The skin is the largest organ of the human body – do you remember that from school? Well, it’s true and without getting all biological, it’s also a major channel for absorption and elimination – both of good and bad things.
On a holistic level, if your skin is not healthy and functioning as it should be, it is a sign that something is not right within the ‘system’ of your body as it works to expel toxins or function with a lack of nutrients.
Conversely, if you put toxic materials (chemicals, or even seemingly harmless cleaning/beauty products) on your skin, these will be absorbed into your body, compounding the problem or creating more issues!
I have extremely sensitive skin (in fact I really am a pathetically delicate flower but it’s my genes and I can’t do much about it!), and often come out in the strangest of rashes, or suffer from terrible scaly, dry skin.
Avoiding chemicals, and only using natural cleaning and beauty products has helped me greatly with eczema outbreaks on my hands, though I still get odd bumps appearing even from touching ginger, being out in strong sun, or pulling up a few weeds without gloves.
I tried everything for my dry, scaly shins – swallowing coconut oil to slathering all manner of oils on my body and legs several times a day, but it was only when I discovered the art of exfoliation when it really started to improve.
I now use two methods of exfoliation for my skin health: body brushing, and wet exfoliating with hemp oil soap. Here’s the lowdown on both:
Skin brushing has been around for thousands of years in cultures all around the world. It is probably only in the past couple of hundred years in Western cultures that people became lazy and stopped bothering, to our own detriment.
To use this technique you simply need a soft, natural bristle brush, and using long, firm strokes, starting with your feet, brush all areas of your body.
Brush upwards, encouraging the flow of blood back towards the heart, not forgetting the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, and particular focus on the underarms and groin to stimulate the lymph nodes which deal with elimination of toxins.
On your stomach, brush clockwise, to work with the flow of your colon and aid digestion.
When you start dry brushing you may need to use a softer brush or less pressure, but as your skin begins to get used to the process, you can use firmer strokes.
It’s possible to leave it at this but the one downside to dry brushing is that the dead skin cells can ‘stick’ to your skin and so for the full works, move on to wet exfoliation, or at least make sure you shower and gently rub your skin with a wet cloth or exfoliating glove.
Turkish and Moroccan bathing traditions both involve not only the use of steam and heat therapy, but also, importantly, deep exfoliation. The Moroccan Hamman baths are a weekly ritual for most Moroccans and their use of traditional soft soap, locally sourced clay, and a good scrub is one of the most effective beauty and health rituals that I have come across.
For full information on Hamman Bathing, take a look at this article on Natural Spa Supplies, where you can also purchase all the kit needed to perform your own home Hamman bathing experience.
For my dry, flaky skin I have had most success using hemp oil soap coupled with an exfoliating glove for my all over exfoliating cleanses. Traditional hemp oil soap seems to be ultimate in moisturising soaps and if you are in the UK, Sally at Natural Spa Supplies has perfected the recipe for the most amazing soap I have ever tried.
If you can’t get hemp oil soap, then look for a plain castille soap. A true castille soap should be made purely with olive oil but other gentle options are Dr Bronners. There is one other brand I have found in the UK, Oliva, or you could even try to make your own – though soap making is not a simple process!
As with the dry brushing, you will need to cover all areas of your body, and lather up the hemp or olive oil soap, massaging it into your body for several minutes before using the exfoliating glove in a circular motion to stimulate blood flow and remove dead skin. Though I had been trying to avoid soap for months, believing that it would dry my skin even further, the hemp oil soap has made my skin so soft that I can’t stop rubbing my shins and arms and exclaiming ‘my skin is as soft as a baby’s bottom’!
If you want to go for the full works, you can then apply a layer of hydrated rhassoul clay onto the skin on the body, face, (and even hair and I will cover this in a subsequent post) and leave for as long as possible before washing off. The clay absorbs toxins from the skin, and deeper from within the body, so the longer you can leave it, the better.
When you are out of the bath or shower, apply a light coating of a cold-pressed oil such as argan oil, or coconut oil.
I would absolutely recommend a full exfoliation at least once per week, as per the traditional Moroccan Hamman ritual, both for beautiful, soft and glowing skin, as well as for your general health.