One of the biggest breakthroughs I had with my skin came when I stopped trying so hard to label it and began to see its’ adaptive nature. All throughout adolescence I obsessed over my oily skin, longing for it to be dry. When I moved away from my hometown, after graduating high school, I noticed an almost immediate shift to a drier complexion. I honestly thought it was a stroke of luck at the time, knowing next to nothing about my skin (even though by then I’d been at war with it for years).
In actuality, our skin is adaptable and ever-changing like all life. It took me a while to realize that my skin got drier after high school because I changed climates and was living in a less-humid area, causing my skin to be drier on a daily basis. It seems obvious to me now, but many of us don’t see our skin for all that it is. It is the physical point of connection between us and our environment, mediating what can and cannot enter the physical being. As the environment changes, as the seasons change, as does our skin.
As it gets cooler, there are a few different practices that I turn to in order to keep my skin nourished and radiant through the Fall and Winter.
Hydration is always important, but it’s a good practice to increase your intake in the Fall/Winter, especially if you already don’t drink enough water throughout the day. For your skin to stay hydrated, you must drink water - it cannot be applied externally. Hydrosols and facial mists are wonderful skincare tools, but water molecules are actually too large to be absorbed by our skin, meaning that they simply sit on the outermost layer until they evaporate (if we could absorb them, we’d soak up like a sponge in water!). Facial mists can certainly be a vehicle for delivering beneficial plant compounds to the skin, but they do not actually hydrate it.
I feel compelled to add that not all water is the same. If you are so fortunate, pure, unheated/untreated, living spring water is the best! Reverse osmosis and filtered waters are also great. I would caution against drinking water straight from your tap unless you are fully conscious on what is actually in there, as most tap water is contaminated with toxic chemicals.
I suggest drinking 3 liters to a gallon daily. Of course, you aren’t required to drink straight water! Infused water is a great way to get vitamins and minerals in with your hydration. Which brings me to my next practice…
Why so specific? Truthfully, you can drink whatever kind of herbal tea you’d like! However, I prefer to sip on elderflower in the Fall/Winter for a few reasons. First, elderflower contains Vitamin A and C which are important for skin and overall health as well as antioxidants to prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Elderflower is also diaphoretic, meaning it causes perspiration. We tend to sweat a lot less in the Fall and Winter as the climate is much cooler and our tissues are more contracted. By drinking elderflower, we open the pathways to release toxins and excess sebum, cleansing the skin naturally. As a bonus, elderflower tea is wonderful when applied topically to the skin! Use your leftover tea to wash your face or mix it in with a clay mask.
It seems like everyone is aware of the benefits of bone broth, which is easy to understand as it’s one of the oldest medicinal foods. It deeply mineralizes, boosts immunity, is healing for the gut and improves digestion, balances the endocrine system, reduces inflammation, promotes probiotic balance, and is ripe with collagen! I have made it a practice to drink 8 oz. of broth each morning first thing. You can also use it as a base for soups or grain dishes but I find that my daily cup keeps my skin calm and clear.
What are carotenoids? You may be familiar with the most well-known amongst them, beta-carotene. Carotenoids are plant pigments that are naturally found in yellow/orange fruits and dark green veggies. Beta-carotene is the most abundant of all carotenoids and is converted into Vitamin A by the body, which we already know is important for skin health. Lucky for us, Fall/Winter is the perfect time to load up on these skin healing foods!
Try sweet potato, winter squashes, carrots, and dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, or beet greens! Broccoli, cantaloupe, and sweet red peppers are also a great source of beta-carotene.
Speaking of food, it’s important as the weather gets cooler to keep our digestive fire, our Agni, stoked and burning. Sluggish digestion means that we aren’t effectively absorbing the nutrients from the food we eat and we aren’t getting rid of the (literal) crap that we’re already holding onto. Because our skin is an organ of elimination, it will then take on the burden of eliminating toxins through the skin as acne since they aren’t being released through efficient bowel movements. It’s normal for digestion to become more sluggish in the Fall/Winter, but we can keep our Agni stoked with a few simple supplements.
Ghee is an ancient healing food, also known as clarified butter. It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Vitamin D as well as Omega-3 and other beneficial fatty acids. It boosts energy, reduces inflammation, and supports the immune system. Use it for cooking, blend it into your coffee/tea for a lazy latte, or take a tablespoon each morning to warm the body.
Digestive Bitters - they aren’t the tastiest herbal supplement, but they’re worth it. Historically, my digestion is quite slow and so I love to take these daily before or after a meal. I personally use these and would definitely recommend them. In Western societies, we tend to greatly undervalue the bitter flavor profile and tend to keep it out of our food. Whereas in Traditional Chinese Medicine, all five flavors (sour, sweet, bitter, salty, spicy) are included in each meal to balance the body. Bitterness stimulates the digestive juices and enzymes, allowing us to be efficiently nourished by the food we eat. Efficient digestion means that you’re more nourished and your skin will be clearer!
Warming herbs are another great way to stoke your inner fire. I love ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and horseradish. Use them in your dishes (ginger and sweet potato soup with a bone broth base, anyone?) or take them in supplement form.
You’ll never hear me say in seriousness that you absolutely need any skincare product because, in truth, you can take incredible care of your skin from within using many of the practices I listed above. However, treating yourself to protective, nourishing skincare is extra helpful in the Fall/Winter. We all know that our skin tends to dry out with the colder, crisper air, but why is that? Our bodies actually possess two different types of sweat glands. One type, known as the Apocrine glands, are found almost exclusively around the armpits and secrete a thicker perspiration. We also have Eccrine glands, which are found all over the body and secrete a thinner perspiration to cool the body. It’s through these Eccrine glands that we lose hydration through the skin, as the cooler, drier air literally sucks moisture from our bodies. To protect against this cellular dehydration, I use my Frankincense Beauty Balm. The oils and shea butter create an occlusive layer on the skin, holding in moisture and preventing cellular dehydration, while also allowing the pores draw moisture in. I apply it every morning and night as well as anytime my skin is feeling dry or tight. The Frankincense Beauty Balm is highly-concentrated, nourishing, cleansing, and protective - it’s the only beauty tool that I can’t go a day without (or even a few hours to be honest!). Because it’s so concentrated and packed with precious seed oils, I reserve the Frankincense Beauty Balm for my face and use Sun Potion Shea Butter mixed with a rosemary infused oil for my body.