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Good skincare isn’t just about what you put on your skin, but what you put in it. From acne and dryness to rosacea and wrinkles, many of our lifelong skin complaints are easily addressed by getting to the root of the problem, which often lies inside the body.
Diet, digestion, and our emotions are all factors affecting our skin’s appearance, says Swedish-Spanish naturopath Lina Bou of My Taste of Health. At a recent workshop on Paris's Rive Droite, Bou shared her skincare wisdom with a group of women interested in getting a better grasp on organic, holistic approaches to achieving healthy skin. With an emphasis on easy-to-source, pared down, über-natural ingredients, Bou taught us how to build our own natural skin-care apothecaries at home. Here are some of her simple foundations you can try:
Whether applied topically, added to our bathwater, or inhaled deeply during a facial steam, essential oils can support healthy skin while making us feel invigorated or relaxed when we need it most. “The nose is the fastest conduit to our brain,” says Bou. “This makes oils an extremely effective means of getting right to the problem.” When applied to our skin, either straight or diluted in a carrier oil such as olive, coconut, or sweet almond oil, essential oils can quickly and gently address a number of issues, too. On Bou’s essential list are:
Lavender—This healthy-smelling oil is antibacterial and great for burns and acne. You can apply it directly to the skin without irritation, and it has the added benefit of supporting good sleep, which will also help improve the quality of your skin.
Peppermint—Add a single drop to a bottle of water to help with digestion, which can help improve nutrient absorption, which can in turn support the health of your your skin. Also works to pep you up and improve concentration.
Eucalyptus—This potent oil is very healing when applied to wounds, burns, bug bites, and stings. Its strong antiseptic properties mean that while it’s helping you heal, it’s also keeping infection at bay.
Ylang Ylang—This intensely floral oil is both antiseptic and calming, and helps balance the skin. It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac; many who wear it as a fragrance report an increase in attention from the opposite sex.
Double Duty Oils
Some oils that you already have in your kitchen are multipurpose, and can support healthy skin and hair when taken both internally and externally. No need to rush out and buy “special” varieties: The stuff you’ve got on hand will do!
Coconut oil—This de rigueur oil is popular for many good reasons. It possesses anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that can help keep skin issues at bay. “It also helps your gut flora and it’s good for your thyroid,” says Bou, who suggests rubbing it into your stomach when you have digestive issues for outside-working-in support. Massage a little noisette into your skin after a shower instead of your usual moisturizer, adding a drop or two of essential oil if you’re not a fan of the warming coconut aroma. It's also fabulous as a once-a-week deep conditioning treatment for your hair.
Olive Oil—Like coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil supports skin health when applied externally, thanks to its bouquet of anti-oxidants, including Vitamin A and E. Try it as a make-up remover, moisturizer, or—as we did in Bou’s workshop, transform it into an exfoliating cleanser by blending it with salt or sugar and a few drops of essential oil.
Some herbs, like lavender, are multifunctional, working as a perfumes, sleep aids, and tonics that can help our skin stay healthy and make us feel great at the same time. Bou recommends adding these two teas to your beauty regimen.
Pau d’Arco—This anti-inflammatory South American herb kills bacteria, supports the lymphatic system, gets circulation going, and aids digestion. “It can also help rid the body of candida,” says Bou. It can be purchased as prefab tea bags, or in bulk for a DIY brew.
Lavender—Sipping an aromatic cup of steeped lavender flowers can aid digestion, which in turn helps improve your skin’s health by enabling absorption of the nutrients in your food. Lavender also acts as a nerve tonic. When we’re stressed, we release the acne-causing hormone cortisol into the bloodstream, but lavender tea is a side-effect free antidote and preventive measure.
Pumpkin Seeds—These little green guys are loaded with zinc, which is wonderful for the skin thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Pumpkin seeds taste good, too, and can be added to your morning muesli, sprinkled over salads, or simply nibbled as a snack.