You might not realise it, but your body is a pretty much a toxic dump. In fact, during the average year it’s estimated that we breathe in 2g of solid air pollution, eat around 14lbs of food additives and absorb up to a gallon of pesticides and herbicides.
And that’s before you factor in the effects of that Christmas Day cigar, sugar-laden tin of Quality Street and your own bodyweight in booze. “The skin itself is an organ of elimination so the body will transport excess wastes there to be removed through the lymphatic system and sweating,” says Candice Gardner of The International Dermal Institute. “This can lead to a dull and puffy appearance.”
So while you’re making resolutions to get fit, eat more fruit and spend less time on the PS4, how about giving your skin and hair a detox too? Here’s what you need to know.
No, not of ales but the clean, alcohol-free stuff that springs up from mountain wells. “The most important starting point to assist your body and skin in eliminating toxins is to increase water intake,” says Gardner. “Drinking water, in place of other fluids such as caffeine and alcohol, will assist in rapidly flushing the toxins from the system.”
She suggests aiming for two litres a day but starting with a couple of extra glasses a day at first, and then building it up from there so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Hit The Gym
Yep, time to dig out the trainers and re-join the gym – and not just to lose some of that festive lard.
“Keeping your muscles moving helps to move stagnant fluid in the tissues and so increase the pumping of lymphatic fluid,” says Gardner. “That’s important because your lymphatic system is responsible for the removal of toxins within the deeper layers of the skin, which can have a positive impact on the appearance of the skin.”
Mask Your Problems
Face masks are one of the simplest and most effective ways to detoxify skin of the impurities that sit on its surface or clog its pores. Best for detoxification are those containing absorbent clays like Baxter of California’s Clay Mask. They’re potent things, though, so use no more than once or twice a week, always follow the instructions on the packet and avoid the eye area entirely.
To turbo charge the detox process, Gardner recommends exfoliating the skin before applying. “This improves the mask’s performance by removing any dead skin cells that would otherwise act as a sponge for the mask,” she says.
Be warned: some masks can play havoc with sensitive skin; so if yours is easily irritated, try a gentle mask like Malin + Goetz’s Detox Facial Mask, which uses plant-based amino acids to purify skin instead.
Swerve The Sweet Stuff
This probably isn’t what you want to hear after consuming a family-sized box of Maltesers but sugar isn’t just bad for your waistline; along with sun damage and smoking it’s also your skin’s worst enemy.
“Sugar is bad for skin because it attaches itself to proteins in collagen by a process known as glycation,” says dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone. “This causes the collagen in skin to become stiff and inflexible, leading to wrinkling.”
Cutting back on the sweet stuff will help, but upping your Vitamin C intake is a good idea too, since it’s thought to help protect against the glycation process. You don’t have to get it from sugar-laden fruit – peppers, broccoli, leafy green veg and, if you haven’t sickened yourself of them already, Brussels sprouts are great sources.
Check Out Charcoal
A major grooming trend in 2015, charcoal-infused grooming products are a man’s best friend when it comes to clear skin, especially guys whose skin is sensitive to clay masks.
Charcoal itself is the perfect detoxifier because it acts a bit like a magnet, attracting up to 100 times its own weight in dirt, toxins and other impurities that sit on the skin.
Rather than smearing your mug with ash, the easiest way to incorporate it into your grooming routine is with a daily cleanser like Clinique For Men’s Charcoal Face Wash, but Origins’ Active Charcoal Mask (used one or twice a week) and Clear Improvement Detoxifying Charcoal Body Wash are worth including in your new year detox armoury too.
According to a clinical study by the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca in Mexico, the skin of people who live in polluted towns and cities often sheds dead cells less efficiently, which means it tends to look dull and tired.
Counteracting this problem doesn’t necessarily mean shelling out on a second home in the Highlands – you just need to exfoliate, using a face scrub twice a week. “Regular exfoliation will do wonders to improve circulation and toxin elimination in your skin,” says Gardner, who recommends using a gentle exfoliator containing ingredients such as rice bran, like Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant.
Alternatively, invest in a sonic cleansing brush like Clarisonic’s Aria Sonic Cleansing System or Clinique For Men Sonic System – both of which remove more grease and grime than ordinary cleansing and help shift dead skin cells too.
Give Hair A Deep Clean
Since hair is porous, it has a nasty habit of absorbing odours, while styling products and the scalp’s natural oils attract pollutants like a magnet. To remove all traces of them, go for a specially formulated clarifying product like Fudge Detox Shampoo, which has been designed to dissolve pollutants without damaging hair or stripping it of moisture.
For extra efficacy, rub a little into your palms and massage into dry hair before rinsing off and shampooing again as normal.
Ahem. When it comes to detoxing, it’s not just what you do to your skin but how you do it that gets results.
Applying an eye cream with a gentle tapping motion, for example, is the perfect way to stimulate the body’s own drainage system, taking toxins away from the eye area (using an eye gel with a rollerball delivery system works in a similar way too), while body brushing is great for kick-starting the body’s natural detoxification process. “Dry brushing the body is an excellent technique to aid in the elimination of stagnant toxic fluid from the lymphatic system,” says Gardner.
Simply arm yourself with a body brush like Hydrea’s Professional Beechwood Body Brush and use on dry skin before you shower. “It’s important to always brush in an upwards direction towards the heart and the lymphatic nodes found in the back of the knees, groin and under the arms,” says Gardner.
Stub Out The Cigarettes
We all know about the cancer-causing effects of cigarettes, but did you know smoking causes serious damage to your skin and hair too? Not only does the physical act create fine lines around the mouth, it robs the skin of oxygen and the essential nutrients it needs for daily repair too.
Studies have also shown that smokers have a higher concentration of an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase 1 in their blood. This enzyme effectively destroys the skin’s collagen, leading to sagging and even more wrinkles.
Furthermore (yep, there’s even more bad news), according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health, smoking constricts the tiny blood vessels that supply the scalp, quite literally starving your hair of essential nutrients. Quit the fags now and it won’t just be your lungs that thank you for it – your looks will too.
So what are you waiting for? Given the serious year-end pickling you gave your body in December (not to mention the paunch you never had before), there’s never been a better time to light a fire under your lymphatic system for a new, detoxified you.
Will you be detoxing this January? Or are you more of an ‘everything in moderation’ man?
Comment below and let us know.