Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loving the Skin You're In

Day 26 of Your Year to Wellness
Your skin tells your story

Every day I get up early in the morning to write these postings. I have a general idea the night before as to what I’m going to write about, but some days, like today I’m lead in a completely different direction. If you are just joining us, these postings are daily reminders of the things we know but have forgotten to practice. The lessons are a common sense approach to wellness; the realignment of the spirit, mind and body and the transformation of the Self towards becoming your best you.

If you have just joined or have missed a few days, get in where you fit in. As life permits, take the time to read the previous postings. These lessons are not repeats or a reprint of the book A Year to Wellness and Other Weight Loss Secrets; they provide additional daily inspiration.

Now to today’s lesson. At some point a long time ago, we were told to love the skin we were in, but we paid very little attention to this and decided that if we were to love it, we had to change it. Light people tried to get dark and dark people wanted to be light. People with acne caked their screaming pores with make-up or just stayed indoors and the folks with scars hid them and themselves from the world.

The skin is the largest organ of the integumentary system and yet the most ignored. It receives and transmits signals to and from the brain and is the best armor ever made. It protects the inner workings of the body from water loss and damage from the sun. The skin sends and receives messages from our surroundings even quicker than our eyes. Think about the sudden chill, the blush in color or that tingling sensation that informs you of an attraction you haven’t yet recognized.

When I began to pay more attention to my skin, my entire life responded.

Each and every day, dead skin cells make their way to the surface drying and building up on our skin. Exposure to the cold, harsh soaps and even too much hot water add to this drying condition. I did my doctoral work and taught at Kent State University in Ohio. Kent gets colder than most people would ever imagine. Over twenty years ago, I rushed out to turn in a chapter of my dissertation (no electronic mail back then boys and girls) and when I did, I was immediately bitten by the frost. A snow plow driver pulled up to me and began yelling. “Go back inside, you can die out here.” He said. He informed me of an extreme weather advisory that I hadn’t heard about. My head was so deep into my work that I hadn’t known about the weather or anything else that was going on. That day, about 5 minutes actually, is a constant reminder to stay focused but remained connected to life. Even now, when I am in cold weather, my toes dry up and crack and the same patches of skin that were affected that day harden, turn dark and begin to itch and burn. It’s been more than twenty years, but my skin not only remembers, it still responds and warns me of the impending danger.

The skin is extremely sensitive to what you eat, but also to what’s eating you. Your skin tells your life’s story. It responds to what you do and to what has been done to you.  People who have been molested often report that they have break-outs and rashes when they feel fear or anxiety.

In order to heal from our past, we need to help our skin heal from the things we have done to it and the things that have been done to us. As you pay more attention to your skin you will be able to see how much you have ignored it.

·         Exfoliate your skin—removing dead skin cells will have a tremendous impact on your skin and your overall wellbeing. I do it daily with an exfoliating scrub or dry brush. You can also use a loofa, natural sponge or for harder areas a pumice stone. When someone brushes up against me, I am often rewarded with a comment on my skin. People will remark on how “unnaturally” soft it is. Healthy skin is natural.

·         Moisturize, moisturize—whenever I get a physical or check-up, the attending nurses who are trying to apply electrodes or draw blood all ask the same thing “You put on lotion today didn’t you?” They say it as if it’s a rare thing; something that people don’t do often and certainly don’t do daily. I tell them that I did and that I’m going to do it again that night. Moisturize your skin; it adds to the glow and your body will respond to the attention and massage you are giving it.

·         Give a hug and you’ll get one—I tell people that in order to be more human, we need 13 to 300 hugs a day. I made up those numbers, but I do know for a fact that proper touch is a necessary ingredient to our continued development. I often encounter people who say that they did not grow up with hugs, so they don’t hug. I didn’t grow up in a hugging family, but we have learned to become one. We hug and group hug and high-five. We give long distance hugs and hug in abstention. After I’ve given a lecture, there is almost always a line of people who just want to meet, ask a question, tell a story or hug. Once one person hugs, they all do. Hugging is necessary and while it may not always be appropriate (don’t run up to hug the President or the queen) it is always needed.

·         Let the sun shine—wear the necessary sun block (yes, black people need it too) but make sure you get an exposure of the natural Vitamin D that the sun gives away daily. We drive our cars from one garage to another never feeling the sun on our skin. Allow the elements to remind you that you are alive and in touch.

·         Find the best products for your skin and create a daily beauty routine. I tell folks that good genes will take you to your twenties and then you need good products and behavior. I’d love to tell you what I use, but like food; we have to find what works for us. I am amazed at how loyal people are to their skin care products. Even when these products no longer deliver, people are often customers for life. I have not had surgery, injections or any of the other “anti-aging” procedures. We get to choose our own path; I have chosen this natural path, so I use products that are not tested on animals and have natural ingredients. You are never too young or too old to start caring for your skin. Start today; look in the back of the cabinet and pull out the lotion and use it. Your skin and life will thank you.

Be well, be you, be smooth.

Bertice Berry, PhD

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