When we think about maintaining healthy complexion, most of us have been taught to treat the outside, lavishing it with moisturizing creams. This can go for men as well as women. While not disputing the benefits of working on our outer shell so to speak, it is also important to understand how what goes on inside our body can affect our skin.
Toxins from the environment, such as cigarette smoke and industrial pollutants, along with those produced inside the body, play a key role in skin health. This is because when we are overexposed to toxins, especially in our increasingly polluted world, they are eliminated through the skin, in addition to the liver and kidneys, which are overworked at this point. Anne Marie Colbin, in her book, Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life, reports that when toxins find their way out through our skin, we may experience rashes, blemishes, and in more severe instances, acne. Certain types of food can overload our detoxification pathways, especially foods high in fat, protein, and sugar. A diet high in fat also can be drying to the skin. Dr. Colbin reports that especially in people with fine-grained complexions, fats can accumulate under the skin and prevent the body’s natural moisture from reaching the surface. In this instance, consuming less fat can improve oily and dry, cracked skin.
Dr. Colbin also believed that any food not in its natural state, such as extracts, concentrates, and pills, are not processed naturally and as a result will get pushed out of the skin. Artificial sweeteners also would be included in this category. Multi-vitamins and iodized salt should be avoided by people that may be prone to acne because they are altered foods.
Healthy detoxification is at the heart of healthy skin. Along with consuming as many whole foods as possible, there are detoxifying teas, such as organic milk thistle and dandelion, to support detoxification. Another detoxification support comes from lemons. Rebecca Wood, in her book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, recommends a morning elixir when we wake up “feeling stiff and with a cloudy mind,” suggesting that the liver has not completed detoxifying the blood during the night.
The elixir is made up of a cup of boiling water, two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey to taste, and cayenne to taste as optional. Rebecca Wood also encourages having seaweed in the diet as it helps to maintain “glowing healthy skin and lustrous hair.” Rooibos tea can support skin health as well. It is caffeine-free and contains substances reported to help with rashes, and reduce wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. Rooibos tea actually contains alpha-hydroxyl acid found in many skin products, along with zinc.
Essential fatty acids also support skin health, making skin soft, elastic, and holding in moisture. Beneficial omega-3 fatty acids can be found in foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Essential fatty acids can be applied topically in the form of vitamin E oil. Other oils such as extra virgin oil and coconut oil also can help with skin health. They are absorbed well deeply into the skin, especially olive oil, and like essential fatty acids keep skin soft, elastic, and moist. Oils are not meant for oily skin. As Dr. Colbin suggests, cutting down on dietary fat helps to normalize skin and would be a first step before considering moisturizing the skin. In terms of night creams, personally I would give the skin a break during the night along with the rest of the body.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates