Although your skin is your largest organ, how much time do you actually spend thinking about what it does? You may spend lots of time thinking about how it's letting you down, because you've just broken out in a huge zit or a crazy rash and you have no idea where it came from, but you really want it to go away because you're going on vacation tomorrow. Or maybe you look in the mirror and you see dark circles under your eyes, fine lines, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and “age spots”, and you don’t recognize the person looking back at you. You may think of your skin as the “villain” sabotaging your big event or plan.
But how often do you think about your skin and the positive things that it can do for you? What might it feel like to think of your skin as your superhero instead? As your largest organ, it performs incredibly complex functions. Consider this... Your skin protects you from the outside world, guards your internal organs, plays a large role in your immune system and protects you from infection. It absorbs, secretes and excretes to keep your skin hydrated, regulate your body temperature and detoxify waste and metabolites from your body. It not only produces hormones like vitamin D, but has a role to play in regulating hormones throughout your body. With so many nerve receptors in our skin, it allows us to feel pleasure, but also pain to alert us that something isn't quite right and we need to take action.
Your skin is pretty amazing. It performs so many important functions but the one that stands out as its superpower is its ability to function as a true window to and reflection of your overall state of health and wellbeing that shows up on your skin in various forms. And if you can tune in to what your skin is trying to tell you, you can take action to nourish it to look better, feel better and become more confident in the skin you’re in.
Despite being a skin care expert, for most of my life I was deaf to the messages my skin was sending me. As a child I was ridiculed for two birthmarks on my face which school classmates dubbed, “coffee stains” and called me, “coffee stain face.” In those moment I became acutely aware that my skin could be a source of shame, embarrassment and humiliation. I quickly discovered that by getting a tan, I could mask my marks. They became almost invisible. The problem with this strategy is that my skin is quite fair and I burn easily and tan very gradually. The outcome was the accumulation of significant sun damage in the form of freckles, moles and ultimately a diagnosis of skin cancer. As a dermatologist, I had become my own worst nightmare of a patient.
No one is immune to emotional scars or traumas. We have all had experiences that have made an impact on our lives whether in childhood or as adults. It’s how we’ve chosen to interpret those experiences that guides our choices from that point forward. How we think, feel and act are all tied to our interpretation of an experience, which determines the outcome, and then reinforces this cycle...which may either be benevolent or vicious depending on your outlook. We can enable the feelings of shame and embarrassment surrounding the inciting events to diminish our self-esteem and self-confidence or we can flourish because of them. More often than not unfortunately, it is the former that guides our choices to forgo nourishing our skin, bodies, minds and souls with what they truly need to thrive.
A lack of global nourishment can manifest on your skin in a myriad of ways including acne breakouts, dark circles under your eyes, thinning or loss of hair, brittle nails, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation or skin that is dry, flaky and inflamed to name a few. While your skin is the most powerful diagnostic tool you have to uncover the truth about your state of health and emotional well being, there’s a caveat. Using your power of observation of what’s on your skin surface isn’t enough, the solution to making an impactful change is using what you see to understand why you are seeing it. It requires that you truly take notice with each one of your senses. When you take notice, you can take action. With this one powerful strategy you can embrace what’s working, reframe what’s not, improve your health and boost your confidence .
The fastest, most efficient way to begin this process is to develop an awareness of what you are seeing, feeling and experiencing on your skin, in your body and your mind.
Ask yourself: How you are nourishing your body, from the food you are eating to the relationship you have with food?
Next, take notice of the products you put on your skin most often. Your skin serves as a protective barrier, but it is still permeable and a significant proportion of what you put on it gets absorbed.
How are you sleeping? Do you have a nighttime routine or do you run full steam ahead until you collapse into bed?
Tune into the thoughts going through your mind. What themes or topics are repeating themselves? What tone of voice are you hearing?
Take notice of how you are spending your time and with whom you are spending it with. How do you feel when you are in their company?
What you do to take care of you? What makes your heart race and gives you butterflies? How often are you engaging in whatever that is for you? If you are not sure, that’s ok. Use this as an opportunity to explore it.
There are no right or wrong answers. This exercise is simply to raise awareness and elevate your power of observation. You may find that you are exactly where you need to be or you may discover areas where you need a bit more nourishment. Acknowledge it. Celebrate it. Each discovery is an opportunity to hone your ability to interpret the messages your skin is sending you.
Once you begin to take notice of the feedback you receive, you will then be able to use those messages to dig deeper, interpret what they could mean and serve as a opportunity (or catalyst) to make changes for yourself or clue you in that you should seek the support of a medical professional.
Think of it this way, your skin is a terrible confidant and an amazing cheerleader. It will let you know when something is wrong and it will glow radiantly when it’s properly nourished. Take advantage of your skin’s superpowers to help catapult you towards radiant health, vitality and loving the skin you’re in.