co-written by Rick Olazabal, BSc, BN
Circulation and skin health is a really interesting topic that deserves more attention that it usually gets.
When we hear someone speak of healthy, vibrant skin most of us don’t think of circulation…
Why would we? I mean, if you had a pimple, you’d probably use a cream to cover it up, right? Hardly ever would anybody think of going for a run to take care of that pimple; it’s ridiculous! As a matter of fact, you probably think that that would make it worse…
Not coincidently, the circulatory system (among other systems) plays a vital role in skin health. If you fail to see the connection, then let me ask you the following: what do you notice about the skin of someone experiencing anemia? Hint: It’s often pale and almost lifeless.
How about the legs of someone with poorly controlled, advanced diabetes? Ulcerations, discoloration, and decaying. What happens to the face of someone after having had a couple drinks? A blushing appearance. All of these skin changes are deeply connected to blood circulation. This article briefly explores the relationship between skin and circulation and ways to enhance their health!
How does poor blood circulation affect our skin?
Your circulatory system brings nutrients (oxygen, minerals, vitamins, hormones and other elements) to all parts of your body while removing wastes (carbon dioxide, acid, protein byproducts, etc.) in return. Skin is the largest organ in the body, and is made up of several distinguishable layers. The outermost layer is made up of keratinized (hardened) cells, which form an impenetrable barrier to microbes. Immediately below is an active layer of cells that continue to replenish this barrier.
For these cells to function properly, and for the tissue-at-large to maintain its elasticity, vitamins and minerals are required. You’re probably most familiar with vitamin C, and zinc. Obviously, without oxygen too these cells would die. And in turn, without iron, oxygen would not be carried to these sites and the skin would lose its “vitality”. Similarly, dehydration would allow for less than supple skin. Hormones also play a role. Take thyroid hormones, for example, which control the rate at which cells work—so they have an impact on aging too!
Not only do skin cells require all of these substances, but the cells that comprise the blood vessels also require their own share of nutrients of nutrients and circulation! If you’re a sedentary person with a diet high in sugars, carbohydrates and processed foods (i.e. high caloric, low nutritional value), you’re most likely going to clog up your blood vessels with fatty deposits and inflammation—and needless to say that that is a risk for diabetes! This chokes up the liver—the major organ of detoxification— and when the liver isn’t happy, guess what else isn’t happy? Yup, your skin!
How exercise is good to increase blood circulation in skin?
By increasing exercise you’re forcing your circulatory system to become active. In this way, you clear out more toxins while bringing nutrients to all cells of the body. When you exercise you help your muscles burn fat, which clears out excess cholesterol from your blood vessels and liver—and if you suffer from fatty liver, or even if you’re overweight—you’re now doing your liver and skin a great service!
Exercise also allows your pores to “breathe”; you secrete natural acids, which keep bad bacteria at bay—thus helping to reduce nasty pimples and skin infections. Yes, hormones also play a huge role in pimples and acne, but guess what else processes and detoxifies hormones? Yup, you guessed it, the liver! By exercising you ensure that your circulatory system stays happy. A happy circulatory system means a happy liver; and a happy liver, means happy, vibrant looking skin!
What other alternative are available to increase blood flow in skin?
Certain essential oils increase blood flow to the surface of the skin. Take menthol (in the vapour rub), or Tiger balm! The problem with these products is that they can be very irritating, so keep them away from your eyes and/or face.
There are countless health and beauty products out there, but they’re of variable quality and, at best, questionable efficacy. When in doubt, consult with a licensed naturopathic doctor about your options. It is advisable that before spend too much money on random products that you consult with an expert or a qualified health care provider.
Ensure that you’re not dealing with any potential underlying conditions that manifests through the skin (e.g. psoriasis, eczema, thyroid disorder, rosacea, etc.). In the absence of any disease or disorder, ensure that you eat a diet rich in vegetables (and low on processed carbs), with a moderate amount of protein and healthy fats (e.g. avocado, coconut). These foods—especially the good fats—will provide you with the high amounts of vitamins and minerals required by the skin, as well as natural antioxidants.