As the largest organ in the body, your skin is in constant contact with the outside world, processing temperature, texture and other sensations. Your skin is porous and absorbs whatever you put on it or bathe in: creams, gels, lotions, oils, bubble baths, etc.
While skin plays a significant role in receiving sensory impressions and absorbing materials, did you know that your skin is the largest organ of elimination?
When we talk detox, most people think of the colon, liver and kidneys as the organs that eliminate toxins from the body. While these organs play a critical role in detoxifying, other routes often go unnoticed such as the lungs, menstruation and–most notably–your skin, which helps eliminate up to a third of all body impurities. In Ayurveda, therapies that involve the skin play a crucial role in detox & rejuvenation: dry skin brushing and abhyanga, where medicinal oils are massaged into the skin.
If there is a buildup of toxins in your body or if one of the other channels or organs of elimination is blocked, skin is the overflow route, especially for the kidneys, liver and lungs. Impurities in the blood, digestive buildup from food sensitivities and poor digestion often are mirrored in the quality of your skin. For example, someone who experiences constipation may find that they develop pimples more often. A naturopathic doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner can assess your skin to understand where there may be blockages in your body and treat them accordingly.
Skin Detox Tips
The skin is a reflection of what is happening inside your body. It is working constantly to remove the build-up of both topical and internal toxins. Sweat glands excrete waste products from below the skin and when these pores become clogged with dead cells and debris, your skin cannot eliminate waste efficiently, leading to toxicity and disease. Below are some tips to support efficient skin detoxification.
Ways to Ensure Skin Detoxification is Working
1. Avoid Synthetic Clothing:
Your skin breathes whether you are aware of it or not. Artificial fibres such as polyester, nylon and plastic derivatives don’t allow your skin to breathe. They can trap moisture and heat, and provide a breeding ground for rashes, acne and skin issues. Choose loose clothing made of natural, breathable fibres such as cotton, silk, hemp or linen.
2. Avoid Excessive Lotions & Moisturizers:
As much as it is important to hydrate and moisturize the skin, it is also important not to clog pores with chemical products that reduce your skin’s ability to breathe. There is a wide variety of natural skin products available these days suited to different skin types. Speak to your naturopathic doctor on a suitable regime suited to your skin type to allow your skin to detoxify naturally.
3. Avoid Deodorants & Anti-perspirants:
Anti-perspirants are purposefully made to block the sweat glands to reduce body odour. Regular use of these products block your skin’s ability to eliminate toxins and can lead to more serious health concerns over time. There are certain natural deodorants and products that are made to support detoxification in the underarms as well as the feet with herbs to help draw out toxins. Unpleasant body odour is an indication of toxicity in the body, so it is best to work with your practitioners on ways to identify levels of toxicity through assessment and testing, and tailor a comprehensive detox plan for you. In Ayurveda, excess body odour is considered a sign of “ama” of toxicity.
Ways to Support Skin Detox
1. Include Saunas & Alkaline Baths:
Saunas (especially infra-red) provide deep heat that promotes sweating, which removes metabolic waste and other chemicals stored in the body. This is a safe and effective method of enhancing skin detoxification with added benefits of toning your skin and providing relaxation. Sauna and steam detox exists in many traditions around the world, and is also a part of Ayurvedic therapy known as swedana, which is used to help the skin eliminate toxins and promote absorption of medicinal oils. Exercise can also support elimination through sweating and provide other health benefits, but saunas reach the tissues at a deeper level. Saunas are an excellent way of detoxing for people taking medications which may interact with detoxifying herbs.
Warm baths with alkaline salts have the benefit of promoting relaxation while detoxifying. Alkaline salt baths stimulate the skin to eliminate acid and toxins in the body, and provide an alkaline environment that wards off diseases such as cancer. Taking regular baths several times a week for 30+ minutes can soothe pain, relax muscles and detoxify the entire body. If you have not tried alkaline bath salts, come into our clinic for a free sample!
2. Include Dry Skin Brushing:
This is a technique which exfoliates the skin, stimulates elimination of impurities, gently massages and promotes lymphatic drainage. Gharshana is an Ayurvedic treatment that uses silk gloves on the body to remove dead skin and impurities. You can also do dry skin brushing at home on a daily basis. Ask your holistic practitioner for details.
3. Engage in Regular Massage:
Massage can help move you from a state of stress to a state of relaxation, where your body has more resources to eliminate efficiently. Certain massage techniques geared towards detoxing may involve gentle lymphatic massage. Ayurvedic abhyanga massage promotes detoxification and is an essential aspect of panchakarma therapy, which is a traditional 5-fold detox program. Gharshana is a more elaborate form of dry skin brushing during which an Ayurvedic practitioner uses skin cleansing herbs to exfoliate the skin and support detoxification with the added benefit of weight loss. These techniques are customized to your dosha type and health condition.
4. Work from the Inside Out
Ensuring that you have healthy-looking skin always involves working from the inside-out. You require adequate hydration, a healthy diet, and support for any organ system that is struggling. Keep in mind that detox goes beyond physical elimination of impurities – emotions such as fear, worry, resentment, guilt and other negative emotions are toxic and need to be let go to prevent disease. Your practitioner will guide you to customized treatment recommendations that help you detox from the inside out.
There is a lot of hype about detox these days. While detoxing may be more critical than ever, it is also important to know what kind of detox is suitable for you, and which organs to support while detoxifying. In addition to self-care techniques you can do at home to detoxify, your naturopathic doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner can further support your detox regime with herbs and supplements depending on how gentle or intensive a cleansing you need.
Supporting your skin’s natural ability to detoxify not only leads to bright and glowing skin, but will leave you feeling better from the inside out.
Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor and Advanced Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor who focuses on chronic pain and chronic disease management.
Would you like to learn more about Ayurvedic skin care and other self-care practices? Check out our beginner’s course: Ayurveda Self & Community Care Program.