You can tell a LOT about a person by looking at their skin. I'm of the belief that our skin is first and foremost a reflection of whatever is going on inside our body, as well as what we do with our bodies externally. More than personality, posture, behavior or even body composition, I consider the skin to be the most honest indicator of a person's well-being.
As skin is an honest indicator of well-being, it follows that there's no great shortcut to amazing skin. Your whole body has to actually be healthy to have healthy skin. The most surefire way to have amazing skin is to pursue amazing health. It won't surprise you that the Synchro Life Design series represents what I consider to be the most intelligent and comprehensive system for pursuing amazing health through your diet (and increasingly in fitness other areas of wellness). Follow this system, and you'll inevitably be building great skin. That being said, the skin is an organ and ecosystem in and of itself and there are more specific tactics we can employ to promote health of this organ.
Cut Systemic Inflammation + Protect Yourself Against Toxins
If you have chronic systemic inflammation, your skin will look puffy and well...inflamed. Inflamed skin does not look healthy regardless of what else you're doing to it. The best ways to cut systemic inflammation?
- Bring your Omega 3's and 6's into balance (covered in Synchro Life Design #3)
- Protect your body against pro-inflammatory toxins by eating actively detoxifying foods. With exceptional levels of a diverse set of antioxidants (from raw cacao and acai) and heavy-metal-neutralizing chlorophyll (from chorella and spirulina), Synchro Genesis protects the body against toxins better than perhaps any other product on the planet.
- Remove pro-inflammatory toxins from your diet. 2 of the most common toxin-containing foods are grains (mold contamination) and oxidized cooking oils. See Synchro Life Design #7 and #5, respectively.
The same toxins that cause systemic inflammation will also have a more direct impact on your skin. Skin cells are held together in a glycoprotein/saccharide matrix and when this matrix is disrupted (as by toxins), your skin health suffers.
Check Your Soap
You might be surprised to learn that most soaps and body washes don't actually contain soap. Instead, these products are a blend of chemical detergents and surfactants. Unless a product explicitly says it's a soap and not a detergent, you should assume it's a detergent blend. Companies do this for a few reasons. First, unsurprisingly, detergents and surfactants are a lot cheaper than soaps to produce. Detergents and surfactants are also easier to make into products that have properties companies think consumers like such as "gel" texture and thick foaming. Sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium stearate are some of the most commonly used detergents and surfactants. If your "soap" product contains any of these, you'd be doing your skin a favor by tossing it.
Detergents and surfactants strip out the skin's natural oils much more harshly than soaps do. On top of that, detergents will disrupt critical enzymes in the skin cells as well as the glycoprotein matrix that gives skin its structure. Consistently washing the skin with detergents and surfactants will leave the skin dry and rough and less able to breathe and clear out toxins like it's designed to.
There are plenty of great soaps available, but they may be difficult to find in your average conventional supermarket. Dove bar soap is one example of a true soap. But as far as widely distributed products go, nothing beats Dr. Bronners soaps, in my opinion. This idiosyncratic soap brand has a huge following for a reason.
Coconut Oil: The Only Moisturizer Worthy Of Your Skin
Most skin moisturizers and lotions are a joke. First of all, they are generally composed mostly of water. Your skin will initially feel moisturized, but once the water evaporates, the moisturizing effect is gone. More concerning is the presence of plasticizers, such as phthalates, in a huge number of skin products. These chemicals give lotions a viscous and smooth texture, but have also been correlated with a long list of disturbing health effects including hormone disruption, and cancer.
A big part of what gives skin a healthy and glowing outward appearance is a well hydrated outer layer (stratum corneum). Healthy skin requires a healthy oil balance to keep moisture locked into the outer layers, so it's critical to find a moisturizer that will accomplish this. This is where coconut oil stands far above any other option. Coconut oil penetrates deep into the stratum corneum, locking in moisture deeper than other oils. It's also composed primarily of medium chain fatty acids, making a very thin oil that won't clog pores. And best of all, no plasticizers, fragrances, solvents or anything else that will harm skin health with consistent use.
Coconut oil is different than lotions in that your skin stays oily feeling for 15-20 minutes after you apply (remember lotions are mostly water?). It's worth getting used to...I consider consistent (if not daily) moisturizing with coconut oil to be the single most effective practice for building great skin.
Water, Water, Water
As I've alluded to, hydrated skin is healthy skin. While part of the equation is a healthy oil balance, the other part is making sure you're drinking enough water that your body can hydrate low-priority tissues like the skin (as opposed to high-priority tissues like muscles and organs). We lose a significant amount of water at night, and a large part of that evaporates out of the skin. As such, rehydrating first thing in the morning is critical for healthy skin. I recommend drinking 40-60oz of water in the morning before you eat or drink anything else. Once you start eating, water will be retained in the digestive track and is less likely to make it's way to other tissues.
As I covered in depth in "Time To Get Serious About Your Water [Synchro Life Design #18]", what kind of water you drink can have major effects on well-being. Specifically for hydration and skin health, it's critical to make sure your water is electrolyte balanced such that your body is able to absorb it effectively. If you are drinking water with low electrolyte and mineral content (most tap and bottled waters are), the water will not be absorbed effectively and will actually strip minerals out of your body. I recommend adding a bit of Himalayan sea salt to your water to address this. In addition to making your water easier for your body to absorb, I've come to prefer the taste of water lightly salted with Himalayan salt.
When our sweat glands are pushing water out through the pores, toxins are coming out with it. If these toxins aren't pushed out of the skin through sweating, they will accumulate and damage skin structure. Saunas in particular are fantastic for skin because they allow the pores to open more fully than they would in normal circumstances, allowing for greater clearing of toxins.
If you follow the practices outlined here (and the Synchro Life Design system in general), great skin is inevitable. That does not mean, however, that it will be great quickly. Just as injured muscles or joints take time to heal, so to does less-than-perfect skin. Gradual improvement as a result of a healthy diet and skin-care practices will happen over the course of months, and even years. Like I said to open the article, skin doesn't lie. If you have great skin, it's because you've built it.
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