Our bodies are uniquely equipped to care for themselves: from your lungs to your liver, your major organs do an amazing job of keeping you well, and your skin is no exception.
As an organ of elimination, your skin reflects all that's going on in the rest of your body with startling accuracy––which makes it one of your greatest allies when it comes to keeping the undesirable toxic gunk we encounter each day out there instead of rooting its way in and showing up on your face.1
The science is clear. You don't need to overcompensate with over-the-top crash cleanses to keep your face vibrant and healthy; however, it is a good idea to support your skin on a consistent, daily basis, particularly in the face of pollutants, fluctuations in diet, and the tensions of modern life, as many of us have unprecedented exposure to these stressors and they often have the tendency to show up right there (front and center) on our face.
So, the question remains: what’s truly the best way to detoxify your skin (without artificial or harmful chemicals)?
Luckily, many effective and enjoyable options for ridding the skin of toxins exist—here are five of our favorites!
1. Up your glow by taking care of your gut.
Your skin does a lot for you: besides acting as your natural barrier to the world and helping your body to regulate your temperature, it also gives you a preview of your inner health and well-being. So, if you want to give your complexion its best chance, think first and foremost about detoxifying your system at its core––enter your gut microbiome.
You’ve likely heard a lot about the importance of gut health over the last few years and for good reason. Scientists have recently uncovered that the bacteria in your gut play a central role in nearly all bodily functions, and that includes the way your skin looks. These probiotic good guys reside in your digestive tract and keep your natural defenses strong while helping your body guard itself against the impact of environmental toxins. But they can only do this when they themselves are healthy, strong, and in balance—aka when your beneficial bacteria significantly outnumber the unwanted microbes so they can effectively crowd them out, along with the toxins they produce. One of the easiest ways to help promote this balance and reinforce your probiotic troops is by taking a daily, premium probiotic supplement and making sure your diet includes loads of whole and plant-based foods that are rich in prebiotic fiber (your bacterial good guys' food of choice). Happy bacteria equate to a clear mind, glowing skin, and a healthy body––it's the ultimate win-win.
2. Fall in love with dry skin brushing.
Perhaps the simplest way to support your skin, dry skin brushing is the perfect pre-shower practice.2 By taking a soft, natural-bristle brush and gently scrubbing yourself from your feet up, you can encourage your skin to release dead cells that might otherwise clog pores, plus, it gives your circulatory and lymphatic systems a boost. The lymphatic system is constantly on the watch for toxins and other unwanted substances in the body; when it finds them, it filters them out of your blood as much as possible, sending out lymphocytes (a key type of immune cell) and encouraging the overall flow of lymph throughout the body to promote swift, seamless detoxification.
Try making it part of your daily routine for a week or so: take a few minutes each day to brush your skin with gentle, sweeping motions towards the heart before you hop in the shower and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes after just a short time. It’s good to keep in mind that dry brushing the body and face are two different animals, so be sure to take extra care of the delicate skin on your face, and opt for a hydrating oil or serum post-cleanse.
3. Spend some time in a supercharged sauna.
One of the primary ways your skin helps with the detoxification process is by sweating. As toxins release within your body, they have to go somewhere—and sweating is one of the best ways for them to easily exit the body. While there are many ways to start this process, sweating it out in an infrared sauna is certainly among the most enjoyable.
An update on the traditional Finnish sauna, this wonderfully relaxing version uses infrared rays, allowing the heat to penetrate far more deeply into your body.3 Besides feeling fantastic, this more intensive heat both increases blood flow (which helps your body carry toxins to the liver for quicker processing) and encourages fat molecules to release any noxious substances they might be holding onto.
And since your pores are already open because of the heat, these unwanted substances can make their way out of the body much more easily. To make the most of a sauna detox, try to enjoy at least one session a week (consistency helps). Also, be sure you have a great rinse afterwards to wash away all that’s exited through your pores and drink plenty of water to rehydrate and help keep the elimination process going!
4. Make magnesium part of your bath time routine.
Working along the same lines as a sauna, a piping hot and soothing bath also encourages detoxification through sweating but with one crucial difference. While in the bath (and afterward), you can also encourage your body to absorb crucial nutrients that relax your muscles, soothe your skin, and encourage the cleansing process.
To enjoy a basic detox bath, draw a warm bath and add in a couple of handfuls of natural bath salts or, even better, magnesium flakes. We love using Epsom salts with baking soda, as it really helps your skin to release toxins.4 The baking soda acts as a natural antifungal, and, since it’s a light astringent, it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. For ultimate restoration, use a magnesium oil spray after your bath which will give much needed support to your muscles (as almost everyone in the Western world is deficient in this essential mineral for muscle health).
You can also get creative with your detoxing, adding in delicious-smelling natural healers like lavender or frankincense to encourage good circulation and help your body efficiently flush out toxins, green tea for antioxidant support, bentonite clay to draw out toxins, or almond milk to soothe and moisturize skin. (Do make sure to put any loose add-ins, like herbs or roots, in a cheesecloth bag to avoid them clogging up your drain!)
5. Take a cold plunge to embolden the circulatory system
The health of your circulatory system has a direct impact on your immunity and the way your body rids itself of toxins. (Here’s a great article that breaks it all down). It can be easy to overlook since it isn’t something most of us think about day to day, but your skin is deeply and visibly impacted by your blood flow; the better your circulation, the more likely it is that you can ward off environmental pollutants. In some circumstances, it pumps almost as much blood as your heart! In addition to dry brushing for directly improving local circulation, you can encourage this much-needed full-body flow by taking a hot-cold plunge.5
A staple technique of Turkish baths for centuries, hot-cold plunges are as straightforward as they sound. You start out by turning on the water in your shower or sink as hot as you can stand for one minute. Then switch to cold water, enjoying the brisk sensation for another minute before going back to the hot water. If you want to go a little more extreme, you can repeat this four or five times––by the end your heart rate will be up, your skin will be moving toxins efficiently, and you’ll step out of the shower feeling energized and ready to take on the world.
Further, since your pores are open and relaxed during the hot cycle, it only makes sense that they snap closed when exposed to the cold. A hot-hold plunge is also the perfect way to keep your squeaky clean pores protected from unwanted infestations.
Your skin does so very much for you, and it's so easy to return the favor when it comes to protecting it from everyday stressors and toxicants. These are just a few simple yet sustainable (and absolutely skin-friendly) ways to detoxify and support overall health on a whole new level.
1. Peng Y., Cui X., Liu Y., Li Y., Liu J, Cheng, B. (2014). Systematic Review Focusing on the Excretion and Protection Roles of Sweat in the Skin. Dermatology, 228(2), 115-120. doi: 10.1159/000357524
2. Price, L. (1964). Use of Exercise, Air, Light and Water to Restore Health and Productivity. The American Journal of Cardiology, 13(5), 677-680. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(64)90203-6.
3. Crinnion, W.J. (2011). Sauna as a Valuable Clinical Tool for Cardiovascular, Autoimmune, Toxicant-Induced and Other Chronic Health Problems. Alternative Medicine Review, 16(3), 215-25.
4. Polefka, T.G., Bianchini, R.J., Shapiro, S. (2012). Interaction of Mineral Salts With the Skin: a Literature Survey. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 34(5), 416–423. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2012.00731.x
5. Cochrane, D.J. (2004). Alternating Hot and Cold Water Immersion for Athlete Recovery: a Review. Physical Therapy in Sport, 5(1), 26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2003.10.002