How to Make Natural Skincare Simple

Simple is good Ecology Skincare

This is a transcript and recording from The Primal Shift Podcast where my Primal Shift co-host, Jo and I talk about Natural Skincare, how Ecology Skincare came to be developed in the first place and the Ecology Skincare ethos:

Simple is Good and Less is More

In this episode we each chat about our own skin challenges and how we have simplified our skincare regimes.

Because I’m also a big advocate of Paleo skincare or taking a holistic approach to caring for our skin, we also go deeper than skin deep.
Talking about how we can nourish our skin from within with good food and practices that reduce stress and tension, so we can all round live a little happier in our own skin.

The Primal Shift Team: Jo Fitton, Andrew Fieldhouse & Crystal Fieldhouse
The Primal Shift Team: Jo Fitton, Andrew Fieldhouse & Crystal Fieldhouse

We chat about:

  • Being gentle with skin and choosing products designed for sensitive skin, plus other diet and lifestyle measures
  • Being on the pill and antibiotics to control acne
  • Natural salicylates and histamines in foods can be an issue for eczema sufferers
  • Coconut oil on skin can be problematic, it’s not for everyone!
  • Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean your skin will love it
  • Why tallow is good for your skin
  • The Ecology Skincare ethos
  • The potential problems with an overcomplicated skincare regime
  • Natural options for facial cleansing, including the Ecology Facial Konjac Sponge
  • Fragrances and essential oils in skincare
  • What to look out for on skincare labels and industry green washing
  • Less is more
  • The impact of stress on our skin
  • Visualisation for skin healing
  • Sleep and epsom salt foot baths for detoxification

>> Listen to the episode here

Ecology Skincare Silky Smooth Skin

Transcript:

Crystal:
Hi everyone, welcome to the Primal Shift. Practical approaches to Primal Living in a Modern World. I’m your Epsom salt-loving host, Crystal Fieldhouse from Ecology Skincare, and I have with me the salt and pepper calamari fiend, Jo Fitton. Hey there!

Jo:
Hi.

Crystal:
Now today’s episode is all about natural skin care, a topic that’s close to my heart and of course, very close to my skin. I fully believe that when it comes to skin care, simple is good, and less is more. We’ll have a chat about how we can simplify our topical skin care regimes. We’ll also be going deeper than skin deep, and chatting about how we can take a more holistic approach to caring for our skin by nurturing our skin from within with good food and practices that reduce stress and tension, so we can all around live a little happier in our own skin.

Jo:
That sounds good to me. I’ve been looking forward to this episode.

Crystal: 
Yeah, I know, me too!
Now, Jo, you and I have both had our fair share of skin issues, so what are some of the skin challenges that you have had over the years?

Jo:
Well yes, I have had a fair few skin dramas over my lifetime. They started quite young, as I was saying to you earlier, I had a few problems when I was a child. Had a lot of eczema and dermatitis. I remember getting the patches of rash behind the knees and the elbow creases and behind the ears. I’d often get hives and things like that. At the time, my family didn’t really connect it to what I was eating, but obviously there was some sort of reaction to my diet. At the time it was just a standard diet with all the “goodies”. And it was treated topically with hydra-cortisone cream, which is nice if it works, so it went away and it came back, and it went away and it came back, and I remember it itching and being in pain, but just thinking that that was how it was.

Also, as I got older, it didn’t really happen when I was a teenager, I seemed to sidestep the whole acne issue as a teenager, but it kicked in when I was in my early 20s. Yeah, so, I got quite bad cystic acne around the chin and jaw line, which is the tell-tale hormonal areas. It was really painful; I remember it as being this big red sore, they looked like big mountains on my face. It wasn’t doing any good for my self-esteem, and I didn’t feel great. It was a hormonal reaction. My diet at the time was pretty bad. I was eating lots of processed foods, and drinking a fair bit of alcohol. I was probably having quite a bit of sugar, so the insulin level was probably not great, either.

I eventually to a GP and was given the usual antibiotic that’s used to treat acne, which worked really really well. I remember at the time being so relieved that the acne was disappearing. But it obviously has had long term effects on my gut health, so now I’m dealing with all sorts of gut issues, which is probably partly a result of that.

I was on that for a few years, and then I moved to a contraceptive pill that was also designed to manage acne as well for women, so especially if it was hormonally driven, so I remember being on that for many, many years. It was really really strong dosage. I think that all those things probably had a bit of a lasting effect on my health now.

At the moment, I don’t really have any issues. I’ve changed my diet; I’m obviously very very cautious about what I put on my skin. I’ve realized that those typical commercially based products for acne are really really harsh. All they did was just irritate my skin more and strip it.

Once I started treating my skin as sensitive, considered problem skin as in acne-based, it was more … maybe I should just treat it as being sensitive skin, and choosing products that were designed for sensitive skin, things started to improve. Obviously, when I changed my diet as well, that made a drastic difference. I cut out all the refined sugars, and processed food and alcohol and things like that. That’s made a huge difference as well.

As I said to you earlier, I occasionally get the odd … I think here or there at different stages of my cycle, but that’s about it. I’m still sensitive all over my body to chemicals, and I will have flareups now and again, related to histamines issues, and stuff like that. That’s probably a good thing to talk about as well. [crosstalk 00:05:12]

Crystal:  
You mentioned as well, getting a sort of dermatitis on your hands if you were using a particular detergent.

Jo:  
Yeah, yeah, so, I just remember having to use gloves quite a bit when I washed the dishes when I was a child, and even throughout my life, because certain detergents, if I use them too much, would start to cause blisters, like little tiny blisters on my hands and my fingers that would become really itchy and would weep. It was just horrible. But they would just clear up … I haven’t had it for so long, I forget about these things that we need to talk about it as we were earlier. Oh yeah, and then I used to get that, and I’d always get this and … And it’s just because it doesn’t happen anymore.

Crystal:
Yeah.

Jo: 
Yeah, it’s amazing how different chemicals and detergents and synthetic products affect our skin.

Crystal:  
Yeah, and skin issues are so common. I would imagine that for a lot of our listeners, they’re probably identifying with some of what you’re saying, either with themselves, or with family members. When the stats are something like almost half of us … have had acne at some point along the way, and 25 percent of us have had dermatitis, so this affects a lot of people.

Jo: 
Yeah, and it’s not surprising because, as you know, the skin is pretty much the outward … it shows us what’s happening on the inside. And things have to come out, and they come out through the skin. All those toxins make their way out somehow and show up on our skin.

Crystal: 
Absolutely, and in that respect, as much as we curse and look at our skin that’s playing up or acting up with breakouts and that kind of thing, it’s actually a boon that we can actually see, in our skin, the signals that are telling us that there’s something going on on the inside that’s not quite right. It’s far better that our skin tells us and we actually notice those signals and do something about it to sort of help and support our body at that point in time, than dropping dead of a heart attack at fifty.

Jo:
For sure.

Crystal:  
And not having any signals whatsoever.

Jo:
It’s like our body trying to communicate with us and so we just need to listen.

Crystal:  
We need to listen. Absolutely.

Jo:
So Crystal, you’ve also had quite a few skin issues yourself, and it’s part of the reason why you now have Ecology Skin Care.

Crystal:   
Yeah.

Jo: 
Tell us a bit about your journey with your skin.

Crystal:
Yeah, well I, if anything, I had sort of the opposite to you. I actually didn’t have skin issues as a child. The first time I can remember having any kind of skin issues was when I hit my teens and got acne. I was always kind of up and down, obviously hormonally driven … And I was, you’re really, really self-conscious about. Kids are so cruel to each other. [crosstalk 00:07:59]

Jo:
Absolutely and it’s so, out in the obvious. It’s not something that can be covered up, because there’s no way to do it, it’s on your face, it’s there.

Crystal:  
Exactly. And then through my mid to later teens, I started getting dermatitis on my face as well. Once again, when you’ve got that unholy combination of acne and eczema, happening, it’s so hard to deal with. As you said earlier, with your finding topical treatments, I used the same products as what you would have, and what quite a lot of people with acne did, you know the ones that burn your face, and they strip all the oils and they’re full of alcohol. It just, it’s kind of a tingly, it gives you that feedback at the time that makes you go, “Oh, this feels clean and fresh, and …

Jo:   
Something’s happening.

Crystal: 
Yeah, but in reality, it’s just not fantastic to my skin at all. When I was using just the over-the-counter, topical treatments for the dermatitis, and that would have been stress-driven. In those last years of high school, when you’re putting so much pressure on yourself to perform and achieve and get good marks and all that kind of thing. But it wasn’t really until … In my last year of high school I had a glandular fever and tonsillitis that just would not go away. I had multiple multiple courses of antibiotics. And they eventually took the tonsils out. They just could not get the tonsillitis under control.

First year of Uni, tonsils came out. And of course that is a stressful time as well. First time living away from home, in a university hall, and my skin was just in total free fall with acne, the dermatitis. Everything got so much worse after the antibiotics and the glandular fever and tonsillitis.

Jo: 
And your immunity wouldn’t have been fantastic, either.

Crystal:   
I was shot. Totally shot. Yeah, and like yourself, I’ve been on the pill since I was in early teens to control the acne. And I stayed on the pill for well over ten years. Yeah, over ten years to control acne, and even when a really grumpy doctor said to me one time, he goes, “You’re in your twenties now. You don’t need to have this anti-acne pill that you’re just wasting your money on, this expensive pill. You can just go on the normal ones.”

At that point in time I didn’t really ask questions. I thought, “Okay, well that sounds like an option.” Did that … total skin breakout, it was horrific, so I went back onto the pill I was on.

Jo:
From one extreme to the other.

Crystal:
Yeah. Absolutely. When you’re taking something that is working well to control the symptoms, you don’t want to let it go, you don’t want to stop taking it at all. But yeah, over time the skin issues were just getting worse, and then came across paleo diet, did the 30-day challenge, skin cleared up, which was great, super happy with that. Skin was pretty good for about a year, and then slowly slowly started getting the acne and eczema coming back, bloating, constipation, anxiety, all this kind of stuff. I’m thinking, “What on earth is going on? I’m eating the best diet in the world. What am I getting those issues coming back?”

Once again, going into that round of frustration and trying to find what was going on, reading lots of blogs, forums, books, chatting to practitioners, asking questions, and trying to troubleshoot what was going on. Eventually, it worked out that stress…

Jo:  
Funny that. Good old stress.

Crystal:
Good old stress, and it’s really like … I would comment to work colleagues that, “Ah, my eczema’s getting quite bad at the moment; I must be really stressed.” It’s so weird that it’s not until your skin starts screaming at you that you actually notice, actually notice what’s going on. There’s a lot of stress going on in the background.

Through a lot of testing and things like that, I realized that some of the really nutrient-dense paleo foods I was eating was actually making my skin worse at that point in time, because my bucket was full, pretty much, and my liver wasn’t processing the food chemicals properly. And then there is natural chemicals that occur, and particularly foods that have been organically grown and are very nutrient dense, and those are your salicylates and histamines.

There’s a massive correlation with salicylate and histamine intolerance, and eczema in people. If this is something that you guys are hearing for the first time, it might be worth just investigating if it’s something that you haven’t been able to manage by other means. So yeah, it’s been quite a …

Jo:
Quite a journey for you.

Crystal: 
Quite a journey. And certainly as part of that, when you’re eating these great foods and you’ve gone to all the time and effort to source paleo, organic natural foods, you get to a point where you’re thinking, “What am I putting on my skin?” If I’m eating all these great foods, why on earth would I want to put chemicals on, the biggest organ in my body?

Jo: 
Absolutely.

Crystal: 
So yeah. After detoxing the diet, I went through a period of detoxing my skin care. Really scrutinizing the products that I had and finding that those products really weren’t coming up to scratch as far as my expectations for a high-quality product that was chemical free. But at that point in time, because as I said I was quite sensitive to salicylates and histamines in my diet. As I was playing around with natural skin care, and making some of my own skin care, I was actually finding that my skin was reacting even worse. Coconut oil, you know coconut oil is the darling of the paleo world when it comes to topical skin care. I don’t know if you’ve used it much.

Jo: 
Yeah, I’ve used it as well and didn’t have great results. My skin got really prickly. Yes, sort of tingly, and so I’ve definitely stayed away from coconut oil as any sort of skin care method.

Crystal: 
That sort of mirrors mine as well. I was rubbing it all over my face, pretty happy, and then wondering why my skin was getting so red and so irritated, and it was the coconut oil. Coconut oil is relatively high in salicylates and it’s Interestingly enough, fairly comedogenic as well. A lot of people think of using it for acne, because it’s antimicrobial, but it can clog pores, it’s one thing that’s a popular aesthetician on You Tube recommends that you don’t put on acne.

Jo:
Sure, okay. It’s probably one of those individual things that people need to try, and if it works, because obviously it does work well for a lot of people, depending on their skin type. But for others, it might not be the be all and end all of a skin care routine.

Crystal:  
Yeah, exactly, and with everything, it’s a matter of testing it out yourself. Certainly rose hip oil is one of those amazing oils that can do such fantastic stuff for your skin, but for me, swollen eyes, really red. There in itself, is frustrating, because you know that these beautiful cold-pressed oils are such beautiful ingredients to use and to put on your skin, but for me, they were becoming options that I could no longer take. Interestingly enough, the very highly processed and refined chemical-laden skin care, my skin was fine with.

Jo:
I know, it’s …

Crystal: 
Once again, on the sensitive scale of sensitive skin care, my skin was fine with that stuff. But it didn’t just gel with me at all to be putting those products on my skin. And as I said, that’s what led me to develop Ecology Skincare in the first place. The very first thing that I was playing around with was a moisturizing cream that my super-sensitive skin would actually tolerate. And that’s how the Ecology day and night creams came about. The main ingredient for them is a grass-fed organic tallow. It’s got all those same fatty acids and the cholesterol that we have naturally, in our skin and our skin oils, so in that respect, that actually really closely mimics something that our skin produces naturally.

From a reactivity point of view, it’s relatively inert, from that … it’s like emu oil, which is well known for use with people with sensitive skin and eczema and psoriasis. I developed the Ecology skin care creams for people with problem skin, and sensitive skin, you know, the red, irritated, rashy, flaky skin that is so frustrating. We get fantastic feedback from people from all over the world.

Jo:  
Yeah, well I’ve been to a few events with you with Ecology. I’ve certainly seen people run to the Ecology Stand and order and most people tend to gravitate towards the sensitive skin options. It’s amazing, because just about everyone will say, “I’ve got sensitive skin.” It’s such a huge problem out there as well.

Crystal:  
Yes, it really is, and dry skin is another big one as well. I know particularly as we get older, our skin, it does produce less of those skin oils that keep our skin really soft and supple looking when we’re younger. As we do get older, our skin does dry out, so it’s kind of replacing, in that sense, what time takes away. That’s another one that we get great feedback on. People will put the Ecology cream on and say, “Oh my gosh. It feels so soft!”

Jo:
Yeah, it does. And it stays soft for a long time. Yeah.

Crystal:  
Yeah. For us it was really important to kind of pick up the paleo ethos, and apply it to the skin care that we were making, so making sure we’re sourcing really high quality ingredients. Making sure the formulations were really simple but unique as well, because that was something that was important to me. And also, really trying to keep it so that it was skin care that supports our skin’s natural functionality without stripping away natural oils, and actually, in fact, replacing what components might be missing in terms of that normal skin barrier function.

Jo: 
You mentioned that Ecology is simple, you want to keep the formula simple, so do people tend to over-complicate their skin care regimes? Is that something that happens a lot?

Crystal:     
Yeah, it is. I think we tend to really over-complicate skin care, especially with washing. We wash too much. We’re washing our faces too often, we use soap, we use cleansers. Sure, we need to be clean and hygienic and all of that.

Jo:
Not smelly.

Crystal:
Not smelly, exactly. Although we quote/unquote might follow a “caveman lifestyle”, we’re not going to look all smelly [crosstalk 00:18:51] we don’t want to smell like a caveman. Not really. But we do over wash, and what that does is it strips away our natural skin oils.

Jo:
And the bacteria, all the good bacteria in our skin.

Crystal:  
Yeah, absolutely. Then, you either have to moisturize, and some like to over moisturize to try and make up for it, because your skin gets so dry. Or you get the rebound effect, where your skin is really noticing that it’s been stripped of all skin oils, so it over-produces oil to try and make up for that. Then you have a situation where you might say, “I’ve got oily skin,” where in fact, you might not have oily skin naturally. It’s just because you’ve been stripping it away.

Jo:
The skin is over-compensating, really, trying to get those oils back in.

Crystal:
Yeah, exactly. And a lot of the products that we use, they can contain quite harsh detergents that really do irritate the skin, strip it and lower the pH of the skin. Our skin is naturally acidic, so they call it the acid mantle, which is a complex of fatty acids, wax esters that just sort of sit on the surface of the skin at that slightly acidic pH, keeping bacteria from actually getting into the skin. They keep the skin cells nice and flat and wedged together to form a protective barrier.

Jo:
What would you recommend that people do use to wash their faces or to do cleansing?

Crystal: 
There’s a few different things, and as you said before, there’s going to be no one thing I can say that’s going to work for everyone. Oil cleansing method is something that works well for some people, so you’re in fact using oil to cleanse the face. The idea behind that is that “like dissolves like”, so the oils as you cleanse your face are going to be dissolving excess oils or the oily plugs that might be blocking our pores, and just helping to keep everything nice and lubricated.

Jo:
That might be good for people that wear makeup. It might be a good way to remove makeup, especially eye makeup. I know that it’s recommended to use almond oil and things like that to remove eye makeup gently.

Crystal: 
Yeah, exactly. The oil cleansing method was horrific for me. It did not work at all. I tend to use either a Konjac sponge, which, you know, are vegetable fiber sponges that just can wash your face with water alone, and a sponge, so it’s great if you want to reduce how many chemicals you expose yourself to, if you’ve got really sensitive skin. The other thing I use is a microfiber cloth, so again, just water and a microfiber cloth, and that’s great for makeup, for removing makeup as well.

Jo:  
Yes, I’ve got one of those. They’re great, and I love the Konjac sponge as well, I use it every morning. It’s got a little gentle exfoliation as well. [crosstalk 00:21:40]

Crystal:
Yeah, it gently massages skin. It sort of increases the circulation to the surface of your skin, just gives it a little glow. Yeah, honey is another one that people can use as a face wash. You need to wet your face totally first, otherwise you just wind up with a horrific sticky mess.

Jo:    
Sticky, mucky mess.

Crystal:
Yeah, so definitely wet your face first. Warm up the honey just in your fingertips and just lightly apply it all around your face. Then you can remove it with warm water and a face cloth. And then just follow with cold water afterwards.

Jo:
And it also would make a great mask as well. I’ve done that. I know I’ve done oatmeal and honey mask, which tastes and smells amazing. Smells like a really yummy breakfast, but it also leaves the skin feeling amazing. It works well for me. I really enjoy that. Oatmeal’s great if you don’t like eating it, it’s good to put on your skin at least.

Crystal:
It’s great to put on the skin. And you can find gluten-free oatmeal. I’ll chuck it in a blender to make it into a really really fine powder. And then, yeah, just mix it with water, put it on the face, and wash it back off again. And because there are some natural fats in oatmeal that do moisturize your skin, also the beta glucan in oatmeal is really really calming. And there’s natural saponins in oatmeal which do have that sort of soapy cleansing effect, but very very mild, super mild.

Apart from that, in terms of the biggest mistakes we can make when it comes to topical skin care, fragrances would be a big one. And that’s something you and I spoke about earlier. That was one thing, one of the key things for you.

Jo: 
I had to eliminate fragrances, yeah.

Crystal:  
And fragrances are among the top five allergens in the world, certainly because when you see that word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the back of a skin care label, it’s a way of skin care companies sort of keeping a proprietary, sort of secrecy around their formulations. The word “fragrance,” actually stands for a group of over a thousand different chemicals.

Jo:  
It’s incredible.

Crystal:
That they could actually throw in there under the banner of “fragrance,” or “parfum.”

Jo:
And most of them are the ones that potentially we could be absorbing into our bodies and disrupting our hormones. All those sorts of things.

Crystal: 
Absolutely, which is why it’s one of the top allergens in the world, because it’s not just one thing. It’s potentially thousands of different things that come under that banner.

Jo:
And even natural essential oils can also come under that “treat with caution” banner because they can still upset the skin as well. I know they do for me. It has to be completely fragrance free.

Crystal:    
Yeah, and for a lot of people that’s the case, and that’s something that I was very cautious of with Ecology was to, not overload them, not overload the creams with essential oils, because it can just be overpowering for the nose and the skin. And as we said, the sensitive one doesn’t have any essential oils in it whatsoever, but the ones to be more careful of, especially if you’re looking at skin care that’s already been made up, natural skin care or if you’re making up skin care yourself, be cautious of the citrus ones, so your lemon, your orange, your bergamot, they can sensitize your skin to light, so it can be photo-sensitive. Never put them on in the morning before you go out.

Jo:  
Go out into the sun.

Crystal:
Yeah. Lavender is another one that can that be a little bit photo-sensitive but it can also, lemon is one of the ones that can be an irritant, it can actually damage the skin’s barrier function. Definitely use that with caution, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Jo:  
Sure, and it ties in to the salicylates too, isn’t it?

Crystal:   
Yeah.

Jo:   
So you want to avoid that.

Crystal:  
It’s Kryptonite, Kryptonite, if you’ve got a salicylate sensitivity.

Jo:
Crystal, what else should people look out for in labels with skin care?

Crystal:    
Yeah, it’s interesting because even products that build themselves as being natural, they can be anything but. There’s a term that they use in the skin care industry called “green washing.” It’s effectively making the product out to be greener than what it actually is. If you’re looking at labels and you’re seeing on the back whatever chemical-sounding name it is, and then in the back it’s derived from a natural ingredient that you do recognize the name of, that’s them trying to say, “Hey, we’re all natural. We don’t contain these horrible chemicals.” One of the ones that I throw up as an example is, they might say on the label “sodium laurel sulfate” and then in brackets, “derived from coconut oil.” Which is, to create that chemical, they add sulfuric acid to coconut oil.

Jo:
So they’re processing it. Right.

Crystal: 
They’re processing it. Yeah, so that’s … certainly not fantastic. It doesn’t negate the fact that sodium laurel sulfate is a skin irritant that’s used as a marker for, a benchmark for irritancy in studies. It’s used to see how irritating other ingredients are, sodium laurel sulfate’s the benchmark, which is crazy!

Jo:  
My goodness, so people got to be wary of that.

Crystal: 
Yeah, absolutely. Especially people with sensitive skin. I would scrutinize, and I do scrutinize the labels of my skin care products just as much as I do with food. The thing with skin care is, the first third of the ingredients on the list make up about 95% of the product. Definitely look at the first third, in particular if it’s got alcohol in there, that’s not going to be great for your skin. That’s going to strip your skin of its natural oils.

It’s not as bad if it’s, out of that first third, so definitely look for alcohol, look for your cocamide DEA, your DEA, TEA, and MEA, they are … they’re potentially carcinogenic. The studies that fall down in on both sides with pretty much all of the chemicals [inaudible 00:27:53] chemicals you find in skin care, the research falls down on both sides with anything. But the reality is, it is adding to the chemical load on your liver. If you’re putting these things on your skin, everyday …

Jo:
Everyday.

Crystal:  
The Environmental Working Group has done a survey that’s found that on average, we women use 12 different products containing 160-something different ingredients a day.

Jo:    
That’s incredible.

Crystal:  
It is huge!

Jo:
To be honest, those labels are overwhelming because there’s so many different ingredients, so it’s good to know what to focus on, because I’ve looked at the back of some skin care labels and gone, “Oh I don’t know half of those.” It’s just a bunch of acronyms and long words and most often the first ingredient is aqua, isn’t that, so most of them are water based.

Crystal:
Yeah, exactly. And when they’ve got water in the formulation, then they need to put preservatives in there to …

Jo:
Yeah, because of bacteria.

Crystal:
Exactly. Water is the perfect environment for microbes to grow, so that’s why they then have to load it up with preservatives. Which is one of the reasons why, with Ecology Skincare, we don’t have any water-based products, because we don’t want to be loading up the body with preservatives. And a conventional moisturizer is between 20 and 80 percent water. So you might pay fifty dollars, eighty dollars, ninety dollars, like some of them really high-range, moisturizing creams. Ninety dollars! And if 50-80% of it’s going to be water, you’re not really getting much bang for your buck.

Something like the Ecology creams, they’re so … they’re 100% fats and oils. That’s going to go a really really long way, and we don’t have to put a lot of those other chemicals in there that make the water and the oil play nicely together. Apart from preservatives, there are often emulsifiers in these other products, which then, once again, they’re made to have in the formulation to keep it stable, to keep the oil and the water from separating. And you have a formulation that you’ve got to shake every morning.

Yeah, the emulsifiers, they pose problems of their own. We’re going to be talking to a skin expert at some point in a future episode who I had a chat with recently, and she was saying that emulsifiers actually stay in the surface of your skin and when you put them on your face, or anywhere on your body, these emulsifiers, they stay on the surface of your skin and they actually draw moisture out of the skin and make your skin quite dry. Which means you need to moisturize more and more. It comes back to the less is more, less is always going to be more when it comes to skin care.

Less is more Ecology Skincare

Jo:  
Well that’s really interesting because I didn’t know that about emulsifiers.

Crystal: 
Neither did I, and we’ll have a chat with Asha about that because I find that amazingly interesting.

Jo:
Sometimes people will wonder why they’re putting something on their skin and their skin’s getting worse or its, yeah, and that might be one of the underlying reasons.

Crystal: 
Apart from that, if you have identified that you are sensitive to things like histamines, things like salicylates, you need to pay even more attention to the labels.

Jo: 
Absolutely, yeah. Keep it even more simple.

Crystal: 
Exactly, and if you’ve got sensitive skin, moving away from labels, definitely a shorter shower is going to be better, and a warm shower over a hot shower. When you think about it, when we’re washing the dishes we use the hottest water we can because we want to degrease.

Jo: 
And to kill all the germs, Yeah.

Crystal: 
Kill the germs and get all the fat off, and that’s why your dishwasher’s got to wash at the temperature they go up to. When we’re putting really hot water on our skin, it’s also going to be stripping the skin of its natural oils. That can take anywhere between 15 minutes to sometimes even up to 24 hours for your body to regenerate those natural skin oils, so then if you’re washing twice a day, you’re screwed.

Jo:
Yeah, it’s just constantly stripping it away.

Crystal: 
Certainly what we put on our skin, it is really important, but it’s not the be all and end all, when it comes to really looking after our skin. If we’re wanting to have a really glowing radiant complexion, it’s more about what’s going on on the inside. Because your skin, in reality, it’s the largest organ in our bodies, and it’s totally supported by everything that’s happening on the inside, by the food we eat, by the other organ systems that support the skin. It just so happens to be the organ that we see every day when we look in the mirror, that we apply beauty standards to and that we apply beauty products to. It’s an organ that needs to be fed well from the inside as well as looked after topically.

Jo: 
Diet’s one way, to talk a little bit about how we’re feeding our bodies from the inside. What about our thoughts and our minds and stress, because that’s another way that skin can be affected. You said before that every time you felt stressed that your eczema would break out and people have acne when they feel stress so … What happens in the body when we’re stressed that causes all these skin issues?

Crystal: 
LOTS. Stress, it has an impact on us on a physiological level, on all of our body systems. When we’re stressed, it plays absolute havoc with our gut to start with. A healthy glow begins in the gut when it comes to skin. When we’re stressed, we … We’re often not paying attention when we’re eating. We scoff food down without allowing our body to actually be properly ready to receive the food. When we’re stressed, we just simply don’t produce as much stomach acid as what we need to to digest our food properly. If we’re not digesting food properly, we’re not absorbing all those nutrients that we need to have really healthy skin. If our guts under a load, if we’re stressed and we’re not digesting that food properly, a gut can become easily damaged, especially if we’re eating inflammatory foods.

You know that inflammation causes a whole cascade of inflammation throughout the body, and because both the gut and the skin, you know they form an interface between us and the outside world. They need to protect us. They both have a massive role to play in terms of immune function. Between 60-80 percent, I think, of your immune system sits in the gut. But the skin as well, has a massive amount of immune cells, so they’re responsive. If there’s inflammation happening in the body, they respond to that. That leads to inflamed skin, and that’s when you get your eczema, your psoriasis, your itchy, rashy red skin.

Jo: 
Yeah, so the body’s on high alert.

Crystal:
Body’s on high alert, yeah. There are also, there’s immune cells in the skin, they release histamine as well. [crosstalk 00:34:50] Back to histamine. You and I have spoken about the skin rashes that pop up when we’ve eaten certain foods, or when we’ve been on a flight or when we get overheated, or … I had a rash pop up right up my back, through my stomach, arms, right up my neck after a colonoscopy.

Jo:  
Right, so that’s your body’s way of telling you that it’s unhappy.

Crystal:
Things have been shaking up inside here. [crosstalk 00:35:21]

Jo:
It was all trying to sort itself out. It all leads to the gut it seems, isn’t it? [crosstalk 00:35:28]

Crystal: 
And also, when our cortisol levels are high as well, once again, that’s signalling to those cells in the skin that “We need to be on high alert,” but when our cortisol levels are high it also has an impact on our blood sugar regulation. When our blood sugars are fluctuating, that can lead to really dry skin, when our blood sugars are fluctuating as well, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood stream actually binding to proteins in the skin. And the ones that are more susceptible to damage are the collagen and elastin fibers. Sugar is binding to them, and damaging them, and that can cause the fine lines and wrinkles.

That’s one of the reasons why diabetics often look older than their years, because their blood sugar levels are more often than not, higher and

Jo: 
Wreaking havoc on …

Crystal: 
Wreaking havoc, yeah, absolutely.

Jo: 
And there’s a bit of a link between polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance as well. Often people who have that condition have acne issues and they also have elevated testosterone levels don’t they? I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve read, that’s the case. Anyone who is experiencing those symptoms might want to get that checked out as well in case that’s an underlying issue.

Crystal:
Definitely. Yeah, for sure. When the insulin levels are high, it stimulates excess testosterone production, it stimulates oil production in the skin, and scalp as well, so you wind up with greasy hair as well as acne and it’s definitely something to investigate if you think that might be an issue.

Apart from that, you mentioned our thoughts, our emotions, and that comes back to … There’s a huge link between the brain and the nervous system and the skin. Because when you think about it, once again, the skin being the barrier between us and the outside world there’s a lot of sensory information that travels from the skin to the brain about things that are hot, things that are cold, things that are sharp, things that are painful. The sensory experience when we’re touching things and interacting with our environment, all information goes back to the brain. There’s basically a highway of information that’s really strong.

The skin not only is the largest organ in the body, but it’s also the highest level of interrvation. That becomes a two-way street, so it means that the skin is also really sensitive to the signals from the brain that are signalling our emotional state and our thoughts and our feelings. If we’re embarrassed, we blush.

Jo: 
Yeah, that’s a really good example. It happens instantly.

Crystal:    
If we’re scared or something’s frightened us, then people say, “My gosh, you’re as white as a sheet!”

Jo: 
Or, goose bumps, and things like that, yeah.

Crystal:  
Yeah, so our skin’s really in tune with what’s going on, which for me, when a naturopath said to me, “I holiday’s really agree with you, Crystal. Do you think stress might be causing a lot of these skin issues and underlying problems?” You kind of go, “Great! We’ve pinned it down. It’s all the stress.”

For a couple of weeks, I’m like, “Great, I know what’s going on now. It’s stress.” And then you kind of realize, this stress thing, it’s pretty hard to implement the practices that might allow you to change negative thoughts or negative beliefs or perceive your world in a different way, so it doesn’t wind you up so much emotionally and make you so anxious or make you so frustrated. Yeah, it, I find it so much harder to implement those kinds of practices than what I do to change my diet, or take a supplement, or go to bed early. I don’t know about you.

Jo:  
Absolutely. I’ve had the same experience, going out on holiday, feeling great and, “Oh this is perfect,” and then getting back into the daily routine and the grind and go … It doesn’t take long for the body to start trying to communicate with us again that things aren’t right. It’s definitely a long journey with the stress management.

I’ve spoken to you about doing mindfulness courses and trying to incorporate that into my daily life. Just trying to be more aware of my thoughts and how I’m responding to stress, because the stress isn’t going to go away. Whatever is happening in our environment, the situation, we can’t change that. It’s about how we’re going to respond to it, which sometimes can be tricky because it would be almost instant, for the body to kick into gear with a fight or flight reaction. It takes a lot of work, but it’s so worth it, because obviously the return on that investment is the skin’s clearer, the body’s more balanced. It’s definitely not that easy and some days are better than others. I think some wins on some days, but yeah. It’s worth looking at and paying attention to.

Crystal: 
Exactly, because as you say, life goes on. That stress isn’t going to go away. If we can change our relationship to the things that are stressing us out. If we can give it a different meaning, or “reframe” it, I think is one of the terms you’ve used recently, which I love. “Let’s reframe this.”

Jo: 
Yes, let’s look at it in a different way. It’s all about perspective.

Crystal:  
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s why my meditation is incredibly helpful for myself because it allows me to be more observant of the reactions that I’m having, so I can step back and then choose how I’m going to respond, or choose how I’m going to react in a certain situation.

Jo: 
Crystal, have you also tried visualization around your skin, like specifically, meditating around healing your skin?

Crystal:
I actually have, and I’ve found that to be fantastic. The hardest thing with that kind of thing is to remember to do it. To keep it up. But yeah, I fully believe that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself and to heal the skin. You can prompt it to do the things that it needs to do with really good visualization. Some of the visualizations I’ve used around my skin kicking out the bad microbes that are contributing to the dermatitis, and having the skins natural barrier function come in and fill the gaps between my skin cells to keep all the irritants out and to keep all the moisture in. I use the brick and mortar visualization in my head, so that all those oils are coming in between the skin cells and really sort of soaking in there and forming a really strong barrier to keep …

Jo:   
Doing a bit of a repair.

Crystal:
And other visualizations I use, because I know they will help with the skin, is around the gut. Having my gut gatekeepers, the soldiers that are standing at the gate of every single skin cell, letting in the little single components, the food that’s been broken down properly into one little round molecule, they’re allowed through. All the other bacteria, all the larger chunks are kept out.

Jo:
That’s pretty detailed.

Crystal:
Yeah, but it works really well. If you’re just prompting your body around these things, it will naturally rise to the occasion.

Jo: 
You’re basically telling your body what you want it to do.

Crystal:  
Yeah, exactly. I have another great one with inflammation in general where, and the immune system where I’m just sort of saying, “Hey, this part of the body is actually the safe part. We don’t need to be attacking this. Calm down.” As part of the process I’ll relax first, going through the visualization process over and over and over for a set period of time. Then when I’m finished, I do a little happy dance and that seals the deal in terms of having my body recognize that this is a great practice to do.

Jo:   
Happy dance.

Crystal: 
Happy dance to finish. I think it does, it forms a really important part of that holistic approach to skin care. Really nourishing the skin topically with good quality skin care that will support your skin’s natural barrier, function and support your skin’s natural functionality, and nourishing the body with anti-inflammatory whole foods that are going to support the gut, they’re going to support healthy hormonal responses. Also, nourishing our hearts and minds with those practices that reduce stress and tension.

Jo:     
There’s no one thing. There’s a combination of things that we all need to do, as we know, with everything. It’s a complicated issue.

Crystal:
Absolutely, in fact, the payoff is that although you might do these things because you’re wanting to fix problem skin, or you’re wanting to have that glowing radiant complexion and look younger than your years, and look the way you feel. The bonus of all that stuff is that you’re going to actually be so much healthier from a general perspective and you’re going to be so much happier from a general perspective as well. That’s where it’s all at.

Jo: 
Yeah, and one of the things we haven’t mentioned yet but it’s tied in with the stress is sleep. I know if I haven’t slept properly, I’ve got the bags under my eyes and maybe more susceptible to breaking out. Skin’s not happy. A good night’s sleep does wonders for a glowing complexion, doesn’t it?

Crystal: 
It really does. People notice immediately. They’ll start saying, “You’re looking very tired, is anything wrong?”

Jo:
Not a very nice thing to hear,  “Thanks”

Crystal:
One of my favorite things to do, and I know it’s a favorite of yours as well, Jo, to help wind me down before bed is to put my feet in an Epsom salts bath.

Jo:
Yeah, it’s great.

Crystal:  
It just helps to … It helps to relax you generally. It helps to relax bowel muscles, so if you have any constipation or anything like that which can really contribute to skin issues if you’re reabsorbing hormones and chemicals back into the body, not detoxifying it properly and they get pushed out through the skin. Epsom salts, being a magnesium sulfate can really help with that liver detoxification process as well, and it feels good. So that’s a primal hit for me, an Epsom salts foot bath.

Jo:  
Yes double, two primal hits

Crystal: 
All righty, well I think we’ve probably talked everybody’s ears off for long enough.

Jo: 
Yes, but we did have primal hit [inaudible 00:46:11]

Crystal:  
Yeah, our primal hit or primal shift for this episode is sunscreen. Sunscreen’s a bit of a controversial one especially in the primal world, where we recognize that sun is a good thing. The sun has been around for the two million years that we have, and sunscreen’s been around for probably the last 100 years. Our body has adapted to sun exposure over time. We need to kind of walk that delicate line between too much sun and not enough sun. What are your thoughts, Jo?

Jo:
Well as someone with really really fair skin, we burned very quickly. I have to use sunscreen after a very short period of time so I can go out and maybe expose my skin, depending on the UV-levels

Crystal:    
Yeah, the time of the year and all that kind of thing.

Jo:
Yeah, so it may be a safe amount of time on a typically sunny day, may be for about 10-15 minutes, so I can get out without sunscreen. And then, if I’m going to be outside for prolonged periods, and I’m wearing a singlet or something, I have to put on sun block. Also, keeping in mind, too, that because of global warming and the ozone layer depletion, we are getting exposed to higher levels, especially in this part of the world in Australia and New Zealand where we’re sitting right under that ozone hole. I’ve certainly done traveling over other parts of the world where I haven’t had to worry about it as much.

I have to do that. I’m certainly loathe to put chemically based, sunscreens on my skin, it’s something that I’ve done for years before I clued on to all this. I definitely go for the natural based products which is normally zinc based.

Crystal: 
The ones that are either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Jo: 
Yeah, that’s right, which work really well. They don’t expose my skin to chemicals but they tend to block up my pores, because they’re pretty much like putting a coating over the skin. I guess I have to flip a coin like, “What am I going to put up with?” Obviously it’s a no-brainer I just put the naturally based sunscreens on my skin and just put up with maybe some grumpy skin for a while, but that’s fine.

I think that within reason, people need to work out what’s right for them. If they are particularly sensitive to the sun. If they can put up with longer periods of exposure, that’s great. We get lots of vitamin D from the sun. We also get lots of help with our serotonin levels as well from the sun. I certainly don’t want to shy away from it, but it just has to be in balance. I think everyone should take that approach as well. And if they’re taking medications or putting things on their skin, that does make them more photo-sensitive, they need to keep that in mind.

Crystal:  
Especially with acne and antibiotics

Jo: 
Absolutely, but I say, nothing wrong with getting out and getting a bit of sunshine in moderation.

Crystal:  
Primal hit?

Jo:
Primal hit. My primal hit. What about you?

Crystal:   
Yeah, I totally agree. I know for myself, I always feel so much better after sitting in the sun for a little while. You always feel fantastic. I have been a sunbather in years gone by to the point where … You wear certain things and move certain layers around so you don’t get lines, tan lines and all that kind of thing. Because I do have skin that does naturally tan. I’m a lot sun safer now, I have to say, even though I recognize the importance of vitamin D, getting your vitamin D. I will seek out shade more often, wear hats to shield my face. I do wear sunscreen as well when I feel I need to. But my skin is actually pretty resilient to being burned. It will tan rather than burn.

Jo:   
You’ve got a lovely brown as opposed to me, I just go bright red

Crystal:  
One of the things I would say with vitamin D, we’ve got a vitamin D deficiency epidemic in the world. It’s so important for our immune health. There’s studies that show, interestingly enough, that people that spend more time indoors that have a vitamin D deficiency that are more likely to get cancers, even skin cancers compared with people that are working outside. That vitamin D, it will help to reduce damage to the DNA as well and has such an important immune function. In terms of which parts of your body are best to expose to get that higher level of vitamin D production, it’s actually your bum, and your tummy.

Jo:   
Yes, get your bums and tums out.

Crystal:
Bums and tums out. Get them out. And that’s because there’s a higher level of fat in those areas of the body and you need to have a fat base to actually create vitamin D in the body, a cholesterol base. That’s why those fatty areas are best to get out in the sun.

Sun does cause aging damage. It does cause oxidative damage. If you have been out in the sun, if you have been even sunburned, you need to get more antioxidants into your body. Think your high anti-oxidant foods, your leafy greens, your berries, foods that are high in vitamin C to try and offset to some degree, that oxidative damage that you’re doing to your skin.

Jo: 
Eat your veggies, people. Eat your veggies and go out in the sun. Eat your veggies in the sun.

Crystal:   
Meditate in the sun; have a green smoothie afterwards.

Jo: 
That’s right. Your skin will glow.

Crystal: 
It will. It will. Thank you so much everyone, for having a listen today. You can find me at ecologyskincare.com. You can find all the show notes and photos and everything we’ll post up for the Primal Shift at theprimalshift.com.au.

Jo:
And we’re on Instagram as well, so come on and say hi to the Primal Shift.

Crystal:   
Yeah, definitely. And subscribe on I-Tunes, so that way you’ll have new episodes popping up in your feed as soon as we post them up.

Jo:
Yeah, we’ve got some exciting episodes coming up.

Crystal:
We do. We do.

Jo: 
All right. Thanks guys. Thanks for listening.

Crystal:   
Thanks for listening. See ya.

Jo:  
Bye.

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