Loving your skin: Natural topical treatments

This article was originally posted on sexfoodandkettlebells.com, April 3 2013.  

Today we will be addressing a topic that is very dear to my heart: skin health.

Having struggled for 10+ years with terrible acne and eczema (did I say terrible?!?), I feel very blessed now that I wake up with clearer skin as a result of my healing journey. As you can imagine, that difficult time was a never ending cycle of dermatologists, monthly antibiotics, hydrocortisone creams, holistic practitioners who were unable to help (it's all about finding the right person), layers upon layers of conventional makeup, and poor self esteem. I felt like I was fighting a losing battle against my skin and my body.

Once I began to find the answers I was looking for, it was akin to self discovery, and I began to feel more confident, and more in tune with myself. It has been a long journey getting here, but worth every effort. Nowadays, I honour and listen to my skin. It has so much to share with me about the health of my body overall, and if I take the time to pay attention and react accordingly, then I am rewarded with radiance and clarity.

We have a few posts coming up that will address the internal and lifestyle components of skin health, and another on chemical-free makeup. So keep an eye out for that. - In the meantime, let's start by touching on some of my favourite natural topical skin treatments.

Please remember that your skin is one of the four main elimination channels of your body, and so it's state indicates:

(a) your body's toxicity level and health overall (endocrine health, stress level, etc)

(b) the health and function of the other elimination channels (colon, lungs, and kidneys) as well as the liver.

(c) exposure to chemicals/toxins/food sensitivities/etc that cause an immune reaction

Therefore skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc are SYMPTOMS rather than causes of their own right. For this reason, no matter how effective or nourishing the topical approaches, or how strong medications you take, if the underlying internal and lifestyle aspects have not been addressed, you will only see temporary relief or minor improvements.

But do not despair, always remember that your body has an incredible capacity to heal. It's your partner in your health journey and goals - learn to work with it rather than struggle against it.

You will need to experiment and find which strategies work best for you, and which are effective in specific situations. This post is just meant to be a guide.

Note: If you think that you may have a serious skin condition or infection, please speak with your healthcare practitioner prior to embarking on a new skincare routine.

Let's get started: I try to keep my skin treatments varied, but simple in terms of accessibility, cost, and time. This is a long list - I will use one or two a day, and a few a week as needed/depending on what is going on health wise.

1. Castor oil

- Anti inflammatory, improves circulation overall specifically lymphatic function.

- Great for spot treatments, particularly cystic type acne. Also good if skin is persistently dry/cracking ie. after a cold. It can also be mixed with coconut oil if you would like to decrease redness while addressing listed issues. Like all oils, this is best applied when the skin is damp - wash face, and pat dry pior to applying oil.

- Apply a little on the finger tip, and rub into affected areas prior to bed. It may stain pillowcases, so consider placing a towel on the pillow.

2. Coconut oil

- Anti inflammatory, anti fungal, improves circulation. Decreases redness and puffiness.

- Great for daily use, can be applied to the whole face/area or just specific spots. Can also be used as a makeup remover, though I prefer my castille soap for that purpose. Can be mixed with castor or other oils for desired effect. Like all oils, this is best applied when the skin is damp - wash face, and pat dry pior to applying oil. 

- Take a little coconut oil (solid - it will melt in your hands), and rub into skin prior to bed. Again be aware of the pillowcase. It will absorb faster than castor oil.

3Other oils - myrrh, rosehip, sweet raspberry, etc 

- Have specific effects depending on the oil. Generally help with regeneration of skin cells, decrease age spots/damaged skin, stretch marks/wrinkles, etc. Rosehip oil specifically will help minimize scars.

- My latest personal favourite is myrrh oil, it stimulates circulation to the applied area, and simply leaves skin radiant. One drop or two will suffice per use/per night.

- There are more expensive, but you will only need a tiny dab per use, so do not be discouraged. Like all oils, these are best applied when the skin is damp - wash face, and pat dry pior to applying oil.

- Apply tiny dab to finger tip, and rub into affected areas prior to bed. I recommend more spot treatment with these oils rather than applying to the whole face. These will absorb quickly, so no need to worry about the pillowcase.

4. Bentonite clay mask:

- Very anti inflammatory, will help decrease puffiness or irritation due to immune/allergic reaction (ie. for myself, upon extended exposure to mould). Very inexpensive and effective. I bought a jar for $7 when I was in Boston in August and I have barely used an 1/8 of it. Ensure the product you purchase just has one ingredient.

- Apply mask 1-2x a month so as not to dry out the skin/strip the natural oils too much. Can be done more often if you have a big flare up or an event to attend.

- *Always follow with a nourishing oil as this mask will be drying!* I usually use coconut oil.

- Prior to bed, with the skin damp, pair the bentonite clay with any of the options below (mix 1tbsp:1 tbsp), and apply all over the skin. Let sit for 15 min or until dry, wash off with warm water, and apply oil of choice.

    (a) pair with water: for a simple mask

    (b) pair with coconut oil: if you are very inflamed and the skin is very red and puffy

    (c) pair with castor oil and coconut oil: if redness/puffiness is paired with cystic acne

    (d) pair with apple cider vinegar: if skin is dry or presents itchiness

    (e) pair with matcha: if skin is "dull"

5. Liquid castille soap

- Great daily morning/nightly treatment, and as a makeup remover. Clears pores and revitalizes skin. Does not dry skin out as it consists mainly of coconut, olive, and palm oils, particularly when paired with your regular oil routine.

- My favourite is peppermint castille. It can also help clear the sinuses a bit if you are stuffed up after a cold.

- Squeeze about a coin's worth onto your palm, and rub into face with lightly warm water (do not use hot water when cleansing) until it foams. Wash off, and pat dry the face. Follow with your morning or nightly routine.

6. Raw apple cider vinegar

- Anti inflammatory. Will decrease redness, and itchiness due to an allergic reaction/rash or dryness.

- Can be mixed with other products - ie bentonite clay mask. Generally, use as a toner.

- Pour 1 tbsp or so into a small bowl, add 2 tbsp of water, and apply to skin using hands. Let evaporate. 

7. Matcha (powdered, tea)

- Antioxidant, anti inflammatory. Helps to decrease "dullness" of skin.

- Mix with desired ingredient (about 1 tbsp:1 tbsp), and apply to skin. Let sit for 15 min, and wash off with gently with lightly warm water. Pat dry. Can be done in the morning or before bed, depending on the pairing.

(a) pair with water: for a simple clarifying treatment

(b) pair with apple cider vinegar: if itchiness or redness

(c) pair with coconut oil or castor oil: if puffiness or redness or cystic-like acne

(d) pair with bentonite clay: for a mask (refer above for details). *Always follow with oil.*

8. Lemon juice and Orange juice

- Natural "chemical" peel, clears pores, helps lighten dark spots/age spots/etc. Lemon juice may dry skin slightly. Orange juice is very clarifying.

- Can be used individually or paired as listed. Mix 1 tbsp:1 tbsp if pairing, and apply to skin.

(a) lemon juice: To decrease redness and even out skin tone. Apply to skin, let sit for 15 min, and wash off with warm water or allow to absorb overnight.

(b) lemon + orange juice: To decrease redness and clarify/brighten skin. Apply to skin prior to bed, and just head to sleep. Wash off in the morning.

(c) lemon or orange + baking soda: To clear pores. Mix 1:1, apply to skin, let sit for 15 min and wash off prior to bed.

9. Baking soda

- Decreases inflammation, clears pores and removes blackheads, .

- Can be used on its own or paired with lemon juice/orange juice. If used on its own, mix 1:1 with water, either apply and let sit for 15 min, and rinse gently.

10. Sugar scrub - with coconut oil and option of essential oil

- Helps to exfoliate without completely drying out the skin.

- Use once a week or once every two weeks.

- Melt 1 tbsp coconut oil, and mix with 1-2 tsp of raw sugar, and scrub into face. Let sit for a few minutes, and wash off.

Non-skin specific treatments, but effective:

1. Salt foot soak

- Improved circulation, specifically lymphatic function. Effective if you had a reaction to a chemical/food and need to clear the effects faster from your system.

- Helps to decrease redness/puffiness overall. Improves sleep and recovery.

- An epsom salt bath is also an option. Mix salt of choice, add hot water, and let feet soak until water is just lightly warm prior to bed. If you are a multi tasker like me, choose another skin treatment to do during.

2. Oil pulling - coconut oil

- Ayurvedic treatment, helps to improve the balance of flora in the mouth (can address some systemic effects of dysbiosis)

- May be effective for some but not others. I love it, it helps my skin and it helps whiten teeth. What else would you want. Usually 1x/wk is sufficient as a maintenance strategy.

- Use 1/2 tsp coconut oil, and swish in your mouth for 10-15 min. Do NOT swallow mixture, spit it out immediately as it will contain flora you do not want to be re-absorbing. If it's your first time trying it, do your best and just swish as long as you can. It will feel less strange the next time.

3. Castor oil packs: liver, kidneys or colon

- Avoid this if you are in cancer treatment etc.

- Helps support the body's other elimination pathways via the function of the castor oil and the warmth - improved circulatory and lymphatic function.

- Rub castor oil into area (ie around liver), and using a heat pack/hot water bottle, sit and read a book. Best done before bed as it is very relaxing.

- Effective done 1-2 month, or if you are experiencing any digestive or other difficulties due to food sensitivities or stress.

Hope this was helpful to everyone!

What are some of your favourite treatments, and do you use some that I have not listed?

Wishing you all radiant, healthy skin.



 Note: Please remember that while I am registered holistic nutritionist, the articles I post are to be used as information, not professional advice, and you should always speak with your heathcare professionals when making dietary or lifestyle changes.