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January 9, 2020

Taking the holistic route for the skin and body health

It is a universal natural law that a whole is the sum of all of its parts such that the proper functioning of the whole is dependent on the proper functioning of the parts that make up the whole.

In other words, parts are not only interrelated but also interdependent. Conversely, any problem with any of the parts affects the entire whole.

This holistic concept otherwise referred to as holistic, in relation to health, is a healing practice or philosophy which involves constant keeping and maintenance of the whole body (including the mind, the spirit, and the physical body) at the highest possible level of total wellness.

The holistic approach acknowledges the role of both the environment and inner imbalances (emotional, mental, and physical) in restoring and maintaining the overall balance.

And with regards to the care for the skin, the largest body organ, the holistic concept implies that we do not treat the skin as a standalone separate entity from the entire body.

Though our skin performs numerous protective and regulatory functions. These functions, however, are either dependent upon the functions of or rather work together with the vital internal organs.

Therefore, holistic skincare must go deeper than just the skin surface to achieve effective, quick, and sustainable results. It should address the skin health both from the inside-out and outside-in.

Holistic skincare should not be confused with or relegated to only the use of non-invasive treatments as well as the use of serums, moisturizers, and other products comprising mostly natural and organic ingredients. It is undoubtedly important, but it is like the tip of the iceberg.

The holistic skincare concept underscores the importance of skin health as a reflection of our inner health. Thus, skin conditions such as acne, eczema, seborrhea, loss of collagen and elastin, psoriasis, and so on, all begin and are connected with the inside of the body.

So, focusing only on the skin or prettifying the outside could only offer short-term improvements while addressing the cause of the problem through a holistic approach would offer a true and sustainable resolution.

Healthy skin requires nurturing from the inside as well. While it is highly encouraged to use skincare products made from healthy, pure and natural ingredients, our emotional and mental well-being, our lifestyle choices (diet, exercise) and the environmental stressors all equally play significant roles.

Caring for and nurturing the skin is a long-term and continuous game. No skincare product will miraculously reverse the skin aging in just a day or few and no spot-healer will cause the underlying causes of skin ailments to vamoose.

Here are some of the most important elements of a holistic skincare routine

Eat Beauty Foods

Our diet plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin health. The more balanced and healthier the diet the more it will show on the face. Any imbalances in the gut or our digestive system may provoke inflammation and skin sensitization. Thus, it is important to consume foods that are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants to support the gut and reduce inflammation.

Eat more organic and fresh fruits, raw vegetables, legumes, fibers, a small amount of whole grains, a small portion of clean protein. Avoid foods that can spike the blood sugar level. They are only good at increasing sebum production, breaking down collagen, and causing inflammation.

Nourish the Skin with the Right Ingredients

Know about your skin peculiarity and choose the best ingredients and products for yourself. Decoding the list of ingredients from any cosmetic product is a no-brainer. Avoid stripping or harsh products. A good oil cleanser and products rich in natural antioxidants, good vitamins, very few anti-aging ingredients, and sun-blocking agents are essential for daily routine to strengthen the skin’s barrier function, tackle age-related pigmentation, boost connective tissue production, and encourage epidermal rejuvenation and thickening.

Maintain Healthy Skin Microbiome

The nurturing of our skin microbiome also helps, in many ways, to lay the foundation for healthy skin. Thus, a strong foundation for radiant skin would include the use of nourishing ingredients to support and repair the skin barrier as well as prevent imbalances. Harsh treatments, however, disrupt the skin acid-mantle and pH balance, thereby destabilizing the skin flora. 

Reduce Body Stress

The human body produces cortisol when stressed. Though stress is inevitable, it is better to be properly managed and controlled. Most skin-related problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis are also caused by the interaction of cortisol with the circulatory, immune, and nervous systems.

 Drink Enough Water

Drinking water does wonder for the skin and body health. In fact, it is the epitome of beauty from within. Two liters a day, they said, boost energy and prevent headaches. Well-hydrated skin visibly looks supple as compared to a dry and sadly neglected skin.

Cultivate Good Oral Hygiene and Smiling

Oral hygiene through regular brushing keeps the mouth clean and free of bad breath and dental diseases. Smile lines are also proof of a life well-lived. 

Sleep Enough and Well

Sleeping time is the natural restorative period for our skin and the entire body cells to regenerate, rejuvenate, and renew. Conversely, grey and saggy skin, as well as dark circles, are consequences of sleep deprivation, in addition to elevated levels of stress hormones and cortisol.

Exercise Regularly and Properly

Regular and proper exercise greatly improves blood flow and circulation, thus, help to transport oxygen and other nutrients to skin cells and carry away waste products. Good exercise also eases stress, releases feel-good hormones, promotes better sleep and enhances skin rejuvenation.

 Pamper the Skin

Pampering the skin using essential oil baths, massages, exfoliation, and facial masks help in a big way to ease muscle tension, de-stress the body, reduce anxiety, trigger the release of feel-good hormones, enhance blood circulation, and lead to better sleep. It also helps to clear and smoothen the skin.

Avoid exposure to Environmental Pollutants and Excessive Solar Radiation

Sunlight, especially UV, is the major skin aging extrinsic factor responsible for free radical generation. Excessive solar radiation and exposure to environmental pollutants accelerate skin aging, sunspots, and are responsible for melanoma (skin cancer), in more serious cases.

About Author

Dr. Idris Adewale Ahmed is a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Natural Products Research and Drug Discovery (CENAR), University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

By Dr. Idris Adewale Ahmed

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