When certain concepts or words bombard us too frequently in mass marketing like “Organic”, “Sustainable”, and “Holistic”- I don’t know about you, but for me those words which represent important values start to feel like just another manipulating sales pitch that I start to resent and tune out. However, as a seasoned Esthetician of 10 years, the word “holistic” in skin care carries a lot of weight for me.
In the years I have been treating and examining skin I have learned that creating and maintaining healthy skin is about so much more than simply finding the right products to use. I have found that although skin care products can provide very helpful support and are an important part of caring for your skin, there are other equally profound ways that we can create vibrant skin, reduce inflammation and prevent pre-mature aging. Here is a list of the 5 primary ingredients that I have gathered from working with knowledgeable mentors, reading books on the subject, and especially interviewing clients with amazing skin even well into their 70’s and 80’s:
1) Whole Foods Diet: This means that the food you put into your body doesn’t look that different than it did when it came out of the ground, off the tree, or picked from the vine. It didn’t need to be preserved, refined, package or processed. What does that mean for your skin? It means that the food still maintains a high level of beneficial nutrients that nourish your body. Eat lots of local organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. So many of the preservatives, additives, excess sugars, salts, and hydrogenated oils contribute to inflammation within our bodies. Many refined foods are so different from their natural states that our bodies struggle to break them down into healthy absorbable nutrition and attacks many of the additives as intrusive foreign invaders. As a result our body is on the defensive trying to put out the fire of inflammation. This takes resources and energy away from normal cellular maintenance. This is why you will notice that people who live off of junk foods, fast foods, lots of sugar saturated foods and overly processed foods generally do not age as well as people who eat a nutritious diet of whole foods. Also figuring out your food allergies and sensitivities can make a huge difference in inflammatory skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. I often refer my clients to “The Anti-Inflammatory Diet” by Jessica Black N.D. for a quick comprehensive guide to understanding the inflammatory process and how to manage it with diet. I have had clients who have seen great results from working with our in-house Doctor of Chinese Medicine. Herbal remedies and acupuncture are great resources for reducing inflammation and restoring balance.
2) Hydration: Some of the most beautiful skin I have seen has belonged to people who were diligent about drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. When your body is dehydrated it will prioritize hydration away from your skin in order to nourish more vital organs. Have you ever noticed that when your hands or lips are dry that it feels like the skin is pulling in opposite directions and will sometimes crack open? Though it may not feel that severe on your facial skin it is happening to a lesser degree and can contribute to pre-mature wrinkling. It also can compromise the skin’s ability to keep irritants out. Sometimes additional care like laser hair removal – Touch Up Laser is needed. Do you notice how sensitive and stingy everything is on dry cracked hands? Well a lot of hyper-sensitivity on the face can be due to dehydration or over-washing the face with stripping cleansers. This also can cause an excessive oil production in some people. Your esthetician can help you assess if your skin is dry (low oil production) or dehydrated and help you achieve a healthier balance. You can’t go wrong with drinking your 8-10 glasses daily, it’s an easy way to make the skin happier.
3) Appropriate and Healthy Products: There is no “one regimen fits all” solution for skin care products. Every person is very bio-individual. You may be dry/congested, oily/dehydrated, sensitive/acne prone etc. This is where your esthetician comes in. I can save you so much money, time and frustration by helping customize a simple home care regimen specific to you. My goal is to educate people to make appropriate and healthy choices that will strengthen, nourish, and support the skin for optimal health. Honestly, I am not attached to you buying the skin care line we sell. I am far more concerned that you are at least avoiding the nastiness in the majority of products out there.
That being said, I happily refer people to the lines we carry because I know that I trust the quality of ingredients. Here is an interesting quote cited on Livia’s (one of our primary product lines) website: “Did you know that the average woman applies more than 200 chemicals to her skin by using her skin care products in one day? Did you know that 60% of these chemicals are further absorbed into your bloodstream?…If you are using non-organic skin care products it is important to note the effects that the toxic preservatives also have on your hormones. It has been proven that the increase in paraben (a common preservative) use is directly related to an increased risk in breast cancer.”
I have personally noticed on many occasions that my clients who switch from conventional skin care products to our organic skin care line have a dramatic reduction in hyper-sensitivity, their skin heals faster, the texture is smoother, the skin seems stronger and more resilient, especially around the neck, and they remark that they get a ton of compliments on how great their skin looks. Besides the quality of the products, there are also the specific types of products that need to be determined (type of cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliant etc.). Some people have very low-maintenance skin and need very little to keep it optimally healthy while others may need a little extra oomph to get the results they need. Again, this is where your skin care professional can help guide you. A little effort can go a long way to keep skin in great shape.
4) Sun Protection and Smoking: Everyone needs some sun protection for prolonged, direct exposure. Getting a bad burn will come back to haunt you later in the form of sun spots, broken capillaries, and pre-mature wrinkling. Be prepared and shop for sunscreen through an organic skin care line or at your health food store where you will find better ingredients to protect your skin. Sure, get some Vitamin D in small doses of time in the sun, but avoid prolonged, unprotected exposure even if you don’t burn easily.
All of the most incredible skin care products in the world won’t reverse the damage that smoking will do to your skin over time. I once had two women come in together for facials. They were the same age (around 45) and had been friends since they were toddlers. One had been a sun goddess and a smoker, the other had been cautious with her sun exposure because the heat bothered her and she had never smoked. I swear I thought they were mother and daughter. The sun-goddess smoker looked 20 years older than her natural age and her friend could have passed for late 20’s early 30’s! Another client of mine is a nurse. She was an avid tanner until she had a client one day who was a woman in her late 80’s. Her skin was extremely weathered, thick, wrinkled and rough in the areas that had a lot of sun over the years, but when she helped the woman lean forward to change her gown the skin on her back was soft, smooth, and unblemished. That sealed the deal for her. No more tanning beds.
Obviously, beyond the vanity aspect of looking great for as long as possible, it is well-established that skin cancer is one of the most common, deadly and fastest moving cancers known. I have personally known three people who have died from skin cancer. And no one really needs to be reminded of the detrimental effects of smoking on health and longevity. I have a lot of compassion for people who have formed this addiction; it can be a challenging one to overcome. Our Doctor of Chinese Medicine at the Dragontree has a smoking cessation program available for those who are ready to kick the habit.
5) Stay Active and Be Happy: Getting some form of movement or exercise in daily is vital for healthy skin. This helps your body detoxify waste more effectively which otherwise could build up in the tissue, it circulates nutrient rich blood and oxygen to feed the skin cells and accelerate healing, and it can enhance your sense of well-being by producing the happy hormones that naturally elevate your mood. The most striking common denominator I have observed amongst my elderly clients who are particularly stunning is that they are all very happy, contented, active people. They express enormous gratitude for their life, they are staying active and engaged physically, mentally, socially, and they seem to have found a way to not carry the weight of the world anymore. I am hoping that I can cultivate this earlier rather than later in my own life and let go of the nagging worries that can sometimes make me frown, furrow my brow, clench my teeth, lower my energy and moods- in short, make me look all shriveled and ugly.
Skin has been an amazing teacher for me. As I have developed more awareness about how systemic health effects the quality, health and appearance of skin, I have sought to gain more education and resources so that I can help guide my clients to get to the root of the imbalances expressing themselves in their skin. This has led me into the field of Health Coaching. As a health coach I get to help people learn and form the habits that will create foundational health that will not only give them great skin, but also optimize their health for a long and active life. For more information about my work as a health coach please refer to our website. If you would like customized guidance for caring for your skin please make an appointment with me or any of our awesome estheticians at the Dragontree.
Heather Wade, Esthetician, Integrative Health Coach, LMT