Last week I shared the exact foods and lifestyle habits you want in your life right now to slow the aging process, nourish your cells from the inside out, and ultimately gain that clear, glowing skin you’ve been craving. This is really the foundation of how to keep your skin healthy and where I encourage you to begin. But there are scenarios where your skin may need even more TLC. Especially as we move into the hot summer months when it is more common for skin to overheat, burn, or get red and irritated. Unfortunately for some folks inflamed and irritated skin is a daily concern. For those of you with eczema, acne, or psoriasis it is not only the summer when your skin needs extra loving attention. Is your skin prone to inflammation and irritation? Perhaps you have always had extremely sensitive skin—the type that sunburns in a matter of minutes, or that breaks out in hives after a seemingly minor contact with something “foreign.” Maybe you suffer from burning or itching sensations, acne, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, or any number of other inflammatory skin conditions. Today let’s take a look at what you can do both internally and externally to soothe your inflamed and irritated skin.
Inside Out Nutrition
First and foremost choose foods and beverages that are going to nourish and moisturize your cells from the inside out, refer to my Glowing Skin Post for the exact strategies plus my post on Cooling Summer Beverages for creative and yummy ways to stay hydrated. Next, as we move into summer, make sure you’re including foods which increase your body’s innate sun protection. Essentially this means that you are eating your sunscreen and this can be even more important during the summer months. By improving your body’s inner SPF, you’ll be less likely to burn and less in need of toxic sunscreens.
Natural SPF Boosters
- Antioxidants – think colorful fruits, veggies, and spices
- Carotene Rich Foods – sweet potatoes, carrots, pink grapefruit, watermelon, apricots, etc
- Green Tea
- Coconut Oil
- Vitamin D – although being in the sun helps boost your vitamin D levels, if you’re low sometimes this will not be enough to raise your amount to an optimal level. Get your levels checked and supplement if necessary.
Next, add foods that are cooling in nature and limit or avoid foods that are heating. This is where I pull from integrative medicine by blending multiple philosophies into one healthy, balanced life. According to Ayurveda, pitta is responsible for the color, texture, and temperature of the skin. When pitta is out of balance, it will likely manifest in the skin. Ayurveda is an ancient medical model from India, which is focused on the concept of balancing bodily systems. You can learn more about Ayurveda here. Summer is a decidedly pitta season, meaning the qualities in nature during summertime mirror the qualities of pitta; more light, heat, intensity, and sharpness. This also means that the likelihood of pitta imbalance is higher during the summer. One of the ways to help keep pitta in balance is with cooling foods; specifically foods which are sweet, astringent, and bitter by nature. Try to include more of the following:
- Sweet – grapes, melons, cherries, coconut, avocado, mango, pomegranate, plums, peaches, dates, beets, carrots, cucumber, sweet potato, olives, grains (wheat, rice, barley, oats are best), beans, cashews, pumpkin seed
- Astringent – apples, bananas, cranberries, cruciferous veggies, most raw veggies
- Bitter – leafy greens, turmeric, sesame, dark chocolate
- Other – fresh coconut water, coriander, cumin, mint, cilantro, fennel, cardamom, saffron, olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil
The opposite also holds true. To decrease your intake of heating foods or foods which aggravate pitta; specifically salty, pungent, and sour foods.
- Salty – celery, seaweed, sea salt, cottage cheese, soy sauce
- Pungent/Spicy – garlic, onions, chili, ginger, radishes, mustard, black pepper
- Sour – grapefruit, lemon, lime, apricots, berries, pickles, tomatoes, vinegar, most fermented foods, garlic, cheese, yogurt
- Other – alcohol
Although at first these lists may seem a bit daunting I challenge you to play with them. I was very surprised to learn that personally if I do too much citrus, vinegar, or alcohol I immediately see a flare-up in my skin; usually in the form of an itchy rash. Of course, this is even worse in the summer and although I can get away with a bit during the colder months I definitely have to monitor my intake of heating foods during the summer months.
Support Digestion & Detoxification
The skin has a very complex relationship with the inner ecology of the body. What shows on the surface of the skin is actually reflecting what’s happening deeper in the body. When trying to uncover the root cause of an inflammatory skin condition there are many places to look. I find that usually one or more of the following three areas are the most likely culprits; an imbalance in digestion, sluggish detoxification, and/or food sensitivities. The remedy then is to make changes in your diet and lifestyle that better support healthy digestion and optimal detoxification.
Explore Food Sensitivities
The third and final challenge is exploring possible food sensitivities. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve helped over the years, including myself, that were unknowingly suffering from food sensitivities. Until we identified and removed the offending foods were we really able to affect change and get to the root of their health crisis. In the coming weeks I’ll be diving even deeper into this topic and sharing with you the exact strategies for moving through your own exploration of food sensitivities. So stay tuned!
Nourishment From The Outside In
The bottom line here is no amount of topical cream, lotion, salve, or remedy will truly take care of the problem if you’re not also addressing what’s happening on the inside. That said though, as you’re moving through the internal strategies there are some helpful allies that you can use on the outside to soothe and nurture the skin. As with everything, keep it natural, organic if possible, and pure. Everything you put on your skin will be absorbed into your bloodstream. So really try to limit the amount of chemicals that you’re applying. Here is a list of some of my favorite natural go-to’s:
- Natural Oils — Coconut, Olive, Neem, Argan, Cocoa Butter (I particularly like to use cocoa butter after I’ve been in the sun; it works really well)
- Aloe Vera — fresh from the plant is best
- Sunburn Spray (recipe from www.wellnessmama.com) — Boil 1 cup of water and add 2 tablespoons of dried mint leaf, lavender flowers, and dried plantain leaf. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain out the herbs. Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the cooled tea mixture and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on burn as often as needed to cool and soothe the pain.
Another external strategy that I’ve only recently started including in my skin care routine is facial massage. I am totally in love with this! Using one of the natural oils listed above you gently massage your face, neck, and chest; for as little or as long as you have time for. Not only are you nourishing and moisturizing your skin with a healthy oil but you’re also stimulating your circulation and removing toxins. All of which helps keep your skin clear, glowing, and youthful!! Watch an amazing facial massage tutorial here.
Take Home Message
The most important take home message is that what’s showing up on the surface of your skin is a direct reflection of what’s happening on the inside of your body. So the only way to truly soothe and support your skin is from the inside out. Start with the basic foods that will nourish your cells and support healthy skin, followed by a focus on more cooling foods when the skin gets inflamed or irritated, plus soothing and natural topical remedies. Dive deeper for chronically inflamed skin by looking at digestion, detoxification, and food sensitivities. Want more? Join The Tribe and receive tips, inspiration, recipes, and more delivered straight to your Inbox every week! (this article was first published on 6/18/17)