The Golden Path to Skin Health
By: Sandra Shim (Licensed Acupuncturist & Aesthetician)
Our skin is a mirror that reflects and tells the story of our holistic health, it is the body’s largest organ that alerts us and protects us from harm externally and internally.
One of the key topics of Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture is “Inspection”. We will examine one’s Facial Complexion based on the color and luster of the facial skin to gain a deeper understanding about the condition of the Qi, Blood and the balance of the Organs (Zang Fu). According to the classical text The Divine Pivot, “Qi and blood of the twelve primary channels and the three-hundred-sixty-five connections ascend to the face”. A branch of Facial Diagnosis includes variations of Face Maps that map out specific organs to different facial regions.
My professor Darren Tellier shared a beautiful analogy that I still remember to this day, when we view one’s facial complexion it is similar to looking at the leaves of a plant. We are able to see the difference in a healthy hydrated plant versus a wilting dehydrated plant solely by observing the appearance of the leaves. Is there a healthy glow or luster radiating from the leaves? Are the leaves upright and strong? Are the leaves vibrant or dull in color?
The health of our skin may vary due to diverse constitutions, geographic environments, work environments, career, stress, weather or our habits. However in general, most people recognize that healthy skin is vibrant, hydrated and glowing!
In my personal experience, the Golden Path to Skin Health is a balance of self discipline and body awareness that brings us towards optimal skin and holistic health. You must be patient with yourself and determined to learn how your body reacts to your diet and daily skin regimen.
Diet – Food is Medicine
From a Western medical perspective, food is analyzed by the chemical components that make up the nutritional value, vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, etc. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, food is analyzed: Five Colors (black, green, red, yellow, white) and Five Flavors (salty, sour, bitter, sweet and pungent) and the energetic or therapeutic effects it has on the body after consumption. Did you know that when you have a certain craving for a particular flavor, this is your body sending you a message that an organ is out of balance? A moderate amount of the flavor you’re craving will help to rebalance the organ, whereas an excessive amount will injure or damage the organ.
Salty – Color: Black, Yin Flavor (Cooling), Benefits the Kidney: Energetically salty food moves inward, and downward, lowering towards the root of the body. The main actions include: detoxification, purges the bowels, helps to drain excess moisture in the body, and balances the water metabolism in the body. Examples: Salt, seaweed (kombu, wakame, kelp), miso, soy sauce, barley, millet, oysters, crabs, clams, ham, and etc.
Sour – Color: Green, Yin Flavor (Cooling), Benefits the Liver: Energetically sour food absorbs and contracts, the main action is the astringent effect, most suitable for conditions that involve leaking of bodily fluids. These conditions may include: excessive sweating, diarrhea, hemorrhage. Examples: Pickle, lemon, lime, sauerkraut, fermented foods, pineapple, sour apple, sour plum, hawthorn berry, olives, vinegar, etc.
Bitter – Color: Red, Yin Flavor (Cooling), Benefits the Heart: Energetically bitter food drains dampness (deposits of cholesterol and fat) and dries excessive fluid. The main action is to dry internal dampness generated by food with lots of fat or dairy, and to expel internal heat that may accumulate as a result of the excessive consumption of spicy, greasy and deep fried foods. Examples: Bitter melon, romaine lettuce, parsley, kale, rye, alfalfa, asparagus, turnips, and etc.
Sweet – Color: Yellow, Yang Flavor (Warming), Benefits the Spleen: Energetically sweet food warms the body, and moves energy upward and outward. It harmonizes and balances the other flavors and is nourishing for the body, it has the action of stimulating circulation and digestion. Examples: rice, rye, quinoa, amaranth, beets, carrot, corn, celery, eggplant, potato, shiitake mushroom, sweet potato, yam, apple, apricot, date, fig, etc.
Pungent – Color: White, Yang Flavor (Warming), Benefits the Lungs: Energetically pungent flavors can cool or warm the exterior of the body, it has a floating, dispersive or expansive effect on the body. Cooling pungent herbs such as peppermint, white pepper and radish can help to cool the body down in conditions where heat is excessive. While warming pungent herbs such as garlic, ginger, onion, cloves, cinnamon, onion, all peppers, anise, dill, nutmeg, and etc can benefit cold conditions or stimulate circulation and warmth. There are also different categories of food that are more than one flavor. A harmonic balance of various flavors and colors in one’s diet is crucial in nourishing the body’s main organs.
Daily Skin Regimen
Another suggestion in maintaining skin health is to implement a daily skin care regimen consisting of products suitable for your skin type. A simple introduction to skin care is to start with a gentle Cleanser, Toner and Moisturizer. For those who would like to add a little bit more love to their self care, I encourage everyone to practice a little bit of facial massage (3-5 minutes) with a light facial oil, in the morning or night. Facial Gua Sha or Facial Rolling has gained more recognition in recent years, although it originated in China from the 17th century! The benefits of facial massage include an increased circulation, detoxification via lymphatic drainage, and it alleviates tension in the facial muscles. Please do your research or consider consulting an Aesthetician or Acupuncturist knowledgeable in skin-care to help you find the best options customized for you.
Nowadays I’ve heard of a new term called “Maskne”, to describe the acne breakouts due to wearing masks for long periods of time. Many people are taking the steps to sanitize or wash their hands prior to putting on a clean face mask, however washing your face with a gentle facial cleanser before and after wearing a mask is another thing to be mindful of. After you have cleansed your skin, do your best to avoid applying oil-based make up or moisturizers (a lightweight gel moisturizer may be an alternative option). The moist and humid environment underneath the mask may potentially clog your pores and irritate your skin. For some individuals the different fabrics or materials that the masks are made of, or the type of laundry detergent you are using to clean the masks, may also be a reason behind the Maskne. In this case, I recommend for everyone to try out other fabrics or opt for a fragrance-free organic laundry detergent.
Thank you for taking the time to read my very first blog post, I am super duper excited to connect with the community! Please stay tuned for my next blog post about Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org!