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As Seen in Skin Inc. - Holistic Skin Therapy
"The goal in-life is to die young-as late as possible," observed anthropologist Ashley Montagu at 94. Empowered with an awesome arsenal of defensive and restorative tools, the body is designed naturally to use every available resource to nullify as many of the effects of a stressful world and a hostile environment as possible. The effects of aging may begin at birth, but the renewal process can continue throughout life. Every system of the body contributes to the effort, just as every system is dependent on the outcome. It is a whole body-holistic-struggle for vitality that continues as long as there is life. Applying or ignoring holistic principals, lifestyle and treatment therapies inexorably will shift the balance to healthful rejuvenation or accelerated deterioration.
Holistic vs. conventional care
A highly visible resurgence in the awareness of the wholeness of being concept is overtaking all fields of personal care. Relying on the body's innate wisdom, and supporting its healing efforts rather ~an simply suppressing the symptoms of its disease, defines one fundamental difference between natural holistic approaches to health and conventional allopathic practices. Another is the greater degree of emphasis placed on prevention and maintenance rather than dependence on treatment and repair. Stated most simply, holistic practitioners are far more concerned with health care, while conventional medically oriented practitioners have become focused on disease care. Faced with the staggering costs-both emotional and financial-of complete dependence on medical intervention, aging baby boomers and their children are driving an exploding market for simpler, safer, more cost-effective alternatives.
While holistic skin therapy recognizes esthetics as a healing art, an important distinction must be made between healing and medical therapies. Skin appearance is affected by addressing the whole body, but holistic skin therapy does not diagnose or prescribe for specific illnesses. Rather, nutritional and eliminative excesses and deficiencies are analyzed and evaluated, along with lifestyle and hygiene practices, stress levels and other environmental influences that can have an adverse impact on the client's skin. A balanced program of professional topical treatments, lifestyle counseling and adjustments, and a home care regimen that may include nutritional and herbal supplements, are combined to activate
and support the body's innate ability to repair and renew itself. All of this, of course, implies that the skin care client must become an active rather than passive participant in the process. To this end, education and encouragement become as important as treatments and supplements.
The holistic viewpoint is further supported by a few generally obvious, though often not considered physiological facts.
The body cannot survive without the skin. To sustain life, the body must take in adequate nourishment and oxygen, dispose of wastes and toxins, and control its internal temperature and moisture level within a critical range. To physically defend itself, the body must be able to sense and react to threats from its surroundings. It must have a per- petua1 barrier to the constant barrage of toxins, irritants and opportunistic pathogens present in the environment. The skin is essential to all of these basic functions. So important is the integrity of the skin to the survival and vitality of the body that, with the possible exception of the liver, no tissue in the body is vested with more complete powers of rapid self-repair and regeneration.
The skin cannot live independent of the body. In order to live and contribute to the health and survival of the body, skin cells are, in turn, completely dependent on the rest of the body's systems for their survival. Every living cell must be provided with food, water and oxygen, and have
its wastes and toxins removed. The cells of the skin's outer- most layer, the stratum corneum, having been pushed be- yond the reach of nourishing capillaries, are dead, but even they are used by the living layers as expendable shield plates, protecting against environmental invaders, such as the sun and abrasion.
The skin is the largest eliminative organ of the body. Often called "the third kidney," skin works in con- junction with, not separately from, the body's other elirninative channels: the colon, the urinary system and the respiratory system. If these channels are weakened or overloaded, their condition often is reflected in acute or chronic skin eruptions, profuse sweating or body odor. Experience also has shown that if the skin is unhealthy, or if large segments are damaged or occluded, a heavy strain is put on the other systems, and ultimately can result in constipation or diarrhea, urinary tract infections and difficulties, excessive mucous build-up and respiratory congestion.
The skin is the largest respiratory organ of the body. If the pores of the skin were occluded completely, the body would suffocate and die. The lungs simply could not carry the load. Occlusive products and treatments deprive the skin of oxygen in varying degrees, trap waste, toxins and irritants, and cause stress to the other systems.
The skin is the largest organ of nourishment for the body. The skin will absorb beneficial components from esthetic treatments, but it also can take in chemicals and toxins from poorly compounded skin care products, topical medications and the environment. These transdermally absorbed toxins bypass the liver's protective role on their first pass through the bloodstream.
The skin is the largest defensive organ of the body. Skin that is compromised with poor health or with open lesions or wounds cannot protect the body efficiently from an environment filled with germs, toxins and irritants. Nerve endings in the skin are the body's sensors of the surrounding world, instantly signaling the brain about proximal danger, injury, temperature changes and the presence of irritants.
The skin is the body's first level of communication. Before you say or do anything, your odor and appearance tell the world around you much about how you view your- self, and how you wish to be viewed. While the primal and subtle messages transmitted by the natural odors given off by the skin are largely suppressed or camouflaged in con- temporary culture, obsessive social anxiety about presence is reflected in the existence of a multi-billion dollar perfume and toiletry industry. Decoration of the skin, whether by cosmetics, tattooing or accessories is still a principle means of transmitting social attitudes and declaring social position, just as it has been throughout the history of mankind. The converse side of these expressive concerns is that the perception of how skin looks and smells has a powerful effect on self-image and self-esteem.
The skin is the body's bridge between physical and emotional states. The blush of embarrassment, the full flush of rage, shivers of revulsion, clamminess or goose bumps from fear, sweat and rashes from stress, and hives or chills from anxiety are just some of the automatic expressions of emotions seen through the skin. Heightened sensitivity of the skin is pleasurable when it accompanies feelings of love and intimacy, but feels almost electric when it comes from a sense of danger. It stands to reason that if these dramatic and fleeting emotions have such direct and powerful links to the skin, then more subtle and enduring emotions might also reflect on the skin as more subtle and chronic conditions.
ABC's or holistic skin therapy
From the holistic skin therapy perspective, all that is necessary to restore and maintain healthy skin is to activate the body's natural healing responses; build a vital and healthy cellular structure; and cleanse the body of the toxins and irritants that can damage cells. These ABC's of healing are applied in some form by virtually every natural health discipline around the world, including the East Indian science of ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and western naturopathy.
Activation. Activation implies encouraging the skin to generate healthy new cells while supporting the immune system as it guides reconstruction. A classic example would be the use of a natural fruit acid or enzyme topical exfoliant to stimulate cell turnover, while supplementing the diet with traditional immuno stimulant herbs such as Echinacea; una de gato, cat's claw; or astragalus. Activation can be enhanced energetically through the use of acupressure, Reiki healing, homeopathic preparations, floral essences, aromatherapy, prayer or meditation.
Building. Building requires satisfying nutritional deficiencies and pro- viding the basic building blocks for the production of healthy skin cells. Cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and cod, and whole grains, seeds and tree nuts make the best protein sources when trying to return skin's balance. Incorporating as many whole live foods into the diet as possible is essential, and juice is an excellent way to accomplish this. Remind clients to drink plenty of pure water and suggest supplements with bio-available minerals-that is, plant -based or chelated, essential fatty acids such as flax seed or evening primrose oil, and B-complex vitamins to help replenish the most common deficiencies of the Standard American Diet (SAD). Building
healthy skin also is aided by regular treatments built around nourishing masks of natural plant-based or sea- weed extracts. A few drops of evening primrose oil make an excel- lent ampoule or serum.
Cleansing. Cleansing involves ridding the body of residual toxic and irritants so that more of its energy can be directed to repair and maintenance. The body can do only one of three things with everything that comes into it whether it is consummed, inhaled or absorbed. The body must either find a way to use the material for metabolism or maintenance; it must eliminate what it can't use; or it must store it. There are no other choices. Holistically, a toxin is defined as any element that the body cannot use and has not eliminated. It is taking up space, consuming resources that might be better spent, and quite possibly interfering with normal structure or function. Stored toxins are the cornerstones of most health issues.
Effective cleansing requires two commitments. First, poi- sons must stop being input into the body. The clients' diets must be cleaned up; recommend they avoid chemical additives, processed foods, refined sugar, fats and flour, cooked animal proteins, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Digestive enzymes taken with every meal also can reduce the amount of incompletely digested foods that will clog the system. Then, stimulate the body to release stored material. Suggest clients add a high fiber source and drink plenty of purified water to aid in bowel and kidney waste elimination. Herbs have a long history of use in skin care waste as nutritional aids to detoxification on a cellular level as well. The long list includes dandelion root, yellow dock, burdock, Oregon grape and psyllium, among many others. Several prepackaged herbal cleansing formulas also are on the market that can simplify the whole process. Consult with a qualified herbalist if you are unsure which ones to suggest to clients, or find an herbalist you trust to whom you can recommend clients. Dry skin brushing, time in a steam or sauna, and balneo and that lasso therapies prepare the skin directly involved in the detox process.
The role of esthetics
From these basic connections, it can be concluded that whether consciously holistic or not, the practice of esthetics will impact many levels of a client's health and sense of well-being. Truly effective skin care must take into account the skin's relationship and interactive support roles with the whole body, mind and spirit of the client. Skin therapies that ignore these connections are, at best, unnecessarily limited in efficacy or duration. At worst, they actually can exacerbate underlying systemic imbalances by adding more chemicals and toxic topical agents that only serve to sup- press the symptoms of those problems.
It is only fitting that the practice of esthetics should be at the forefront of such an important rebirth, reclaiming in the process its historical role as a natural healing art. After all, even the ancient Greeks recognized that through the treatment of the skin, estheticians were not only affecting the appearance of clients, but also their overall health and self-image. By the same token, they also saw the condition of the skin as an effective guide to the overall health of the body. Troubled skin reveals underlying imbalances, and to enduringly improve the health of the skin, you must improve the health of the whole body. This fundamental two-way nature of the practice of skin care is just as valid today, made only more powerful by the holistically conscious use of modern tools.
Drying up acneic pustules or reducing skin thickness and wrinkles through the application of topical compounds and therapies can appear healing in the short term, it's true. Experience shows, however, that the lifestyle habits and circumstances that brought about the problems in the first place will manifest rapidly unless consideration and support also is given to underlying issues. Efficacy in skin care must include an awareness and consideration of the function of the skin in relation to the function of the whole body, and even to the spirit or psyche of each unique client. For the esthetician who wishes to bring about real and enduring results, skin disorders can no longer be treated effectively as isolated symptoms. Looking beyond the surface of the skin to the client as a whole person, the process of clearing and rejuvenating the skin almost always has a profound relationship to enhanced self-esteem, general vitality and lifestyle improvements. A healthier appearance brings about healthier actions, and healthier actions in turn sustain a healthier appearance.
From the moment of conception, the body's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in each and every cell is encoded with all the information that it needs to produce and maintain supple healthy skin. Except in cases of rare genetic aberrations, it is-on the most basic level-the body's constant exposure to toxins and irritants from both inside and out, emotional and environmental stress, and physical trauma that ages the skin and its underlying support structure. The damage becomes cumulative when nutritional deficiencies deprive the body of the essential elements that it needs to affect repairs and grow healthy new skin. The DNA repair code is present always; however, and damage is seldom totally irreversible.
With support through proper care and diet, the body can generate new skin at an astonishing rate. Billions of skin cells are shed and billions more are created each day. The entire mass of the skin, about 12% of the body's total weight, is recreated and replaced every four weeks. By stimulating this process, providing the nutrition the body needs, and then protecting the result, holistic skin therapy can work in harmony with the power of nature, instead of trying to overcome the consequences of ignoring it. The natural result is glowing, youthful, healthy- looking skin that reflects the vital energy of a balanced body, mind and spirit.
After several generations of being taught to think of medicine as the only fix for health problems that happen to clients, it can be a little intimidating to realize that the healing power of nature has been within them all along.
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