Skin care is a vitally important part of maintaining good health generally. If you want to maintain good health into your seventies and beyond you must pay attention to and care for the health of your skin.
Skin Care, Health & Wellbeing
Skin Care is a Necessity, not a Luxury.
Menon (2002) says it best, when he states that: “…the human skin is not only the largest organ in the body, but also perhaps the most complex, with at least five different cell types contributing to its structure, and other cell types from circulatory and immune systems being transient residents of the skin. In terms of the number of functions performed, the skin simply outweighs any other organ: its primary function is of course protection, which covers physical, chemical, immune, pathogen, UV radiation and free radical defences. The skin is also a major participant in thermoregulation (regulates the body's temperature), it functions as a sensory organ, performs endocrine functions (Vitamin D synthesis, peripheral conversion of prohormones), is significant in reproduction (secondary sexual characteristics, pheromone production), and perpetuation of the species, human non-verbal communications (visual signalling, emotions expressed), as well as a factor in zenophobia and bias against fellow humans that has shaped the destiny of humanity”.
Okay, it's a little on the 'academic speak' side, but think about it - the skin effects areas of our lives ranging from reproduction to defending us from UV-rays, bacteria, viruses; keeps water both in and out of our bodies and reacts to touch, emotions, temperature, etc.
There are hundreds of skin conditions ranging from annoying to deadly
Whilst there is nothing wrong with our skin, we barely give it a second thought. It is only when something goes wrong that we suddenly start to pay attention and quickly realise that there are very few experts that can actually help us to overcome many of the problems our skin can develop. Most treatments of various skin problems target symptom control. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs, cortico-steroid creams, antibiotics, etc. None actually target the cause of a skin disorder such as dermatitis, eczema, and many other similarly common conditions.
Modern medicine is great at diagnosis what is wrong, but very poor at actually fixing the problem. In their defence, skin problems are notoriously difficult to treat and even natural medicine is not exactly great at it either, but at least it attempts to identify the underlying constitutional cause and its treatment does primarily target this cause rather then targeting the symptoms that result.
To illustrate the difficulty in treating skin conditions, it is useful to have a quick look at the many conditions that fall into the category of skin problems:
Below is an alphabetical list of skin problems as recognised by the National Skin Care Institute:
This list is not an exhaustive list of all known skin diseases or disorders, however it is quite comprehensive and illustrates the vast range of afflictions that may affect the health of our skin.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes are often responsible for skin problems. In order to treat skin diseases caused by such microbes, it is necessary to target the offending bug with appropriate herbs, essential oils, drugs or a combination of these therapies.
However, skin diseases are not solely caused by microbial infection. Some skin disorders are due to deficiencies in nutrients. A classic example is Scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency and can easily be treated by taking supplements of vitamin C or eating foods high in vitamin C.
Then there are the other skin problems, the ones that just don't want to respond to any type of treatment. Different forms of dermatitis or eczema and other often chronic skin problems that just don't want to get better.
Insure your health - look after your skin
The key to healthy skin is to start caring for your skin before anything goes wrong. It is much easier to keep the skin healthy than it is to treat skin diseases.
In order to care for your skin however, you also need to take care of your body. You see, many of the more serious and stubborn skin diseases have their origin much deeper inside the body. This is why it is so important to look after the general health of the body if you want to have healthy skin.
For example, diseases of the liver, lung, kidneys, gastro-intestinal tract and even heart disease may show themselves on the skin. Discolorations, lines and wrinkles on certain parts of the face are used in Chinese medicine as a diagnostic tool for revealing internal disease.
So you can see how the skin can act as a window to the general health of our bodies. Now we need to identify how to keep the body and the skin healthy and fit.
External Factors To Maintain The Health Of the Skin & Body
Daily skin care routine using natural skin and personal care products. - This is a key factor. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Eliminate all potentially toxic chemicals from your skin and personal care products. This is a must do, because many of these chemicals do accumulate in the body and have a real potential to cause disease.
Adequate water intake - Two litres of water per day, every day is the minimum. No, tea, coffee and alcohol don't count, because these beverages actually drive water out of your body and cause you to become de-hydrated. If you do drink tea, coffee and/or alcohol you need to additionally drink that volume in water to counter-act the dehydrating actions of these drinks.
Be Sun Smart - By now, we should all be aware of the potential harm UV-rays can have on our skin and therefore our general health. Follow the advice given in the media about covering up your skin when going out into the sun. A little sun is good for you, but should be limited to about 15-20 minutes per day before the hours of 10 am and after 4 pm. Not between these hours.
Be careful of the type of sunscreen you choose. Scientific research has shown some of the ingredients in sunscreens to have potentially more harmful effects than the UV-rays!!! So be smart, cover up instead.
Internal Factors To Maintain The Health of the Skin & Body
Diet - The keyword here is UNPROCESSED. Use simple foods, fresh fruits and vegetables; the more human input into the food you're eating the more processed it will be. Processed food equals artificial preservatives, colours, flavours, etc. Stuff your system does not want or need and is definitely not good for your health.
Exercise - Yes, exercise can be a pain, but the only way to implement an exercise regime you will stick with is to find a physical activity that you actually enjoy doing. Riding a bike, dancing, swimming; simply any physical activity you enjoy doing and consider as being a hobby rather than exercise. Tai Chi and Yoga for example are highly effective forms of exercise that can be a lot of fun as well as good for you.
Stress management - Stress is bad. It's as simple as that. The less stress you have in your life the better you'll feel. Stress is a cause listed for just about every disease from cardiovascular disease, nervous disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, to headaches, and the list goes on. Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga and other forms of exercise can help to reduce the effects of stress in our lives. We need to regularly take time out and engage in activity or non-activity that we enjoy and provides us with a sense of peace and an opportunity to re-balance our nervous systems.
Stress management is therefore another key factor that we must be engaged in to maintain and/or regain our health.
Sleep - Quality sleep that is. The best way to repair and restore the body's health is to get regular good quality sleep. Around eight (8) hours per night is said to be the ideal and experts have shown that less than 7 hours of sleep per night has negative health effects. To see this graphically illustrated, just have a look at your own face after a great night's sleep and compare that to how your face looks when you slept badly or only for a few short hours. The difference is remarkable and all you see is the visible external signs - just imagine the effect this has on your internal organs...
Follow the above guidelines and you will soon feel more energetic and your skin as well as the rest of your body will look and feel younger and healthier.
Menon, G. K. (2002) New insights into skin structure scratching the surface. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. Vol. 54, 1, Pages S3-S17.
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