Do you know what absolutely blows my mind? In the traditional, clinical approach to skin care, there is absolutely no discussion about the lymphatic system. I mean – none!! In the normal course of a day, there is almost no discussion about the lymphatic system, unless there is some problem with it like lymphedema, or node removal, or (the worst of all) lymphoma. Even in discussions of serious problems like these, most people have absolutely not comprehension of the vital role this complicated system plays in our daily lives. That’s pretty incredible (read: scary) when you consider that there is 5 times more lymph in our bodies than blood!
“What’s lymph got to do with it?”
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms:
- chronic neck pain
- puffy eyes
- dark undereye circles
- allergy/sinus issues
- hyper pigmentation/melasma
If so, read on for the super simplified explanation of how your lymph could be the underlying cause.
Our lymphatic system is our body’s way of cleaning itself. Think of your body as a self contained ocean. It shouldn’t seem that far out of the realm of possibility considering we already know our body is 70% water. Now think about all the life and processes contained in this ocean: billions of cells, metabolic processes, hormone production and distribution, immune response…. There’s a lot going on in there, and each of those bazillion things creates waste, which is identified, filtered, eliminated or sequestered by the lymphatic system.
So, the health of this system is clearly pretty important to the health of our body. No one wants to be a walking, talking, polluted ocean, but thats what the majority of us are. What makes the lymphatic system even more complicated is that it doesn’t have the luxury of it’s own pump, like the circulatory system does. It has to rely on you quite a bit to keep your body moving and to be aware of how your lifestyle and surroundings can put even more strain on an already task-saturated system.
So, how can you help your lymph along, and how does that translate to healthier skin?
- Take a look at the products you’re surrounding your body with. Skin and hair products are particularly important since the majority of our lymph nodes are in the face and neck. Are they full of artificial fragrances, and colors? How about emulsifiers or preservatives? Parabens? Our bodies don’t know how to process these man-made chemicals, and they all damage our microbiome, which is another discussion, but its boils down to this: If your skin can’t function properly (i.e., kill harmful bacteria and keep toxins out) your lymphatic system will have to pick up that slack. Make the switch to organic, plant based personal care products to significantly lighten the load on your lymphatic system and feed your microbiome. Your skin will be less irritated, softer, more supple, and less inflamed in no time!
- Help your lymph move with gentle exercise practices like walking, deep breathing, stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, or rebounding. While high instensity exercise has its own list of benefits, it isn’t as effective at moving lymph due to increased blood pressure. Ever notice your hands or feet getting puffy during intense workouts? I do! That’s your lymph pooling in your extremities!
- Stay well hydrated – when you’re dehydrated, your lymph becomes thicker and harder to move. Proper hydration calls for the consumption of 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight with a minimum of 64 oz. So, a 100 lb person = 64 oz. 150lbs = 75 oz. 200lbs = 100 oz. To maximize the benefit of all that water, make it room temperature or, better yet, hot! Movement + heat = maximum liquidity. If you were trying to liquefy honey into some tea, you know you would get the best result by adding the honey to hot tea and stirring. Same concept here.
- Incorporate dry brushing into your self-care regimen. There are tons of how-to videos online, but the basic concept is to always brush towards the heart. Not only does it stimulate lymph movement but it exfoliates for softer, smoother skin. For the best results, follow with a detox bath!
- Take regular detox baths – at least once per week. My favorite recipe is: 2 cups Epsom Salt + 1 cup baking soda + 10 drops Cypress essential oil + a crystal or two (rose quartz and amethyst are my faves). Get that water as hot as you can tolerate and soak for at least 20 minutes. You want to be sweating, and you want to be as submerged as possible. Remember most of your lymph nodes are in the face and neck, so if you can’t get submerged, drape a soaked hand towel around your face and neck. Even better, this is the perfect time to apply a lymph-stimulating mask!
- Use a lymph moving mask at least once a week. You can make any gentle mask a lymph-mover by adding Turmeric! A little (1/2 teaspoon) goes a long way, and you’ll want to exercise extreme caution with your good towels, but the results are totally worth it. Extra special bonus: use your detox bath water to hydrate dry masks!! Application is key – be sure to carry the mask down the sides of your neck and onto the chest. Personally, I make a line from behind the ear down to my shoulder, then swoop a crescent across my chest and up to the other shoulder (think old-school dickie, which you may need to Google if you’re 35 or under 😂).
- If all of the above sounds like too much work, you could always seek out the services of someone who uses the Vodder Technique for manual lymphatic drainage massage coupled with high quality organic products – LIKE ME! (Come on, I’m not going to write a whole blog without promoting myself!)