Skin Type Hype
A modern day skin care regime can feel like a confession of the skin’s transgression: hormonal skin around the chin, an oily t-zone, sensitive, or acne prone skin. Skin-type hype promises that every pore can be restored to the mecca of normal by careful compliance with a many stepped program.
Bottles of cleansers, exfoliators, toners, moisturizers, and masks labeled for your skin type may litter your bathroom. These twice-a-day, multi-step skin care regimes are heavily marketed, highly synthetic, and hyped on the false premise of skin type. You may have noticed that regardless of how closely you follow the prescribed regimen, your skin never really flowers into balanced, healthy skin.
If you feel some insecurity or dissatisfaction about your skin, know that the cosmetics industry market to these worries with their skin type hype. Dermatology, the science of skin, has no standard objective measure of "skin type." The skin type classifications (dry, normal, sensitive, combination, oily, and acne-prone) are mere constructs of cosmetics manufacturers. Skin type is a marketing tactic they use to sell products -- products that cause the issues they claim to resolve.
How did beauty get so cluttered, complicated, and convoluted when radiant skin is so straightforward?
You do not need to know, categorize, or label your skin type. Bust free from all that renders your skin sensitive and unstable: aggressive skin care products, out of balance hormones, deficient nutrition, and inefficient digestion. Beautiful skin is the perfect poise of what you put on it and what you put in you. Once you are properly feeding the internal and the external, your skin will become strong, resilient, and radiant all on its own because that is the true nature of skin.
Physiology of Healthy Skin
All of our cells are alive. They are filled with vitality, filled with order, and they reflect the order and vitality of nature. Our skin is an amazing sentinel. It is our defender, protector, and biosensor to the world around us, harmonizing with our environment and with nature. Our sophisticated skin evolves to meet seasonal environmental challenges. For example, in sunnier regions and sunnier seasons, secretions of sebum on the surface of the skin increase to lubricate the skin, to receive the life-sustaining blessing of vitamin D, and provide wise interaction with the sun.
The top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is our gatekeeper of beauty. Among its components are the hydro lipid barrier and the acid mantle. The hydro lipid barrier is our water proof seal comprised of protective dead cells, ceramides, sebum, proteins, enzymes, and antibacterial peptides. The acid mantle is a very thin film of acidic fluid that sits on top of the skin. A vital part of our immune system, its slightly acidic pH neutralizes invading bacteria and other contaminants. When the stratum corneum is intact and healthy, it is full of natural antibiotic and anti-wrinkle properties as well as a natural sunscreen. When this layer is disturbed or injured, it sets off a sequence of cellular responses to stimulate repair. If this layer is disturbed regularly, like with daily exposure to soap, foaming detergents, synthetic alcohols, and chemicals, it creates an ongoing health deficit, inflammatory issues, abnormal cell growth, and allows the entry of allergens and toxins in to the body.
We want to ennoble each cell with the right environment to thrive, and on a core, primal level that means we need a good balance of water, oxygen, and nutrients. That is what all of our cells need, and this is what the skin needs, as well. Oxygen is very important for the metabolic function of the skin cells. These cells actually have a breathing cycle, inhalation and exhalation. They need fresh air, movement, and everything that carries replenishing oxygen-rich fluids to them. Water, and the minerals in water, nurture the cells. Excellent nutrition provides the building blocks that our skin requires for health and harmony. That is the core of skin care.
Your skin is alive. It can heal and regain healthy stability. With a few adjustments to your lifestyle you can meet the needs of all of your cells, and set your skin free to thrive.
Boost Beneficial Bacteria
All of our organs relate to the skin, which is the largest organ in our body. The health of our guts very much affects the skin. If your digestive system is backed up, hormones are not effectively processed by the liver, and this can cause hormonal acne around the jawline and chin. Proteins, pathogens, and toxins that are not processed through the digestive system are often sent to the skin to be excreted resulting in cellular decline and other skin disruptions and discolorations.
The skin and the guts are inexplicably bound in a relationship with bacteria. Healthy skin and a healthy gut are lined with billions of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria boost our immune system and aid in absorbing nutrients. Our guts flourish with the help of micro-flora, and yet our modern lifestyle can create havoc in our guts so that our intestines and our stomachs are bereft of bacteria. The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods and probiotics keep the digestive system moving quickly and efficiently. If you free up your digestive system to do its job of eliminating waste, your skin can do its job: protecting you and looking beautiful.
This is key: I highly recommend that you eat a fermented food or take probiotics each day. In January of this year, the Journal of Applied Microbiology published a report stating that probiotics provide many skin health benefits; they improve atopic eczema and dermatitis, heal burn and scars, boost the skin's "innate immunity," and transport skin rejuvenating properties.
Sprinkle your meals with fermented kimchee and sauerkraut! You may like it.
Optimizing your blood sugar levels is a primary way to minimize systemic inflammation. A fasting blood sugar level below 79 is ideal. Acute high blood sugar levels create insulin resistance that leads inflammation in the body, which promotes a state of disease in our tissues. When insulin levels are normalized, the underlying inflammatory conditions that promote issues with the skin disappear, and your skin will heal and glow.
The obvious first step is to remove sugar and foods with low nutritional value, like processed food, from your diet entirely, as if your beauty depends on it… because it does! These foods cause spikes in blood sugar levels. They also disrupt the endocrine system, hypothalamus, adrenal glands, pituitary glands, and the pineal glands. They may also disrupt the fine equilibrium of hormonal secretions including cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and estrogen.
Consider removing gluten grains from your diet, including wheat, rye, and barley, even if you do not have Celiac Disease or a known grain sensitivity. Cut out wheat first. Researchers are discovering that many people benefit from a gluten-free diet as gluten proteins may set off a systemic inflammatory response that can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, reflux disease, eczema, asthma, wrinkles, and more.
Add cinnamon to your meals. Warm and slightly spicy, cinnamon slows the rise of blood sugar levels after a meal and may help stabilize and lower blood sugar levels during the day. One drop of cinnamon essential oil or 1/4 of a teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon added to herbal tea or a spoonful of olive oil is all you need.
Balance your hormones.
Scientists are just now beginning to understand the vast and complex interaction of hormones in our bodies. Hormone levels affect all of our organs, including our skin physiology – its thickness and resilience, pH, repair process, and regeneration.
Women, experience your 28 day cycle, and ditch the birth control pills. They wreak havoc with hormone levels!
Excess hormones, usually stemming from over production, toxin stimulation, and inefficiency in the natural hormone elimination process may cause acne and breakouts. Simple changes to your diet will help clear out excess hormones. Eliminate soy from your diet; soy stimulates estrogen production, which leads to hormone surplus. And, eat your broccoli! Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage, are high in Indol 3 Carbonyl that helps the body excrete estrogen. It is very important, for many reasons, to fill your meals with these powerful veggies.
A reduced volume of the hormone androgen may lead to dryness in older skin resulting from inefficient sebum production. Components of sandalwood essential oil act very similarly to androgen and harmonize with it; applying sandalwood to the skin is a wonderful and natural way to bring balance to that hormone. Clary sage essential oil is also great for androgen balance; simply open the bottle, inhale, and enjoy the soft verdant aroma and the plant molecules stimulate your body to release more androgen.
If your skin is prone to acne, or if you are in your 40's and 50's and you notice changes in your skin, try supplementing your diet with hormone harmonizing herbs. Wild yam, evening primrose oil, partridge berry, and passion flower are powerful and safe hormone stabilizers. Also, the essential oil of Vitex, one drop applied topically or taken internally, has effectively counteracted hormonal deficiencies.
Feed Your Skin.
Nourishment is the core of skin care, and with every meal we have the opportunity to stack the odds in favor of beauty. Include in your diet real, whole foods and rainbow-colored foods like verdant algae, warm turmeric and bright seabuckthorn fruit.
Healthy, organic, dietary fats, like virgin coconut oil, olive, chia, evening primrose, and hemp are great sources essential fatty acids and other lipids that keep skin soft and supple. Increasing the fat in your diet, especially omega 3 fatty acids, will moisturize your skin from the inside out with the added benefit of making your hair super glossy. Also, eliminating the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in processed foods is essential for healthy skin. PUFAs are quick to go rancid, and researchers have demonstrated time and again that these oils excite skin cell mutations that can lead to lesions and cancer.
If you are an omnivore, animal fat is a rich source of lipids and vitamins D and K2. Eggs and whole fat yogurt, milk, butter, and cheese are excellent sources if the animals are fully pasture raised. The fat from factory raised animals is insufficient in these vital nutrients because the animals are pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones, and their diets are narrow, non-species specific, and nutrient-depleted.
If your skin is dry, or if you have rough or itchy patches, check in with your hydration and iodine levels. Are you drinking enough pure, spring water to hydrate and lubricate every cell? Our cells float in a sea of water that maintains cell turgor, supplies nutrients, and carries away waste. If we are dehydrated, our cells dry up and suffer from malnutrition. Chapped lips and hangnails are early indicators that you are dehydrated and need to drink more water.
Diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hormone imbalances are all associated with dry skin. If you are well hydrated, eating enough fat, and gently cleansing your skin and your skin is still dry, you may need to look deeper into issues going on in your body.
An iodine deficiency creates endocrine inefficiency and may be a precursor to more serious thyroid issues. Some of the signs of an iodine-deficient body are dry skin, eyes, and mouth, an inability to focus, tiredness, and cold feet and hands. Foods rich in iodine include seaweed, wild-caught seafood, strawberries, cranberries, and yogurt and milk from grass-fed cows. Due to depleted soil, it is increasingly more difficult to meet daily iodine needs without intentional awareness. You may want to ask your doctor to test your iodine level and consider adding supplemental iodine to your diet.
Rethink Squeaky Clean.
People often think that their skin is only clean if it is truly squeaky clean after it is washed. Likely, squeaky skin feels dry and tight after toweling off. If your cleanser makes your skin feel like this, it is washing away the hydro lipid barrier and acid mantle. All kinds of skin issues are linked to impairments in the skin barrier, and 12 step cosmetic counter regimes are the usual suspects.
All modern skin care regimes aggressively break our water proof seal and obliterate the acid mantle; whether they are the “gentler” soaps, “natural” beauty products, or the harsh detergents, soaps, antiseptics, propylene glycols, benzoyl peroxide, foaming SLS, synthetic alcohols, and alcohol toners -- they all compromise the hydro lipid barrier and inhibit the skin’s ability to breathe and produce lipids. Soap depletes the skin’s natural sebaceous protection and removes beneficial microorganisms. Propylene glycol causes the skin to lose water and become rough, sensitive, and prone to premature wrinkling. With the stratum corneum jeopardized, these toxins and harsh chemicals irritate the underlying, young skin and induce inflammatory issues.
The acid mantle keeps our skin pH between 5.4 and 5.9 -- moist areas of the body tend to be more alkaline. Cosmetics, detergents, chemical exposure, and medications all influence pH. Researchers tested a variety of cleansers for three weeks and found that each one raised the skin's pH for a few hours, and this "irritates the physiological protective 'acid mantle', changes the composition of the cutaneous bacterial flora and the activity of enzymes." Even a slightly raised pH makes skin vulnerable to yeast and fungal infections and acne-causing bacteria.
Many people think it is normal to have dry skin, rough patches on their hands and elbows, and a case of the wintertime itchies. Rather than having a "dry skin type," it is more likely that their cleanser, chemical-moisturizer, and chlorinated tap water baths are drying out their skin. Stripped of natural lipids, the skin either stays dehydrated and dull or over produces oil to recover moisture. Blemishes, flakiness, and other skin conditions will continue to occur until the stratum corneum is reestablished.
Potent Plant Repair
The most critical step to rebuilding harmonized skin is recovering the skin's outermost integrity. Beautiful and powerful botanical oils can gently and efficiently support the regeneration of the hydro lipid barrier and acid mantle while nourishing the fine matrix of collagen and elastin that maintains supple skin. An aloe plant is a great thing to have in your bathroom. They are easy to grow, and you can just break open a leaf and rub the juice on your skin to soothe, heal, and moisturize. (Forget about using bottled aloe juice from the store; even those marketed as pure contain unlisted preservatives and chemicals.) I like to mix the aloe juice with a drop of an essential oil before rubbing it into my skin. My favorite oil for this is rose otto, the botanical nurturer. Its sweet, floral fragrance is so uplifting.
If you enjoy a facial, you can also make an egg yolk mask using free-range eggs to help replenish stripped skin. Yolks are rich in phosopholipids, ceramides, vitamins, and minerals like niacinamide – important elements in the skin's outer layer. Phospholipids regenerate the skin, heal scars and resolve skin disorders. Egg yolks contain the same ceramides found in the skin. Cermides are multi-talented cells; they replenish the natural oils and act as signaling cells that direct cell proliferation and normal cell death. Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, also helps regulate natural oils. You can also add a drop of your favorite botanical oils and honey to the yolk to super charge the mask. (This mask is also a great way to heal dry, rough hands from gardening and other hands-on pursuits.)
Clean your skin gently with botanical oils. Washing with pure plant oils is an ancient gipsy method of cleansing and exfoliating the skin that leaves the precious outer layer of the skin intact. It may sound a little strange, washing with oils, because people think oil will make their skin oily. Actually, the molecules of real, fresh pressed plant matter harmonizes and transforms it into healthy and balanced skin.
You can make your own botanical cleanser by mixing your favorite essential oils with aloe or pure, organic Jojoba oil. If you prefer delectable and expertly mixed skin care, try Living Libations Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever. One bottle does it all -- cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize. It is perfect for all skin (no type required) and skin issues, from babies to elderly, for sensitivities, scars, and problems of all kinds. The oils in this serum gently whisk away daily dirt and makeup while supporting the skin’s immunity and disrupting the wrinkle producing process.
While your skin and body rebalance and your deeper issues resolve, a few special botanical oils can be applied to problem areas to speed up the process:
• Seabuckthorn Berry is the super hero for skin. It gets to the root cause of imbalances by going deep within the lipid layers and healing from the inside out. The oil is bright orange from the essential fatty acids and vitamins in the powerful berries. It can be applied undiluted to the skin, and it should be applied at night because the oil will temporarily turn your skin orange.
• Rosemary, Immortelle, and Carrot Seed oils are excellent for acne and acne-prone skin. If you have a pimple, you want it gone. These oils sink deep into the skin to neutralize acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. A quick dab of Zippity Dew Dab on the affected areas heals the skin fast. It contains the undiluted essential oils of Niaouli, Carrot Seed, Immortelle, Rosemary, Blue Tansy, and Thyme Linalool.
• Rose Otto, Frankincense, and Sandalwood oils are beautiful for dry skin and aging skin. Living Libations Night Nectar and Rose Glow Serum are great options to add extra moisture to your skin.
• Immortelle, Lavender, and Roman Chamomile normalize sensitive skin. They speed up cellular regeneration, break the cycle of irritation, and reduce inflammation.
• Golden, organic Jojoba oil balances the skin's oil production. Over time it will calm oil over-production. Rosemary and Eucalyptus will also settle overactive sebaceous glands.
• Treat itchy skin, as well as psoriasis and eczema, with a drop of Peppermint. Add it to the Best Skin Ever when you wash, or smooth it directly on affected areas. It is very cooling, and will ease itch and pain.
Learn ancient Greek
As the creators of legendary decadent baths, the ancient Greeks and Romans knew a few things about skin and health care. The bathing ritual consisted of soaks in invigoratingly hot and frigid pools. The very first stop for a bather was the strigling bath. A strigil is a curved metal spoon-like tool that was coated in oil and brushed across every inch of skin to clean the skin and stimulate blood flow in preparation for the 100+ F degree, 100% humidity hot sauna and bath.
Dry brushing, the contemporary interpretation of strigling, involves coating a brush with a drop of botanical oil and very gently brushing the skin, always moving in the direction of the heart. This simple and invigorating ritual before a bath or shower exfoliates the skin and supports a healthy overall immune response by stimulating the lymph system and improving circulation.
We at Living Libations enthusiastically embrace this ancient ritual, though we have swapped our metal strigils in favor of natural bristle brushes.
Hype Free Hands
While we are on the subject of skin care, let's look at the hype about antibacterial soaps and sanitizers. Kline & Company market researchers state that there is a $350,000,000 annual market for antibacterial soaps in the US.
In a 2008 interview, environmental engineering professor Dr. Dan Chang warned that, "These compounds should be voluntarily removed by consumer product manufacturers…" or consumers should "be provided precautionary information regarding their use." These chemicals' properties concern biologists. Laboratory data suggests that there is a link between exposure to triclosan and anti-microbial drug resistance. In a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, e-coli bacteria adapted and showed resistance when exposed to triclosan. A participating researcher explained, "What we are saying is that these e-coli could survive in the concentrations (of triclosan) that we use in our antibacterial soaps…"
If we need another reason to avoid these agents, the trickle down environmental effects are less than encouraging. By attaching to solid particles in the lakes, rivers and streams triclosan and triclocarban accumulate over time and harm fragile aquatic ecosystems and aquatic life.
Are triclosan and triclocarban in your household products? You may be surprised. Check out The US Department of Health and Human Services database for a list of products containing triclosan and triclocarban.
Alcohol based hand sanitizers also present issues. The isopropyl alcohol in these gels is strongly antiseptic if it stays on the skin long enough to kill the bacteria and if the concentration of alcohol is over 60%.The alcohol in most consumer hand sanitizers evaporates very quickly, within seconds of application, so that the bacterias' exposure to the alcohol is too short to be lethal. Also, most consumer sanitizers (verses medical grade) are below the 60% concentration required for effectiveness.
Also, alcohol is less than ideal for the skin. It strips the protective oil from the outer layer of skin, and, in the long run, leaves us vulnerable to bacteria and other unfriendly bugs while severely dehydrating the skin.
We hear about all the current health scares and the “flu of the day,” and we may wonder how we can stay safe. What can we use to wash away the bugs?
Nature has provided for us a clear alternative for keeping healthy hands. All essential oils are powerful antiseptics that will clean your hands while boosting your mood and immune system. It is easy to make your own little bottle of hand sanitizer or handy wipes using your favorite essential oil; combine 3 parts biodynamic organic grape alcohol or organic vodka with 1 part of your favorite essential oil. Fill a small spritzer bottle and shake the bottle to distribute the plant oils before use.
Liquid Lugols iodine is a reliable replacement for First Aid treatment of cuts, infections, and as a general antiseptic. Its wide spectrum of action works against bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Unlike triclosan, there is no evidence that bacteria develop resistance to the power of iodine. Of course, iodine will also turn treated skin orangey-red for a while, too.
Our best defense against illness is our own immune system. Immunologists and epidemiologists are increasingly supporting the hygiene hypothesis, which states that some disease and allergies increase when there is a lack of exposure to microbes and viruses in early childhood. Living in an ultra-clean, sterile, synthetic-soap cleaned environment may inhibit proper immune development in children. So, while we want to be diligent in protecting our health, we can refrain from worry and obsessive hand de-germing for the future health of our children.
Simplify your skin care…
…and clear off your bathroom counter. Liberate your bathroom and your life from the multi-step regimes, the bottles, the plastic, the quick-fix products, and the skin type hype marketing. Audition a fresh skin care confession:
Radiance is this simple: fresh, whole food, pure water, an aloe vera plant, a body brush, some beautiful botanical oils, and plenty of time outside.
Skin needs to be out in the day and out in the night. It needs to be under the stars. It needs to be in the shaded forest and out in the sun. It needs to be outside receiving cosmic information from nature that nourishes your cells and your soul. Let nature, fresh air and the sun be your “Ladies in Waiting” and your finest bathing attendants.
Nadine Artemis is author of Renegade Beauty: Reveal and Revive Your Natural Radianceand Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, a frequent commentator on health and beauty for media outlets, and her products have received rave reviews in the New York Times, the National Post, and the Hollywood Reporter. Described by Alanis Morissette as “a true-sense visionary,” Nadine has formulated a stunning collection of rare and special botanical compounds. Her healing creations, along with her concept of Renegade Beauty, encourage effortlessness and inspire people to rethink conventional notions of beauty and wellness.