Cleansing, Mindfulness and Tending to the Garden of your Skin

by Magdalena Tomczak

Our skin is certainly not inert yet we often relate to it as if it was. From the way we are taught about our skin at school, to the way we are encouraged to care for it, it is obvious that our relationship with our skin has become very mechanical. No attention is given to the innate wisdom of the skin or the life which pulsates within it.

This rather incomplete understanding of our skin has consequences which are seen very clearly in the area of skin care. For example, we often ignore that our skin is naturally equipped with cleansing mechanisms. And for the most part without our interaction our skin knows exactly how to take care of its detoxifying processes, making sure that tissues are cleansed for their optimal function.

Skin is a highly intelligent organ with complexity way beyond full scientific understanding. It is the most reproducing tissue of the body with layers of sophisticated networks. According to Ayurveda there are seven layers of skin and each one is related to one of the seven layers of the bodily tissues. This helps us better understand how health of the body is reflected in the health of our skin and where particular skin challenges originate from. Thus the notion of ’as within so without’ is very appropriate to describe the wholeness of the human body, including skin.

Sure, western science can take a single living skin cell and reproduce from there. It can even take that single living cell and take it apart to its basic components. But, the tricky thing is that science doesn’t know how to put those components back together and make them a functioning living cell again. Actually, science is incapable of making a living skin cell because it has no ability to produce the most important ingredient of them all, which is life itself. So when it comes to understanding skin, it is safe to say that we are smart but not that smart.

As a skin care professional I do my best to remember that skin has its own intelligence and wisdom. At times it can be a little tricky because the mind thinks it knows it all. But over many years of my holistic skin care practice, I have learned that the most benefit comes from when I work with the skin gently. Using manual holistic techniques and applying botanical skin formulas made from organic nutrient rich plants are always my choice. I also recognize that if I was to approach the skin from the place of my intellect only, from the place of ‘I know better than skin does’, I’m bound to overwhelm it and possibly create more problems.

So my conscious choice both in my work and in my life is to co-create and be partners with the essence of life instead.

This year I felt a strong calling to learn how to grow organic food. Even though I work with plants daily, I have never done much growing until now. It’s been a very exciting process! I’m learning experientially, not only how to grow but also about how our body is a true reflection of the earth and it’s living soil. I truly benefit from the actual physical experience rather than my previous limited theoretical understanding.

As I was working on my veggie garden the other day, I was recognizing the importance of the health of the soil to the health of the plants which grow in it. Experiencing how nutrient and microbe rich soil feels in my hands compare to the depleted one, made me think of our skin and in particular of the skin cleansing process.

Why cleansing in particular? Because this is the basis of our skin care and it largely determines the health of the garden of our skin. Yes, your skin garden does exist. You may not see it with your bare eyes but I can assure you that it’s there. It is made of microflora, microbiome or in simple words a whole bunch of microbes which live on its surface.

When the garden of your skin is thriving and your micro-flora is well balanced, your skin feels healthy, resilient and has a glow. When it struggles and is experiencing dysbiosis, the symptoms become dryness, redness, inflammation, possible break outs or aging way too fast.

The first and most fundamental step in topical skin care which assures healthy vibrant skin is to never disrupt it and to always protect the health and balance of its microflora. And this starts with our cleansing practices.

Many skin problems get created by harsh cleansing products which strip and irritate the skin. It’s not often discussed but we actually can take cleanliness to a self-harming level. Many cleansing products are made with harmful chemicals, some are detergent-like, some have abrasive textures, some plain burn the surface of your skin off.

These products decimate your skin’s beautiful micro-flora and the garden of your skin just like harsh pesticides and herbicides destroy the micro-flora of our soil. Sadly, there is a tendency to apply the logic behind corporate farming practices to how we treat our body and our skin too. I hope that can change.

Of course there is another way. There are plenty of skin cleansing practices which support the health of the garden of our skin! Many of them come from various cultures around the world.

In my opinion, oil cleansing with an addition of plant extracts and essential oils is the most wonderful and effective way to cleanse. It feels so comforting and soothing! The way we do it encourages us to slow down and be gentle with our face and our skin. It may even help us let go of the worries of the day.

Oil dissolves impurities in a very effective way and can be used to remove makeup including your eye makeup.

Application of compressing as part of oil cleansing, encourages deeper relaxation of the skin and facial tissues in general. This in turn promotes increased lymphatic flow which is essential to tissue detoxification and the skin’s internal cleansing processes.

Oil cleansing is also very beneficial to the health of our microflora. Organic, cold-pressed oil well suited to your skin type acts as food for skin microbes. Those that we want more of. It supports their health and it helps them multiply creating a healthy robust skin garden.

When we feel like deeper cleansing is necessary, gentle exfoliation with plant powders will bring the feeling of renewal and freshness to the skin.

I stress the word ‘gentle’ as sometimes we get overzealous and can do it too fast and too hard even with the gentlest of products. Easy always does it, especially for redness-prone skin.

A simple clay mask can be used for the purpose of skin detoxification and exfoliation as well. Or I personally love Manuka honey as a mask for skin cleansing, hydration and renewal.

These are just a few examples from Nature’s cleansing ingredient list. These will support your health and the health of your skin. Think of skin cleansing as a base and a starting point to a healthy and healing skin care practice. This is how you prepare your skin to receive other gentle botanical formulas that it may need. This is how you assure that its integrity is intact and that it is resilient when exposed to the environment, pollutants, viruses and microorganisms.

There’s no need to ever overwhelm it. It’s wise and knows exactly what to do. All that is required of you to provide is gentle support that cultivates a beautiful, well-balanced garden of your skin.