It’s always astonished me, how the idea of taking care of one’s skin is considered by so many to be an act of vanity. Images of vintage ladies applying cold cream at their decadent vanities come to mind. I watched the Amazon Prime show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (OK–I binge watched the whole thing in two evenings); and I myself marveled at the clips of Midge and Rose sneaking off to the bathroom after their husbands fell asleep to apply their night cream, and then sneaking back in at the crack of dawn to remove it and apply their makeup before their husbands awoke. The idea that skincare is healthcare, not just a fluffy ritual, would have been quickly dismissed back then. And surprisingly, it’s still dismissed today.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life observing my own changing relationship with my skin.
I’ve also been studying the history of women’s beauty rituals and changing roles in society for quite some time. I’ve come to the understanding that the whole idea that caring for the skin is solely for beauty, vanity, or to impress or seduce a man; and the shaming that’s followed, really is a result of our patriarchal society. I’ve thought deeply about the damage caused by the whole “anti-aging” movement to women collectively, to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health–and what we can do to heal that hurt. I’ve written several blog posts that explore concepts of beauty, aging, and skin-related women’s image issues:
- Beauty and Aging: One Does Not Depend on the Other
- Enough with Makeup Shaming Already!
- What Does Spirituality Have to Do with Skincare
I’ve also given some thoughts about how to reclaim our sacred beauty and creative expression, and celebrate it without fear or shame:
While these are important issues, what we still need to discuss is the fact that skincare goes way beyond self-care or celebration of beauty.
We need to discuss the fact that in actuality, skincare is healthcare.
I find it fascinating that many health practitioners–even holistic ones–kind of snicker at me when I tell them that my focus is on skincare. They seem to think that focusing on skin is superficial or frivolous, and that there are more important organs that need attention–especially since most skin issues start inside (with the gut, liver, lymph, etc).
That may very well be true, but I start with the skin, because unlike the gut, liver, or lymphatic system–it is visible, and we see whatever’s ailing us reflected back multiple times a day. Its changes are immediately noticeable, and if there are blemishes, scars, flare-ups, spots, lines, and wrinkles, often, these affect how people feel about themselves.
I’m not the only one who believes that skincare is healthcare.
Eastern philosophies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda often start with the skin during diagnosis, as the location and other physical characteristics of lesions, pigmentations, or features of the skin correlate directly to an internal organ or system that may need to be attended to. This is well and good, but in this day and age, constant stress and chronic illness is the norm; and people are used to living with symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic fatigue, mood swings, constant colds, painful menstrual cycles, and disturbed sleep. Because of that, those symptoms often go unnoticed, or are dismissed as stress or just getting old. But when the skin shows us something? A new wrinkle, spot, dilated blood vessel, or pimple? We pay attention.
The skin is the largest organ, and we have to stop treating it in a disembodied, disconnected way from the rest of our organs and systems.
The skin is an organ of digestion, elimination, immunity, respiration, temperature regulation, and sensation; and should be treated with as much reverence as the brain, heart, liver, and other vital organs of the body.
A truly holistic approach to skincare seeks to find the root cause of the symptom that’s choosing to manifest visibly on the surface. It’s definitely important to uncover things on the inside like food sensitivities, as well as environmental toxicants, and poor lifestyle habits which contribute to the underlying causes of the symptoms, but we also have to look at the actual skin. As my friend and colleague, Dr. Trevor Cates says in her book Clean Skin from Within, the skin is a magic mirror–it reflects back to us what’s going on inside.
What I offer in addition to caring for the skin from within, is that we can also start on the outside, by utilizing the skin’s powerful absorption abilities to deliver nutrients into the skin from the outside in. While the exact rate of absorption via the skin depends on many factors and varies from person to person, we know that delivering nutrients through the skin–AKA transdermally–is possible, because both the pharmaceutical and supplement industries use transdermal delivery systems for medications and micronutrients.
We can also deliver vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other powerful phytonutrients into the body via the skin through the use of carrier oils, essential oils, and herbs–or what I refer to as “whole food skin nutrition.” When we do this in addition to other holistic measures, we truly care for the skin–and the health–and will see results faster, which will last longer.
I started my blog and later, my business, with the notion that skincare is healthcare.
I also feel strongly that the way to vibrant skin and radiant health is through the use of plants. For these reasons, I decided to create the Herbal Skincare Summit: an online event that happens free January 8-12, 2018, and features stories, wisdom, and inspiration of renowned herbalists, holistic health, and skincare practitioners. Together, we’ll celebrate beauty, inspired by the magic, wisdom, and science (yes there is room for both magic and science in Mother Earth’s plant kingdom) of nature. I hope you can join us to learn more about how I truly feel the plants are here to bring us back to ourselves and the planet, through the skin.
Click HERE to register!
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Photo credit: Wellcome Library