skin care with macrobiotics
Our beautiful skin has important functions as well as being our physical self expression. We naturally gravitate to people with healthy skin and invest much time and money looking after our skin. Our skin often reflects what is happening inside, in terms of emotions and internal health. See face reading.
The skin is made up of several layers of ectodermal tissue that protect the inner body from the external environment whilst allowing liquids and some waste to leave the body. Sweating is an important function in terms of regulating the temperature of the body.
Strong spices and alcohol can encourage a reddening of the skin suggesting more blood is being pushed out to the surface. Foods that generally stress the body may increase inflammation and rashes. This would include foods high in sugar, alcohol and spices. Some people will have an allergic reaction to certain foods that will show up on the skin as a rash. Excessive curry and garlic can produce a distinctive smell on the skin as components of those foods find their way to the surface.
Oil and fats often effect the quality of our skin. Too much oil leads to an oil complexion, whereas too much saturated fat (meats, dairy food and eggs) may block the pores in some people increasing the risk of dry skin. Insufficient oil in our diet also risks dry skin. Generally, mono and poly unsaturated oils from nuts, seeds, fish, olives and good quality processed oils seem to help skin quality.
Eating a liquid rich diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, teas and water will ensure that there is a flow of liquid to sweat glands helping keep these channels clear. Vigorous exercise and saunas that stimulate sweating encourage this process.
Sea vegetables have long thought to help heal skin conditions in Asia and one reason may be there high levels of iodine. Sea salt and sea food also contain higher levels of iodine.
Generally a macrobiotic diet, that is nutrient rich will supply the various nutrients we need for excellent health and along with healthy skin.
Strong emotions can lead to blushing and reddening as the body pushes blood to towards the surface of the skin. Many skin complaints including eczema, psoriasis and various rashes appear to be aggravated by stress. From a macrobiotic / TCM perspective it is as though too much energy (chi) is being pushed out through the skin and compromises the weakest areas. Another possibility is that stress encourages a more acidic condition that weakens the skins ability to heal. It is well accepted that stress suppresses our immune system and it is likely that long periods of stress will weaken our skins ability to counter hostile environment factors.
In my experience regular short meditations, or sensorial moments, are most effective at reducing stress. I recommend 1 minute meditations, every hour, throughout the day to help reset the mind and keep us in a generally relaxed state. The more we practice, the better our mind becomes at dealing with potentially stressful challenges, in a calm effective manner.
Many common skin complaints are a form of inflammation as the skin goes through its own healing process, however, persistent inflammation may be due to the body suffering from a tendency to be unnecessarily inflamed. Here greater intake of anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger, green tea, berries and sea vegetables, can help, along with regular daily strategies to reduce stress.
Foods that best help us boost our immune system will help our skin protect itself from challenging external factors. Eating a healthy diet and including daily fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, will help strengthen our immune system.
Iodine – experiment with putting an iodine tincture over rashes, eczema, psoriasis or solar keratoses. This will create an orange patch on your skin that will last for several hours. In theory, if you are low in iodine the skin will absorb the iodine quicker and the orange colour fade quicker. Fading less than 6 hours suggests you might need more iodine in your diet. This can be found in sea vegetables.
Body Scrubbing – to stimulate circulation and help exfoliate the skin try scrubbing your body with a hot damp cotton towel. The areas that go red quickly will have better circulation and those areas that do not change colour may need more attention. Avoid scrubbing the face and rashes.
Moisturiser – whilst I was working with Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, she famously said that only moisturiser was worth putting on our face. Good quality natural moisturisers can help against dry skin, preserve the acid mantle and protect against pollution. Coconut oil, almond oil or other natural oils of your choice would be the most natural options. If you are out in the sun or have sensitive skin consider a moisturiser with sun protection.
Face Cleansing – read ingredients and try mild natural cleansers. Dr. Hauschka recommends leaving the skin bare overnight to allow it to breath. He also suggests placing a hot cloth over the face and gently rolling rather than rubbing. Use hot water to open the pores and cold to close at the end. Vigorous rubbing could make the skin on the face looser and upset the acid mantle.
Nano particles can permeate into our skin and for this reason it is important to pay attention to what is in creams that we put on our skin. Check ingredients for; parabens, synthetic colours, phthalates, triclosan, SLS / SLES, formaldehyde, formaldehyde, toluene and propylene glycol.
UV and sunlight
One of the functions of our skin is to protect us from ultra violet (UV) light from the sun that in excess can damage cells. Too much exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer. We can protect against this by wearing clothes and hats. Note, thin fabrics may offer little protection. Sun screen creams will further help. The SPF rating is a guide as to how long the protection will last.
The skin is an important organ for getting rid of substances we no longer need. This can happen through the sweat glands. Keeping our skin free to excrete is helpful for long term health.
Our skin can occasionally be irritated by the fabric of our clothes or the chemical in the detergents they are washed in. Try wearing pure cotton clothing against your skin and washing in natural detergents. You could try washing new clothes before wearing as some may have chemicals in from manufacturing.
exercise and saunas
Regular exercise helps circulation and if vigorous to make our skin redden, will help blood flow through the skin. If we sweat during exercise we help keep our sweat glands clear.
Collagen is claimed to be a nutrient that helps our skin remain flexible and elastic, reducing the risk of wrinkles and sagging skin. Fish skins, green leafy vegetables, red fruits and vegetables, and soya products (tofu, tempeh and natto) are particularly high in collagen.
Massage can be helpful to our skin, especially when using good quality oils. Consider taking your own almond oil when having a massage.
cleaning and soaps
It is healthy to clean our skin regularly, however, be aware that soaps and detergents will remove useful oils from our skin and may upset the healthy bacteria that lives on the surface of our skin.
Sunlight / UV produces vitamin via photosynthesis. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that also helps absorb calcium. This process may go some way to explain why cancers in general are more common in more northern, darker climates where sunlight is less common. We can also get vitamin D naturally from eating oily fish.
We keep the surface of the skin at an acid pH of 4.5 to 6.2 to help protect us from more alkaline external substances.
The skin is a rich environment hosting approximately 1000 different kinds of bacteria. Keeping these bacteria healthy and in harmony with each other is part of keeping our skin healthy. Strong detergents, creams and other skin products may effect the flora.
macrobiotics and TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine explores whether there is too much heat in the skin, this could be dryness and or inflammation, or too much damp, clammy or oily skin. These can be related to yang fire and yin water chi respectively in terms of the five elements and, yin and yang. Foods, herbs and external treatments can be used to create greater harmony and help the skin heal.
Simon is available for online and in person macrobiotic skin consultations in London and online, which can be focussed on any skin issues and ways to best nourish and look after our beautiful skin. Call 07543663227 to discuss options and your personal situation.