What’s the most important organ in your body? your heart? lungs? brain? What about your skin? Skin is the body’s largest organ and barrier against infection, so it’s crucial to our well-being. While many of us yearn for smooth, vibrant, and youthful skin, our desire isn’t completely superficial. In fact, the health of our skin is a strong indicator of our overall health, and sometimes, our skin finds sneaky ways to tell us how other areas of our body and mind are doing.
Check out these tips from Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and skincare innovator Rachael Pontillo for healthy, glowing skin:
1. Physically nourish inside and out.
The skin is primarily comprised of different proteins that are built from the inside, with whatever nutrients are available. Vitamins such as A, C, E, K, and the B vitamins (primarily biotin and niacinamide) are key building blocks, in addition to the full spectrum of amino acids. Your diet should include vitamin- and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, plus complete proteins, such as pastured meats and eggs. Topically, choose herbal skincare products, preferably made from whole plant herbal preparations.
Did you know that the skin only receives about 10% of the water you consume internally? The hydration you intake first goes to hydrate your internal vital organs, and by the time it reaches the skin, it’s like two-day-old leftovers. So while it is necessary to hydrate from the inside, it is also extremely important to hydrate on the outside using topical products that contain humectant ingredients that bring moisture into the skin, like aloe vera gel and vegetable glycerine. Herbal steams, hydrosols, and compresses are also a great way to hydrate.
3. Protect and seal in moisture with healthy fats.
Water is important, but it is only useful if it stays in the cells, whether that’s the cells as they are forming inside the body or the cells in the epidermis. Water loss, whether trans-cellular or trans-epidermal, happens when there are not enough lipids present in the cell membranes or on the surface of the skin to prevent the water from seeping out, or evaporating. Therefore, we must get enough lipids in our diets and topical skincare regimens to seal in moisture and ensure healthy function. Eat a diet rich in foods that contain essential fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds; dark leafy greens; small fatty fish, like sardines, anchovies, and wild-caught salmon; and pastured beef, chicken, and eggs. Topically, choose products that contain fixed oils – lipids cold-pressed from the nuts or seeds of plants, such as olive oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, or shea butter.
4. Cut the toxic chemicals.
Just as processed food that contains health-harming synthetic chemicals should be avoided, the same is true for mass-produced synthetic skincare products. Most conventional skincare products found at drugstores, department stores, and even many spas contain ingredients that are not compatible with the human body, are known to cause irritant and allergic reactions on the outside, and contribute to body burden on the inside. Choose products that are made with as many recognizable plant ingredients as possible and contain no synthetic fragrances.
5. Adopt skin-loving practices.
We tend to be rough with our skin when it shows us something we don’t like, even though it’s just doing its job and letting us know that something is out of balance on the inside. Instead of jumping to scrub, zap, burn, or poke blemishes, visible capillaries, or dark spots, show love and gratitude to your skin for being such a loyal messenger. Apply your products gently and lovingly, and be sure to smile at your reflection whenever you catch a glimpse in a mirror or window.
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