Thou shalt drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Thou shalt cleanse your skin of makeup and other debris before going to bed. Thou shalt eat a truckload of raw vegetables daily.
What are the universally accepted commandments to achieving healthy, radiant and ageless skin?
The Beauty Arcana can seem indeed elusive. There are of course many external protocols that we can follow to ensure that our skin looks its best: scrubbing, masking, moisturizing. But let’s face it lovelies: no amount of Crème de la Mer or Argan oil (although these are helpful) is going to correct what is essentially an internal problem. Yes, beauty begins on the inside and healthy skin is, in the end, simply a reflection of what is going on internally. To this end, we have compiled a list of good skin commandments that we believe everyone should try to follow in their quest for complement worthy, luminous skin. Write them down, embroider them on your pillow, but above all follow them with vigor and consistency… your skin will be glowing in no time.
- Healthy Fats
- Conventional skincare product overload
A no brainer. Perhaps the simplest and yet for some, the most challenging obstacle to achieving good health, and therefore good skin. Challenging because few seem make it a priority. That’s why it has been said that nearly the entire population is suffering from dehydration and dehydration related diseases. We are a water-based life form (95% of each cell is comprised of water) and the function and health of every cell in our body depends on it. When we are well hydrated our immune system works better, our organs are healthy, and our skin is bright and beautiful. Proper hydration is a crucial factor in keeping our skin looking full and plump. Constantly replacing the water in our system is critical in keeping us healthy. Just think of a stagnant pool of water- it is dirty, cloudy and diseased. But when this same pool is constantly replenished and flowing, it stays clean and can sustain life. As for our skin, just remember: water content is the difference between a grape and a prune.
An apple a day. Yes, an apple a day is good, but is it enough? Our ancestors used to enjoy somewhere in the vicinity of 100g to 300g of fibre in a day whereas today, most of us are lucky if we consume 30g (including the apple). So here’s the problem: our guts love fibre. The healthy bacteria that inhabit our large intestine need fibre to thrive. When we don’t get enough of it, the bacteria that should reside in our large intestines migrate to our small intestines looking for food. This can cause a multitude of problems, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Like water, this is another common sense notion- anything that is good for our gut will also be good for our overall health and skin. Fibre also acts as a kind of internal brush; creating an internal cleansing action that allows for easy, regular elimination of toxins and waste. As many of us know, poor waste management leads to toxin build up, which invariably, inevitably shows up in our skin. And to all those freshly pressed juice lovers out there: juicing is great, but the process removes the fibre, which we desperately need. Conclusion? You need more than an apple. Eat more fibre.
You love sugar. We all love sugar, in all of its forms. But your skin? Not so much. Refined sugar is no longer seen as the harmless white stuff you use to sweeten your coffee. It is increasingly viewed as a highly addictive substance that causes artificial highs, mood swings, depression and energy crashes. Yes, let’s call sugar what it is: a highly acidic, addictive substance that has similar effects on the brain as heroin and effects on the liver as alcohol, none of which will do any favors for your skin. In fact, what happens when we ingest sugar is our insulin shoots up and creates an acidic environment in our bodies or acidic PH. This, over time, leads to a leaching of minerals from the bones and elsewhere to act as a buffer. We have discussed here the importance of minerals and the dangers of a consistently acidic PH. As for it’s specific effects on the skin, sugar is known to attach to collagen molecules and cause cross-linking, stiffness, and inflexibility. Over time, the interaction of sugar and collagen produce what is known as a Browning reaction, or age and liver spots on the skin. So, in the pursuit of good skin are we saying that you should reduce all refined sugars? No. We are saying eliminate all refined sugar and use stevia, maple syrup, or honey instead keeping in mind that even excessive amounts of the natural stuff is not good either.
In the not so distant past it was the case that all fats were considered equal and all were bad. Canola, coconut, sunflower oil; it didn’t really matter. Only olive oil seemed to retain its good reputation but even then, only good in moderation. Fats were taken out of most prepared foods and replaced with either sugar or salt. Then years later when health officials realized that sugar was actually the most likely reason for the obesity epidemic, perceptions began to change. Coconut oil, which had been demonized as an unhealthy fat for years, suddenly took on superstar status. Saturated fat was no longer viewed as a killer, but something that we actually need. Indeed, it is true that we require adequate amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, as these are what form the backbone for hormone production. Without sufficient hormones our hair turns grey, our skin starts aging, and we get old. On a cellular level, many vitamins and micronutrients need the presence of fat in order for them to be bioavailable (see our post on turmeric). It has been argued that the intelligence of the cell is in fact not in the nucleus but in the membrane, which itself is composed of fat. So membrane health requires that we consume sufficient amounts of healthy fats in order for our cells to work properly. There are of course many other benefits to increasing fat content in our diets including thyroid health, blood sugar stability, improved cardiovascular function, lung health, nerve health, improved brain function… the list goes on and on. When used topically on the skin, coconut oil in particular is magic. Its composition of MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) means it is easily absorbed by the skin. Its long shelf life ensures that it is stable and won’t easily go rancid. So take your coconut oil, ghee, and olive oil with gusto knowing that you are providing your body with the tools necessary to rebuild and repair.
Conventional skincare product overload
As the largest organ in the body, what we choose to put on our skin is of utmost importance. The skin is like a sponge: it can eliminate but it also assimilates what it comes into contact with. When one begins to research the skin and skin health, conventional skincare ingredients become more and more troubling. We slather on, bathe in, and otherwise slap on these products mindlessly; products that are more likely than not responsible for a lot of our skin woes. Yes, it is true that many skincare manufacturers have come under pressure to eliminate known offenders such as parabens, sulfates, and fragrances. This is progress. Still, most skin care brands are crafty, and if they can get away with incorporating petroleum based ingredients for example, they will. Petroleum is itself a major cause of inflammation, preventing cellular breathing, as though you were saran wrapping your skin. It also binds to fat-soluble vitamins, transporting them out of the body unabsorbed. Even the otherwise harmless “fragrance” ingredient is itself 95% petroleum derived. The best skincare products are not surprisingly, those that mirror the self-organizing principles of the skin or that react with the skin in a way that it can comprehend. Our skin cannot understand petroleum. Rather, elements from nature such as the sun, water, minerals, and plant derived compounds are beneficial to the skin. Natural oils such as olive or coconut and butters such as shea or cacao are best. For more on how harsh soaps weaken and degrade our skin see The Case Against Soap. For how and why natural oils are the best moisturizers and our indie product picks see The Beauty of Facial Oil. Bottom line? If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.