Skin – Our Largest Organ

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?

Gallup Journey

Photo by Joe Cheng

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 petroleumbased.

· 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 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 or call 505-783-9001.


  • Name says:

    I have taken my skin for granted…….. All these years. This article has definitely changed my view of skin care. R. Carnow

  • Thea Iberall says:

    Wow. This is amazing. I have also taken my skin for granted. One doesn’t think about the skin as an input portal into the body, it is usually thought of as the protection system it is. You’ve really opened my eyes, thank you, thank you — this is really useful information.

  • Dear Dr. Bera,

    Bless you for your wonderful contributions and your efforts to help make the world a healther, happier place! We so enjoy your articles. Please keep the coming!

    Thank you,
    Bonnie Bowden

  • Name says:

    On 3/9/2012, 1:47 PM, Jenny Chapman wrote:
    > Dear Dr. Dordoni,
    > Thank you for the infomrative article on skin care. I can’t find the Nonie products you mentioned in the article, and they sound very nice. Can you recommned any other companies that have their lines in local markets here in Arizona?
    > Thank you. Jenny Chapman

    The above email came to me at my website, and I thought I’d answer it here in the Gallup Journey comments in case other people have the same question.

    Hi Jenny,

    I’m sorry you can’t find the products mentioned in the article locally. They can be ordered online, or you can ask your local market to carry them. Often stores will include products when customers ask for them because the customer is who the store serves. There are many more commercial products that you can find in stores in the health-food aisles, like ‘Kiss My Face’ products, that are much better than your average chemically-laden products. When it comes to deodorants, a great one I like to recommend is called Lafes. It is aluminum-free, paraben-free, and rather than covering up odors, it neutralizes them with crystal salts. Your best bet is to read the labels on all your skin products, including makeup, and avoid purchasing one that has the list of ingredients mentioned in the skin article. Best of success in finding what you’re looking for, Jenny.

  • Sandy Penny says:

    In my 20s, I had oily, acne prone skin, and I never went anywhere without makeup because I wanted to cover up the blemishes. When I got involved int he personal growth movement, someone said to me, “Did you know you can communicate with you skin and find out what it needs to eliminate your acne?”

    Wow, what a concept. I had never thought of that. I was meditating regularly, so I decided to go into meditation and ask my skin what it needed to heal itself.

    I heard answers that seemed unusual, but I had decided that whatever I got, I would follow it. I was told to use an amino based soap instead of an alkaline one to protect the amino acid mantle on the skin. And to follow that with a face oil, organic and vegetarian. It was counterintuitive for oily skin, but I was told it helps your skin recognize that you have enough oil and to stop producing more. I chose organic apricot kernal oil.

    And, I was told not to use makeup base ever. That was tough. I started using makeup base at 13 and had never gone a day in my life without it, but I did what I was told, and I continued it without thinking any more about it.

    About a year later, I was in a health food store, and a woman said, “Wow, you have beautiful skin.” Me? I couldn’t believe she was talking to me. I went to a mirror in the cosmetic department to take a look, and sure enough, my skin was clear, no scars from my former acne showed at all, and I had a healthy glow. What a revelation. All the instructions I got are in your article. It’s wonderful when you know you’re getting good advice from yourself or from a health provider like you.

    Thanks for all you do to help us stay healthy and look young and beautiful.

  • Craig and Carol Charlton says:

    We read with interest your article about “Skin–Our Largest Organ”.
    It is interesting and informative and well written.

    Craig and Carol Charlton
    Laguna Woods, CA 92637

  • Sheryl says:

    I, too, have taken my skin for granted. Dr. Dordoni has definitely woken me up. I have been trying to figure out why I had all these little bumps, almost like little scabs, on my back, and shoulders. I checked the ingredients on my shampoo and conditioner, and sure enough, it was loaded with everything that Dr. Dordoni said was unnatural. I had a terrible allergic reaction to all those bad ingredients.
    Thank you so much for your help.

  • Ms Bailey says:

    Great informative article, Dr. Bera! Thank you for spelling it out clearly. I have been looking for natural products for years and try to stay away from products that have ingredients that I can’t pronounce, but this article helps out in naming some of the specific ingredients to stay away from. Some wonderful tips, too! Thank you!

  • Joe says:

    Thank you Dr Bera! My mother 90+ has very thin skinned hands with veins showing, but the rest of her body has much thicker skin. In trying to find a cause of just the thinning of skin in the hands, I thought the part of her body that gets frequently exposed to chlorine is her hands in the sink. That is the only part of her body that is frequently exposed to chlorinated water as her hands are exposed to chlorinated water many times more than the rest of her body. Also, she has used more dish soaps containing sodium laurel sulfate than the more natural soaps. Do you know of similar thinned skinned hands or possible causes?

  • Cathy Heffern says:

    My Dad is 87 and I have noticed the same issues with the skin on his hands and arms. He has been bruising very easily. Although I’m very vigilant about the water he drinks it never occurred to me that I should also be concerned about the water he showers in. I plan on having a filter installed ASAP. This problem with tap water has also probably been what causes me to have pimple breakouts at the tender age of 64, LOL. Oddly enough I did not have the problem as a teen when most experience breakouts. Thank you again, Dr. Bera for bringing your knowledge and ongoing research to my attention.

  • Beth Ertz says:

    The scary, but commonly used synthetic ingredients found in brand-name skin “care” products are just another wakeup call to READ LABELS BEFORE YOU BUY (even if you have to bring a magnifying glass with you to do so!). I’ve shared this article with friends who thank you, Dr. Bera. (yes, Dr. Bera has fans in New York City who now read the Gallup Journal…..we also love the Bug Man’s articles!)

  • Richard Fagerlund says:

    I believe Bera proves the point that some of the causes of what is known as Invisible Biting Bug Syndrome (IBBS), are chemicals that are applied to our skin, along with what we eat and breathe (pesticides).

  • Carol says:

    Hi Dr. Bera! What a wonderful informative site you have. We at Ecco Bella are happy to see this as we offer all natural cosmetics and organic skincare that are great for sensitive skin! Ecco Bella is gluten-free, animal testing-free, dairy-free, paraben-free, water-free, dust-free, fd & c dye-free, and truly good for the skin! The skincare features Vitamin Cell technology of trillions of microspheres to deliver lutein, lycopene, astaxanthin, Co Q 10, Vitamin E and C protected and potent…to give the skin exactly what it needs. The results are renewed glow and delayed signs of aging.
    The color cosmetics are an all natural mineral make-up featuring Flower Color Wax technology that applys smoothly and lasts longer!
    Please let us know if we can be of further assistance at our toll-free number 1 800 696-2220, extension 20 for Product Help or visit us at All the Best! Carol

  • Dr. Bera says:

    Hi Carol,

    Wow. I cannot tell you how excited I am to hear that Ecco Bella is now completely paraben-free! Although I have been using your cosmetics for years and years because I felt it was the best quality on the market, I was always hesitant to recommend it to those with compromised immune systems because I wanted them to have paraben-free products. So I am delighted that I now have a product I can feel wonderful about recommending. Your colors are wonderful and the foundation is something anyone with ‘aging’ skin can love because it doesn’t settle in the wrinkles and make one look even older as so many makeups do that contain mineral oils, etc.

    I have to admit that I first started using Ecco Bella back in the early ’90s because the company promoted cruelty-free everything, which is where my heart lies. Any company that could possibly do animal testing in the name of beauty has no clue what true beauty is, and it was so very apparent that Ecco Bella was completely cruelty-free, which I loved. It didn’t hurt that the products are so beautiful. When I was asked to put together a facebook page a couple of years ago that reflected who I am, the only thing I could think to post was my favorite quote, and in recently reading the Ecco Bella product information materials, I saw that your founder uses the same quote, so I hereby ask anyone and everyone who believes our planet is worthy and the beings that occupy it (including all you readers!) are worthy of love and respect, to please eat, drink, feed and use products that can nourish you and all your loved ones. Organic foods and Ecco Bella fit in that category.

    Oh, my favorite quote:

    “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept
    of animals. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err,and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and
    complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never
    attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren,
    they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves
    in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of splendor and travail
    of the earth.” – Henry Beston 1928

  • Racheal Cooley says:

    Upon disvery of Gallup Journey iv read your beneficial informatiom.i am happy you the Gallup community to enrich them with your care and expertise wisdom .

  • Very nice and complex article about all skin issues!

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