for improving the health of the skin. Vitamin D is also very important for skin health.
Herbs that enhance liver function such as dandelion and globe artichoke can help to promote elimination. For allergic conditions albizia and baical skullcap can calm the immune response. Other herbs such as nettle and burdock are known as 'blood cleansers' and are beneficial for problem skin.
Some conditions will also require topical treatment. Acne skins may need a deep cleanse, refining masks and peels to change the outer layer of the skin. For dry, red skin soothing and calming treatments are suitable. Of course treatments will vary according to the individual's symptoms.
Stress and anxiety can be a major player in problem skin so activities such as meditation, yoga, qi gong, breathing exercises, massage and acupuncture may help. Massaging calming aromatherapy massage oil into the soles of the feet can aid relaxation. Make sure to avoid harsh sopas and chemicals in deodorants, detergents and cosmetics.
To get the best results an individualised treatment plan using one or many of the points above may be necessary. For personalised advice regarding your skin speak to your HealthWise practitioner.