There is a lot more to our complexions than meets the eye. Our wellbeing editor, Eminé Rushton, tackles holistic skin health, from the inside-out
Skin has always fascinated me. I think that’s why I circuitously made my way from beauty editor to holistic facialist, then back again to wellbeing writer… there are so many secrets and signposts revealed by our faces and bodies and the more I learn, the more I want to know.
“We can develop skin conditions overnight, when things within are just not right”
Our skin is the body’s largest organ and it’s incredibly receptive and intuitive. We blush when embarrassed, blanch when shocked – and we can very easily develop skin conditions overnight, when things within are just not right.
So, to become allied with our skin, to learn to read its language and understand its signals, offers us not only the ability to keep it healthy, glowing and vital, but also to comprehend better what is going on for us beneath the surface. From our guts and nervous system, to our endocrine and psychological state.
Following on from our discovery of the complexity of the gut and its multifarious and multi-functioning microbiome, we are also now learning of our other organs’ own microbiomes i.e. the complex community of viruses, bacteria and mites that make up the ‘environment’ of the surface of our skin.
There is a very delicate, synergistic equilibrium at play here – and meddling with it too much can upset the balance. As a holistic facialist, I learned very quickly that less is more. If you over-cleanse, strip, exfoliate, peel, or even over-moisturise, you are preventing your skin from carrying out its own vital and natural functions.
If you have naturally oily skin and use oil-stripping cleansers and oil-free moisturisers, your skin will receive signals from its surface that tell it that it is low in sebum. So the sebaceous glands begin producing more. And more…
If, however, you apply a lightweight oil to the skin (I like jojoba for its natural skin affinity, its chemical structure being most similar to sebum), the skin receives the message that it is amply ‘oiled’ and so, slows down its own production. Eventually, skin finds its own balance, and the cycle of stripping/overproducing, is broken. Using purest plant oil to treat oily skin has been a failsafe part of my holistic approach for over a decade now – it works.
Our skin has its own unique pH too; it is acidic and various medical studies have shown that skin with a pH of less than 5 is healthiest and less likely to develop eczema, psoriasis and acne (one of the cited reasons for this is that several of the acne-causing bacteria are inhibited by acidic conditions).
This natural pH is called the acid mantle, and it can be difficult to maintain it. The average pH of tap water in the UK is between 6.5 and 9.5. The harder the water, the more alkaline it is likely to be, which can upset the skin’s balance quite significantly.
If I have time, I use a cream or oil cleanser and then spritz with a floral water to remove, or if using a hot cloth to remove my cleanser, I wring the flannel out as much as I can, so that I am at least, not dousing my skin with our hard tap water. It might sound precious, but my skin is far less prone to redness and dryness as a result.
I also like products that rebalance and correct the pH of the skin, in particular Marie Reynolds Dermabiome Mask, £68 (mariereynoldslondon.com). It contains live bacteria, probiotics and is naturally rejuvenating. And I steer clear of acids. I know there are many who use an ‘acid toner’ daily and vouch for the benefits. For me, though, I have found that prolonged daily use of acids can cause sensitisation (particularly to UV) further down the line, and I feel it unwise to continually ‘add’ something to the skin, which then disempowers skin’s own natural balancing acts.
Support, rather than interference, is best. Using a layer of natural live yoghurt as an exfoliating face mask, once a week, will do the job brilliantly, without the abrasive friction of a scrub, or aggressive action of a chemical peel. Raw honey is also a fantastic face mask; deeply moisturising, anti-bacterial and brightening.
I also support from within with lots of liver- and kidney-cleansing teas: nettle, dandelion, fennel, chamomile; a wonderful gut-balancing probiotic, because yes, gut health directly reflects in one’s skin. (I swear by Symprove symprove.com). I also take highest quality food-grown supplements and find Wild Nutrition Skin, Hair & Nails, £30 (wildnutrition.com) is wonderfully complete.
Ultimately, when it comes to our precious skin, what goes within appears without… so, gently does it.
Try this in August
I’ve developed a ‘thing’ for room spray. The former asthmatic in me doesn’t get on well with commercial ‘air fresheners’, so it’s taken me a long time to find all-natural aromatherapeutic scents that I can spritz freely, to aid me in my work, focus and mood. I now rotate two beautiful favourites: Ilapothecary Beat the Blues Room Spray, £28 (ilapothecary.com) – I defy anyone to continue an argument after this delightful rose geranium and petitgrain mist hits the air – and Root & Flower Yoga and Meditation Mist, £20 (rootandflower.co.uk) which is just the happiest hit of rosy goodness, and never fails to knit up those frayed nerves.
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