Approaching Skincare on a Holistic Level
Aligning inner and outer well-being.
Holistic health includes the skin, representing a daily lifestyle choice with major wellness repercussions. As the largest living organ of the body, it is essential to understand the best way to care for it as well as the signs that it is giving us. Personalized approaches to skincare can go far beyond the products you put on your face. For instance, licensed esthetician and founder of the holistic practice Therapeutic Skin Coach Hayley Wood has long understood the skin to be a direct representation of the nervous system. Providing insights into the ways your lifestyle fits your needs — from diet to sleep to stress levels and immune health — holistic skincare offers a unique avenue to align inner and outer health.
Understanding a holistic routine
Wood’s philosophy begins with lifestyle factors when it comes to skin health. This includes the efficacy of skincare products. “Many skin care practices are created without consideration of how a person’s immune system, stress, or life changes can impact the outcome of skincare’s promises. This is why some products only work for a short time or can cause an adverse reaction,” she explains.
Instead, she focuses on nourishment — creating an environment where the skin can thrive. “Skin works with us as a collaborator, which is why its communication through symptoms can range from minimal to chronic.” Beginning with the autonomic nervous system, nurturing parasympathetic (i.e., “rest and digest” states) allows the skin to respond more effectively to treatments and care. “You can use all of the best products in the world, but if you’re in “fight or flight” mode, they won’t work well or work for long.”
In addition to your skincare regimen, this also means supportive practices like breathwork and soothing bodywork to help reduce inflammation and support the lymphatic system to promote oxygenation and cellular detox.
rē•spinning your skincare practices
Holistic skincare also differs from conventional marketing which promises instant gratification rather than finding and resolving root causes. When using your products, Wood encourages clients to mindfully consider how they make them feel as they go through the motions of their regimen. Understanding whether you are rushing or relishing certain products and steps in your regimen helps you take note of where you step out of self-alignment.
“There is a way to curate a simple routine with appropriate steps that can be enjoyable to even the most skeptical of clients. Knowing what we don’t like or what takes up space with uncertainty can cause more stress than it’s worth,” she adds.
She also emphasizes the importance of hydration, sleep, an anti-inflammatory and whole-food diet, and bodily movement as important external factors that aid skin health. With all these lifestyle factors, skin care products become less and less central. In her personal routine, she keeps things minimal — a gentle cleanser, a hydrating mist, and a nourishing antioxidant serum or oil. This minimal approach is so that she doesn’t rush the process and focuses on areas tailored to her needs.
Practicing attuned skincare
Becoming better in tune with your skin means recognizing what it needs to thrive — this is a highly personal process. Wood suggests pausing and taking a deep breath before touching your face (and always with clean hands). By becoming the expert on your skin’s connection to your inner states, you can read the signs your skin is telling you. She also suggests regularly finding ways to release tension in the shoulders, stretch the neck, and soften the facial muscles to keep the lymph fluid moving.
“Skin has so many valuable functions [in health] as it works as a protective barrier from external aggressors, works as a filter to waste, regulates body temperature, and more,” Wood says. “Once we view it as a part of our immune system in how it can communicate with us when we are inflamed, or there is an internal imbalance or disruption, it can be so vital to develop a healthy relationship with it instead of fixating on its appearance.”
This “healthier” relationship with your skin takes a more understanding and compassionate approach to the normal fluctuations with life. Furthermore, it enlists the skin as a trusty navigational tool in creating a life that is adapted to your wellness. “Everyone goes through changes, and sometimes we don’t recognize [what they are doing to the state of inner wellness],” she says. “[When this is reflected on the skin], it doesn’t mean that you have to attack it or be mean to it. Learn to listen and work with it because no one will understand your skin better than you.”