By Dr. Bera Dordoni, N.D.
What a remarkable organ. Skin. Covering every part of our body, it certainly qualifies as our largest organ. Except for our face, though, we tend to take our skin for granted – until it bothers us, that is.
If our skin develops a rash, we notice it. If it itches, we scratch, moisturize or cover it with a steroid cream to suppress the itch. Dry, oily, wrinkled – now our skin has our attention! Beyond that, though, how many of us realize the extreme importance of this “backup” organ?
Fact: Approximately 15-20% of the average adult’s total body weight is skin. Fact: Skin is filled with billions of cells, thousands of sensory points, sweat glands, sebaceous glands — each performing its own function for keeping the skin healthy.
Fact: Skin is a protective barrier, our first line of defense against foreign invaders, infections, dehydration, injuries and other outside elements.
Fact: Skin has an enzymatic detoxification process similar to the liver – in other words, it helps us clean out.
Fact: Topical nutrients applied to the skin are absorbed and transferred directly into the bloodstream.
And that’s where the problem comes in.
Skin does not discriminate between natural and synthetic chemicals – it absorbs whatever is applied to it. When you shower without a filter on your showerhead, you absorb more undesirable elements through your skin than you would if you drank straight tap water.
Here’s why: All the stuff in regular tap water that made you start drinking bottled or filtered water – especially large amounts of chlorine – is being absorbed through your skin in your bathtub. You cannot escape the chlorine; it is used to disinfect municipal water systems, just like it is added to backyard swimming pools to disinfect the pool. You know better than to drink pool water. You probably take a shower after getting out of the pool to rinse off the chlorine – but did you realize you’re merely rinsing off with more of the same?
Chlorine chemically bonds with the proteins in the body, causing dry skin and hair and irritating the eyes. Inhaled directly into the lungs via shower vapor, it can contribute to a number of other health problems, such as cancer and reproductive dysfunction.
What can you do? Use a shower filter to trap the chlorine, dirt, and smells inherent in tap water before it gets to your body.
Scary Problem, Delightful Solution
Once you have a shower filter, all you have to do is exfoliate.
Yup, that’s the answer. Whether dry, oily or “normal,” your skin needs to be exfoliated regularly. Sloughing off dead surface cells oxygenates the skin and revives its texture by clearing out congested sebaceous or “sweat” glands and opening up clogged pores.
Clogged, dirty pores resist nutrient absorption and hold in toxins. Open, clean pores allow for nutrient absorption and toxin release.
And it feels so good.
There are salt scrubs. There are sugar scrubs. You can purchase them in health-food stores, or you can make your own. I love making my own because I can add a few drops of my choice of essential oils. When I want to feel invigorated I’ll use rosemary and orange oils added either to mineral salt or sugar, depending on which base I want at the moment. If I’m taking a shower or bath just before going to bed, I use my salt scrub with lavender oil, which is soothing and relaxing. Why the salt as opposed to the sugar before bed? Think minerals: a good mineral salt will provide you with extra relaxing minerals such as calcium and magnesium that just might help enhance your sleep.
Promises Promises . . .
Oily skin may keep you from wrinkling, as so many of our mothers promised us, but it sure doesn’t keep us from breaking out. We start learning early to hide our blemishes with a cover-up. What we don’t realize is that the cover-ups only cause further breakout!
It seems everyone has skin issues. We either want to retain our youthful, healthy skin, or get rid of acne and blemishes. Of course, we can certainly find enough products lining the store shelves that promise wrinkle-free, blemish-free, spot-free, line-free skin. The problem is, a lot of those commercial “beauty-in-a-jar” products are not cruelty-free – they were tested on animals in painful, unnecessary experiments. And the ingredients – most of which we cannot pronounce – often consist of various rancid animal byproducts. Even worse, an amazing number of the creams and lotions advertised on television and in “finer salons or department stores” are petroleum-based! You know petroleum – it’s the stuff you put in your car tank!
Healthy, radiant skin needs to breathe. Read the label on the creams and makeup you purchase. Natural ingredients are organic, like our skin and bodies. Synthetic ingredients, obviously, are not – they’re chemicals that can harm our delicate skin. Some of the more commonly used synthetic ingredients found in brand-name products are:
· Propylene Glycol: used in cosmetics as a humectant, surfactant, and solvent; used in cars as antifreeze and hydraulic brake fluid. Petroleum-based, it can cause allergic and toxic reactions, and is being studied for its link to cancer when applied topically.
· Mineral Oil: used in place of fruit and vegetable oils such as avocado or apricot-kernel oil, because it is cheaper and more stable, it acts as a solvent on the skin (making it inappropriate for dry skin) and clogs the pores (making it inappropriate for oily skin). Applied topically to “normal” skin, it prevents the large organ from breathing.
· Isopropyl Alcohol: a synthetic alcohol produced by the hydration of ethylene – usually petroleum-based.
· SD Alcohol: “SD” stands for “specially denatured,” meaning chemicals were added to render the alcohol poisonous to drink. The number following (i.e., SD Alcohol “40″) refers to the particular chemicals added to determine in which products the alcohol should be used.
· Paraffin Wax: a petroleum byproduct. Think candles.
· Triethanolamine: used to create emulsions. Toxic due to over-alkalinity.
· Methylparaben, propylparaben: synthetic preservatives that can produce allergic reactions.
· Stearic Acid: usually an animal byproduct, which can cause allergic reactions.
· Sodium Stearate: 92.82% stearic acid. Used in creams and lotions.
· Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate: used in hair-care products, this synthetic detergent that strips the hair and scalp of moisture can make dandruff and oily hair worse!
You won’t find any of the above-listed bad ingredients in natural skin-care products. Instead, you’ll find botanicals such as tea tree oil and grapefruit seed oil and alpha hydroxy acids taken from bilberry, apple, orange, lemon, grapefruit and sugar cane that help exfoliate dead skin cells very gently. You’ll also find essential oils of lavender, cypress, orchid, chamomile and peppermint as well as many other wonderful, natural ingredients in these moisturizing, cleansing, soothing, delicious-smelling, feel-good (and good-for-you) products for both men and women. My very favorite products that use only these above-mentioned ingredients are from Nonie of Beverly Hills. They’re competitively priced and worth every penny because they are so natural. The only preservative they use is grapefruit seed oil.
If you want something very simple that is wonderful for your body, inside and out, get a jar of extra virgin coconut oil and apply that to your skin on a daily basis. It absorbs nicely, has great health benefits of its own (read the article at http://www.bastis.org/coconut.htm for more information on the health benefits), and smells divine.
The more ingredients that are organic, the better. “Why is organic so important?” is a question I am often asked. My answer: because organic recognizes organic, and knows what to do with it and how to use it. Meaning . . . ? Did you know that you, and every living thing, is an organic thing? Not necessarily grown without pesticides, as we might assume is the meaning of ‘organic,’ but grown into recognizable cellular patterns. That means our bodies recognize foods that are fruits, vegetables and the like . . . all grown into cellular patterns. Put something on your skin that is organically based, and your body can make good use of it while still breathing, but put something like mineral oil on it and you suffocate your skin, clog it up, and might very well experience the breakouts that often accompany cheap, toxic ingredients. If the skin absorbs unhealthful ingredients for many years, much deeper health issues can result from the absorption into the vital organs over a long period of time, with their cumulative effects.
So, be good to yourself by being good to your skin. Read labels. If they contain some of the above-mentioned toxic ingredients, put the jar back and find one with more natural ingredients. Demand better products from the stores where you make most of your purchases; talk with management. Their job is to please the customers. Check out La Montañita Co-op in Gallup or your local health-food store where they have some nice skin-care products on their shelves filled with delicious-sounding ingredients, most of which are edible. This is the only package you get to be wrapped in this go-around, so preserve it with good foods and don’t take it for granted.
Dr. Bera Dordoni, N.D. is author of the highly acclaimed book I Have a Choice?!, the Grammy®-nominated CD Voice for a Choice!, nutritional counselor, organic gardener and naturopathic doctor who has over two decades of experience counseling clients with ailments ranging from allergies to cancer to numerous life-threatening diseases, and incorporates the laws of attraction to help her clients achieve vibrancy from the lifestyle changes that benefit them most. She is in the midst of building a wellness retreat center in the Ramah area and looks forward to welcoming guests this spring. To request a consultation or learn more visit www.bastis.org or call 505-783-9001.