Holistically Hydrating the Skin and Body

See how you can internally and externally hydrate your guests' skin and body in your spa.

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To properly hydrate the body, we must first understand how the body’s hydration system works; this will also give us a better understanding of why a person may experience dry skin. The answer isn’t typically the obvious one, i.e., to drink more water and use a daily moisturizer. It actually goes much deeper than that.

Internal Factors

The kidneys and spleen are involved in water and salt metabolism, whereas water and salt absorption depend on the transporting functions of the spleen and stomach. These systems must be functioning properly, otherwise the body can experience dysfunction in the processing of water.

The kidneys have a close relationship with the adrenal glands and the thyroid. A few key responsibilities of the kidney system include fluid metabolism, mineral balance and cellular hydration. When this process is compromised, cells can become waterlogged and create edema, which can manifest a multitude of health concerns involving dehydration of the tissues, hair, muscles, organs and skin, to name a few.

Staying in a constant state of stress also contributes to dehydration. The kidneys, adrenals and thyroid determine our hydration levels and secrete most of the body’s hormones. Aldosterone, a stress hormone, regulates water and blood levels, which also impacts cellular hydration and the balance of minerals (salt and potassium) in the body.

Both acute and chronic stress can play a role in hydration. Being in active danger or chronically worrying about something that may never happen causes the body to have the same energetic response; it doesn’t recognize the difference, only the energy of the emotion. This creates an imbalance in the body.

One result of this imbalance is an overproduction of sodium. When an excess of sodium passes through the kidney system, it causes the body to excrete extra water through urination, which often leads to dehydration or compounds an already existing dehydration issue.

Without sufficient water, the body may experience inflammation and excessive toxicity due to the lack of proper detoxification. The correct amount of water needed for basic function is 50% to 70% of the person’s body weight in ounces. This generic recommendation of eight glasses per day is imprecise and irresponsible, since we are all unique by design and our individual lifestyle choices vary. It would work well if the person weighs 128 pounds, lives in a cave with perfect conditions and without stress, contact with the world or the internet! Lifestyle, environment, climate and diet are all things to consider when determining the appropriate water intake.

Topical Influences

External factors will impact the hydration of the skin, including wind and colder temperatures, or services like chemical peels and laser treatments. However, if the internal systems are functioning optimally, the body will be better equipped to handle these things.

Seasonal changes also impact the skin and body. Chinese medicine recognizes that each organ system and its related emotions are linked to a season. Summer is for the spleen and stomach. Autumn is for the large intestine and lungs. Winter is associated with the bladder and kidneys.

In the fall, just like the leaves on the trees, our skin naturally gets dryer. Cooler temperatures and indoor heaters become the usual scapegoats for the change, and they do play a role, but these things only compound an already existing internal imbalance. Seasonal stress and sweets can also be added to the list of contributors to dry skin.

Not only does the skin change with each of the four seasons, but it changes every 15 days. During each season in nature, the skin will go through six complete seasonal cycles. This process may explain why a client’s skin reacts differently to a service or product that has been used on them previously without incident: It may be in a different state than it was the last time they received a treatment.

Realizing that there are specific, seasonal rules of nature that can be applied to nurture the body systems will offer a new perspective on the clues that are given to us by the body. These clues may appear in the form of excessive emotions or symptoms like dry skin.

For example, autumn is the season of the large intestine and lungs. A lack of hydration in the large intestine and improper water metabolism in the body can be the culprit for the cause of dry lips-not a lack of lip balm. So, deep breathing exercises done daily can expand someone’s lung capacity and positively benefit other body systems.

Interpreting the inner workings of our emotions is a new concept when it comes to esthetics, but Chinese medicine has known for thousands of years that experiencing an excess of any emotion has an impact on the skin. For example, experiencing seasonal depression in fall can lead to dry skin in the winter months.

Hydrating and Healing

Reducing and better managing stress should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Mindful meditation, deep purposeful breathing and gentle forms of mindful movement, such as qigong and tai chi, can offer much-needed self-love to calm the body, mind, spirit and emotions. Sound healing is another amazing modality for stress management and emotional balancing. The benefits of crystal or Tibetan singing bowls can often be felt within minutes of listening to this type of frequency music.

Lacking sufficient hydration also constricts the blood vessels and limits the transportation of nutrients acquired through food, which impacts the blood’s ability to hydrate the entire body. Consuming plenty of vegetables, fleshy fruits, watermelon or coconut water with each meal can ensure sufficient fluid intake, as these all contain a high water content.

The kidneys love rest, warmth and soups. Broth-based soups, especially in winter, will support the kidneys and internally hydrate body. For warmer climates, mung bean soup is both hydrating and energetically cooling.

In addition to facial treatments, today’s lifestyle choices not only impact the body in the moment but set the trajectory toward better skin health and overall physical wellness for the next two seasons. Creating better, healthier habits such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables, incorporating daily breathwork and performing stress-reducing methods will have a powerful impact on you and your clients’ overall health and hydration.


 Check out this video guide to dry brushing, which is a great exfoliation treatment prior to hydrating the skin on the body. 

Michelle Valeri, LE, has trained privately with multiple Chinese masters and has a proficient knowledge of how to address the root cause of skin and health conditions. She incorporates Chinese Medicine techniques for improved client results and retention. It is Valeri’s passion to elevate esthetics by teaching holistic wellness concepts and strategies to like-minded estheticians.

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