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Healthy Skin and How to Maintain It

Woman Getting Facial Treatment --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisSkin care is one of the largest areas of the health and beauty industry. Many folks have shared concerns with me about the quality of the products that are being promoted. Cost is not necessarily the mark of a good product. This article will discuss our skin and how we can make choices to keep it healthy and maintain its integrity in a vastly polluted world.

First let’s look at the function of the skin, and then we can look at how to improve and maintain it. The skin is the largest organ of the human body, covering approximately 20 square feet. It is responsible for an array of essential body functions including breathing oxygen, eliminating carbon dioxide and other forms of waste, acting as a shield against toxins from outside the body, and helping to maintain body temperature. In Chinese medicine it is called the wei chi, or surface immunity, because it is a defense system to outside bacteria and germs.

There are two main layers of the skin – the epidermis (or outer layer) and the dermis (the lower layer). The epidermis is covered with a thin sheath of dead cells, mainly what we see, called the stratum corneum. As dead cells are constantly flaked off, new cells are being pushed outward. The stratum corneum is comprised of keratin, a tough protein that helps to protect the cellular integrity of the skin. Fingernails are made of the same substance. At the surface is a thin layer of slightly acidic oil called the acid mantle. This is what protects the skin against bacteria. The living layer of the epidermis is in direct contact with the dermis that feeds and supports it. This layer is called the Malpighian layer. The next layer is the dermis that contains the sweat and oil glands, hair follicles, blood vessels, nerves, and muscle tissues. These are held together with a proteinous connective tissue called collagen. Collagen is the cement that holds us together. It needs the nutrients of vitamins C, E, B complex, manganese, copper and sulfur to maintain its integrity. This is where with aging we see wrinkles due to lack of these nutrients or not enough antioxidants to protect the skin.

Many natural skin care companies place an abundance of these nutrients in there lotions and creams which would include cleansers, toners and moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, hand lotions, toothpastes and perfumes. It is important to do some research on your own. Just because a label says it has aloe vera, or vitamins E or C, you need to do some checking on what are the other ingredients and are they harmful to you. Most natural products companies will provide you with a detailed list of ingredients and their source. If you are concerned about animal substances in a product, you need to find out from the source. You might also want to know the amount of a particular ingredient. Is the quantity of a particular ingredient enough to do anything or is it just a marketing ploy? The label has to list the substance by its chemical name, so don’t be alarmed when an all-natural product states a lot of names you don’t recognize. Good companies will list after the chemical name, the source. An example would be retinyl palmitate, which is a natural source for vitamin A. I am very particular about chemicals in body care products because the skin is permeable. It lets substance in, and it sends other substances out. Anything that enters the blood stream will have to be processed by the liver.

When we think of skin care, most marketing is directed towards women; and, yes, women spend a lot of money on skin care. I appreciate beauty, too, and I am leaning that skin care is also important for men. We need to learn the basics when it comes to healthy skin. The three basics are cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. One way to begin is with dry brush massage. It is simple; you take a dry natural bristle bath brush and brush your skin before showering. This is a great way to exfoliate (remove dead skin) from your body. Cleansing and moisturizing becomes the next important step. Oil is not the best moisturizer as you might think. Water is better at moisturizing than anything. Many products work to hydrate the skin, and then it is an important to keep it in the tissues. As stated, I am no expert in this field, but I am learning. There are other treatments that will work for problem skin types and many of the substances listed below fall into that category. When it comes to natural products, many substances have been found to help. Look for some of these in the products you may be using:

  • Gingko Biloba improves the flow of fluids to cell membranes
  • Chamomile calms and softens the skin and fights bacteria
  • Comfrey Root provides allantoin that regenerates cells
  • Jojoba Oil helps to maintain moisture in the cells
  • Ester C, the soluble form of Vitamin C, helps support collagen
  • Citrus Seed Extract acts as a natural preservative and toner
  • Urea is a botanically derived moisture retainer
  • Aloe Vera is known for healing damage to skin and has antibacterial properties
  • Essential Oils, used for fragrance and specific therapeutic properties
  • Vitamin E used for cellular repair and moisturizing
  • Green Tea used as an antioxidant

These are only a small portion of the natural substances used in body and skin care products. There are numerous resources for you to find out more. Many manufacturers will provide this information.

I must make mention of diet in this article, because in my training, the skin is fed by the blood and the nutrition is in the blood. The typical American diet contains numerous toxins that need to leave the body. If they cannot leave by the normal channels, the skin becomes overburdened and many skin conditions develop. Thus, it is important to maintain a real whole food diet.

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