Natural Beauty and Skin Care Tips, Part 1 of 2by Lauren Deville on Apr. 13, 2012, under Natural Medicine Tips
Beauty comes from the inside out… in more ways than one. Sure, genetics are involved, but you’ve got a very large role to play in deciding which genes get expressed and which ones lay dormant!
Let’s start with your diet (and as a Naturopathic Medical Doctor, I always start there). Every cell in your body has a life cycle, and when the old ones die, new ones are created. The building blocks for those new cells come from your diet. If you eat primarily synthetic, highly processed, chemically-laden foods, then not only will those chemicals wreak havoc on the inside (causing a whole host of chronic health conditions down the line), but they will eventually show up on the outside too, in the form of obesity, dull, lifeless, and wrinkled skin, blemishes, and dark circles around your eyes, to name just a few. I’ve written a more comprehensive guide to eating healthy here, but below are a few basic tips on how to eat to look your best:
- Stay hydrated. For most people, that means drinking half your body weight in ounces daily. Lack of moisture is a major culprit in aging skin, dry hair, and poor cellular detoxification.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits! These are high in vitamins and minerals (the building blocks your skin and hair need to create healthy cells), and are high in antioxidants, which help to prevent free radical damage associated with sun exposure and aging. They’re also are free of chemicals and preservatives, unlike processed foods (aside from pesticides used in farming – to avoid these, make sure you buy the Dirty Dozen organic).
- To keep your skin healthy, you’ll want to get a good amount of foods high in beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A (red, yellow, and orange veggies), Vitamin C (citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli), Vitamin E (nuts, seeds, avocados), and zinc (pumpkin seeds, soy beans, whole grains, peas, and mustard greens).
- Take your Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. The benefits of fish oil are myriad, but the bottom line is that everyone should be taking one). If you’re a vegetarian, flax seed oil is a good alternative. For many skin conditions, it’s also a good idea to add Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA, including Borage Oil and/or Evening Primrose Oil, EPO). As a bonus, EPO is also great for balancing hormones.
- Consider a good cleanse. Toxins (from our diet and our chemically-laden environment) are designed to get out through our “primary escape routes”. For solid waste, the major escape route is the gut. But a long-term inflammatory diet can set you up for poor enzyme function and an imbalance in gut flora. Poor digestive function can mean that food doesn’t get broken down properly, creating even more toxic accumulation that the already overworked liver then has to clean up. The result? Those toxins can’t get out through the primary escape route (the gut). So instead they try to get out through the “fire escape”… which is often the skin. There are a number of ways to cleanse, from water or juice fasting to medical foods to a homeopathic detoxification protocol called biotherapeutic drainage. Your naturopathic doctor can guide you to the protocol that’s right for you.
Next, let’s talk about your lifestyle. Your outward appearance will benefit from the same healthy choices that benefit the rest of you!
- Exercise. Regular exercise helps to increase blood flow to the surface of the skin and hair, which delivers oxygen and nutrients, eliminates waste, gives a youthful glow, and of course firms and tones muscle. (It’ll also make you feel better overall — and when you feel better, it shows.)
- Smoking. In a word: Don’t. Smoke is one of the nastiest pro-oxidants out there, meaning it increases cellular aging dramatically. Incidentally smoking is also heavily linked to heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, a variety of cancers (including but not limited to lung), and quite a few other common chronic illnesses.
- Sleep. Get more of it. Your body repairs and restores itself while you’re resting at night. You will minimize those bags under your eyes if you get enough rest, for one, and you’ll feel better and have more energy. Chronic sleeplessness or abnormal sleep patterns have also been linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Stress. This one’s a little more difficult to quantify, but think of it this way: when you’re stressed out, daily living requires more energy, calories, and nutrients than usual, and your body has to prioritize where to allocate its limited resources. As a result, your skin suffers — just like the rest of you. Here are some natural (and free!) tips on how to deal with stress.
Only after we take care of what you put into your body can we start to talk about the products you use on the outside. But before we talk about what you should use, let’s talk about what you should avoid. Like our food, toiletry items are chock-full of chemicals, some of which can be very toxic.
- Phthalates: used to make plastics soft and pliable, these are estrogenic chemicals, which are therefore linked to endocrine disruption and certain cancers. As far as beauty products, they’re found in body lotions and deodorants… and by the way, they’re also found in any soft plastics you regularly use for food storage. Replace soft plastic food storage containers with glass when you can, but above all, don’t put soft plastics in the microwave, since heating soft plastics increases the release of phthalates into your food. Phthalates have been banned in Europe.
- Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl): these are added to beauty products as preservatives, and are also linked with endocrine disruption and certain cancers. They’re found in all kinds of beauty products, from hair styling gels to lotions to all kinds of makeup, and they’re usually last on the list of ingredients, so look carefully. So far they’ve been banned in Japan and Sweden.
- Anything ending in “-ethanolamine” (Diethanolamine, triethanolamine, etc): these are added as emulsifiers and foaming agents, and they are also endocrine disruptors and linked with certain cancers. They’re found in shampoo, soap, hairspray, sunscreen, hair dye, and a variety of kinds of makeup.
- Propylene glycol: these are humectants (help to retain moisture), and they’re neurotoxins. They are found in deodorants, body lotions and washes, conditioners, hair gel, creams, and lipsticks. These have been banned in Europe.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate: This is a suspected carcinogen, and has been linked to kidney and liver damage and a variety of skin and neurological conditions. It can be found in toothpaste, shampoo, bath salts, body and shower gels, and it has been banned in Europe and Central America.
Many skin conditions may clear up with just the above recommendations. Your naturopathic doctor can provide a complete protocol for any lingering issues like stubborn acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, sun damage, or other problem skin conditions.
Stay tuned next week for natural topical skin care techniques to keep you looking your best!
Are there topics that you’d like me to cover in future articles? Email me your suggestions!
Dr Lauren Deville is board-certified to practice Naturopathic Medicine. To receive her free e-book, “Ten Nutritional Supplements Everyone Should Have,” or to receive her monthly health and wellness newsletter, please sign up at www.drlaurendeville.com.