Skin Care Round Up — holistic moisturizing, exfoliation, and wound healing

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skin care

My skin care motto is: simplify.

 

Let me tell you a little about my background… Before becoming a full time Mommy I was considering going into Dermatology, so in medical school I took three times the regular amount of training in Dermatology as a result.

I also spent four summers throughout college working at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD… working with a research team who was investigating oncogenes.

And… as I mentioned in my sunscreen article last week, my father was a top scientist at the forefront of melanoma research, so in my lifetime I’ve gotten a little extra training in both the areas of cancer research and in skin care.

 

With this background, my gut feeling says that the more you chronically irritate something, the more likely you are to develop cancer in that organ.

 

As straight forward as that.

And that includes the skin, our body’s largest organ.

 

Most of the over the counter anti-aging products you can buy through drugstores, department stores, and even health food stores, contain ingredients designed to chronically irritate your skin.

This is because they’ve found that by chronically irritating skin at low levels… low enough that you may not even see any skin reaction visibly…  you are chronically encouraging it to slough off and turn over new cells.

This is why low but consistent doses of retinal products and hydroxy acids and other skin acids (even all naturally derived fruit acids) works to give your skin a refreshed surface… chronically forcing new cell turnover.

 

While this is great in the short-term (you get fresher skin within a few weeks) in the long-term, chronic irritation and inflammation has been shown to incite cellular damage.

 

Chronic inflammation is turning out to be one of the major factors in all types of disease… from coronary artery disease (as I blog about here,) to stroke, to cancer.

 

So, my goal as a physician is to decrease the levels of inflammation and irritation in and on the body as much as possible.

 

It is routine practice now to try to decrease the level of inflammation inside our bodies… for example, decreasing the level of inflammation in our guts by avoiding certain foods (like avoiding gluten if you have celiac disease) or using prescription medications to decrease inflammation (like statin drugs for heart disease.)

 

But it is not generally addressed when it comes to skin care.

Yes, everyone understands that inflaming your skin to the point of sunburn is a serious no-no… that UV exposure can cause skin cancers… but what about the chronic irritation of the toxic chemicals in daily use of chemical sunblock?

This is starting to get more recent press and consumers are switching to physical sunblock over chemical ones, for good reason (as I blog about here!)

The same thinking goes for your facial care products.

 

Infrequent use may be fine, but daily (and sometimes twice daily, morning and night!) slathering on of anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, anti-this-and-that products intended to stir up your skin and cause enough low levels of irritation that it forces your skin to make new skin faster… 40 years of applying this to your face doesn’t feel right to me.

  • If you had a chemical irritant would you smear it morning and night on the inside walls of your heart?
  • Or along the surface of your kidney?
  • Why does it seem so much more benign when we slather it onto our skin?

 

I’m not sure why, especially since skin cancers are no small concern… and with the advent of the newer delivery methods (micronized particles and nanosphere delivery systems) the ingredients do not stay superficial but rather are internally delivered.

 

So that is the platform upon which I recommend this very simple skin plan:

Do no harm.

 

Allow your body to do what it does best… cover you in sheets of beautiful, healthy skin, replacing it as needed… and support this process with moisture and occasional exfoliation.

 

1.  For moisturizing, nothing beats coconut oil in my book.

  • I have a huge jar of organic coconut oil in my bathroom, and I use it for everything.  I put it in my hair once in a while before I shampoo, as a deep moisturizer.
  • I use it on my face to remove make up, then put it on again after I wash my face as a moisturizer.
  • I put it on after I shower and before I towel dry to give my entire body a moisture barrier.
  • It is extremely well absorbed, smells great, and no irritation.
  • Simple to find at most health food stores and grocery stores and on-line… really everywhere.

 

I’ve been known to grab my bottle of organic olive oil or grapeseed oil from the pantry in a pinch as well, but I tend to prefer coconut oil.

2.  For exfoliation, nothing beats this simple ingredient you have waiting for you right now in your kitchen!

 

Watch this video… the advice in it is still as true today as the day I recorded it.

(If the video is not showing up here for you, scroll down into the comments section where I have re-posted it…)

3.  And for wound healing and reduced chances of scarring?

 

You know I scour the medical literature on your behalf to bring you all the positive, uplifting, cutting edge and natural health advice possible…

So I was excited to read and share with you this article, published in the International Wound Journal (April, 2012) that reports the use of honey for wound care.  Honey was found to:

  • promote healing
  • minimize necrosis
  • minimize the amount of skin that sloughed off the wound
  • reduced wound size, and
  • decreased affected area around wound

 

I’d be happy to use honey as a topical dressing even if it only had a small chance of helping… but it actually made a measurable improvement in over 84% of wounds!!!!

We are talking:

  • post operative wounds
  • general skin wounds
  • infections
  • burns
  • ulcers
  • pressure sores and more!

Honey has well-known antimicrobial benefits, doesn’t spoil, is easy to have on hand and is portable (no refrigeration required!)

so it really makes perfect sense to use as a secondary wound dressing (keep a small bottle in your travel kit!) for use on adults and children older than 12 months old.

 

  • First be sure to flush out any wound with lots of water… for a long period of time.
  • Then, depending on wound type you may consider a topical antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, or antibacterial dressing, and then honey.
  • For minor wounds, use deep cleansing and then honey as a dressing, but be sure to have any deeper or larger wounds evaluated by a physician.

 

Because honey is so safe and so effective for so many different types of wounds… and because it speeds healing and decreases the amount of skin that is affected by the wound, I feel that honey ultimately will be shown to reduce the appearance of scarring as well.

 

So for post operative wounds or acne infections or stretch marks or injuries that you want to minimize scarring in… bring on the honey!

 

Sweet news, indeed!

 

There is no way that my skin is perfect… not by a long shot.  But it IS healthy and it is fully supported.

 

Coconut oil, baking soda, and honey.  Just might be the perfect skin care triad!

 

Questions?  Comments? 

Leave them for me below and I’ll respond to you with my thoughts! 

xoxo, Laura

 

21 Responses to “Skin Care Round Up — holistic moisturizing, exfoliation, and wound healing”

  1. Debbie

    Hi Laura,

    I always love your blog posts! Thank you. I just started skin brushing with a natural fiber brush. Its suppose to help your skin but also detoxicify your lymph nodes. Do you think the brushing is too irritating to the skin?

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Thanks Debbie! I’m a huge fan of dry brushing before I shower — I love how it feels and love the exfoliation benefits as well — go for it! If you find the brush you use is too hard on your skin, you can find softer bristled brushes — some like firm coarse hair, some like softer haired brushes, some like loofah… if you like your brush I think that’s great! I wish I remembered to do it more often! Thank you so much for leaving this great tip on my blog post and for your question… xoxo, Laura

  2. Rosalie

    Totally agree with you Laura! As an Esthetician (skincare professional) for the past 22 years I have researched and sampled many skincare lines. My work was has taken me to Spas at Hyatt, Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels so I have worked with top of the line distributor products and used them also. For me nothing compares to the benefits I have gotten from using coconut oil, baking soda and honey on my skin.
    Apple cider vinegar is on my list also for it’s PH balancing abilities..I live in the tropics and love the beach so I use it for sun excess. Never on my face of course I always wear a hat!

    Rosalie

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Thanks Rosalie — I appreciate you sharing your immense expertise here with my readers and loved your comment. Coconut oil is the best!!! I love apple cider vinegar too — great tip — I love to pour it in my bathtub as I soak as well as drink it when I detox… thanks so much for adding that tip to the list. Much appreciation… xoxo, Laura

  3. Jaclynn

    I don’t see any link to any video under number 2… but I really want to know more about exfoliation. I get really dry legs (my mother does too, so I know it must be genetic) and I’m wondering if the best way is to exfoliate them and then do a hardcore regimen of moisturizing, because I’ve heard that putting moisturizer on the dead skin cells only makes them hang around longer.

    Oddly enough, I also get really dry, flaky eyebrows… I’m not sure why? I’ve tried everything, from exfoliating to moisturizing (lotion, oil, dandruff shampoo, my sister-in-law’s homemade hand salve, you name it!) and they still get dry and flaky! Any insight as to why certain areas of our bodies seem to be continually dry while others seem to be doing just fine?

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi Jaclynn — thank you so much for your comment! I’ll have to check out why the video is not showing for you. I absolutely think you should give baking soda a try on your legs — make it into a paste by adding a touch of water to a sprinkle of baking soda on your hands and scrub your legs, then follow with the coconut oil. I think you’ll notice a big difference! The other thing you can do is what one reader just commented on — dry brushing your skin before stepping into the shower/bath — dry brushing is great to stimulate the skin and turn over dead skin cells and repair/prevent KP (ketosis pilaris — those annoying bumps on the back of your arms or in areas of dry skin)

      The eyebrows sound more like seborrhea dermatitis — usually this is a fungal thing — try using some tea tree oil directly on your eyebrows (sparingly) daily or even twice a day… as well as decrease the amount of sugar/carbs that you consume to see if that helps. Using an over the counter athletes foot cream (be sure to use sparingly and avoid the eye area) for 2 weeks might make a big difference too — but this is a chronic condition that will come back over and over generally — some folks are just more “fungal” then others and it is natural for all of us to have fungus living on our skin… so it will eventually grow back. Decreasing the amount of sugars and simple carbs you consume as well as taking lots of probiotics should help re-set the balance of your skin… keep in touch and let me know how it goes! xoxo, Laura

      • Laura Koniver, MD

        For some reason the video doesn’t want to embed, so here is the link directly to it on YouTube — so sorry about that and thank you for letting me know! xoxo, Laura

  4. Darcy

    Hi Laura,
    I purchased a large tub of organic coconut oil from you a while back. Do you know how I could purchase that online? The company name, etc? Im spending a fortune on smaller containers at local health food stores because i also have one of my elderly dogs using it and it has fixed him right up!
    Thanks, Darcy

  5. Lea

    Hi, Laura!
    Thank you for great advice. I happen to have argan oil at home.
    Is argan oil suitable for skin moisturising?
    Thanks!
    Lea

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi Lea!!! I love argan oil and yes, it is fabulous for the skin and is quite non-greasy and absorbs well, is particularly good for skin and hair uses… although it does not posses the same anti-microbial, anti-fungal properties of coconut oil, if you have it on hand it is still WONDERFUL. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been studies to know if argan oil has the same internal benefits that coconut oil has, but it is extremely possible! Go for it Lea and thank you so much for leaving your question here on my blog! xoxoxo, Laura

  6. Charyn

    Hi Laura,

    You know I’ve tried the coconut oil and it seemed to irritate the skin on my face after about a week of using it. Do you know why this might be? I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t find an answer. Thanks!

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hello dear Charyn! It sounds like you might have a contact allergy to coconut oil. It is rare but does occur, and symptoms are as you describe, redness, inflammation, itching and even blistering after touching coconut oil. You can have this type of contact allergy with or without having a reaction to ingesting it, although if I were you I would probably try my best to avoid consuming products that contain coconut oil as well. It’s very rare but anaphylactic reactions have occurred. My recommendation is to definitely stick with other oils for your face! I’ve grabbed both olive oil and grapeseed oil from my pantry to use and loved both… there should not be the nut protein in those oils (only the fats) so if you use them and don’t get the redness you get with coconut oil, you should be good! Thank you so much for your question… xoxo, Laura

  7. Lauren Scott

    Hi Laura,

    I love your blog. Do you just buy the Spectrum coconut oil and then apply directly to your face with your hands? How much do you apply? Also, I have another question, how do you think the Spectrum cocunut oil compares with squalane facial oil. I hear Indie Lee has a great squalane facial oil.

    http://indielee.com/shop/face/squalane-facial-oil

    any thoughts on these questions.

    Thanks,
    Lauren

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hello Lauren, thank you so much for putting that link on my blog — I have to admit I’ve never tried squalene facial oil but am now very very intrigued! I love coconut oil so much I’m not sure if there is any benefit to squalene above coconut because I’ve been so satisfied with the results from the coconut oil (and it is less expensive for sure, which I like since I slather it all over my body and consume it — I go through quite a bit of it!) I love love love finding new products though and will look into squalene for sure — olive oil is my “go to” oil to use on my skin and face if I run out of coconut oil, so since this seems to be derived from olive oil it is likely excellent as well. As far as applying — yes, I just go all out after my shower but before drying off — big handfuls all over my body and face and then I towel dry. It absorbs well and after drying what is left on the skin is the perfect amount! Sometimes before bed I’ll add on even more directly to my face with fingertips. Also, if I don’t feel like washing my face (especially if I have make up on) I’ll just use a dollop of coconut oil, massage it into my face, wipe it all off with a washcloth, and viola! I’ve removed make up and moisturized in one step. Hope that helps! Thank you for the question and the link! xoxoxo, Laura

  8. Lauren Scott

    Thanks Laura! I will let you know how the squalane oil works out.

  9. Evan

    Hi Laura! I’m so excited to have just found your blog! I’m a nurse with complicated dry and acne prone skin so I love learning about simple natural skin care. I couldn’t catch the name if the cleanser that you were using in the video. Would you mind clarifying that for me?

    Thanks so much!
    Evan

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi dear Evan! I just used Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in the video… but if you have dry skin and don’t mind splurging another cleanser I recommend for more complicated skin is Dr. Hauschka’s milk cleanser — one bottle will last you months and it is so gentle. Perfect for use with the baking soda. The baking soda will keep your acne at bay and Dr. Hauschkas cleanser will keep your skin from over-drying: https://store.drhauschka.com/b2c/ecom/ecomEnduser/items/itemDetail.aspx?&page=&store=&itemNum=CM&siteId=1&bulkexists=0 Otherwise, use the castile soap (it is excellent too, but can be drying) and be sure to follow up with coconut oil to rehydrate your skin… and drink tons of water!!! Thank you for your question! Hope this works well for you… keep me posted. xoxox, Laura

  10. Vinni Sang

    Hi Laura,

    You posts are always so interesting and informational. For dry skin i would also suggest Aloe Vera. It’s a natural moisturizing formula moisturizes your skin and make it look fresh and healthy. Drinking aloe vera juice is an added benefit for skin care, hair care and overall health. It is a miraculous plant and have several benefits. Would like to share the same with you.

    http://www.trulyaloevera.com/20-aloe-vera-uses-that-will-surprise-you/