Now unless you’re one of those fortunate souls that regardless of what they eat or how much stress they experience, their skin always looks immaculate, you’ve probably found yourself at times feeling exactly the way I have throughout my life—waking up in the morning after a decent sleep and zombie walking to the bathroom only to look in the mirror and find yourself saying, “seriously, what the f*ck?” as you notice the fill-in-the-gap-here on your face.
I have been there time and time again, starting early in high school with the joys of puberty. Skin issues can be frustrating, especially when we take the time and energy to “do the right thing” by our bodies.
Whether we find ourselves suffering from acne, eczema, rosacea, hyper-pigmentation, acne scars or cellulite, we all feel and know the psychological damage that can occur as a result of feeling down on ourselves, ugly and not enough. And it’s not just women—men feel this way too.
But skin issues usually indicate that something is not functioning adequately on the inside, so it’s our body’s way of sending warning signs—which is quite fortunate as I’d much rather deal with the underlying problems today than when I’m diagnosed with something severe down the track. Even though it can be difficult and depleting to our self-esteem, try to think of these experiences as a blessing, because they ultimately teach us how to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.
Throughout high school, when puberty was against me, I tried product after product and slathered on makeup to cover my imperfections. I hated doing this, but mentally and emotionally felt that there was no other option. While I still see many flaws with my skin today, I know that we often see things worse than what other people perceive, so I figure at some point we really do have to accept what we have and learn to love our whole selves.
We will never feel true freedom until we unconditionally love ourselves in our rawest form. I’ve had many times in my life where I hid behind makeup, piercings and extravagant hair colours, all in the hope that no one would recognize the insecure person at the center of it all. I don’t believe it’s entirely our fault that we feel this way. We see “beautiful” people with “flawless” skin every single day: on screen, in magazines, on the street and even at our workplaces. And as a result we aspire to be just like those individuals, without appreciating that it isn’t real, but rather the end result of over-manipulation by computers, lighting, cosmetic surgery and layers upon layers of chemically-laced products.
It intrigues me to learn what people don’t like about themselves. I had one friend with the most beautiful curls, who always straightened them because she hated her natural texture. I had another friend who had gorgeous freckles across her nose and cheeks, but always hid them under layers of makeup. We see this every day with the desire for cosmetic surgery, bleached-white and straight teeth, perfectly styled hair, expensive clothes and a lean body—how on earth do we get out of this vicious superficial cycle?
I’m not saying we should stop caring about how we look or present ourselves to the world. But we need to start a conversation with ourselves and reflect on where we are holding resentment, rather than letting our natural selves shine. For me, it’s about flicking that mental switch and saying, “I am beautiful just as I am, even the parts of myself that I don’t yet love or even accept—they are a part of me, and that’s beautiful.”
It’s also about sending a message to society, that we are not plastic, size 0 dolls with air brushed, porcelain skin and zero cellulite—we are whole, real, sensitive, living and breathing human beings. We are each unique and gifted and we should feel proud to show that to the world without judgement and with each and every one of our “imperfections” included.
And while we can’t, and shouldn’t, change everything we don’t accept about ourselves, we can improve some to make us feel more comfortable or confident. Here are five natural skincare solutions that can help us achieve a healthy, glowing complexion. Everyone’s skin type is different, so while the skin care solutions listed have helped me, they may not work for everyone. They are, however, more beneficial than the endless chemically-based products available in stores and online.
If you want clear skin and a healthy complexion, you can’t eat sh*tty foods. While some people can get away with it, it doesn’t always work that way—and just because no damage is surfacing on the outside, doesn’t mean our body isn’t being damaged on the inside. A fiber-rich and naturally-colourful diet filled with fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds will adequately fuel your body, feed the healthy gut bacteria and provide a variety of essential macro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are hydrating and tend to be alkalizing on the body and assist in detoxification.
Filtered water is also essential for keeping your cells hydrated and skin smooth and soft. If you have naturally dry skin or drink coffee, tea and/or alcohol, try to increase your daily intake of water a little more than the norm to counteract the dehydrating effects. Eliminating animal products, sugar and processed foods will rid your body of toxins and high acidity, as these foods are a lot harder for the body to break down and place extra pressure on the digestive system. These foods also bring the bodies pH levels into an acidic state. Dairy consumption, with milk in particular, has also been known to cause skin related issues such as acne and inflammation, due to the high hormones and certain proteins found in the product. Everyone is different, so find what works in your favor.
Sleep is paramount to looking and feeling healthy. Our bodies needs time to rest, restore and rebuild, and this happens while we sleep. Aim for 7-10 hours per night. Everyone needs enough sleep, no one can truly thrive off sleep deprivation—it will catch up with you eventually!
Exercise is key to improving the quality of our skin. When we exercise, we are pumping blood and oxygen more efficiently around the body and stimulating all the internal systems. The lymphatic system also relies on breath, water and movement to improve the circulation of lymph throughout the body, which strengthens our immunity. Exercise helps us get a better nights sleep and releases stress and nervous tension; this means that in deep sleep we break down and digest our food effectively, delivering essential nutrients to the cells and removing waste and tension in the bodymind.
Stress causes havoc on our bodies. Due to the way society is set up and our over-stimulating lifestyles, many of us run on high stress throughout the day and don’t sleep well at night. Stress management, relaxation and meditation are important in treating skin issues, because stress causes inflammation in the body and messes with our hormones. As a result, our body attempts to detox this out through the skin. Try going for a slow walk, listening to music that allows you to feel calm, chanting, practicing yoga, learning to breathe properly (most of us shallow breathe), getting massages regularly and exercising often. Any of these will help to bring balance back into the nervous system and help us sleep more deeply.
Dry brushing: Helps to remove dead skin cells and encourages blood flow, cell renewal and production of collagen. Do circular movements on the whole body, including gentle movements on the face.
Apple cider vinegar: Has anti-bacterial properties, malic and lactic acids that soften and exfoliate skin whilst balancing the pH of your skin (and blood when taken internally). Also helps to reduce red spots, acne and inflammation. Use externally as a cleanser by applying with a tissue/cotton ball and take internally (approx 1-2 shots per day in a glass of lemon and water).
Cooling face mask: Combine natural or coconut yogurt with honey, aloe vera and blended cucumber into the consistency of a paste. Apply externally and leave dry for 20-30 minutes, then rinse off and apply shea butter or your favourite oil/moisturizer.
Colloidal silver: Has been proven to fight off unnecessary bacteria and assist in the healing process. A known anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and has also been used in place of antibiotics (as it does not kill healthy bacteria). Good for rosacea, skin infections and fungal infections. Spray or apply gel to affected area until symptoms subside and take orally. Do not use excessively and research before use.
Lemon juice: Helps to lighten acne scars. Dab with a cotton bud onto areas of scarring and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing.
Organic coffee scrub: Provides mineral rich oils to the skin, smooths and exfoliates and has been said to reduce cellulite.
Be sure to find organic ground coffee. It can get messy so firstly rinse in the shower, then turn the water off, scrub your whole body with dry ground coffee and gently on your face as well as areas of cellulite. Stand in the shower awkwardly for 2-5 minutes, then rinse off!
Raw and organic shea butter: Great as a pure skin moisturizer due to the natural vitamins and fatty acids it feeds into the skin. Assists with dry skin and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. I prefer shea butter as it feels light and does not clog my pores.
Sunshine and fresh air: Fresh air without makeup or zinc blocking our pores allows our skin to breathe and, in my experience, helps to clear up our skin. Sunlight also provides us with Vitamin D which is important for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Unless you are allergic to the sun, we should aim to get a little sunshine in the early hours of the day and evenings. It’s important to use common sense: if in the summer time you work inside all day, then you don’t need to put unnecessary chemicals on your skin, but have a hat and sun glasses on hand to cover up when you do go outside. Don’t expose your face to the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. unless you cannot avoid it, then cover up or use zinc appropriately. Understand your climate and environment.
You can find most of these items at your local health food store, in your fridge and even in your own backyard.
Author: Erin Stevenson
Editor: Nicole Cameron