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What is my skin trying to tell me?

We mostly think of our skin when it comes to how we look, but beyond beauty, the functions of our skin centre around protecting and nourishing our bodies, as well as sensory function and maintenance processes. When we know how to “read” our skin, it can also tell us about our health on the inside.

Chinese Face Mapping

One tool used in holistic medicine, particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is face mapping. Here, the main problem areas on your face are used to determine the underlying cause of skin conditions. For example, you may have issues with kidney detoxification if the problem is under your eyes; or your intestines may not be supporting nutrition or detoxification well if it is in the centre of your forehead. TCM considers both the physical body and flow of energy, so the causes are at least as likely to involve energy flow as they are to have poor nutrient flow or toxin removal underneath.

Skin And Emotional Health

Our face not only mirrors our soul, but the connection of our inner and outer world.

Many people don’t notice just how much emotions can impact skin health. Feeling jittery about an important interview, excited about an upcoming party, or sad over a tragedy can all affect our skin. Modern science is only just beginning to discover how our appearance is connected to the mind and emotions.

Some of us may show stress on our skin as acne; others may develop rosacea flare-ups from the same emotions or situations. Yet more of us may get hives from excessive stress. Our emotions affect the quality of our skin, even partly controlling the rate and type of aging through hormones such as cortisol.

On the other hand, happiness makes your skin glow! Positive feelings of joy and happiness promote the release of neurotransmitters that relieve inflammation and improve blood flow. This nourishes your skin and improves its detoxification.

Here are some ways the skin, hormones, and our emotions are all connected:

  • Stress increases production of the hormone cortisol, which is intended to increase available energy to the body. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of proteins to produce sugar for this energy, and sometimes the connective tissue proteins in our skin are affected. Without repair, this speeds up skin aging.

  • The hormone that simulates cortisol production, CRH, also increases inflammation in the skin, leading to redness, dryness and damage if left to go on.

  • Stress impacts our sleep patterns, and this leads to faster skin aging, seen by increased wrinkling, less elasticity and uneven pigmentation.

  • Adrenaline and noradrenaline impair wound healing and skin maintenance by slowing the production of collagen, a key connective tissue protein.

  • Nerve growth factor not only promotes nerve regeneration. It also supports the growth and function of skin cells and collagen production. However, it may be overactive in psoriasis.

Digestive Health And Skin

Digestive health plays an important role in all skin problems, even allergies. For example, research involving people with acne has shown a link between skin conditions and “leaky gut”. This is where the intestinal lining has poor integrity and toxins from bacteria can enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation. On the other hand, a fermented milk drink containing anti-inflammatory probiotic species was shown in another study to significantly reduce inflammation, spots and total acne severity. Last but not least, the intestines also serve to digest our experiences in a spiritual sense, so that our life story is always reflected by the skin.

Why Organic Cosmetics?

It is also important to remember that our skin is full of nerve and blood vessel pathways. There are four metres of nerves per square centimetre of skin. All blood that nourishes and detoxifies the skin eventually returns to the heart and travels throughout the body. As this carries away chemical toxins, it is clear why we must only use organic cosmetics.

True and honest natural skincare products do not promise one-size-fits-all cosmetic miracles, but instead provide individual and lasting support for both healthy and stressed skin.

Yes, the skin does absorb much of what we apply to it. Ingredients are the most important aspect of a skincare product. This is why we are transparent with our ingredients, as we have nothing to hide – and love it that way!

Ingredients that may be safe when used only once can lead to serious problems over years of regular use. Because of absorption into the body, some of these harm us on the inside too. In many cases, we only know about this years after they began to be sold. And as many of us use dozens of products every day, the effects of harmful ingredients can add up and multiply with each other.

The risks of allowing man-made chemicals to be absorbed into our bodies mean products must be all-natural or meet the standards for organic certification, not simply be synthetic with the addition of natural essential oils. Many products advertise with an image of purity, but contain cheap synthetic ingredients that cause harm in the long term. For example, use of conventional personal care products that contain synthetic perfume is linked to reduced lung function. Even if it is only a small impairment, already having allergies or asthma can mean you need all the lung capacity you can get. Parabens, which are used as preservatives, slow down skin regeneration and as a result speed up aging. Both the strong outer layer’s cells and the collagen underneath do not self-renew as well when parabens build up in the skin.

A Daily Ritual

Most importantly, especially when it comes to emotional health, self-love must form a part of any skincare routine. While rituals help give meaning to even the most everyday practices, we sometimes develop them without knowing, and they can unfortunately be rituals of self-criticism.

We are all different, and these differences are what make the world beautiful. Our skin colours range from near snow-white to almost midnight-black; our hair may be straight or tightly curled; our body hair, facial features and frame all are varied to make our bodies unique. Our skincare rituals should not be routines of searching for differences we were born with, then identifying them as flaws.

Holistic theories about the mind-body link describe skin problems as having a general theme of feeling inadequate. This does not necessarily mean you see your appearance as inadequate. You may feel unworthy of something, or that you cannot be true to your feelings.

Let’s try a new ritual. Next time you are in front of the mirror, send love to every cell in your body, with thoughts of health and regeneration, through your fingertips when performing your skincare routine. With each application of face oil and serum, send the intentions of love and healing, as nutrition is not just physical, but vibrational.


Chen, Y., & Lyga, J. (2014). Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging. Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets, 13(3), 177–190. doi:10.2174/1871528113666140522104422

Dales, R. E., Cakmak, S., Leech, J., & Liu, L. (2013). The association between personal care products and lung function. Annals of Epidemiology, 23(2), 49–53. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.11.006

Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Elsevier.

Ishiwatari, S., Suzuki, T., Hitomi, T., Yoshino, T., Matsukuma, S., & Tsuji, T. (2006). Effects of methyl paraben on skin keratinocytes. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 27(1), 1–9. doi:10.1002/jat.1176

Juhlin, L., & Michaëlsson, G. (1983). Fibrin microclot formation in patients with acne. Acta dermato-venereologica, 63(6), 538–540.

Kim, J., Ko, Y., Park, Y. K., Kim, N. I., Ha, W. K., & Cho, Y. (2010). Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 26(9), 902–909. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.05.011

Noontil, A. (1994). The Body is the Barometer of the Soul.

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