There are two types of skin cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer, and melanoma. May is skin cancer awareness month, as an oncology-trained esthetician, this topic is very close to my heart. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It is well accepted that Ultra Violet (UV) rays from the sun are a major contributing factor to skin cancer. Aside from the sun other factors that can increase risk of skin cancer include tanning beds. Tanning beds increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma by 29%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and melanoma by 20% according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Not surprisingly, smoking and air pollution are contributing factors for skin cancer. Learn more about the effects of air pollution on the skin here. There are two types of skin cancer, non-melanoma and melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer includes potential pre-cancer/precancerous Actinic Keratosis (AK), Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Basal Cell Carcinoma.
Read about each and how to spot them below:
Actinic Keratosis (AK), are usually found in areas that get lots of sun exposure. These look like rough, scaly, crusty growths. They almost look like a wart. If left untreated, these can turn into the other types of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is most common in areas exposed to the sun and can look like a scaly red patch, an open sore that will not heal, elevated growth with a central depression, a wart or horn-like growth that may crust and bleed.
Basal Cell Carcinoma can look like an open sore, a pink growth, a shiny bump or nodule, or a scar. Any unusual change in appearance, color, or feel, sores that do not heal, as well as bumps, crusts, or growths should be seen by a doctor immediately.
Melanoma is the least common and most dangerous form of skin cancer because it quickly spread. For melanoma which is cancer of the melanocyte, the easiest way to do a self-exam is to follow the ABCDE method with moles or spots:
A: Asymmetrical (one side does not match the other)
B: Border (uneven or blurred border)
C: Color (mole or spot has more than one color)
D: Diameter ( bigger than the width of a pencil eraser)
E: Evolving (it grows or changes)
Does skin cancer affect people of color? Yes.
It is important to note that while non-Hispanic white people report higher skin cancer rates, it is essential to know that anyone can get skin cancer. An increased mortality rate associated with skin cancer in POC is due to a lack of awareness and diagnosis and systemic issues that make care less available.
Self check often, but also visit a dermatologist!
It is important to check your own body often, we have the power and responsibility to notice changes in our body. In addition, a yearly appointment with a dermatologist to get checked as well. The earlier you find something, the better, I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you are looking for a dermatologist who practices in the holistic space, a simple google search of "Integrative Dermatologist" or "Holistic Dermatologist" will generally bring up options in your area. You can also visit https://tcmdermatology.org/ to find a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
I got excited about skincare and turned it into a habit pretty young, probably around 12 or 13. I have a vivid memory of getting to school in, I think, 8th grade and realizing I had forgotten to moisturize and being so annoyed with myself. How was I supposed to face this day filled with pre-teen angst without proper hydration!? I don’t know how this started exactly, my mom never told me this is something I should do, but I loved going into her bathroom and applying all of the potions. Around the age of 18, I upped my game from the pink bottle of Oil of Olay moisturizer to saving every penny from my paycheck to buy skincare from L’occitane. This time it went from a routine to a ritual. Everything from the packaging, the marketing, the scent, and the way my skin felt afterward made me look forward to this activity. Luckily, when I became an esthetician and learned about ingredient decks, I swiftly started using healthier products and realized that high price doesn’t mean high quality. Still, I will never forget the first time I used those fancy products. I was like, oooooh!
What does it mean for something to be a ritual? According to britannica.com, a ritual is the performance of ceremonial acts prescribed by tradition or by sacerdotal decree. To me, this means making something more of a celebration, making it sacred to you, being intentional about energy, mindset, and presence. Taking your skincare routine from a mindless chore to a ritual does not need to be pricey, but it does require some thought and intention.
For me, this is all about small energetic shifts. Start by noticing what could be dimming your energy when you are doing your routine. For me, I realized my bathroom was super unorganized and just being there made me feel frenetic. So I spent time organizing and purging stuff that I didn’t use or was expired.
Once you’ve targeted anything dimming your energy, pay attention to what could brighten your energy and make you feel excited!
Scent: Use products of which you enjoy the smell! Burn a clean candle or diffuse uplifting essential oils you like (such as lavender and lemon or sweet orange). Studies show that scent plays a huge role in both our mood and cognitive function. Plus, the scent can trigger pleasant memories (this is so apparent when you small a holiday scent blend that takes you immediately to that feeling from your past). I love to diffuse rose, geranium, orange, and neroli together because I feel like I’m walking through a garden in the summer.
Sound: make yourself a playlist, whether it be calm and relaxing or something that pumps you up to embody your fabulous self!
Visual appeal: Spruce up your bathroom to be aesthetically pleasing. Does this mean you need a whole trip to the store to throw down your entire paycheck? No! Small changes like organizing, cleaning, and getting rid of expired items or things you don’t use can go a long way! Check out this article for resources that you can donate unopened products to someone in need! For me, I have found minimalism with just a few pieces that inspire me, like a pretty painting or flowers feel so fresh and calms me. But if you want to make a trip to Home Goods to deck out your space, you do you!
Another approach to the visual appeal is to choose skincare products that have packaging that attracts you. At the risk of sounding materialistic, the packaging does affect how some people feel about a product. Of course, first and foremost, it needs to have ingredients suited to your skin goals, but luckily there is a HUGE plethora of skincare out there, so finding one that works for you and your budget and looks inviting to you is possible!
Touch: Slow down, engage in a quick or elongated facial massage, feel what your skin feels like. How do the muscles feel? Can you spot any tension?
Taste: brewing yourself a cup of tea can be a great addition to your routine, especially because many teas have ingredients that help support healthy skin, such as green, white, black tea for in the morning, marshmallow, dandelion, burdock, calendula, and chamomile for morning or evening!
2. Engage with the ingredients.
First of all, know what is in your skincare because some ingredients sit on top doing work, some do their work as they penetrate (penetrate the skin layers), others do their work as they absorb (absorb into the bloodstream). For me, the quality of what I put on my skin is just as important as what I put in my body. Sidebar: I’m pretty simple with my routine and choose to have just a couple of high-quality splurge items rather than a ten-step routine that may have been cheap, but either isn’t doing any favors or is creating harm. For example, low-quality or unstable vitamin c, oxidized oils because the company doesn’t get from a fresh supplier or package properly (you will be able to see and smell this), synthetic parfum/fragrance, etc. Whatever your routine is, look up the ingredients and connect with the plants if there are botanical ingredients. Just like everything else, plants have energy and a spirit. Considering this and tapping into it as you apply your products can increase mindfulness in your routine.
3. Engage with your gratitude
The skin does a lot for us. Take time to think about that, and thank your skin for all that it does! First and foremost, if we didn’t have our skin, we would completely evaporate and then disintegrate, so that’s a pretty big one. It holds in all of the water our body is made out of. The skin protects us from environmental damage from the sun, pollution, and other external factors. It allows us to feel all of the lovely textures like a soft cozy blanket, or hopefully the sweetness of your first kiss, or that spot of silky fur right behind your dog’s ear. It sends us messages from our bodies that something might be off. That hormonal acne you hate? It’s a huge favor that your skin is doing for you so that you know something is awry. (I’m not saying it’s not frustrating because it is, but maybe just a different lens to try peering through). It absorbs topical nutrients that can benefit us while filtering other topical ingredients that shouldn’t be absorbed. These are just a few of its magnificent features! This is a beautiful time to incorporate breath-work into your ritual!
These are just three steps that have changed my routine. I would encourage you to start by slowly adding in ideas from this list not to overwhelm yourself. The important thing is to pay close attention to the way your routine makes you feel. Please share what you are doing to turn your routine into a ritual by tagging me on social media, I can’t wait to see what you share!
What is an environmental toxin? The word "chemical" gets thrown around a lot. You may have heard or read that trying to avoid chemicals doesn't make much sense as literally everything is a chemical, water, air, everything. This sentiment has become a big talking point for those who want to disregard people seeking a natural, holistic, and organic lifestyle as being naive and uneducated. I think this comes down to semantics and vocabulary. It is more important to focus on the reality of toxic and antigenic substances that we ingest, affecting our toxic load. A toxin is a harmful disease-causing substance. This can either be a synthetic or a natural substance. Toxic load refers to the accumulation of these substances in the body. It is impossible to escape harmful toxins in our modern world completely, but we can make lifestyle changes to reduce toxic load, leading to a healthier body which translates to healthier skin.
Because we can't see environmental toxins, for the most part, it makes it difficult to identify as a source for skin issues. But if you have tried EVERYTHING and still have stubborn skin issues, taking a look at the list below may provide you with some help!
Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution
Air pollution directly affects the skin as it breaks down the uttermost layer of our skin called the acid mantle. This outer layer is responsible for protecting the skin, keeping foreign invaders out, and also acting as a type of seal to prevent water from evaporating from the skin. When this layer is compromised, skin can become dull, dehydrated, irritated, red, and may cause breakouts. Air pollutants that can affect the skin include auto exhaust, combustion of organic material such as burning wood (forest fire) or volcanic activity, cigarette smoke, paint varnishes, and industrial facilities emissions. But also indoor air pollution. You may be surprised at how new furniture, carpet, mattresses, new clothes, building materials, and plastics compromise the air quality in your home. These types of pollution have been associated with skin cancer (even in the absence of solar rays), hyperpigmentation (again even in the absence of solar radiation), eczema, acne, wrinkles, and increased loss of collagen. In addition to the topical airways or be absorbed by the lungs into the bloodstream
What can you do?
Most water that we come into contact with has been treated with chlorine. Over time, consistent exposure to small quantities of chlorine can take a toll. Chlorine breaks down the skin's surface barrier, dries the skin, may cause atopic dermatitis, can disrupt the sensitive microbiome of the skin, cause premature aging, and more! For this reason, you may want to limit your time in a chlorinated pool, shower or bath, and get a filter for your home if possible.
Federal safety standards for drinking water don't quite cut it, tap water toxicity is a thing, and it's common. Tap water contaminants include heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead- each of which is toxic to almost every organ in the body, including the skin. Arsenic has even been linked to skin cancer. Floride is highly controversial and can be found in all tap water, because tap water is treated with fluoride. Fluoride has been linked to lower IQ in children, associated with cancer risk, brain and central nervous system disorders, and more. As I said, this is a controversial topic, and there are two sides to every story. Water is treated with fluoride because it may lead to a decrease in cavities. I invite you to research this topic and decide for yourself based on evidence. Herbicides and pesticide which are tied to everything from obesity, endocrine disruption, and cancer. Additionally, small quantities of pharmaceuticals including anti-depressants and hormonal birth control, are commonly found in tap water. Anytime we affect health of a body system, we are affecting the health of the skin. Don't forget, the skin is not an isolated organ but is intertwined with all other body systems.
What can you do?
I could probably dedicate an entire career to discussing environmental toxins, and luckily, some people have, check out the Heal Thy Self Podcast to dive way deeper. I hope this post can serve as a starting point to your research!
Today's post is the third post in a series of six tackling the lifestyle factors (outside of diet) that affect the skin. We have known for a long time that there is a gut-brain connection, but did you know that there is what is called the brain-skin connection? They are all tied together in the brain-gut-skin axis. This axis is the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain's emotional state (we know that serotonin, a mood modulation neurotransmitter, is primarily located in the gut) and the skin's physical state. The skin has a pretty immediate stress response. You can see this when you get embarrassed, and your skin might begin to flush. The brain and the skin are intimately intertwined, and many people who have chronic skin issues can tell you that emotional distress is often a trigger.
Acute stress, lasting just a few minutes, is a normal bodily reaction. It's there to save our life if need be. The problem is chronic stress, the state that many of us live in today. Just scroll through the comment section of a news article online; you will feel the effects of stress when you aren't actually in danger! (Just kidding, don't do this, it's terrible for your skin). The stress hormone cortisol almost immediately increases inflammation in the skin. This inflammation decreases blood circulation and irritates the nerves in the skin, which increases inflammation. The immune system jumps into action to help here, which can trigger inflammatory responses such as rosacea, acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis (eczema). From this, you see a breakdown in collagen, a decrease in skin moisturizing and plumping lipids, the skin's ability to repair itself is impaired. When we are stressed, our skin may look dull, lackluster, flakey, blotchy, red, and have the appearance of broken blood vessels. Conversely, emotions that are more positive, like happiness, release endorphins and neurotransmitters, reducing skin inflammation.
If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. 50% of those with acne, 80% of those with eczema, and 90% of people with rosacea tie it to an emotional trigger. It makes sense that most people's skin issues do not respond to product application alone. I think of topical products as the icing on top of the lifestyle cake when skincare. Read on to check out some tools for your toolkit to reduce cortisol levels and calming the skin's inflammatory response.
Skin affirmations- I'm telling you this works! What you speak out regularly changes your beliefs and your brain through neuroplasticity, as we have seen, the power of the brain on the body.
Some of my favorites include: I trust the healing process. "My skin is healthier and healthier each day." "I love taking care of my skin." "I am grateful for all that my skin does for me."
Write everything that is worrying you right now and then tear up the page.
Even though I feel stressed right now, I can't help but smile when I think about…
The three things I love most about myself are…
The things I can control about this situation are…
Right now, I feel challenged by… But I also feel supported by ...
Please read my blog about how breathwork benefits the skin and a list of awesome breathing exercises to try: here!
Sleep During sleep, cortisol levels are the lowest, and the skin has a chance to repair itself. Sleep or lack of affects every single function of the body. Giving intention to sleep hygiene is essential to improving sleep quality.
If you consume caffeine, give yourself a curfew on this.
Regulate your circadian rhythm by getting adequate sunlight during the day
Going to bed at the same time every day
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime
Keep the air in your room fresh and cool.
Make your room dark
While exercise initially increases cortisol levels, it is not the same cortisol that
triggers the stress response. Additionally, exercise released anti-inflammatory endorphins!
Nurture a plant or animal
Nurturing other things like a plant or animal can reduce cortisol and improve mood by releasing a hormone called oxytocin, the love hormone. Caring for pets can also lower blood pressure. Gardening is an age-old stress-relieving practice that soothes overstimulation that we are constantly exposed to with social media, the news, and our fast-paced lifestyle. Gardening is a way to slow down and connect with the earth. Studies have shown that when our skin connects with the electron-rich earth, this balances out cortisol levels. Not to mention the microbes in dirt may have anti-depressant effects!
There is a strong connection between our mind and our body. As our skin is not separate from the body but rather intimately intertwined with all other systems, it is no surprise that supporting our mental health also helps to keep our skin healthy. Use these tips next time you feel overly stressed, and let me know how they work or have ay others who support you!
9 ways to get totally hydrated: hint- it's not about the amount of water you drink; it's about the amount of water in your cells.
The first thing I hear anytime I analyze skin and mention to my client that their skin feels a bit dehydrated; "I drink so much water!" However, it's not always about the amount of water we are consuming; it's more about the water reaching our cells. Do you drink tons of water every day but still your lips are chapped? Do you wake up (or walk around during the day) with bad breath? Are your nails soft, cracked, or brittle? Do you have achy, stiff joints? Itchy, scaly, flaking skin, or small bumps on the back of your arms or torso? These are all signs of dehydration, and the fix might be a few small adjustments to ensure that water is reaching your cells for full, proper hydration.
Water (along with sunlight and oxygen) is a primary source of life and vitality. 99% of our molecules are water. Drinking enough water helps the body flush out toxins. Water is the lubricant for our body. It helps to absorb shock, helps to maintain the balance of fluids, transports nutrients around the body, supports proper digestion, maintains our body temperature, and so much more. Because our skin is an organ that is not an isolated, separate part of the body but an interwoven organ tied to all of the other systems, we know that proper hydration has a significant impact on our skin's health.
Benefits of proper hydration for our skin include:
Improves skin elasticity
Improves the ability to heal
Reduces swelling and puffiness in the face
Symptoms of chronic dehydration include:
Dry, flakey skin
Constant muscle weakness
But if we are drinking multiple liters of water every day, and still experiencing the symptoms of chronic mild dehydration, what gives? The answer to that is we may also be consuming lots of dehydrating items or that we may be taking in lots of water but aren't properly absorbing it into our cells.
Everyone experiences acute dehydration from time to time, but the real problem for our health and vitality is chronic dehydration, even if it is chronic mild dehydration. "The first signs of dehydration are brain fog and sleepiness; if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated." -Dr. Dana Cohen, functional medicine doctor and ½ of the fantastic duo who authored Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration.
When we are dehydrated, blood is thicker, and the heart must work harder to pump it. You are expending more energy. Blood is 83% water. A decrease in hydration by as little as 2% can have the same impact on blood vessels as smoking a cigarette! "But what if I have all of these symptoms, but I don't feel thirsty, maybe my body just doesn't need to drink that much water?"- an actual thought I have had in the past, haha! Our bodies are unique and incredibly adaptive. The body learns to suppress thirst when it is chronically dehydrated.
Let's talk about what might be counteracting hydration. Diuretics are substances that increase urine flow, and with a high intake of diuretics, You can lose water and electrolytes. Coffee is a diuretic, alcohol is a diuretic, common, table salt, some medications are diuretics, and even many herbs (like in your herbal tea) are diuretics. Just because something is a diuretic does not mean it is "bad" - (except for ordinary table salt, sea salt is less processed and a much better option). But if we are consuming multiple diuretic substances, we need to compensate for that with additional hydration.
What if you are doing all of this and still have classic signs of chronic dehydration? The answer may lie in something called "structured water." Structured water is a relatively recent discovery. Structured water is also known as gel water or "EZ" (exclusion zone) water. Dr. Gerald Pollack discovered EZ water; you can find his Ted Talk about how he discovered it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-T7tCMUDXU. We all grew up understanding that water comes in three stages, liquid, gas (steam/vapor), or solid (ice). However, this discovery shows a fourth stage of water, a gel, also known as structured water.
Structured water: the biggest game-changer in hydration ever!
Structured water exists in all living cells, in both plants and animals. It has a unique structure, and it is three atoms of hydrogen, two atoms of oxygen, H3O2. Because of this unique structure, it conducts electricity very well, and according to Dr. Cohen, it is MORE hydrating than regular water. Much more hydrating than regular water.
Ways that we can get more structured water:
Now that you know the newest science taking place in the beautiful world of water note that it takes up to two weeks of proper hydration to start feeling the benefits. As you begin to hydrate properly, you may notice an increase in urination; this is a good thing! We should be getting up to urinate often. Our body needs movement! If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration by
Dr. Dana Cohen and Gina Bria. It is truly a life-changing book, chock full of useful information.
*Note the information presented here is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. I am not a medical doctor; consult your medical professional for medical advice.
This post is the first in a six-part series of blog posts on lifestyle factors (other than diet) that affect the skin. This series covers breathing, hydration, mindset, environmental toxin consumption like water quality, air quality, pesticides, and herbicides, sleeping, and alcohol consumption.
I decided to kick this series off with the foundation of life, breath. Breathing is something we often take for granted because it's something we do all day, every day. It is both non-voluntary but can also be voluntary. It's the one thing that we can't go for more than just a few minutes without doing! But, as most of us have started to see over the last few years, breath is so much more than what we previously thought it was. Controlled breathing indirectly stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that connects our brain to almost every organ in our body. Breathwork has many scientifically-backed benefits, including reducing anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and more! Studies show that breathwork reduces the stress hormone cortisol levels; it can lower blood pressure, improve brain focus, and support pain management! Breathwork is also a great practice to take up if you want to support your skin's health. Check out any professional breathwork facilitator on google, and you will notice they all have freakishly good skin.
My journey with breathwork related to the skin began with a breathwork workshop I went here in Denver. Immediately after, my skin felt ALIVE. It felt so healthy and looked glowy. I have had eczema on and off throughout most of my life. At this time, I was having a severe bout of it. The next day, my skin looked better, and I saw a massive decrease in the inflammation. Since then, I have incorporated some controlled breathing almost every day in my meditation practice because I truly believe it makes me feel and look my best.
Breathing helps you release trauma and pent-up emotions. Here's where I am going to get more woo-woo. Based on my decade and a half of working directly with folks as they try to wrangle their skin issues, emotions manifest in many ways physically. One of these ways is on the skin. One of the many reasons I dealt with eczema was that fear is a driving emotion for me. Long story short, after doing some intense inner work (including breathing exercises), I started addressing the underlying fear, which helped heal my eczema.
Breathing increases blood flow to the neck and the face. Breathing improves digestion. It also helps support improved lymphatic flow. Of course, as previously discussed, deep breathing reduces cortisol (an increase in cortisol can negatively impact acne). Through all of these benefits, we see a significant glow-up for the skin!
It is essential to note that there are two types of breathing; chest breathing and abdomen breathing. Abdominal or diaphragm breathing is the type of breathing we want to strive for. Belly breathing starts in the nose, moves to the abdomen as the belly rises, then falls as the breath exits the nose or the mouth. This type of breathing is where we receive the benefits. Shallow chest breathing is restrictive and can increase the stress response. So aim for that deep belly breathing.
Some of my favorite breathing exercises include:
Begin each breathing technique by finding a comfortable spot to sit with an alert but relaxed posture. Begin by noticing the breath where it is—inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. Start to deepen the breath, feeling the rise and fall of the belly. Bedding with a deep exhale through the mouth.
Equal breathing: Inhale 1,2,3. Exhale 1,2,3. Repeat three times.
Triangle Breathing: Inhale 1,2,3. Suspend your breath 1,2,3. Exhale 1,2,3 Repeat 3 times.
Box Breathing: Inhale 1,2,3,4. Suspend your breath 1,2,3,4. Exhale 1,2,3,4. Repeat four times.
4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale 1,2,3,4. Suspend your breath 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Exhale 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Repeat 4 times.
Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana: Place the middle finger of the right hand between the brows. Exhale 1,2,3. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril 1,2,3. Close your left nostril with your right-hand ring or pinky finger. Open your right nostril and exhale 1,2,3. Close the right nostril. Open the left nostril inhale through the left 1,2,3. Repeat five times or more.
Lion's breath (also helpful because this releases tension in the chest, neck, and face):
*Note: Be cautious practicing controlled breathing if you have any respiratory issues such as asthma or emphysema. Before starting a new breathwork practice, consult your trusted medical professional to make sure it is right for you. One should not substitute the previous information in this post for medical advice or care as it is presented for educational purposes only.
Winter can feel cold, dark, and lonely, or it can be an invitation to align with the season and appreciate the beauty of it. Find the warmth and experience this time of year with ease by going within and doing work to soothe your mind and body in nurturing ways with a hobby or a project or connecting with loved ones. Permitting yourself to move slower is essential to re-emerge in the spring, rested and rejuvenated. During this time of year, our skin can feel dry. Humidity in the air outdoors drops with the temperature. We get a second punch as artificial heat in the house also creates a more dry climate. Below you will find my top tips to love on your skin and to enjoy the season!
Herbal folk medicines are also known as "the people's medicine." I love herbal medicine because it is a fun way to feel empowered with your health! Be aware that there are contraindications with all plants to explore and decide if an herb is right for you.
Marshmallow is highly anti-inflammatory, demulcent, and emollient, meaning it moisturizes tissue both internally and topically. It is deeply wound healing. Because of this, marshmallow is a fantastic herb for the skin! You could infuse oil for topical use (find my recipe here) or consume it internally in a tea. Unfortunately, the modern marshmallow is not medicine, but today's marshmallows do have herbal "roots." (Pun intended). According to the book Viable Herbal Solutions:
"Nineteenth-century doctors extracted juice from the marshmallow plant's roots and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped the mixture into a foamy meringue that later hardened, creating a medicinal candy used to soothe children's sore throats. Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes and improved texturing agents eliminated the need for the gooey root juice. Unfortunately, that eliminated the confection's healing properties as a cough suppressant, immune system booster, and wound healer." Today, marshmallows contain corn syrup or sugar, gelatin, gum arabic, and flavoring.
There are three parts of the oat plant with medicinal value; the actual oats, the seed in its early form before it becomes an oat, and the straw. Internally, oat is a star repairing tissue in the nervous system, and oat straw tea has become one of my go-to herbs when I feel anxious or stressed. It is even known to be beneficial for insomnia! Additionally, oat straw is rich in minerals that help to improve hair, skin, and nails. In tea form, steep overnight, and you can mix in other companion herbs to taste!
Burdock is powerfully nourishing to the lymphatic system, a blood cleanser, highly detoxifying, and a potent anti-inflammatory. It is no surprise that skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne! It may also relieve dandruff and improve your hair. Fun fact, burdock was the inspiration for the invention of Velcro! Burdock has tiny burrs, seeds with hundreds of small hooks. In 1941 the inventor of Velco was hunting with his dog in the Alps when he noticed these burrs kept getting hooked in his dog's fur. One thing led to another, he became obsessed, and 14 years later, he filed a patent. The root of the burdock plant is the part used medicinally, and you can brew this in a tea or take it in tincture form for the benefits described above! Burdock root is generally safe. However, large doses may stimulate the uterus, and of course, avoid if you have daisy/sunflower family allergies.
Broth is a gut healing, mineral-rich cup of magic.
Whether you incorporate vegetable or bone stock, homemade is going to be best. Vegetable broth feeds the body with essential minerals from organic vegetables and electrolytes, both highly restorative to all organs, including the skin. I like to make a big pot of vegetable broth once a week and portion it into jars so that I always have some on hand to heat up and drink some as a snack at some point each day.
Butternut Squash is high in vitamin A and Vitamin C, two essential vitamins for healthy skin. Vitamin A is responsible for new tissue growth and for keeping the skin moisturized. At the same time, vitamin C is vital to the formation of new collagen! Butternut squash can be cubed and drizzled with a little oil and salt and roasted, or can be easily used to make a filling and delicious fall and wintertime soup or chili!
Pumpkin Seeds are the quintessential snack for this time of year. They are chock-full of nutrients, including essential fatty acids (EFA's). EFA's are beneficial for natural skin lubrication, skin supporting and healing minerals like zinc and magnesium, as well as anti-aging antioxidants! '
Visit my blog for healthy skin recipes, including these foods and more at stratumaesthetics.com!
One of the best ways to support healthy skin hydration is with a humidifier. Our skin has a natural layer of oil, lipids, and sweat on the surface that lubricates acts as a protective barrier, and holds moisture. This layer needs extra love during the colder months when the air outside is dry. We have indoor heating, which can reduce humidity in the air as skin-supporting air in your home becomes too dry. The skin has a more challenging time holding in moisture.
A humidifier adds water moisture to the air. This added moisture supports the skin's barrier layer and improves sleep, reduces dry eyes, lubricates the nasal passages, and much more. Be sure to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent bacteria and other microbes!
Our body tends to crave more sleep this time of year. Unfortunately, for some, the change in circadian rhythms as the seasons change can increase insomnia. Practicing good sleep hygiene is crucial to healthy glowing skin. Skin can repair and regenerate the best as we are sleeping. Collagen production increases during the evening hours, and damage repair is activated. If we are not sleeping well, our body is using this regenerating energy elsewhere, and our skin suffers.
Oils to incorporate
Oils are sacred and used for centuries to protect and lubricate the skin. Anointing oils in traditional cultures have been considered the dwelling place of the Gods. We have a long history with them because even on the most primal level, we know that coating our hide feels good! This coating feels especially good as the seasons' change. Applying oil helps to hold in moisture. Different skin types benefit from different oil types, and some oils that help one skin type can be problematic for other skin types. As a rule of thumb, oily skin types naturally produce a fatty acid called oleic acid. They can be deficient in a fatty acid called linoleic acid.
In contrast, the opposite is true for dry skin types that are generally deficient in oleic acid. You can look up the oils' fatty acid profile in your skincare to see if an oil is right for you. It is essential to look at the overall formulation. For example, a moisturizer with avocado oil high in oleic acid may also pair with hemp seed oil high in linoleic acid and become a well-balanced formulation that will not affect some with oily skin in a negative way. Still, you know that overall, your oily acne prone skin will respond better to linoleic acid. Adding appropriate oils to your moisturizer, or as a final step to seal or lock in moisture, can make all the difference during the winter.
Eyes and lips
The skin around the eyes and the lips is thinner and more vulnerable this time of year as the air's humidity drops. Protect them with nourishing products like this eye cream and this lip treatment.
It may be tempting to want to remove "lizard skin" during the cold months. Still, I promise that overly exfoliating your skin too often or with harsh scrubs or acids will only make things worse. The skin may become even drier and more flakey; at this point, it's easy to think that you need to exfoliate even more. Our uppermost layer of skin cells is often discussed as a dead layer and seen as unnecessary. This thought isn't quite right, though. In reality, healthy skin sloughs naturally and releases the top cells as necessary. If this were true, the millions who have never exfoliated would be walking around with loads of excess skin on their bodies. (I'm thrilled this is not a thing) These "dead" skin cells that remain on the surface are quite crucial for holding moisture in. Without them, the skin becomes dehydrated more quickly.
Don't forget the body.
Don't forget to moisturize the rest of your body! Just because you're wearing jeans and boots, it doesn't mean your legs should be scaley! I love applying a good body oil right after the shower. You can customize this with your favorite essential oils (vetiver and frankincense is a favorite blend for me)! Check out this yummy body oil!
Move your lymph with massage.
We tend to move less in the winter, which can stagnate our energy and our bodies. Topical skincare is not enough for healthy skin. Moisturizers and serums, and eye creams can be very beneficial, but equally important is taking your beauty routine beyond skin deep. The lymph can is like the waste management system of the body. Lymph is a colorless fluid that similarly flows through the body as the blood flows just below the skin's surface like a river. It intertwines with our immune system and our circulatory system. Unlike blood, lymph doesn't have a pump. We do things like moving, breathing, and self-massage to keep this waste management system flowing, rather than pooling like a mucky, dirty pond. It takes toxins and debris and filters them out of the body. 30% of this system is in our neck and our head that; 's a large portion of our body! When this river isn't flowing, our skin can look dull, flakey, wrinkled, congested, dehydrated, and dry. Moving lymph through 10 minutes of self-massage will bathe the cells in the fresh, clean fluid. Still, it will hydrate the cells and increase blood circulation below the skin, making the skin appear brighter, younger, and more glowy. All you have to do is apply a skin-loving oil and gently massage. The massage should move from the inside of the face to the outside of the face. DO whatever feels right to you, but if you still feel confused, head over to stratumaesthetics.com and check out my video tutorials!
Surfactants are molecules that spontaneously bond with each other to form sealed bubbles. WUT?? These are ingredients in almost every cleanser that are a type of detergent. They break up and break down oil to remove it from the surface and dry them to the skin. If your skin feels sensitive, tight, dry, one option is to skip cleansing and allow the skin to do its natural thang. I am not telling you to go to sleep with your makeup on, DO NOT do that. Instead, skip the cleanse step in the morning and instead swipe with a hydrating tonic or a hydrosol. I LOVE the Apoterra tonics both the neroli and the rose. Another option is to oil cleanse. Oil cleansing is a straight up game changer. Oil attracts oil, so it acts like a magnet to pick up pollution, stale oils, sweat, makeup, anything on the surface of the skin that you want to remove. Additionally, oil cleansers are free of surfactants so rather than breaking down the barrier of the skin, oil cleansers support the integrity of that barrier. You can find my favorite oil cleanser here.
Face masks can be a great way to infuse the skin with bursts of concentrated active ingredients. Face masks can be nourishing, moisturizing, detoxifying, or exfoliating. During the winter, I enjoy increasing my skin's health and hydration with a nourishing and hydrating mask. Hydrating masks generally comes in the form of a gel base or cream base. These masks can be beneficial for all skin types, but don't forget ingredients are essential. Check the ingredients to make sure they are right for your skin type. As a rule of thumb, for oily, acne-prone skin, gel-based masks are more appropriate, and for mature or dry skin types, cream-based masks are more suitable. Finally, let's not discount good old reliable, Raw Honey. Honey is the OG of face masks and truly benefits all skin types. Honey gently exfoliates without disrupting the barrier layer, draws healthy hydration, deeply heals impactions, and destroys unwanted bacteria that cause breakouts! My favorite honey mask can be found here.
Baths! Keeping the body warm in cold months
Baths or trips to the sauna increase the body's internal temp, which does wonders for our health and skin, especially when it's cold outside.
Increasing this internal temperature increased blood circulation. Increased temperature helps to support the immune system in our skin, which fights off acne-causing bacteria. Bathing supports the nervous system and reduces stress. Stress signals hormones like cortisol, which can wreak havoc on the skin. Additionally, you can enhance your bath by adding minerals, and oils that support the skin.
Don't let the winter blues get your skin down. All of these suggestions can be easily incorporated an your body will thank you for it. And don't forget, spring is just around the corner!
The tea blend I'm sharing today is right in line for the season of love! This blend is meant to open your heart, but also support the physical heart, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, and the reproductive system.
Damiana is a yang nourishing plant, a nervine (supports the nervous system), antidepressant, anxiolytic (reduces anxiety), stimulant, balances hormones, a reproductive tonic, and an aphrodisiac. For the skin, ingesting damiana can improve glow as it is rich in vitamin C which is a co-enzyme for collagen product, and a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce and prevent damage from the sun, modern living, stress, poor diet and more.
Rose Hips are the fruit or the seed pod of the rose plant found just below the petals and are a rich source of vitamin C (again this is essential in the production of collagen). Much like marshmallow root, when used in tea rose hips are mucilaginous and coat the mucous membranes with internal moisture and hydration. They are supportive to the cardiovascular system as they tone and enhance the integrity.
Hawthorn Berry also comes from the rose family and is beneficial to treat a broken heart, depression, and anxiety, but are is also know for its cardioprotective properties. It is know to help support the heart and used in cases of high blood pressure , heart attacks, familial history of heart problems.
Oat straw is another powerful nervous system supportive herb filled with vitamins and minerals. This has been added to balance the astringent (tissue tightening) properties of the other herbs, and to nourish the body and spirit. Used over time this gentle herb is helpful for mental health, and to rebuild the nervous system. (This had been a great plant ally to me during tumultuous times)!
Rose petals, cinnamon, and orange peel give this tea a beautiful bright, floral, citrusy, and spicy flavor!
Red Hot Valentine’s Tea Blend
2 parts organic dried damiana
2 parts organic dried rose hips
2 parts organic dried hawthorn berry
1 park organic dried oat straw
1 part organic dried rose petals
½ part organic dried cinnamon chips
½ part organic fresh or dried orange peel (I used fresh diced peel)
½ part organic dried licorice root (for a slight sweetness, if you dislike licorice flavor, omit and add a small amount of honey after steeping)
Mix together. (If you are using fresh orange peel as I did, add this to the next step, do not store with the dried herbs as this will create mold).
Add 2 TBSP to a french press, muslin bag, or tea infuser (giving the tea room to expand).
Add 2 cups of boiling water.
Steep for 15-20 minutes.
*note that damiana is a stimulant and a diuretic so it is best not to drink immediately before sleep.
All of the Reasons You Definitely Want to Put Marshmallow on Your Face!
Emily Davis is the owner of Stratum Aesthetics and has been a licensed esthetician since 2007. She is a holistic esthetician specializing in cannabis skin care.