Your skin is an amazing organ, constantly protecting you and helping your body rid itself of toxins and other impurities. It usually does an efficient job of this on its own, leaving you with your natural glow. But your complexion may benefit from some extra help when dirt and dead skin cells build up, or it’s especially challenged by exposure to pollution, diet choices and more. While you may think to reach for fancy cleansers, these six natural beauty aids can be effective solutions for helping your skin “breathe” better so it can look and feel its best.
Clay and Mud Treatments
The relaxing practice of soaking in clay or mud has been around for centuries for good reason: By locking in your body’s heat, these natural beauty boosters encourage microcirculation (blood flow in your smallest blood vessels), which helps deliver oxygen and nutrition to skin cells and remove waste. As the clay or mud dries, it also helps draw out and absorb impurities. Their sea and land origins also make clay and mud rich in minerals such as sulfur and zinc, which can help reduce inflammation and relieve dry skin.
These bathing treatments clean and de-stress skin in a similar way; minerals such as calcium, magnesium sulfate and sodium bicarbonate are what boost circulation in this case, helping to ferry out toxins. There’s perhaps no more well-known mineral soak (of sorts) than swimming in the Dead Sea. This body of water is notorious for its power to hydrate skin and neutralize substances that cause inflammation and irritation, and that’s all thanks to its rich magnesium salt content. But you don’t need to travel far to reap the benefits of mineral soaks: Just head to your local spa, or look for at-home bath salt products. You’re likely already familiar with one very inexpensive one: Epsom salt.
Don’t let their plain look fool you—oats offer some pretty noteworthy beauty benefits, and you don’t even need to eat them to reap the rewards. They contain saponins, natural cleansers that purify pores and wash away dirt and oil, as well as lipids, which moisturize and strengthen skin’s protective barrier (the ability of your skin to keep good stuff in and harmful stuff out). Antioxidants, like avenanthramides, can help neutralize environmental pollutants that irritate and age skin, too. Look for cleansers and soaks containing colloidal oatmeal, or simply grind up whole oats into a fine powder and toss them in your next bath.
Cleopatra, who was famous for taking milk baths to maintain her glowing skin, had it right. Cow and other animal milks contain lactic acid, which helps purify skin by gently dissolving dead skin cells, sebum, dirt and bacteria. By removing what clogs pores—these are the usual culprits—new cells and radiant skin can emerge. Go ahead and add two or three cups to your bath (whole milk is best, if you have it) and sponge it on your skin, or look for it in spa treatments and anti-aging products.
This solution taps into one of your body’s natural detoxification processes—sweating. When you sit in one of these very hot rooms, your body begins to perspire to cool you off, opening pores and causing them to purge themselves in the process. One study found that people who enjoyed two 15-minute, 180-degree sauna sessions on a regular basis experienced an improvement in skin hydration, less oiliness and a stronger skin barrier. Sit in a sauna for no more than 20 minutes; 10 if it’s your first time. When you’re done, be sure to drink lots of water to rehydrate, and take a cool shower to rinse off.
Massages make your muscles feel great and relieve tension in a big way, but they may also help with detoxification. In particular, lymph drainage therapy (LDT)—where a practitioner applies gentle, slow, rhythmic pressure along the body’s lymphatic pathways—encourages toxins and waste products that can impact skin (as well as other parts of your body) to move from your tissues into the bloodstream, where they can be filtered out. Treat yourself to a professional rub-down, or try out some at-home techniques.