We all seek balance in our lives, but hey, we’re only human. Every once in a while, we give into temptation and overindulge in one or more of the Seven Skin Sins:
- Sleep Deprivation
- Skipping Wash
What happens when we overdo it and fall prey to any one of these skin sins? A cascading phenomenon can occur called skinflammation – the damaging inflammation that can increase reactivity and premature apoptosis, or death, of dermal cells.
Let’s back up for a moment and discuss some facts. The skin is the body’s largest organ. It magnificently helps to regulate temperature and acts as the first line of defense against external aggressors. It is an organ with the capacity to both absorb and eliminate substances. The skin is also an outward manifestation and communication of what is going on inside the body, so it follows that healthy looking skin is often reflective of a healthy internal body. Skin conditions such as oily or dry skin, blemishes, discoloration, eczema, psoriasis, acne, hives, rashes, itchiness, or premature aging may be signs of imbalances within.
Addressing both internal and external issues through an integrated, holistic approach help reduce the effect of skinflammation.
Our bodies are designed to make good use of the sun. Sunlight helps keep our circadian rhythms on track so we can stay awake by day and sleep soundly at night. Getting too little sun, especially in winter months, can leave some of us prone to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sunlight also helps our skin make vitamin D, which is needed for normal bone function and health. Yet sunlight can also cause damage. The sun’s rays travel to Earth in both visible and invisible waves including ultraviolet (UV) light. The longest of the sun’s UV rays that reach the Earth’s surface are called UVA rays. The shorter ones are called UVB rays. Too much exposure to UVB rays can lead to sunburn (think “B” for burning). UVA rays can travel more deeply into the skin than UVB rays and damage the collagen layer, leading to premature aging (think “A” for aging). When UV rays enter skin cells, they upset delicate processes that affect the skin’s growth and appearance. Over time, exposure to these rays can make the skin less elastic. Skin may even become thickened and leathery, wrinkled, or thinned like tissue paper. Too much sun exposure can also raise your risk for skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. When UV light enters skin cells, it can trigger DNA to make cells grow and divide more rapidly than normal. This growth can lead to clumps of extra cells called a tumor, or lesion which may be cancerous (malignant) or harmless (benign). The net takeaway is to be mindful about your skin’s exposure to the sun. Wear a sunscreen powered by physical UV blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of chemical ones like (benzophenone-3) oxybenzone, octinoxate, or avobenzone.
Eating a diet high in sugar contributes to a plight called glycation. When you eat any carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into smaller sugars such as glucose, galactose or fructose for fuel. When the body detects sugar in the blood, it signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Too much insulin in circulation produces new sugar-proteins called AGEs (advanced glycation end products). The human body does not recognize AGEs as normal, and so it will produce antibodies against AGEs, and the fight causes inflammation that can damage healthy proteins like collagen and elastin. As the acronym infers, these AGEs prematurely age our bodies, including our skin. The more AGEs that are in your system, the less healthy and youthful your skin may appear. Therefore, a key way to help keep your skin looking fresh and vibrant is to limit the amount of sugar you ingest in your diet.
It may come as no surprise that the mind and the skin are intimately linked. According to psychodermatology experts, skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, eczema and self-mutilation find their roots in the psyche. Unconscious habits like nail biting, trichotillomania (pulling one’s own hair out), touching your face, picking at pimples and scabs, and scratching may also be triggered by anxiety. Stress can also make existing skin conditions worse. By triggering the release of cortisol, oil glands may be activated to produce more sebum, exacerbating acne flare ups. Erythema (redness), edema (swelling) and rashes can also onset from the body’s natural response to alarm. Stress falls into one of two categories: acute or chronic. The more detrimental form of stress for the skin is the chronic kind, because the longer you endure stress, the more it has a chance to take a toll on your skin. It would be unreasonable for anyone to believe they can completely remove stress from our lives, but there are healthy ways to manage stress to protect our minds and bodies. According to the Mayo Clinic, some healthy stress management strategies include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation
- Practicing deep breathing
- Getting a massage
- Taking time for hobbies
- Fostering healthy friendships
- Having a sense of humor
- Volunteering in your community
- Seeking professional counseling when needed
Learning to manage the stress we feel everyday isn’t easy, but little steps toward attaining peace of mind can also work wonders to improve the healthy appearance of our skin.
As if we needed another solid reason to quit smoking, premature skin aging is another good one. When a cigarette is burned, more than 7,000 chemicals are created, at least 69 of which are known to be toxic and cause cancer. Additionally, smoking constricts blood flow to the skin, depriving it of effectively receiving oxygen and nutrients. This can cause increased dullness, sallowness, and risk of infection. Smoking also hinders skin’s ability to heal itself, so acne scars and bruises may take longer to fade. Cigarette smoke elevates free radicals and depletes natural antioxidants in our bodies. When free radicals destroy healthy collagen and elastin fibers, skin loses its elasticity and shows more noticeable crow’s feet, wrinkling around the lips, laxity of the eyelids, and sagging of the jawline. Smokers are also more susceptible to chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema as well as the early onset of age spots. Cigarette smoke can decrease moisture in the skin, so the skin of smokers is generally drier than non-smokers. Fingers, nails, teeth and gums can also become stubbornly stained. Quitting a smoking habit can have a steady, positive effect on our skin. Blood flow recovers, so skin can start to repair itself. Skin will receive the oxygen and nutrients it requires for healthier looking tone . Stains found on fingers and nails may improve. If you’re a smoker, or if you are around second-hand smoke regularly, do your best to quit now. Here are some START tips to help:
- S = Set a quit date.
- T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
- A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
- R = Remove cigarettes, other tobacco products and accessories from your home, car, and work.
- T = Talk to a doctor or professional about getting help to quit.
If you’re having cravings and are trying to combat the urge to smoke, here are some tips to help you cope:
- Find a healthy oral substitute like mints, carrot or celery sticks, gum, or sunflower seeds. Or suck on a drinking straw.
- Keep your mind busy. Read a book or magazine, listen to some music you love, do a crossword puzzle, or play an online game.
- Go somewhere smoking is not permitted.
- Keep your hands busy. Squeeze balls, pencils, or paper clips for tactile stimulation.
- Brush your teeth. The just-brushed, clean feeling can help banish cigarette cravings.
- Drink water. Slowly drink a large glass of water. Not only will it help the craving pass, but staying hydrated helps minimize the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Light something else like a candle or some incense.
- Get active. Go for a walk, do some jumping jacks or pushups, try some yoga stretches, or run around the block.
- Try to relax. Do something that calms you down, such as taking a warm bath, meditating, reading a book, or practicing deep breathing exercises.
Quitting a cigarette smoking habit can be one of the hardest things to do. But achieving this goal in life is proof that we are powerful and can do anything we set our minds to.
Exfoliating skin occasionally has its complexion benefits. It helps to remove dull, dead surface skin cells and reveal newer, fresher skin cells underneath. But scrubbing skin too aggressively can cause more damage than good. Excessive scrubbing can wear away the skin’s stratum corneum layer, the outermost skin barrier. If this barrier is regularly breached, skin dryness, irritation, cracking and other problems may result. Scrubbing can also disrupt the protective acid mantle layer of skin, knocking its pH off balance. This can upset skin’s microbiome, causing it to host a higher number of pathogens, inviting in a greater opportunity for infection. If you have a tendency to scrub your skin and notice that it’s getting chronically red, flaky, and cracked, do your best to limit exfoliation to once or twice a week with a gentle abrasive, and be sure to replenish moisture with a soothing oil or moisturizer. Remember, skin thickness and sensitivity vary across our bodies. While it may be fine use a pumice stone to slough skin off the soles of your feet, you’d never want to do the same to your face where the skin is far thinner and more susceptible to damage. Here’s what to do if you’re a self-acknowledged skin scrubber:
- Stop using all topical retinol products and physical or chemical exfoliators.
- Switch to a mild cleanser and a gentle, occlusive moisturizer.
- Spot treat extremely red or raw areas with a cold compress, aloe or a rich emollient.
- Wear sunscreen.
Skin renews itself approximately every 28 days, so it may take a month to see the visible improvements of skin recovery after over-scrubbing. Once skin has healed, you can proceed with cautious exfoliation using a gentle scrub and light pressure, but discontinue if you notice any redness, peeling or tingling.
Our bodies need sleep in order to properly repair and regenerate. Ideally, adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 35.2% of us report sleeping less than seven hours in a 24-hour period. Science has proven that beauty sleep is a real thing – sleep deprivation can cause hanging eyelids, eye puffiness, eye swelling, dark circles, paler skin, more wrinkles/fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth. Chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance. A lack of sleep can also increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which may lead to acne breakouts, collagen breakdown, and lowered skin immunity. That’s why sleep is considered nature’s anti-inflammatory. According to experts, your actual bedtime doesn’t matter, as long as it’s consistent. Establishing a good nighttime routine can help you get a better night’s sleep. Here are some tips to improve your quality of sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Sleep in a dark room.
- Sleep in a quiet room.
- Sleep in a cool room.
- Remove electronics and anything that emits blue light.
- Avoid naps during the day.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
- Choose a mattress, bedding and pillows that are right for your body.
When you’re able to improve the amount and quality of sleep you’re getting, you’ll be making great strides to benefit your mind-body wellness, including your skin. Skin will better be able to heal itself, you may see fewer breakouts, your eyes will appear brighter and less puffy, and skin tone will appear more even.
Mom told us we should never go to sleep angry or with our makeup on. No doubt, after a long day at work or a late night out, the thought of washing your face seems like the biggest headache in the world. But not washing your face before bed is not great for your complexion, even if you don’t wear makeup but especially if you do. Clogged pores, breakouts, irritation, and rough skin texture can begin to emerge. Premature signs of aging and bacterial buildup can result longer term. Washing regularly helps remove bacteria, pollutants, viruses, dirt, and old (dead) skin cells, oil and other impurities from your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology shares these tips on proper skin cleansing:
- Use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that does not contain alcohol.
- Wet your face with lukewarm water and use your fingertips to apply cleanser. Using a washcloth, mesh sponge, or anything other than your fingertips can irritate your skin.
- Resist the temptation to scrub your skin because scrubbing irritates the skin.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft towel.
- Apply moisturizer if your skin is dry or itchy. Be gentle when applying any cream around your eyes so you do not pull too hard on this delicate skin.
- Limit washing to twice a day and after sweating. Wash your face once in the morning and once at night, as well as after sweating heavily. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, irritates the skin. Wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.
In addition to twice-daily skin cleansing, it’s also important to keep anything that touches your skin, especially your face, as clean as possible. Towels and pillowcases may harbor grime that can lead to skin problems. Makeup brushes and sponges may be loaded with dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria, and oil, spreading the likes of staphylococcus, streptococcus, and E. Coli, fungus, and viruses. If they come into contact with your makeup or your skin, germs could colonize and spread without you even knowing it. Dermatologist Ava Shamban recommends washing beauty blenders regularly and replacing them every three months. Makeup brushes, especially foundation and concealer brushes, should be soaked once a week minimum. Gentle soap and water are sufficient for cleaning your implements. Here are some tips on how to effectively wash your makeup brushes:
- Wet the bristles with lukewarm water.
- Place a drop of cleanser into the palm of your clean hand.
- Gently massage the tips of the bristles in your palm.
- Rinse the bristles thoroughly.
- Squeeze out the excess moisture with a clean towel.
- Re-form the brush head back into its original shape.
- Let the brush dry with its bristles hanging off the edge of a counter. Don’t lay the brush on a towel, the bristles can get mildewy.
By keeping your skin and everything that touches your skin as clean as possible, you’ll be improving your chances of having a clearer, fresher complexion.
Humanist Beauty has introduced Herban Wisdom™ skincare as a way to address the signs of skinflammation. In particular, Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil is designed with a potent blend of adaptogens, antioxidant botanicals, and skin soothing moisturizers to help condition and revitalize skin’s youthful glow. Some of the precious ingredients contained in Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil include:
- Cannabidiol (Adaptogen)
- Sacha Inchi (Adaptogen)
- Pomegranate (Antioxidant)
- Vitamin E (Antioxidant)
- Tamanu (Antioxidant)
- Seabuckthorn (Antioxidant)
- Raspberry (Antioxidant)
- Kakadu Plum (Antioxidant)
- Cranberry (Antioxidant)
- Blue Tansy (Antioxidant)
- Black Cumin (Antioxidant)
- Coriander (Antioxidant)
- Cherry (Antioxidant)
- Jojoba (Moisturizer)
- Avocado (Moisturizer)
- Argan (Moisturizer)
- Rosehip (Moisturizer)
- Meadowfoam (Moisturizer)
By mindfully incorporating Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil into your daily skincare ritual with an intention of greater self-love, you will be soothing the visible appearance of skinflammation and supporting the holistic wellness of your mind, body and soul.