Each winter, our skin is severely challenged to maintain its elasticity, youthfulness and glow. Lucky for us, nature has a plan to deliver inner and outer skin protection during the skin-harsh winter season, with none other than its harvest!
#1: Stress Mitigation
Oxidation caused by stress, toxins, and excess sunlight triggers the production of free radicals. Free radicals are harmful chemicals in the body that play a large role in the breakdown, degeneration and premature aging of the body and skin. Stress decreases the blood supply available to the skin and, in turn, increases the production of free radicals in the skin. (1)
While the sun may be the biggest offender when it comes to free radical skin damage, emotional and psychological stress can also muster up free radicals and damage the skin. (2) Our skin reflects our ability to effectively process stress.
Ayurveda puts lifestyle as the first area to address in nearly every health concern.
Here are 10 of my favorite, easy stress-management strategies:
- Take time to relax and enjoy your meals. Rest for a few minutes on your left side after the meal.
- Eat no more than 3 meals a day. Try to make lunch bigger, or dinner lighter and earlier.
- Exercise daily while breathing through your nose. Even 10 minutes of yoga or a walk will help. Try my 12-Minute Workout or do a few Sun Salutations.
- Meditate everyday if possible. There are 1440 minutes in each day, take a moment now and learn my One Minute Meditation.
- Perform random acts of kindness. Make an effort to express love, kindness and gratitude every day.
- Go to bed early, before 10PM, and get no more or less than 7-8 hours each night.
- While in the shower or bath, take the time to give yourself a slow, Ayurvedic oil massage (aka abhyanga) with the intention to slow down.
- Divide your ideal body weight in pounds by two. This gives the number of ounces of pure water you should drink each day to stay hydrated. For example, if your ideal weight is 120 pounds, you should aim to drink 60 ounces (about 2 quarts) of pure water daily.
- Feed your gut bacteria with 1 teaspoon of raw, organic coconut oil each day. Cook with small amounts of ghee and add high quality olive oil to your meals.
- Find at least a half hour each day to engage in unstructured play time. Playing means doing something you love, that has no goal or reward.
Two Herbs to Get Your Glow Back
Amalaki, also known as amla or Indian Gooseberry, has been called “the Ayurvedic wonder,” as it supports everything from digestion to elimination, immunity, and inner and outer skin health. Amalaki supports antioxidant activity and healthy skin via the encouragement of collagen and elastin production. In this way, amalaki supports not only the health of the outer skin, but also the inner skin that lines the gut, respiratory tract, and all the mucous membranes of the body.
Amalaki is well-known as a natural source of vitamin C. While many sources of vitamin C—such as synthetic or extracted vitamin C—can cause looser stools at high doses, amalaki, touting a natural, whole form, can support healthy and firm stools. For years in my clinic, I have been extremely impressed by amalaki’s incredible ability to support gut health by balancing the delicate intestinal mucus that is crucial for nutrient assimilation. (3, 4)
How To Use Amalaki
Amalaki adds a nice tart/sour taste that can often replace lemon, lime or vinegar. As it can have a slight grainy texture when the powder is added dry foods, use it in watery foods or dissolve it in liquid first. Start with a small amount to find your preferred dose because adding too much can taste bitter to some. Add 1/4-1/2 tsp of amalaki powder to the following foods:
- Amalaki Mintade for 2 people: juice of 1 lemon, ¼-1/2 tsp of amalaki powder, sprig of chopped mint. Sweeten to taste with honey, agave or stevia.
- In warm water with a dash of honey, stevia or agave
- Fruit smoothies
- Green smoothies
- Vegetables juices
- Salad Dressings (Try amalaki with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and salt)
- Soups (add after cooking)
Alternatively, take 1 capsule or 500-1000mg 3 times per day after meals. Organic amalaki powder (1/4-1/2 tsp) can be mixed with raw honey for a soothing, rejuvenating face mask that will give you a natural glow. Leave it on for at least 10 minutes, rinse it off, then moisturize.
Tip: Steam your face prior to applying the mask. This is a great practice before applying masks of any kind to the face.
Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, is an adaptogenic herb, a class of herbs that adapt to the needs of the body to cope with the ravages of stress. Ashwagandha is harvested in the fall and it is heavy, sweet and warm, thus the perfect antidote to winter. Traditionally, it was added to soups and stews to support immunity, stamina and vitality during the harsh winter months. (6)
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 98 adults with long-term stress concerns were given Ashwagandha for 60 days. The participants were divided into groups that received either 125mg once a day, 125mg twice a day, 250mg twice a day, or a placebo.
The group that took the lowest dose, at 125mg once a day, demonstrated a 62% reduction in emotional strain. Cortisol was reduced by 14.5%, and DHEA, a supporting hormone for cushioning the stress response in the body, increased by 13.2%. All three groups that took Ashwagandha saw a decrease in C Reactive Protein, a marker for inflammation in the body. (5)
The researchers concluded that daily use of Ashwagandha would benefit people suffering from degenerative stress and emotional strain without any adverse effects.
Suggested Use of Ashwagandha: Take 1 capsule or 500-1000mg 3 times per day before meals.
Amalaki & Ashwagandha Are Better Together
When antioxidants are combined together, they have a synergistic effect, yielding skin-shielding benefits that are more effective than when the individual compounds are taken alone. These two Ayurvedic herbs, ashwagandha and amalaki, both with powerful free radical-scavenging properties, work together synergistically to de-stress and support the appearance of healthy skin. (7, 8)
Ayurvedic texts describe both of these herbs as rasayana herbs. Rasayana herbs promote longevity, induce nourishment, and prevent the effects of aging.
#2: Good Fats
During the winter, the amount of dietary omega-3 fatty acids available is naturally increased. Download my Winter Grocery List here. The best fats to focus on for glowing and plump-looking skin are omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids support the health of the skin on both the inside and outside of the body.
There are two major kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The most abundant source of both EPA and DHA is in oily, cold water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines that eat algae, unlike farmed fish which are primarily fed grain and corn.
All fish oils have to be tested due to the heavy metal toxicity in our oceans. Eating fish used to be a great source of omega-3s, but today, we must limit the amount of fish we eat and be careful that the source of the fish is clean. Radiation is also a major concern not to be taken lightly. Fish farms have issues, like antibiotic and chemical exposure and unnatural food.
Optimal fish oils are sourced from the Arctic deep sea, such as wild-caught sardines and anchovies, and are molecularly distilled to remove all heavy metals, rancid fats, bacteria, molds and yeast. Every batch should be individually tested and certified.
In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, regular doses of fish oil in humans were evaluated for immune support against sunlight. The lead researcher, Professor Lesley Rhodes, reported that this was the first study of its kind on humans and, although the findings were small, they indicated that fish oils may provide a continuous low level of immune support against solar radiation and possible skin concerns. (9)
In addition to fish oils, there are vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids that should be included in the diet. Vegetable oils from flaxseeds and chia seeds, for example, are rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which needs to convert to DHA and EPA in the body. However, this conversion is inefficient and unable to deliver the dosages of EPA and DHA that we get from fish oils, indicating that the benefits from vegetable-based omega-3’s may have a different mechanism. More research is needed to understand the benefits of vegetable-based omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods with Vegetable-Based Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- Flax seeds and flax seed oil
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Certain algae
#3: Vitamin D3
The active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) penetrates the fatty phospholipid layer of the skin and migrates directly to the nucleus of the cell. Here, it binds to vitamin D receptors, where it controls many processes including skin health, immunity and skin cell production. (10)
The skin cells naturally die at a rate of about 30-40,000 cells per minute, allowing vitamin D to play a vital role in the production of specialized cells called keratinocytes, which are responsible for the production of millions of new healthy skin cells every few minutes. These vitamin D-dependent keratinocytes create the structural framework that supports the skin tone and locks in the moisture the skin needs to stay supple and soft. Without the production of keratinocytes in the skin, the skin will dry out, wrinkle, sag and begin to appear thin and fragile. (11)
Vitamin D3 serves as a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage. In fact, in one study, vitamin D3 was responsible for the production of enzymes that protected against free radicals and reduced lipid peroxidation (one of the most common causes of free radicals). (12)
Humans were designed to get most of their vitamin D by getting adequate sun exposure in the summer months. UVB radiation from the sun combines with the natural cholesterol on the skin and creates pre-vitamin D in the skin. Within about an hour, this pre-vitamin D converts to vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol (the supplemental vitamin D3), where it is transported and stored in the liver. When needed, it is shipped to the kidneys, where it is converted into the super active form of vitamin D called calcitriol, where it then re-enters the bloodstream as the active form of vitamin D to be used throughout the body.
The skin is the last tissue of the body to receive the circulating vitamin D, which is why it is so important to supplement during the winter months when vitamin D levels are usually at their lowest. This is even more important as we age, as the skin slowly loses its ability to convert the UVB rays to pre-vitamin D. For optimal vitamin D function, it is suggested to keep serum vitamin D3 levels at or above 80ng/mL. (10, 11)
Suggested Use of Vitamin D3: Take 3-5000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. Use our home test kit to test levels before use.
We Recommend10 Reasons To Take Vitamin D During Winter
Why LifeSpa’s Skincare Products Contain Topical Vitamin D
New research has shown that the topical application of vitamin D increases the proliferation of peptides on the skin’s surface that defend against daily microbial assault and reduce the appearance of prematurely aging skin. (13) Since the skin is the last to receive the much-needed vitamin D, consider skincare products that contain vitamin D, or add a few drops of our Liquid Sun Vitamin D serum to your favorite skincare product.