Creative Eldering: Save Your Skin
Your skin is quite remarkable.
Most people never stop to think about how incredible it is. The surface area of your skin is approximately 21 square feet (2 square meters) and contributes about 15 percent (or about 9 pounds) of your total body weight. Just think how much it needs to grow and stretch to accommodate your growth from being a tiny infant to becoming a full-sized adult. Your skin even grows or contracts to match your body size (to a point) at any time in life when your weight fluctuates.
Your body probably is covered by around 300 million skin cells. These are rapidly replicating at a depth below the surface, migrating towards the surface then being viable skin cells for about a month before they are shed. This process may take twice as long as we become older, this change seems to occur between 45 and 50 years of age. As the surface cells are shed, the next layer appears on the surface and the skin replacement cycle goes on. Most of us hardly notice this process if it is efficient and successful.
Your skin is the interface between your body and your environment. It sequesters your precious bodily fluids. Your skin is your first line of defense against infection and some chemical pollutants. The uppermost layer of your skin, the epidermis, consistently brings forth new cells and replicates itself, typically within one or a few weeks’ time. This accounts for the rapid healing we find with superficial scratches and scrapes.
When functioning well, this ability to replace worn cells can be a clue about a person’s inner health. The healing of minor cuts and scrapes is a reflection of your body’s inherent ability to heal itself in a broad and general sense. Wound healing for diabetics is typically much slower than average and may be one of the first clues that someone should be tested for diabetes.
Dr. Levy’s first book YOUR BODY CAN TALK, second edition is a helpful resource for understanding the diet and lifestyle YOUR body wants and needs, and how to positively affect your organs, muscles, and other soft tissues, including the skin.
When we consider the needs of our skin, absolutely including cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing we are helping the natural process of allowing the body to bring newer skin cells to the surface. This is one reason I strongly advocate using a skin brush to brush away old dead skin cell remains and allow the new skin layers to appear.
Skin brushing should be done right before your shower or bath using a natural bristle long-handled skin brush (not a hairbrush those are too harsh). Brush towards your heart to facilitate the blood returning to the heart. In other words, brush upwards from your toes, feet, calves, and thighs towards the mid-body. Brush from the tips of your fingers through the hands, forearms, and upper arms towards the middle body. Then brush the torso and neck and shoulder regions each towards the heart. This skin brushing process really should be a daily habit that you practice for 2 to 3 minutes. It is refreshing and invigorating while being quite beneficial for your skin your lymphatic vessels, and your small blood vessels.
Facial exfoliation should be very carefully practiced. Since skin brushes are too harsh, a nice soft washcloth may be just right. Periodic use of a special facial loofah may be the best option for most, but may be too intense for some. Simply using water or a very gentle and all-natural facial cleanser is typically best. I use one that is made of seaweed.
The best rule of thumb is to only use skin cleansers and moisturizers that could be edible. That means they are chemically clean enough to consider eating and not laden with numerous toxic chemicals, as many commercial cosmetic products are. There are many resources, both online and in book form, for homemade facial and skincare products. A few examples would be mashed strawberries applied to the face as a mask. A natural mayonnaise or yogurt may be another facial treatment. Honey has been used for centuries as an enzyme source and moisturizer.
Any of these items can be left on the skin for 20 or so minutes before gently washing away and then moisturizing. One of my favorite moisturizers is Argan oil. It is oil from a Moroccan nut that is currently easily available in many stores and marketplaces. Another of my favorites is a product named Egyptian Magic® that is made from olive oil, honey bee pollen, and bee propolis.
As we age, often the skin becomes thinner, less resilient, less clear, and less able to repair minor damage efficiently. If these factors are present, they are likely to be the result of long-term nutritional deficiency.
The strength and texture of the skin is based on protein in the diet and proper digestion, assimilation, and metabolism of dietary proteins. Once these are properly absorbed the body will convert them to necessary structural proteins that include collagen, elastin, and keratin. Those are the building blocks of your skin, connective tissues, hair, and fingernails. When someone has very brittle or weak fingernails or longitudinal ridges in them that may be a sign of protein deficiency or improper digestion and absorption of proteins.
Collagen, elastin, and keratin are all proteins that your body constructs from raw amino acids from your dietary intake. Each of these structural proteins has sulfur-containing amino acids. Sulfur is very important for the health and elasticity of your skin, hair and the strength of your fingernails.
Many dark green vegetables and the broccoli and cauliflower group of vegetables add sulfur to your diet. For a list of sulfur-containing foods, reference page 83 in my book YOUR AGING BODY CAN TALK.
Take the proper digestive enzymes to break down your dietary proteins. Only when those proteins are sufficiently disassembled is your body able to reassemble them appropriately for building new skin, hair, and fingernail tissue. This may make all the difference in the world in your skin clarity and health!
The digestive helper betaine hydrochloride is very specifically helpful to people with weak, ridged, or cracking fingernails. It is best to consult your natural healthcare provider to assist you with fully analyzing your needs in this area. If you are not a vegetarian, you may choose to use bone broth or collagen supplements to revitalize your skin.
Numerous other vitamins and minerals do contribute to skin health as well. Especially the fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, and E.
Avoiding excessive midday sun exposure is a proactive help to your skin. Moderate sun exposure that does not cause sunburn is truly beneficial. Be extremely cautious about sunscreens, many of them have dreadful chemicals, many times carcinogens. If you do use a sunscreen look for a very natural product, make your own, or consult the Environmental Working Group for a recommendation.
The best way to save your skin is to live the healthiest lifestyle possible with the cleanest, most chemical-free diet that you can achieve. The next major point is to adequately hydrate with very pure filtered drinking water. Avoid putting products on your skin that contain synthetically produced chemicals. Use the highest-quality natural (hopefully organic) moisturizers, lotions, and skincare products that you can find.