Here comes the cold and blustery wind. This is the season of dry, cracking, flaking skin, maybe with a touch of redness. Or a lot of redness. Maybe you’ve been slathering lotion, to no avail. Let’s take a deeper look at the skin, the response to the environment, and what other things you may try to remedy your dry skin.
The skin is the largest organ of the body. The pores respond to the environment; clamping closed to protect you from damp and cold, and they open to allow sweat and heat to escape. This first concept is most important to implement, to protect and assist your immune system from working so hard. When it is cold, put on layers of clothing. When it is damp and cold, wear scarves and warm wool socks, to keep the damp, cold wind from penetrating your skin. It may not seem like running out in 10 degree weather without a coat, scarf, or hat on is such a big deal, but down the line, your immune system gets tired of warding off damp and cold invaders, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Even if your kids think it is okay to run out in not appropriate weather clothing, you are the parent/ grandparent = put some more clothes on. Or, if you get into a battle, maybe they can take care of themselves when they are sick because they seem to know better already. Here’s me getting a little preachy, but I am tired of watching this cycle. Keep your body warm, at least your neck and head covered, and your feet warm. Your body has a lot of little steps to take care of behind the scenes of what you think about, help it out where you can.
The skin is governed by many organs, but the main thought being your gut and liver health. This originates in thinking about how you are digesting your food (stomach), turning the food into energy and nutrients (spleen to small intestine), and getting the blood, lymph and other fluids flowing around the body to circulate the nutrients (liver, kidneys, and heart). And then, we have to get the waste out efficiently from our bowel (large intestine). The stomach in the winter can be slow to digest. Here it needs warm foods and lots of vegetables. Soups can be a staple in your diet, and loaded with nutrients. Then the spleen needs energy and small particles from the food you’ve digested to turn into small nutrients. Then the liver takes over filtering the blood (5 liters per day!) and then passing it along. The bacteria in the small and large intestine aid in utilizing these nutrients, and the large intestine removes extra water from the waste (hopefully you’ve drank enough water/ tea to give it a job, otherwise you have dry poop = dry skin). That is a super simplified way of explaining how your skin responds to the internal workings, but they are a bunch of gear shifts that need to be working together. Nutrient dense, warm foods and liquids as a staple. Then another aspect to consider is that of fat and oil. Our body is made to live on a low number of calories, but those calories would be nutrient dense in animal proteins and fats. Think fish (omega 3s), grass fed beef meat and liver, pasture chickens and eggs, milk from the cow or sheep and turned into butters, ghee, and cheeses. Think about your ancestors from hundreds of years ago, and compare what you are eating now. Many of us, if you reflect, even have grandparents or parents who did not even eat packaged potato chips or crackers. Review the items you and your family have been eating, and see where you can start making some small changes or adding in different things. Processed foods and sugars will change the bacteria and the quality of your lymph and blood and show up through the skin (even as acne). You may be needing something in your diet to improve the tone and moisture of your skin from the inside-out.
From an external standpoint, what are you moisturizing your skin with? If you are like most people I meet, lotion is the answer. Each person will tell you what brand is the best. But it hasn’t been until a couple of years ago as I started studying Ayurveda, an old Eastern Indian tradition of health, that the more appropriate and adaptable moisture comes from OILS. And it makes sense to me. Read the label of lotion. Read the label of sesame or coconut oil. Can you see the distinct difference? Do we really want more chemicals going into our body, for the liver and kidneys to have to deal with, in an never-ending environmental supply of toxins from even the water you drink to the air you breath?
Here are a few ideas for how to implement oils onto your skin. It will be a little different than lotion in that it needs a little time to absorb into your skin, but it will all soak into your skin. Some practices even apply 8 ounces of oil during a massage session, and by the end of the session all of the oil will be soaked in and you can put your clothes back on. Sesame oil (non-cooking kind, or you will smell nutty 🙂 is the best option for anyone who has difficulty with digestion or needs to be warmed up and nourished/nurtured. Coconut oil is more for those that are too inflamed, need to cool down, run hot, and have great digestion. I find most people I meet need sesame oil. For the last few years I have used only sesame oil as my facial and body moisturizer, finding less breakouts, clogged pores, and a supple feeling to my skin in comparison to years of using lotions.
Now what if your body is feeling dry all over? Here is another thing you can do: abhyanga. An ayurvedic word for lathering your skin head to toe, often without many/no clothes on while sitting on a towel, to rub every inch of the skin you can reach and let it soak in. My favorite is to do this practice after a epsom salt soak with essential oils, hop out when the bathroom is still warm and my skin has soaked up the water and salts, and lather myself in sesame oil. Now in this sesame oil, I often add my essential oil of choice for the night, landing on what smells best for myself that night. It feels amazing to rub your toes, your heels, behind your knees, your hands-elbows- shoulders, your belly. That night of sleep is most peaceful. But even if you don’t have time for the bath before, you can practice this lathering/ self nourishment on a towel in a warm bathroom allowing time to soak the moisture in.
So as many ask what they can do for their dry skin, once again it is a multi-faceted answer.
The body does not work in one system alone, it is a whole working part.
Learn your body. Learn what it needs. What is it asking for? How can you nourish yourself?
And there is no one answer. Because that would be boring 😉
– Dr. Christine
Picture: bowl of 2 cups of epsom salt. ‘Empty’ essential oil bottles with the orifice reducer removed and turned upside down to soak into the salt. Avoid using certain oil blends/ singles that may burn your skin. This is a great way to use every last drop from the bottle and make some amazing salt soaks for your bath. Behind the bowl are types of oils used in abhyanga. We have limited stock at the clinic right now, supplies have been short. We do carry plain sesame oil at this time.
Please feel free to call or email the clinic if you have questions!
Or it may be time for a chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, or nutrition tune up to give your immune system a boost!