Your skin is how you greet the world. It is the first thing people notice, andthe first impression of your overall health, beauty, and well-being. It can be hard to look and feel radiantly healthy when battling chronic skin problems. Unfortunately, many skin treatments favor harsh and unnatural ingredients that are not only bad for your health, but can be environmentally unfriendly and unethical as well.
Rachael Pontillo has not always had beautiful glowing skin, but she does now. She talked to us about her journey to holistic skin care, what to look for, and what to avoid for the most naturalistic skin care regimen. Rachael regularly writes about health and beauty at her blog, Holistically Haute.
You started your journey towards holistic skin care due to acne, which you felt was holding you back in life. How did you feel your skin problems were restricting you, and what changed when it started to improve?
Acne restricted me in many ways. It restricted me financially, as I felt at the time that I had to spend large amounts of money on expensive products to keep it under control. It restricted my time, as my skincare and makeup regimen took over an hour every day. It restricted how confident I felt in dealing with other people and going for opportunities that I wanted, because I always felt like people weren't seeing me - they were just seeing the acne.
I felt free when it started to improve. I felt like a new person at the beginning of a new life. I felt like my possibilities were endless.
To battle your skin problems, you went back to school to get your aesthetics license. What you learned there contradicted nearly all of the conventional wisdom at the time. Can you talk a bit about what some of those contradictions were?
I was lucky to have a teacher that valued a holistic approach in addition to conventional aesthetics. It was valuable to learn both. She talked a lot about the importance of avoiding chemicals in skincare products like parabens and skin-stripping surfactants, and promoted a "less is more" approach to the more aggressive exfoliation treatments. She also taught about what we now call nutritional aesthetics in that she spoke of food triggers like dairy for acne, the importance of micro-nutrients like Vitamin D, and also the importance of a healthy gut for healthy skin. These are topics I'd later learn more about in depth in my holistic nutrition education.
You have also talked about your body not responding to generic advice and fad diets. How might someone with skin problems specifically identify what their body needs?
It takes time! For me, it took years of trial and error and frustration, whereas had I worked with someone who valued the importance of bio-individuality in skincare and health, it would have gone much faster. I advise people to not rely on fad diets or internet health articles (and certainly not on advertising campaigns) for valid information. Find a holistically-minded professional like a health coach, an integrative or functional doctor, a naturopathic doctor, or a nutritionist who understands the value of discovering the cause of the issue, rather than just treating the effects.
You wrote an interesting post called "Is Skincare Just Vanity?". In your opinion, what are some other reasons, besides vanity, to have your best possible skin?
Your skin is the part of you that comes into contact with the world before anything else. It's a big part of how people perceive you, and it's a big part of how you perceive yourself. The skin is also an indicator of one's overall levels of health and wellness. Good health and happiness glow from within. Good skin is also beautiful. Human beings inherently appreciate and enjoy beauty. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it's good for us!
Waking up in the morning to a beautiful reflection and retiring at night after seeing it does wonders for the soul and is a great way to bookend the day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for moisturizing skin. What are some good sources of Omega-3s?
Small fatty fish like sardines and anchovies. Krill are also good. Salmon and cod are fine, but you have to be careful with the source, as larger fish are more prone to heavy metal contamination. High quality fish oil supplements from a company with third-party certified good manufacturing practices are fine as well. Good plant sources of Omega-3s are chia seeds, walnuts, and dark leafy greens like spinach.
Apart from products, what are some other essential ingredients to holistic skin care?
Adequate hydration, adequate sleep, conscious stress management, daily movement, love, laughter, prioritizing family and self-care.