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Leigh Hill

Support a Healthy Skin Barrier Function with Biological Skincare

By Skincare

What do we mean by biological skincare?

In biological medicine, we look at the root cause of illness and follow a holistic approach to healing.  We recognize the body’s natural state is one of health and well-being.  However, when the body’s regulatory systems become overwhelmed by toxins, poor nutrition (leading to poor gut health), dental issues, and stress, the body begins to experience conditions and symptoms that can lead to illness and disease.  Biological medicine considers all aspects of health, utilizing the best methods of ancient wisdom, as well as modern advanced medical practices.

Biological skincare looks to discover the root cause of skin conditions, and helps individuals heal and repair those root causes to bring the skin back into and maintain a state of vitality.

What is the skin barrier?

The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin, scientifically known as the stratum corneum. This is our body’s first layer of protection from the environment, preventing environmental chemicals and biological irritants from entering the body, including free radicals, bacteria, other microbes, allergens, toxic chemicals, ultraviolet light, injury and other external assaults.  

In addition, the barrier’s most important task is to prevent the escape of water from inside the body – a process called Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL). The stratum corneum consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes that are bound together by mortar-like lipids, creating the skin barrier. Inside the skin cells, or “bricks,” you’ll find keratin and natural moisturizers. The lipid layer contains cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides. This thin “brick wall” is literally keeping you alive. Without it, all sorts of harmful environmental toxins and pathogens could penetrate your skin and wreak havoc in your body. 

When the skin’s barrier function is working well, the skin is hydrated, plump, radiant and firm. But when it breaks down, overall skin health goes with it.   A compromised skin barrier isn’t a disease, it is an external issue that can be healed and restored.  It is also essential that we nourish the skin’s barrier function from the inside with a healthy diet. When our skin barrier is stressed and compromised we lose collagen and elastin even faster than through the normal aging process.  Collagen and elastin are essential for healthy, plump, toned and vibrant skin.  

The key to skin vitality is a healthy, nourished barrier function.

What are the conditions we see from a compromised barrier function?

Dry, flaky, itchy, irritated and sensitive skin are all common signs of a compromised barrier function.  Our barrier function also thins as part of the aging process.  This irritation and thinning of the barrier function leaves us susceptible to environmental toxins, sagging, dryness, breakouts, inflammation and irritation.  Dry skin is more permeable to irritants and allergens that may trigger inflammation leading to breakouts of acne (there are additional conditions which lead to acne breakouts), dermatitis, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and premature aging.

There are numerous sources of stress and inflammation that compromise our skin’s barrier function.  In biological skincare we consider the following to be root causes of stress and inflammation: 

  • Poor dental health, gut health and overall health
  • Poor nutrition
  • Emotional stress and/or trauma
  • Lack of movement – lymph stagnation
  • Dehydration
  • Environmental pollution and toxins
  • Medications
  • Smoking
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Sun exposure

Additional sources of stress and inflammation come from over-exfoliation; harsh skin care treatments; skin care products with unsafe ingredients; unfiltered water; and environmental conditions such as exposure to wind, dryness and cold.

How do we nourish, support and heal our skin’s barrier function during times of stress? 

Movement is essential for proper barrier function.  It improves circulation of the lymph system/fluid for detoxification. Movement improves circulation of blood to the skin, bringing in nutrients and hydration.  Our skin needs exercise to improve its tone and texture, reduce puffiness, and to deliver ingredients deeper into the dermis.  In addition to physical exercise for the whole body, modalities for “moving” the skin can include facial massage and lymph stimulation, whole body massage, manual lymph drainage, Gua Sha, and skin brushing.

Eating an alkaline diet is beneficial not only for the skin’s barrier function, but for our overall health.  We need foods that are rich in prebiotics, probiotics, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants to support our gut health and in turn, our skin’s health.  One of my favorite skin-loving foods is the beautiful avocado.  It’s high in monounsaturated fat (the “good” fat), and rich in potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E. It is also a great source of fiber.  I recommended eating an avocado a day along with:

  • clean proteins – either organic plant based proteins, or organic grass fed animal based proteins
  • healthy fats including organic olive oil, seeds and nuts
  • dark leafy greens
  • colorful foods that are rich in antioxidants – orange, red, blue, yellow, green
  • fermented foods that are natural sources of pre- and probiotics – kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, miso

Eat a diet rich in whole foods.  Avoid or strictly limit processed foods, refined sugar, and consuming too much alcohol.

At BioVital we believe strongly in the need for supporting the body with what we call Coherence Therapies.  These therapies provide deep relaxation by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (vagus/soul nerve).  Sound bowl healing, therapeutic foot baths and nurturing facials are a few examples of treatments we offer that provide this type of parasympathetic deep dive.  We also recommend:

  • massage – healthy human touch is essential for a sense of well-being and relaxation
  • breathwork – breathing moves the lymph, lowers our heart rate, oxygentates our cells
  • meditation
  • diffusing oils of coniferous plants – balsam, fir, pine to reduce blood pressure.  This is a beautiful practice to do at the end of the day before bed.
  • getting a “Nature Fix” – within five minutes of being in a forest your blood pressure begins to drop, your facial muscles relax, your frontal lobe quiets down, the smell of pine strengthens your immune system, increases your happiness and sense of connection to others and the world around you

Our skin needs support through the use of healthy, clean products and a nurturing regimen. We must reduce the toxic load for the skin. Use products with a clean ingredient deck that repair DNA.  Absolutely avoid products with parabens, phthalates, fragrance, triclosan, formaldehyde, toluene, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), hydroquinone, polyethylene glycol (PEGS), and synthetic colors. 

We need to cleanse our skin properly.  Many of us tend to under cleanse for fear of drying out our skin.  Be sure to cleanse with the right ingredients for our individual skin’s needs.  Use a cleanser that does not contain surfactants – no foaming ingredients.  A cleansing balm or cleansing oil are perfect for removing toxins from the facial skin and protecting barrier function, and can be formulated for a variety of skin conditions, including acne.  We carry a variety of clean, safe skin cleansing products from Osmosis Pur MD Skincare that are wonderful  cleansing and hydrating options for your face.  Please note that soap and water are very drying and irritating in the long run for your skin.  Even the brands with organic castile soap are not ideal for use on your face, or  your whole body.  They strip your skin of it’s essential natural oils, leaving you dry and unprotected from the elements.

Exercise skin in the morning. This is when we should exfoliate and use more active ingredients.  Night time is rejuvenation time for the skin – do not use products that cause inflammation or irritation. Apply products that hydrate and moisturize, but make sure the skin can breathe – choose a serum over a heavy night cream for most nights for your face and neck, and a clean body lotion for the rest of your skin (I recommend the unscented body lotion from the brand everyone as an affordable, clean option).

Exfoliate with care.  Use an enzyme based exfoliant only 1-2 times a week, depending upon your skin type and conditions. If your skin is dull and flaky and in need of a stronger exfoliation treatment, see an esthetician for a professional treatment.  This would include a microderm treatment, dermaplaning, infusion facial, or Salt Facial treatment.

Our barrier function benefits from the use of the following safe supplements, ingredients and practices:

  • Antioxidants – Vitamins A, C and E, topically and internally (drink green tea)
  • Vitamin A – we carry Osmosis Pur Medical skincare products which contain retinaldehyde in a liposomal delivery system which is essential in getting retinaldehyde to the dermis, not just sitting on the skin’s surface/ epidermal layer.  Retinaldehyde is beautiful as it is non-irritating to the skin and does not increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
  • Resveratrol – found in red wine, be sure to limit to one glass daily
  • Hyaluronic acid – a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the skin, binding water to collagen.  Applied topically it attracts moisture from the environment to the skin to bind with collagen to increase plumpness.
  • Wear a ‘big ass” hat and use a  clean chemical-free sunscreen.  Choose one that is zinc based, nourishing and hydrating.
  • Use a clean, safe deodorant – salt crystals are wonderful

Safe Skin Treatments offered by BioVital Skincare to Repair and Support the Barrier Function

  • Facials – Infusion Facial boosts the skin’s immunity and increases nutrition 
  • SaltFacial L-avantage – pH balancing exfoliation, ultrasonic infusion of product 
  • LED light treatment to build collagen, elastin, reduce inflammation, speed healing time, destroy acne bacteria, repair tissue
  • Gua Sha – moves lymph, releases tension, tightens and tones the skin, increases product penetration, circulates vital nutrients

What else does our barrier function need ?

Sleep. We need a good night’s sleep to support our body’s regulatory functions, and our skin is no exception.  Our skin detoxes at night when we sleep, so it’s essential to use a restoring serum on the skin that allows it to breath and prevents the trapping of heat on the skin.

Sweat. Exercise, soak in the hot springs, sit in an infrared sauna or take a hot yoga class.  Sweat is one of the primary ways that the body detoxifies itself.

Hydration. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.  With filtered water. Drink at least half your body weight daily.

Support your liver – this is our detoxifier, people!  Use a daily tincture with burdock, cleavers, dandelion, milk thistle, and/or yellow dock.  Drink 1-3 cups of herbal tea that nourishes and supports your liver and digestion.  Herbs to look for and blend are alfalfa, red clover, nettles, burdock, peppermint, calendula and dandelion, just to name a few.

Cleanse your colon. Have a series of three colonics to get your intestines functioning better, then eat nourishing whole foods and fermented foods to renourish your gut’s microbiome.  

Experience Joy! If you’ve lost your joy, reclaim it. Look at your support systems – do you need more caring people in your life; do you need to heal and repair, or perhaps even end difficult relationships; do you need to work with a skilled therapist to work through trauma or psychological illness?  Do you need to play more or rest more?  Those gorgeous smile lines we get around our eyes and the corners of our mouth are the true reflections of living joy-filled lives.  Our barrier function loves that!

Resources:

The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams

How To Do Dry Brushing Correctly, with Kristin Cena

A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, by Ruth Winter, M.S.

The Beauty of Dirty Skin, by Whitney Bowe, MD

Nutrition and the Gut Microbiome, with Leigh Frame, PhD

Bay Laurel Essential Oil – apply this to the major lymphatic watersheds before dry skin brushing, then take a hot shower to help the oil further penetrate the skin, and finish with a slathering of sesame oil on the body while it’s wet to seal in moisture on the skin and give the skin’s barrier function a big boost.  Use organic jojoba, apricot or olive oil on your face, depending upon your skin’s conditions.

Skin Tea – this is a beautiful blend of skin-loving herbs that support the skin’s barrier function and health.  Available through Herbalism Roots Apothecary.

Think Dirty App, learn what ingredients are in the products you use and if they are safe or not (thank you, Lacey, for this recommendation!)

Written by Leigh Ann Hill, Licensed Holistic Esthetician, skincare@biovitalhealth.com

303.333.9000