Skin is important – it’s our largest organ, and it holds us together. It protects us against infections, chemicals, environmental contaminants, and more. It breathes. Skin can mirror what’s going on inside us and give us clues about our health. It can “glow,” or remind us that we need to make changes, that we’re a work in progress!
Those of us who deal with skin challenges such as rosacea, acne, and psoriasis and eczema, can feel miserable and want to hide away at home. I remember when my eczema and psoriasis was so bad my eyes would just about blister shut, and I was embarrassed to come to the store.
Then there are skin issues like yeast, fungus, age spots, or just dull, old-looking skin. There’s skin damage from sun that we have to watch because it could morph into something more serious.
What can we do to make skin healthier? In my experience, getting to healthy-looking skin is not hopeless; it’s really not, and getting there the *right* way — without chemical cover-up cheats, allows us to improve our overall health as well.
It goes without saying that the first line of defense for healthy skin is the tried and true: what do we eat, are we drinking enough water (I was taught not to drink ice cold), are we getting enough sleep, do we laugh, do we have family and friends with whom we spend time. Do we have joy in our lives?
Exercise is important. It gets the blood circulating, which nourishes skin and removes waste. Getting a regular massage is terrific. Time to meditate, to relax, is important, too.
But back to the ever-important diet – a healthy diet means dark leafy greens, and I prefer those steamed and dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Foods that nourish us and our skin are those that help fight inflammation: vegetables, nuts and seeds; fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut; good fats like those found in avocado, coconut, olive oil and borage oil (which contains gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, one of the best fats for skin problems, and arguably the best for dry, inflammatory, eruptive conditions). Think onions and garlic and turmeric. Think cucumbers and radishes. You get the idea.
All these help our body reduce inflammation. They make us less acidic.
In my case, one of the most important dietary changes was learning to live without so much sugar.
I “earned” my age spots, which I’ve got in spades, from the days I’d eat two pints of ice cream every night after dinner. Yep. I really did eat two pints at a time.
Sugar increases inflammation big-time. Sugar damages collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles and exacerbates skin conditions.
Today, when I want to eat that whole chocolate bar, pints of ice cream or too much cake, I mostly don’t because I remind myself of what happens after I indulge: red splotches and wrinkles. We all age and get wrinkles, but we don’t want to age prematurely, in an unhealthy way, do we?
Those of you who know me, however, know I’m always experimenting, trying new things to repair the damage I did to my skin in my younger days. Cleopatra bathed in fermented milk for her skin. She used honey and lavender, so why can’t we take care of ourselves naturally as well?
Here are some things I’ve been playing around with that you might want to try. (Yep, you can find any of these ingredients in our store – where else would I have spotted them?!?) I’m enjoying the challenge, and my only regret is that I have but one body to slather! So in no particular order….
As Cleopatra knew when she bathed in fermented milk, probiotics enhance the beauty of and nourish our skin. Try a mask made of probiotic powder with aloe vera gel. Open a broad spectrum 5 billion probiotic capsule and mix with 1 tsp aloe. Gently apply mixture to face by moving fingers in a small circular pattern. Leave on 10-30 minutes. Wash off with warm water. (I once knew a woman who would smooth cultured, full-fat sour cream over her face and neck each day when she came home from work. She’d allow it to stay on her face 20 minutes and then wash off with warm water. Same principle!)
Arnica is a European mountain daisy, and an herb that’s been used medicinally for ages. We have arnica ointments and creams, which speed healing for skin ailments. Arnica is helpful for acne, calms rosacea and itchy, red, inflamed and bruised skin. It works on sunburn. It’s great post-surgery as a topical treatment.
I used to hear that arnica should never be applied to broken skin, but prevailing wisdom seems to have changed its mind about that.
I read that some fashion models apply arnica cream to the skin for 3 days prior to a photo shoot, claiming it makes their skin glow. I tried Boiron’s arnica cream (easy) but also made my own topical arnica oil. Both did bring back a glow.
To make the oil, in a small pot, gently warm 2/3 C carrier oil (some wonderful oils are almond, jojoba, sesame, coconut and olive). Add ½ C dried arnica flowers, which we have in one of 150 herb and spice bins; simmer on low for 30 minutes. Strain out the flowers and put the oil into a little glass jar. Once cool, I added lavender and geranium essential oils (more about them in a bit). To apply, dip clean fingers into oil, gently massage onto face and neck. I did this before bed, and let it stay on all night. When using arnica for skin issues, apply once weekly. For persistent problems, twice weekly. Using it more will over-stimulate skin, and you don’t want that.
Honey heals wounds. Honey not only kills bacteria, but it prevents infections from occurring in the first place. Did you know that in the Civil War, wounds were packed with honey for this reason? Use raw, unfiltered honey (the only kind we sell) because raw honey has live enzymes that work for us. Yes, there’s certified Manuka honey with its high levels of the compound called “methylglyxal”, that gives it additional anti-bacterial properties compared to other floral honey.
Whichever you use, wash face. To still damp skin, apply a thin layer of honey. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. Wash off with warm water. You will love this masque!
4. Activated charcoal
It’s “activated” because it’s made to have a very small particle size so the greater surface area has more absorptive capacity. Charcoal, of course, is made from carbonaceous materials, and with the high quality stuff in our store, that’s usually bamboo and coconut shells. It not only absorbs toxins when taken internally (think “food poisoning”) [editor’s note: also make flatulence less odoriferous] but it attracts and absorbs dirt and oil on the skin.
For deep toxin absorption, mix 1 part Country Life activated charcoal powder with 2 parts aloe gel, in this case Herbal Aloe Force raw aloe with ingredients like Essiac, sorrel, burdock and more. I chose this aloe, even though it has preservatives, because of its anti-cancer stuff. I have pre-cancerous patches on my face because, growing up in Florida, I sun-bathed slathered with oil.
Mix slowly and carefully or the charcoal flies all over…. When mixed, apply to hands and face. Leave on at least 20 minutes. Rinse off, but you’ll need extra aloe to wipe off residue, or use something like coconut oil. Moisturize lavishly after using activated charcoal. Apply activated charcoal and aloe to your face twice weekly. Your skin will thank you.
5. Hemp and CBD.
Since so many of us are benefiting from both hemp and CBD for many conditions (taking it internally and putting it on topically), I thought I’d try hemp and CBD for troubled skin. I like the Gnome brand CBD serum called “Sparkle” which also contains echium (repairs and reduces roughness), ahiflower (a member of the borage family, which repairs skin), borage, cumin and comfrey. This serum does seem to return a sparkle to tired, sad skin. A drop or two on a clean, moist face under moisturizer or at night works for me.
6. Castor oil.
You all know I put castor oil drops in my eyes every night for dry eyes, and I massage what leaks out onto the rest of my face. (Dry eyes is different topic, and we have a handout in the supplement department.)
One of you told me to apply a little castor oil to age spots to make them go away. You said to massage a few drops into the skin until absorbed once in the morning and once in the evening for visible improvement in about a month. I’m trying this because I love the skin nourishing properties of castor oil. I’m also massaging a drop onto an age spot on my cheek. We’ll see!
7. Lavender essential oil
This oil soothes skin. A French scientist, René Gattefossé, who suffered a severe burn, the story goes, plunged his hand into a vat of lavender, which stopped the pain and repaired the burned tissue without scarring. You can take that one step further and use lavender to promote wound healing. Use topically 2-5 times daily by applying 2-4 drops onto the wound. Lavender works for acne, helps kill fungal infections and irritations on the skin, bug bites, and soothes eczema and psoriasis. I add it to facial creams to soothe redness. While lavender is a gentle essential oil, if your skin is super-sensitive, dilute by adding a few drops to a carrier oil.
8. Brewer’s Yeast.
A long-time fave in our store, brewer’s yeast, also known as nutritional yeast, is produced from a single-celled fungus called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It contains B vitamins and trace minerals, all of which help correct nutritional imbalances that lead to acne breakouts. Brewer’s yeast helps reduce inflammation, and clears skin. It works on other skin conditions, such as eczema, and regular use of brewer’s yeast can also reduce the appearance of liver spots and hyper-pigmentation. I read that brewer’s yeast might prevent skin cancer, and that’s a biggie for me.
I’ve gone back to brewer’s yeast. I love the way it tastes sprinkled on salad or blended with equal amounts of your favorite nut and good salt to taste. Try it on popcorn or sautéed veggies.
9. Geranium essential oil.
Geranium (aka rose geranium) oil is one I add to my homemade face cream (recipe free to you in our store) because it does all the right things: it tightens skin, regulates oil production, reduces breakouts and, according to some, can actually smooth wrinkles. How to use? Pat on a couple of drops, or mix it in with your face cream.
10. Borage Oil.
Years ago, I discovered borage oil, so it’s not a new “a-hah” here. But borage oil was the first “miracle” for my eczema. As written above, it’s rich in Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). Many of you already know GLA because it’s the primary active ingredient in evening primrose oil. Borage is a more efficient and less expensive source.
A therapeutic, daily dose of borage oil for eczema is 275-345 mg, or about ½ tsp of the liquid. And it’s the main ingredient in my face cream (I’ll be doing a make-your-own-face-cream class in November again.) I know some folks who use straight borage oil out of the bottle to rub on their baby’s skin and get excellent results.
11. Weleda-brand Diaper Cream!
When my skin starts to itch, I gently massage on Weleda’s topical cream for diaper rash because it has high amounts of zinc, which heals (read below). My mother turned me on to Weleda Diaper Care cream years ago. And now Weleda has a new Diaper Care cream that also contains borage oil. Great minds think alike.
12. Herbal and Nutritional Supplements: Vitamin C, Zinc, Astanxanthin, Collagen (and more?)
There are some supplements I take to help with skin, such as Vit C because it helps with collagen production and strengthens capillaries that feed skin. I take zinc to heals wounds, help heal acne and maintain collagen. Got acne, psoriasis and eczema? Try zinc. I like alpha lipoic acid as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and because it helps protect against the effects of sugar molecules on collagen fibers. I like astaxanthin, from marine algae, because it helps protect against sun damage. Today, we have collagen supplements and powders galore, but I feel that that is a subject unto itself, and I will leave that alone here.
There are so many things to try, and I know you have your own ah-hahs. We look forward to hearing them! If you try any of the suggestions above, tell us how they work for you after a few months (remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” so persistence and patience is key.) Today’s a day off for me, so off to snack on some radishes and a cucumber I’ll go for a walk, work in the garden, have a massage, and tomorrow look forward to laughing with you in the store.