‘Beautiful skin’…the catch-cry of every beauty magazine.
The focus on our skin seems to be all about what we can put ONTO it to make it look a certain way. As the biggest organ we have in our body, I was quite confronted to learn that the average woman puts over 515 synthetic chemicals A DAY onto her skin, without even blinking an eye. With 60% of this product absorbed through the skin, this equated to about 2.3kg of makeup being absorbed into the body every year. Imagine sitting down to a plate of makeup and eating it, YUCK!
Learning about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and Detoxification (see previous blogs ‘The Ins and Outs of a Dirty Word… “Detox“‘ and ‘The 2018 International Congress on Natural Medicine – Wrap Up!‘) was a huge catalyst for me to take a look at exactly what I am putting onto my body (daily) and get down to business about what I can be putting IN to my body to nourish my skin from the inside out.
Our skin is responsible for numerous body functions:absorbing, synthesising and storing nutrients (A, D, E, K, cholesterol, fats), protecting our bodies from mechanical or chemical stress, radiation and infection. It acts as a communicative barrier for touch and injury, regulates temperature and fluid balance, it also acts as a detoxification organ through eliminating wastes. Not dissimilar to the liver, the skin has to process what comes in and out of it all the time. However,because the skin is something we always see, we forget to think about it as a living organ of our bodies. We would think twice about what’s in our deodorant or foundation if we had to apply it directly onto our liver, so why is our skin any different?
WHAT GOES ON OUR SKIN?
Full disclaimer: this is a rabbit warren, and far too big to talk about in one blog! I would recommend starting small, and learning about the products that you have and how you can make changes for the positive when it comes time to replace them. If you can’t pronounce the name, have a think about if you would put that same product on your tongue before you know what it actually does? I would also like the state implicitly that when I talk about “chemicals”,not all chemicals are bad and some have been studied extensively to ensure that they are safe for your skin. However, there are known chemicals in personal care products that have endocrine disrupting potential, and that’s where you can make a big difference when it comes to what you put onto your body. Have a look at the Skin Deep Database by the Environmental Working Group if you are interested in what to look out for when it comes to chemicals in makeup and skincare.
Coming into the warmer months, when heat and UV are imminent threats the health and vitality of our skin, I thought it was important to discuss at least these two things: Sunscreens, and Deodorants. These are staples that you can potentially make better choices with when it comes to your skin and your body!
Sunscreens can be split up into two categories: Chemical and Physical. (You can read about all the broad difference’s here).Chemical sunscreens work by being absorbed into the skin and scrambling the UV rays. Their protection from UV can be variable depending on the stability of the chemical, some of which have not been approved as safe (particularly Oxybenzone, OMC and 4-MBC, which are known Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals). Once absorbed,these compounds then need to be dealt with by the liver where they can generate compounds called “free radicals”’ that contribute to inflammation and premature ageing. Physical sunscreens are generally those opted for in “natural” skin care regimes, and they utilise Zinc or Titanium to form a physical barrier over the skin which deflects UV on the spot. They are very stable and not absorbed in the same way as a chemical sunscreen. While some physical sunscreens can have more of a “Casper” effect, from a chemical perspective they are considered safe and do not add to your overall toxic burden, free radical generation or chemical disruption. Win Win.
Both chemical and physical sunscreens may contain compounds called Parabens, which have known endocrine disrupting potential, that is, they are proven by science to muck around with your hormones! Check the label of sunscreens that are marked as “natural” to ensure they are paraben-free.
DEODORANTS & SWEAT
It may not be the skin on your face, but deodorants are one of our main offenders when we think about what we put ONTO our skin and how we can take care of it. We can consider chemical compounds,but first we need to think about what it is for…. And the hint is in the name:“de” – to remove or reverse and“odor” – an unpleasant smell. Their role is NOT actually to prevent you from producing sweat!
For some people this may seem confronting, but sweating is actually an imperative mechanism to eliminate wastes and toxins from our body and tightly regulate body temperature.
Compounds,such as aluminium (found in most commercial deodorants),act as antiperspirantsthat block sweat ducts and prevents wastes and sweat being eliminated from the skin. There is a lot of conjecture about the safety of long term aluminium exposure, with some studies linking low dose aluminium exposure over a long period time with a plethora of health complaints, from Alzheimers Disease to breast cancer.
Unfortunately,many commercial deodorants also utilise fragrances that are full of Phthalates to disguise or masks odours. The link with Phthalates as endocrine disrupting chemicals is extremely well researched, particularly when it comes to the reproductive system. Phthalates have demonstrated links with asthma, low sperm count and incidence of breast cancers and tumours. Additionally,compounds like Triclosan (classed by the FDA as a pesticide) and Parabens (endocrine disrupting chemical with known interactions with estrogen) may be utilised to prevent fungal infection and kill bacteria that can accumulate on the skin, leading to irritation and absolutely contribute to increased toxic burden. Fortunately,there are many natural deodorants that utilise compounds like capric acid, sage and clove oil which offer the same antibacterial and antifungal effects.
To be clear I am NOT advocating we all stop wearing deodorant, I am however urging you to consider your relationship with antiperspirants and the occasions when you actually need to use them. Where can youopt for a deodoriser rather than something that blocks sweat production and support your temperature regulation and detoxification capacity? There are incredible natural deodorants that work to prevent odour, far beyond any conventional supermarket variety that I have experienced, local girls at the Natural Supply Co. have a huge range which can be a good place to start, why not give it a try! (NB: Conditions such as hyperhidrosis AKA excessive sweating are an exception to what is considered normal and require alternative management).
SUPPORTING YOUR SKIN DETOX
Supporting your skin’s function as a detox organ can enhanced in two ways:facilitate and promote waste clearance by huffing, puffing and sweating AND make sure that the pathways of elimination are clear by dry skin brushing. For some people, sweat can be a catalyst for pimples, as waste products get caught in pores of the skin and cause small localised inflammation that generates pus. However, some people who sweat all the time can have issues with cystic acne that is less likely to be a result of sweat itself, and more likelyto do with androgen production and clearance of hormones through the liver, rather than the skin.(A naturopath can talk to you about what to do about this!)
Normally, promoting sweating through exercise or using saunas literally pushes the clearance of water soluble wastes through the skin, adding to you detoxification potential. This is also achieved through dry skin brushing, which stimulates the lymphatic system just below the skin surface. Your lymphatic fluid physically removes wastes from the skin, and has been implicated in the reduction of cellulite as clearance of toxins that are stored in fat cells below the skin surface. Dry skin brushing is also incredible for ensuring clear pathways for sweat and waste clearance, by unclogging the pores and promoting healthy skin cell turnover that allows it to perform as a stronger first line of defence to the immune system and more effectively absorb and store nutrients.
SKIN HEALTH FROM THE INSIDE OUT!
I’ll leave it to the experts about what can be put onto your skin from the outside, but when it comes to health from the inside, what nutrients do you actually need to actually MAKE strong and healthy skin cells?!
For the physical foundation of our skin cells, adequate dietary protein is absolutely crucial when we are considering healthy skin cells. Protein is made up of amino acids that go on to be used for DNA replication,as well as physical structural proteins that create skin cells and collagen!
Enjoy: lean meats, oily fish, eggs, legumes and nuts.
- Omega 3’s
Healthy fats are a needed to make the lining of cell walls that keeps all the nutrients inside your skin cells, this keeps them hydrated and happy! They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects which can help to protect from dry, red and angry skin.
Enjoy: salmon, seafood, eggs.
- Vitamin A
Essential for the multiplication of skin cells and protection from UV damage, Vitamin A has long been appreciated in skin care regimes for its derivative Retinol and its claims in anti-ageing. Why not eat it too!?
Enjoy ORANGE foods: sweet potato, carrot, egg yolks.
- Vitamin C
One of the most powerful nutritional antioxidants, Vitamin C protects the skin from free radical damage and sun damage. It also improves the moisture content in the epidermis (top layer of the skin) and is required for collagen production. Thisresults in increased hydration and plump healthy skin cells!
Enjoy CITRUS foods: lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins and oranges.
- Vitamin E
This is another potent antioxidant that protects from UV damage and localised skin inflammation. It has also been implicated in the suppression of skin cell aging!
Enjoy OILY foods: avocado, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds.
Zinc is required for healthy skin cell turn over, immune function and protection from sun damage. Zinc is an essential mineral with a strong affinity for skin cells, helping to reduce inflammation and stimulate the production of healthy new cells.
Enjoy: oysters, beans, nuts, green leafy veggies and whole grains.
Hydration is absolutely essential for skin cells and detox potential. This is particularly if you are now utilising saunas or increasing your huffing, puffing and sweating through exercise! For appropriate clearance we need adequate fluids, with plenty left over to create healthy plump skin cells!
Enjoy: filtered water, herbal teas with skin cleansing properties like calendula, spearmint, echinacea and burdock.
A diet for healthy skin is not that different to any other healthy diet that supports your detoxification capacity. It is rich in the macronutrients your body needs for basic functions PROTEIN, COLOURFUL CARBOHYDRATE & HEALTHY FATS, with a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to ensure you can limit inflammation and have an abundance of antioxidants to protect your cells.
With a reduction in toxic load as you reduce the chemicals on your skin, plus physically stimulating your skins detoxifications systems, you add to the health and vitality of our biggest organ (and the rest of your body) in multiple ways.
Healthy ageing inside out!
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