Instead of turning outwards to be bombarded by all kinds of advertising messages about how we should take care of the skin and what products to buy, wouldn’t it be wiser to turn inwards to start understand our skin and what it needs first?
Last month, I had the privilege to sit down and chat with Dr. Karen Clickner, naturopathic doctor and owner of ISIS Holistic Clinic, to learn about the deeper meaning of skincare and the philosophy behind her clinic. I enjoyed the hour-long educated conversations and was amazed by the series of philosophies applied behind ISIS, which is not just a traditional spa but also a unique place to improve your skin and overall health from the inside.
Below are my 10 key takeaways that I believe will help you shape a new understanding on how you should take care of your skin in a more effective way:
1. Treat Your Skin Naturally
Skin is a living organ, which means that it is just like any other organ inside the body. Dr. Clickner does not advocate medical aesthetics such as injection or surgery which can change the anatomy of an organ. For example, if you do artificial changes to the gallbladder. The body will definitely react to them.
We oftentimes separate the skin from other organs; and we care how our skin looks more than how our innate organs look, because innate organs are hidden inside the body. But we should always remember that skin is also one part of the organs we own, too. And we should treat our skin equally the same as we treat liver, gallbladder and other organs – no toxic chemicals, no injection or surgery when it’s not necessary.
2. Dealing with Skin Problems Is Nowhere Different from Dealing with Internal Health Issues
Skin and innate organs are closely connected, as you may have already got the idea from my blog on introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dr. Clickner also pointed out in the interview that “illness starts from within and expresses out on the skin”; and, therefore “any condition on the skin reflects the conditions under the skin.”
I personally can totally relate to this. From Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Perspective, acne breakouts can be a reflection of excess heat and dampness inside the body, though it is not the sole reason. So whatever is manifested on the skin can be traced back to the deeper reasons or root causes for why a skin problem occurs.
According to Clickner, these days there are a lot of people grasping philosophies or some common knowledge without digging into root problems or deeper solutions. A simple example is that people with breakouts tend to seek for common bacteria-killing or sebum-inhibiting quick remedies rather than finding the fundamental reasons that cause the flare-up on the skin. The truth is, acne may not be the cause of the presence of bacteria; and excess sebum production may not be the root cause. You need to go beyond skin deep to truly deal with your skin conditions.
3. There Is No Generic Skincare, because Everybody Is Different
You are unique. Because everybody is different, Clickner believes that there should not be generic skincare. In other words, standardized skincare can be misleading as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for any skin type or condition. For example, if you are a fire person (the five elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth – will be introduced later), acne indicates that there is excess heat; and the skin is actually trying to expel heat outside the body. The key here is that you should understand your body and what element your body belongs to, which leads to my next takeaway…
4. You Have Your Own Inherent Element since Your Were Born
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, you have your own inherent element, or dominate element, calculated by using your birth chart; by doing so, you can tell the tendencies you will have and chronic health issues that your body is prone to as you age.
Your dominate element has an influence over the harmony of your body and skin. External factors like weathers, humidity, temperatures, geographical locations and pollution can all stress your natural element, hence creating disharmony between the body, skin and the environment you are in.
The key to vibrant health and great skin lies in balancing your inherent element with seasonal elements, and with other external environmental changes. Simply put, it is both what foods and activities you choose and how you react to environmental and seasonal changes that matter the most when it comes to skincare!
Altogether, there are five elements – metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. You can briefly find out the characteristics of each of the five elements here. From there you will learn what organs inside you tend to be weaker and what health challenges you are prone to. That will give you an overall understanding on what you need to work on to improve our health and skin in general. Or, you could check out the chart below to see what element you are likely to be born with, based on your skin types.
(Note: we will come back to explain how five elements are related your body and skin in more details later, after I do more research!)
5. Stimulating Your Lymphatic System Is Key to Great Skin
The skin itself has very little blood flow and receives very little nutrition. For the skin to be healthy, it needs to have a really good pathway for circulation for oxygen, blood and nutrition. That’s why you should take good care of your lymphatic system, which carries your immunity as well as everything to and away from the skin.
That’s why one of the featured services in ISIS Holistic Clinic is Lymphatic Drainage. Besides that, you could do dry brushing at home to stimulate the lymphatic system as well.
6. Go Sunscreen-free for 10 Minutes under the Sun before Application
One of the key functions of your skin is to allow the creation of synthesis of Vitamin D under sun exposure. Yet, these days people are afraid to get skin cancer; and choose to cover up with the skin with layers and layers of sunscreen and other materials. It is not that sunscreen is not good, but that people are being too protective to allow the skin to expose itself under the sun to get enough amount of Vitamin D.
Therefore, Clickner recommended sun exposure to get Vitamin D in a limited way. You could go outside and enjoy the sun for 10 to 15 minutes before putting on a natural sunscreen and before coming back inside. How about a morning brisk walking or a light jog to kill the time?
7. No Anti-perspiring Products
Another key function of your skin is to allow perspirations so that it helps facilitate the body’s detoxification process. Yet in the summer, people tend to buy anti-perspiring products, which stop the skin from detoxifying itself. “If you block on pathway, the body will choose a different way to get the toxins out, which can be manifested as a problems on some part of the skin, problems in bowel functions, or in the kidneys or elsewhere”, said Clickner.
8. No “Waterproof” Sunscreen?!
Your skin needs to have a moisturizer to allow it to breathe properly, not one that completely coats the skin and prevents it from breathing. Therefore, Clickner highly recommended us to avoid anything that contains a blocking agent such as blocking agents that make the skin water proof or anything that causes the skin to have a sheen that doesn’t diminish within a few minutes. To her, these are indicative of the skin not being able to breathe properly.
Because of this, she actually suggested opting for non-waterproof sunscreens. But she is a supporter of reapplying your sunscreen throughout the day. Despite of this, she also mentioned that knowing when to seek shades to protect your skin when you are outside (e.g. at the beach) is more important than reapplying sunscreen, as you are supposed to pay attention to the signals your skin is sending out when it needs a break from the sun.
9. Opt for Tinted Moisturizers rather than Makeups. Or, Moderate Your Use of Makeups
When I asked Clickner if she had any makeup advice to share, she smiled and answered: “don’t wear any makeup!” Makeups are one type of products that prevent the skin from breathing properly.
So, she considered using tinted moisturizers is better than wearing makeups, if you want to have to coverage over some spots on your skin. Secondly, if you still choose to wear makeups, you cannot expect your skin to look great while wearing makeup all day long for seven days a week. Instead, choose at least one makeup-free day for your skin to breathe. Additionally, you could choose not to completely cover your entire face. Try spot makeups.
The key here is to treat your skin as your favorite pet. You want it to breathe properly and be happy and alive instead of choking it ; )
10. Find Your Balance
I know, there is a big distinction between what looks great and what’s healthy. At the end of the day, you will have to find your own middle ground between what’s healthy for your skin and body and what looks beautiful to you.
You may have also noticed that: what is most healthy for the skin may not be the most realistic way to apply in real life. For example, news reporters and models need to wear makeup often to maintain good physical appearance.
Yes, choosing the healthiest option for you and your skin can be hard sometimes. Yet, there can and must be a most suitable, applicable and realistic way to guide you towards having better skin, after you know all of what I’ve shared with you. It can be eating healthier meals or getting more sleep. The key here is to start becoming more aware of necessary steps to better health and skin as well as taking some actions.
About ISIS Holistic Clinic
ISIS is a complete holistic medicine and body purification clinic for mind, body and spirit balance with a menu of modalities including colonics, massages & bodywork, FAR Infrared Sauna, Detox Swiss Lymphatic Drainage, Naturopathy, and traditional herbal medicine. You can learn more about the clinic here.
Please note that I am not affiliated with this clinic. I’ve personally tried the colonics, massage, infrared sauna and lymphatic drainage; and enjoyed my experience there. I also respect and am inspired by the natural and holistic way they view skin problems and help clients improve their skin. If you are looking for a spa around Boston to go to, I would personally recommend this one to you.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your biggest takeaway about natural skincare from this blog?
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