The cosmetics industry brought in over $55 billion in 2014 underscoring the importance our society puts on appearance. It is true that first impressions are often visual, but what exactly are we keying into underneath the skin? In fact, the skin is an outward reflection of internal health, and what we find attractive in other humans is an evolutionary byproduct we are drawn to people whose appearance signals good physical condition and advantageous genetics. By increasing health, the skin’s appearance can be transformed. Hormone balance, proper nutrition, and optimal liver function are several key components of a radiant complexion.
The liver is fundamental to skin health for many reasons, including its function of filtering and detoxifying the blood, which nourishes the skin. When the liver cannot keep up with its job of processing and eliminating toxins and hormones, dermatologic conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis may flare.
Nutrient rich, anti-inflammatory, low glycemic index foods promote beautiful skin whereas imbalanced diets with low nutrient value contribute to a variety of skin problems. Vitamin B deficiency is an established cause of dermatologic symptoms. For example, pellagra results from niacin (B3) deficiency; dermatitis from B2 deficiency; waxy, puffy skin from thiamine (B1) deficiency; and dry skin with hyperkeratosis (rough, bumpy follicles on the back of the upper arm) are signs of Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin B12 is crucial for blood health since it is required for synthesizing red blood cells.
The concept of “nourishing blood” is central to Chinese esthetics. Interestingly, our fast-paced modern culture is very yang in nature (fast-paced, caffeinated, gogogo) which damages the moist, nutritive blood and yin fluids resulting in dry, lusterless skin, hair and nails. Most women going through menopause suffer the effects of yin deficiency. Fortunately we can replenish yin and blood with lifestyle, nutrition, and supplementation. For example, yin and blood-building foods include bone broth, organ meats, cherries, Chinese red dates, beets, leafy greens, black sesame seeds, molasses, black beans and flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds. Dong Gui and Shu Di Huang are classic blood-tonic herbs.
The skin is the body’s biggest organ and its functions extend far beyond simply protecting our internal body from the outside world. Much can be told about a person’s health through examining the skin. Some doctors believe there are no true skin diseases and that anything occurring on the skin can be traced to a deeper organ system. We have already touched on the importance of the liver and blood, but the gastrointestinal, immune and nervous systems all play a crucial role as well! Ultimately, the health of every organ system depends on and feeds back into every other one. Thus, the whole person must be treated when creating beautiful skin from the inside out.
If you are interested in learning more about holistic esthetics, you can schedule a free 15minute consul t with myself or one of the other practitioners at Thrive Natural Medicine by calling 831.515.8699 or online here.
Sarah Holloway, ND