Lead With Love: A Therapeutic Skin Coach On Listening & Responding To Stressed-Out Skin
As a holistic esthetician, I consider the skin to be an essential organ for providing insightful clues about our internal health and well-being. Learning to translate that insight is not taught in our health classes. It's not even taught to those of us who are licensed to treat the skin. But after working and studying skin health for nearly 15 years, as I have, you learn that skin is a magnificent reflection of internal health and stress. And that those insights shouldn't be ignored.
Wouldn't it be nice if your body could just tell you the problem? Luckily, our skin finds ways to do just that.
When consulting with a client who is prone to sensitive and/or sensitized skin conditions, one area of health that almost always needs attention is the nervous system. I find it beneficial to begin with understanding the importance of this system when dealing with sensitive skin by helping clients view it through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine. For instance, I like to describe to them what yin and yang energies are. Every person has both yin (feminine, being, receiving, restful state), and yang (masculine, doing, outputting, alerted state) energies, which are both essential to life. This is helpful because if you're too much in your yang energy without the balance of the yin, it can start inhibiting you into a sympathetic state, which, traditionally, is only meant to be activated when you are in a fight or flight situation. In other words, you might unnecessarily be activating your fight-or-flight response with that imbalance. So facial services and skin care routines can become opportunities to tap into your parasympathetic/yin state.
When I announced that my facial practice would be shutting down in March due to the mandated lockdown, I knew it would be a struggle for many people with skin sensitivities. Why? Many people rely on their facials to de-stress from their lives. These services are not necessarily about vanity but are an opportunity to practice the act of receiving care to feel your best. These services aid in managing the sensitivities that come up from the stressors of our daily lives.
From inflamed skin to dark eye circles to increased facial tension resulting in fine lines and wrinkles—the skin is constantly showcasing our stressors. Whether you are born with sensitive skin or have developed a stress-related skin condition over time, it's important for you to remember that there is no quick fix. The key is simple and stress-free practices that support the skin's ability to heal itself.
That's why it's more important than ever to learn how to use your at-home skin care routine as an opportunity to nurture yourself. Getting yourself grounded, in tune with yourself, and connected to your skin's communication is the optimal strategy when treating a sensitive skin condition.
Here are my top mindful tips for listening, learning, and responding to your skin:
1) We are constantly evolving, so it's important to check in with what your skin is communicating to you. Before you even touch your face, take a moment to get grounded and listen. It's so easy to fall into the same steps of your routine when your mind is somewhere else. When our minds are super busy and we're feeling stressed, we tend to over-congest our skin care routine. Grounding yourself before doing anything to your skin will help you be better able to ask yourself what you need so you can treat your skin accordingly.
2) Our thoughts can have an inflammatory effect on our nervous system. Your skin care routine is an opportunity to learn loving self-talk. You can thank your skin for communicating that you need more or less of something. Or that it is doing its best to communicate with you how it's working hard for you. This helps you seek support for your skin through the lens of love and not through the lens of criticism and judgment. Breaking these negative thought patterns is imperative to helping a sensitive or sensitized skin condition. Inflammation of any kind, whether it's our internal dialogue or overly harsh products, can affect how our skin heals. To mend this, start with finding one thing you love about your skin, and grow from there.
3) Simplicity is key when responding to any skin sensitivity. My go-to routine for sensitive skin clients who need extra nurturing includes:
- Use a soap-free and fragrance-free gentle cleanser like Burt's Bees® Sensitive Skin Cleanser, which includes soothing ingredients such as rice extract and aloe vera juice. This will gently cleanse the skin without causing redness or irritation.
- Don't exfoliate or use harsh active ingredients during a time of sensitivity, even if you want to work on your deeper-set wrinkles or treat a blemish. No active ingredient will be able to deliver on their promise if the skin is already irritated. Instead, soothe the skin and it will return to optimizing its own self-healing functions.
- Focus on hydration and protection of your moisture barrier. You can do this with Burt's Bees® Sensitive Skin Day Lotion and Night Cream. If you are a sensitive skin type that has dry skin, you can use the Night Cream both morning and night for added moisture. Ingredients such as zinc oxide, shea butter, and aloe vera are wonderful to help maintain your skin's moisture barrier.
When faced with a sensitive or sensitized skin condition, practicing these mindful tips will help to navigate your routine with enhanced ease. A sensitive skin condition is simply your skin communicating loudly what it needs. Once you assess your skin through a lens of love, you'll intuitively adjust to a simpler and more soothing skin care routine. This is an opportunity to trust that you are indeed the best person to know what to do with your skin. After all, it's been with you since you were born and has always regenerated and protected you. Trust it, love it, and learn to listen to its needs.
Hayley Wood is a licensed esthetician based in Los Angeles, California. She opened her Therapeutic Skin Coaching practice in 2014 after a run-in with shingles. Wood is also certified in facial reflexology and gua sha, and uses all nontoxic and environmentally friendly products to create intuitive facials unique to each client.