Skin is the largest organ in your body, accounting for around 15% of your body weight, and approximately 20 square feet in surface area. It serves as a protective barrier against microorganisms, chemicals, radiation, temperature changes, and mechanical impacts.
This skin is made up of three layers:
- Epidermis – the waterproof, protective outer layer.
- Dermis – the central layer containing sweat glands, connective tissue, and hair follicles.
- Hypodermis – the deepest layer, made up mostly of connective tissue and fat.
Two important skin proteins, collagen and elastin, provide structure and definition to skin. They are constantly being renewed as long as skin cells are bathed in the necessary nutrients and are not overloaded with toxins and hormones of distress.
The optimal humidity level for skin is around 60%. During the winter, indoor heat can drive humidity levels down, and cold harsh winds outdoors can do the same. Here are some ideas on how to nourish winter skin, and how to optimize skin health year-round.
Nourish and hydrate. Dry skin can indicate deficiencies in Omega 3 fats, magnesium, ascorbate and vitamin D. When properly nourished and hydrated, skin becomes smoother, more radiant, and functionally younger. To correct any deficiencies, be sure to drink at least four liters (1 gallon) of mineral rich water and herbal beverages daily to keep cells alkaline, energetic, and resilient. Intake of adequate nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, selenomethionine and Omega 3 fats can make a positive difference in skin health and nourishment. If diet is lacking, consider high quality, 100% bioavailable supplements with ingredient forms only found in nature.
Let the sun shine in. Sunshine can be healing, and a regular dose of sunshine is also good for your skin. Sunlight helps white blood cells mature to keep your immune defense and repair system tolerant and to eliminate abnormal (potentially cancerous) cells. The more sunlight you get, the easier it is to increase vitamin D levels in the body. Vitamin D, a neurohormone, plays an important role in regulating cell density and growth. While it is common to be deficient, healthier people should have vitamin D levels between 50-80 ng/ml. You can test your levels here. Due to lower sun angles and our need for more clothing in winter, it’s likely you won’t get enough vitamin D from the sun alone. We recommend a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement.
Natural sunscreen alternative: If you ski, snowboard, or will be outdoors for long periods of time in areas where the sun will be reflecting off snow, you may choose to apply sunscreen. Long-term studies suggest that while trapping UV rays through traditional sunscreens can prevent some cancers, the chemicals used in traditional sunscreens can also induce some cancers. Sesame oil is a natural alternative to sunscreen that has antioxidant properties and will neutralize free radicals which build up under the skin from exposure to sun. Sesame oil resists 30 percent of UV rays and is also a natural emollient (soothes and softens the skin).
Avoid immune-reactive foods. Eating what can be digested, assimilated, and eliminated without immune burden is key.
Naturally rebuild collagen. You may have seen or heard ads for collagen supplementation for skin health. Taking collagen by mouth does not renew or rebuild collagen in the body. Collagen and gelatin proteins lack essential amino acids. However, supplementation with ascorbate (natural, buffered vitamin C) along with the full array of vitamins, minerals, and cofactors such as polyphenolics that can be found in a high-quality multivitamin, enable the body to make and deploy all the collagen it needs.
Check your first morning urine pH after rest and take in enough magnesium to keep the urine pH in the 6.5-7.5 range. This helps the body maintain its alkaline state and sets the stage for adequate detox mechanisms to kick in when the body needs it.
Detoxify with a salt and soda bath. Add about a cup each of Epsom salts and baking soda to a warm bathtub; this relaxing soak will help remove toxic matter through your skin pores and will help magnesium uptake. A teaspoon of sesame oil added to the bath nourishes the skin and gives it a healthy glow. An added benefit of sesame oil is its strong antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, while not clogging pores.
Detoxify through sweating out the bad stuff. Sweat helps remove toxic minerals from the body. High temperature dry or wet saunas are designed to remove water soluble metabolites. In contrast, low temperature saunas (105-110º F) require longer sessions and are designed physiologically to remove the more toxic fat-soluble metabolites like persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through sebum (oil glands).
Reduce stress. Stress hormones induce chemical changes in sweat, saliva and tears. Regular stretching, walking, relaxation, meditation, and laughter evoke healthier hormones. Sitting; being sedentary; eating processed foods that are hard to digest, assimilate and eliminate; and poor sleep habits promote hormones of distress. Spend regular quiet time being introspective and exploring your ‘inner space.’ Regular movement practices such as Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel Method, Trager technique, and Pilates are all associated with longer life and better quality of life including better restorative sleep, healthier blood pressure, and better moods.
Take time to observe and nurture your skin through movement, supplementation, detoxification, and avoiding immune-reactive foods. Lifelong skin resilience and radiance is an attainable goal. When you enhance your essential nutrient reserves, you become more flexible and resilient while adding years to life and life to years. Your skin represents a picture of your health, both good and ill. Let nature and wholeness nurture your skin and your whole being.