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Natural Skin Care: How to Have Clear and Healthy Skin
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
Before we take a close look at how to use principles of natural skin care to promote clear and healthy skin, please consider the following facts about your skin:
You lose millions of dead skin cells every day - about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells are sloughed off of your body every minute. Over the course of your life, you will shed about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of dead skin.
Your body is constantly generating new skin cells to replace the ones that you shed off. In fact, the top layer of your skin, called your epidermis - is fully replaced about once every 30 days.
Your skin accounts for as much as 15 percent of your entire body weight.
Every day, about 2.5 million sweat glands in your skin secrete about 2 cups of sweat.
Anatomy of Your Skin
Make no mistake about it: your skin is a complex organ, one that consists of three layers that are optimally organized to protect you against disease and injury. These layers are called your epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis, and they're described below.
The uppermost layer of your skin - the one that is in contact with the air - is called your epidermis. Your epidermis is actually composed of five different layers. The bottommost layer of your epidermis is called the basal layer, and as your basal layer produces new skin cells, they move up toward the surface, where they are eventually sloughed off as dead skin.
Your epidermis houses cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, which provides some protection against ultraviolet rays, and also partly determines the color of your skin.
Below your epidermis lies a thicker layer called your dermis. In contrast to your epidermis, which is constantly replacing itself, your dermis remains pretty much the same throughout your life. Your dermis houses a number of structures, the most prominent ones being:
Blood vessels, which allow delivery of nutrients to your skin cells, removal of waste products, and transportation of specialized cells of your immune system whenever they are needed to combat an infection.
Lymphatic vessels, which provide a transportation network for immune-related cells, and also balance the distribution of fluids throughout your body.
Nerve endings, which allow you to sense pain, temperature changes, and different pressures and textures through your skin.
Hair follicles, which are the roots of the hairs that exist throughout your scalp and skin, except on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.
Sebaceous glands, which produce and secrete sebum, an oily substance that helps to protect you against infection and helps to make your skin water resistant.
Sweat glands, which produce and secrete sweat.
Collagen, which is a protein that gives your skin strength and flexibility.
Elastin, which is a protein that gives your skin the ability to return to its original shape whenever it is manipulated.
Hypodermis (Subcutaneous tissues)
Below your dermis is a layer that consists mainly of fat, and is called your hypodermis or subcutaneous layer. Your hypodermis isn't technically a part of your skin, but it's essential to anchoring your skin to the tissues that lie below your epidermis and dermis - these deeper tissues are usually your muscles, and sometimes your bones.
Together, the three layers described above form skin that varies in thickness throughout your body. Your skin is thinnest above your eyelids, and is thickest on the heels of your feet and palms of your hands.
How Your Skin Keeps You Healthy
Being the largest organ in your body, your skin plays a number of critical roles in keeping you healthy, the most important ones being:
Physical barrier for protection - the most important function of your skin is to prevent harmful microorganisms from entering your blood. Your skin accomplishes this through three main features:
The way in which its cells are tightly organized.
- Regular production of sebum.
- The presence of large colonies of friendly bacteria that produce a number of substances that destroy unfriendly organisms - this is why using anti-bacterial soap is a bad idea.
Regulator of body fluids and temperature - your skin helps to regulate body fluid balance, pH balance, and your core temperature by manipulating its blood supply and sweat production.
Channel for elimination of waste products - through your sweat glands, your skin eliminates waste materials like urea, toxic metals, and excess lactic acid that is created by overworked muscles.
Physical protection and detection of dangerous stimuli - your skin provides a layer of cushion for the rest of your body, protecting it against injury. Your skin also allows you to sense danger (hot temperatures, sharp objects, too much pressure, etc.) through sensory receptors that are located throughout your body - mainly in your hands, feet, and lips.
Natural Skin Care Tips - How to Keep Your Skin Clear and Healthy
Be Gentle When You Wash and Scrub Your Skin
Many people are led to believe that aggressive scrubbing of their skin with a rough towel can help remove waste material and toxins from their skin. Abrasive scrubbing does not promote healthy skin; in the vast majority of cases, it actually worsens skin tone and health because it leads to damage of one or more structures in the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.
Your skin is well designed to cleanse itself from the inside out if your diet and lifestyle are health-promoting. Be gentle when you wash your skin, and pat-dry with a soft towel.
Do Not Use Anti-Bacterial Soap
Millions of friendly bacteria live on your skin; these bacteria take up room and resources, making it difficult for unfriendly bacteria to establish colonies on your skin. Friendly bacteria in your skin also produce various substances, including fatty acids, peroxides, and bacteriocins that protect you against unfriendly bacteria.
Regular use of anti-bacterial soap can diminish the strength and quantity of friendly colonies of bacteria in your skin, increasing your risk of experiencing infections, including acne.
Minimize Use of Soap and Hot Water
Regular use of hot water and almost all types of soap can dry out your sebaceous glands, causing your skin to become dry and unhealthy. Healthy skin requires regular sebum production to promote resistance against water and microbes.
A natural soap and water should be used only when necessary to remove any chemicals, grease, gas, and oil that you are exposed to. On days when your skin hasn't been exposed to any of the substances mentioned above, consider washing your skin with lukewarm or cool water only; this is, after all, the way that people washed themselves for most of human history.
In the winter, it's best to minimize the length of your showers and baths, and to use lukewarm water rather than hot water. Repeated use of hot water showers and baths can cause your skin to become dry and unhealthy.
Minimize Exposure to Furnace Heat
When you're living in dry furnace heat during colder months, your skin regularly loses water content, which can cause chronic dryness and itchiness. To combat this type of skin dryness, consider taking the following steps:
Turn down the heat. Wear warm clothes and slippers to stay warm. Less exposure to dry furnace heat results in less water loss from your skin, which results in healthier skin.
Hydrate your skin by taking lukewarm baths, and moisturizing as soon as you get out of the tub while your skin is in a hydrated state. Use the most natural moisturizer that you have access to - virgin coconut oil works well for most people.
Take a lukewarm bath or shower only when necessary for cleansing. If you don't need to bathe or shower every day, then don't; your skin will be healthier for it.
Minimize Use of Makeup, Perfumes, Colognes, Shaving Cream, and Other Personal Care Products and Cosmetics that Contain Toxic Chemicals
When your skin is bare, just as it is intended to be, it stands its best chance of receiving nourishment, getting cleared of waste products, breathing with your environment, and cleansing from the inside out. This is why children tend to have clear and healthy skin - they don't regularly burden their skin cells with personal care products and cosmetics that many adults are conditioned to use daily.
Ironically, people who regularly burden their skin cells with a number of unnecessary personal care and cosmetic products to look "better" for society tend to look "worse" for society at a much earlier age than those who don't bother with such products. And using such products year after year further increases dependence on them to maintain a public outer shell that is emotionally acceptable to the user.
The truth - and let it be heard loud and clear - is this: the less stuff you put on your skin, the healthier and more beautiful it will be in the short and long term.
Eat Plenty of Water-Rich Foods
Healthy skin requires strong and steady blood flow, as your blood circulation brings your skin cells nourishment, and clears away waste products that your skin cells are constantly generating.
Eating water-rich foods - mainly fresh vegetables and fruits - is essential to experiencing strong and steady blood flow, as the naturally occuring water, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in these foods all promote optimal blood circulation to your skin and throughout your body.
Dark green vegetables are arguably the single best food group for promoting healthy skin via healthy blood flow, as no other food group can match the water content and pound-for-pound nutrient density of dark green vegetables. This is why I regularly recommend shooting for one head of romaine lettuce every day. And if you can't hit this target, then consider including a pure green food powder mixed with healthy liquids in your diet.
Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Flavonoids
Both groups of nutrients are strongly associated with healthy blood vessels, which are essential to experiencing optimal blood flow to and from your skin cells.
Healthy foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Raw walnuts
- Wild salmon
- Fresh or dried seaweed
- Freshly ground flax seeds
- Freshly ground hemp seeds
- Free-range eggs
Healthy foods that are naturally rich in flavonoids include:
- Acerola cherries
- Citrus fruits
- Goji beries
- Lima beans
- Kidney beans
- Raw cacao
Ensure Adequate Intake of Foods that are Rich in Vitamin A, Carotenoids, and Healthy Fats
Vitamin A is arguably the single most important micronutrient for healthy skin, as it is needed to maintain the integrity and function of your skin cells.
If your overall health is good and you regularly eat foods that are abundant in healthy fats, then chances are good that your body is effectively synthesizing vitamin A from carotenoids found in dark green, yellow, and orange vegetables like spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
If you have any doubt about your body's ability to synthesize vitamin A from carotenoids, you can eat foods that contain actual vitamin A, such as organic eggs.
If You Have an Autoimmune-Related Skin Challenge, Decrease or Eliminate Your Intake of Dairy and Flesh Meats
Autoimmune-related skin conditions like psoriasis and vitiligo can be triggered and fueled by a number of different factors, but in almost all cases, these progressive conditions can be improved or at least halted by eating a vegetable-centered diet. It's impossible to know with certainty why this is, but it's likely that in people who are genetically predisposed to developing autoimmune illness, regular consumption of animal protein is a trigger for antigen-antibody-complex-induced inflammation.
For my comprehensive guidelines on how to address these and other autoimmune-related health challenges, view: Seven Keys to Overcoming Autoimmune Illness
--End of Part One--
In part two of this series on natural skin care, we'll look at suggestions for addressing other common skin conditions. We'll also look at the influence that our mind-body connection has on the health of our skin, and how to use our thoughts and emotions to promote healthy skin.
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