I don’t believe in detoxing. There, I’ve said it. For those of you that plan to spend three days subsisting on liquefied kale in an attempt to purge the body of the season’s excesses, I wish you courage. But know, that while there is a huge detox industry, science is not on your side (of which more to come). That said, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reboot your physical and mental wellness — with a bonus boost for the complexion as well.
Here’s why I am not advocating detox diets: To start with there is very little clinical evidence to support detox diets. A handful of clinical studies have shown that commercial detox diets enhance liver detoxification and eliminate persistent organic pollutants from the body, but according to the British Dietic Association, these studies are hampered by flawed methodologies and small sample sizes.
I like the common-sense conclusion of Dr. Edzard Ernst, as quoted in The Guardian, “If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention.” The same article declares that the ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.
Detoxification may seem daunting, but a few small changes to your diet and skin care routine can greatly improve the look and feel not only your body, but also of your skin. Here are simple steps I recommend to help restore your glow in time for the New Year.
Commit to doable diet changes
I plan on drinking a glass of lemon (or lime) water each morning. This metabolism booster is also alkaline and, therefore, balances the pH levels in your body, reducing skin inflammation and flare-ups. The vitamin C helps the body purge excess water weight and balance the sodium and potassium levels in the cells.
We all know that there are valuable vitamins and minerals in leafy greens and it seems a reasonable goal to add one to every meal (well perhaps not breakfast). There is even some clinical evidence that cilantro and watercress do have some kind of detox function. Greens are a valuable source of omega-3s, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, and E. Green, as well as yellow/orange, vegetables are also a good source of beta-carotene, which provides a youthful glow and neutralization of free radicals.
Of course, cutting back on refined sugar and carbs is vital, but those are two changes that I made in my late 40s. I lost weight and lowered by blood pressure, and I have never looked back. Alkaline minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium are what keep our skin, hair, teeth, and bones strong and healthy. An unbalanced with too many acidic foods causes the body to leach off of the alkaline minerals available to it. Eating alkaline-rich foods such as broccoli, pears, spinach, bananas and watermelon will help restore balance.
Exercise but don’t sweat it
The notion that sweating releases toxins is basically another myth of the detox business. Sorry, but hot yoga, doesn’t really do much. Sweat is 99 percent water combined with a small amount of salt, proteins, carbohydrates and urea. The traces of toxins released by sweat are less than 1 percent of the body's total content. The sole purpose of sweating is to prevent overheating.
Working up a sweat with proper cardio vascular exercise does have a detox effect, though. Moving the body helps to circulate blood and lymph, boosting the liver and lymph nodes to do their cleansing job. The digestive system and lungs work better with consistent exercise and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product. Exercise reduces the body's subcutaneous fatty tissue where toxins get stored.
Finally, take a deep breath. Yogic deep breathing with strong exhalations can empty the lungs of unneeded carbon dioxide and allow for a fresh breath of more oxygenated air. This is one that I intend to focus on, as I like the idea of detoxing my attitude with a little meditation now and then. And this is another way that exercise helps. Swedish researchers have found that during exercise, the muscles begin to act like the liver or kidneys and produce an enzyme which clears out a molecule linked to depression.
Detox your beauty regimen
Some easy switches have given my regimen a detox boost. My current cleanser of choice is Liftlab’s Purify + Clarify Daily Cleanser & Detox Mask ($65 in the shop), which balances moisture while exfoliating with marine enzymes. It can also be used as a mask. Another good detox cleanser is BRAD Biophotonic Sea Minerals Purify Healing Detoxifying Gel Cleanser ($45 in the shop).
Exfoliation is really important for removing dead cells from the skin’s surface and within our pores. I still find that Dr. Dennis Gross daily peels ($88 in the shop) with alpha and beta hydroxyl acids are the best way to do this. But any good scrub will also be a big help.
Chelators are a class of ingredients that detoxify pollutant buildup on your skin and protect the skin from new damage. Chelating ingredients actually chomp up harmful heavy metals and dispose of them. The Pac-Man of the cosmetic world come in the form of gluconolactone (also an antioxidant) and trisodium ehylenediamine disuccinate. Check out Elena Rubin Remedy ($119 in the shop) and Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Intense Moisture Cream ($125 in the shop), which has been formulated around a proprietary Hydra-Pure Chelating Complex.
I am also looking out for toxin-eliminating ingredients such milkthistle. It may protect the body from chemicals by blocking toxins from entering the cell or by moving toxins out of the cell before damage begins. They can strengthen cell walls, stimulate enzymes that make toxins less harmful to the body, as well as block free radicals from attacking cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. Difinsa53 ($62.50 in the shop) is a barrier repair lotion that boasts silybin — the key compound in milkthistle — toward the top of its list. My own Truth Vitality Treatment Gel features milkthistle as well.
Snow fungus (tremella fuciformis) is also said to detoxify and reduce irritation. Find it in Deciem NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex ($35 in the shop) and Deciem Hand Chemistry Intense Youth Complex ($20).