Exfoliation is essential to improve a dull complexion and brighten, firm, and smooth skin. However, equally important—if not more so—is boosting collagen production. In this article, Wu Duojia, specializing in body aesthetics at Taiwan’s Fengze Chinese Medicine Clinic, shares traditional Chinese medicine’s (TCM) four main approaches to achieving brighter and firmer skin.
Many different ingredients can be found in the skin care market. No matter the formula, most skin care products aim to accelerate skin cell metabolism so that the skin can regenerate quickly, revealing bright new skin beneath the old. Ms. Wu said that, similarly, TCM aims to do this through “clearing” and “tonifying.”
‘Clearing’ & ‘Tonifying’
To “clear” means to prevent excessive accumulation of the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin) in the epidermis, causing uneven skin or inflammation. Ms. Wu said that the most popular formulas in TCM involve botanicals such as Scutellariae radix, Copis chinensis, and Phellodendri chinensis, which have been used since ancient times to reduce inflammation and prevent and treat acne.
Indigo naturalis cream, sometimes found in markets, can soothe atopic dermatitis, relieve redness, swelling, and itching, and inhibit the thickening of the outermost skin. Ms. Wu discovered during her clinical experience that patients who use Indigo naturalis cream have exceptionally smooth and fair skin.
However, it’s always wise to be cautious when adding acid-based exfoliating skin care products to your routine. When using these products, people with sensitive and dry skin are prone to additional dryness, redness, and scaling. Exfoliating products made with Chinese medicinal herbs are much gentler, making these issues easier to avoid. Whatever acid-exfoliating product you’re using, first test how your skin reacts to it by trying it out on a small area of skin before applying it to larger surfaces.
In simple terms, “tonifying” means moisturizing and promoting collagen production. This is done by increasing blood circulation and bringing nutrients into the skin, which TCM can help achieve.
4 Types of Body Constitutions
TCM has discovered that the human body has a meridian system responsible for transporting “qi” and “blood” throughout the body. These basic substances constitute the body and maintain all human physiological activities. Qi is the “energy” or “vitality” that constitutes life in the body, and TCM refers to the substance that supplements nutrients in the body as blood. Qi and blood circulate in the body to maintain the balance and stability of tissues and organs. When the body experiences an imbalance or deficiency in qi and blood, disease or other conditions may occur.
Moreover, TCM believes that many diseases are caused by environmental forces. These forces are called the “six external evils”: wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and fire. Ms. Wu said that TCM divides the problems of poor qi and blood as related to dull skin into deficient and excess syndromes. Deficient syndrome can be subdivided into qi and blood deficiency and liver and kidney yin deficiency.
- Deficiency of both qi and blood: Poor skin metabolism due to poor qi and blood circulation often occurs in malnourished or postpartum women. Therefore, whether a woman is of cold or hot constitution, she should focus primarily on replenishing qi and blood after giving birth.
- Liver and kidney yin deficiency: These people often have endocrine disorders, which lead to poor skin metabolism and oil accumulation. This is especially the case during menopause, when estrogen decreases significantly, resulting in poor skin conditions. Many of these people also stay up late, which harms the liver. This type of person is prone to dull skin and encapsulated acne due to too much liver yin.
Excess syndromes can also be subdivided into spleen and stomach damp heat and excessive liver fire.
- Damp heat in the spleen and stomach: Consuming too much fried or spicy food, such as barbecue, can cause the skin to excrete excess oil.
- Excessive liver fire: This condition is mainly caused by stress, which causes insomnia and worsens the skin’s condition.
Whether due to deficiency or excess syndromes, dull skin is often also affected by one’s daily routine. Therefore, when trying to keep your skin beautiful and shiny, you must also maintain a healthy lifestyle, cultivating health from the inside out. It will show on your skin if you are healthy on the inside.
Beauty acupuncture, which has become popular in recent years, can also improve blood circulation, increase skin collagen, and improve skin firmness. Ms. Wu said that the face is comprised of many delicate muscles. Thin beauty needles inserted along these muscle fascia layers can help the fascia regain elasticity and produce a lifting effect.
In addition, beauty needles can also be used to pierce the scalp. Ms. Wu explained that because people nowadays are under too much stress, their shoulders, neck, and scalp become very tight, which can cause tension headaches. Beauty needles can relax the scalp and orbicularis oculi muscles. After facial acupuncture, the skin will naturally look bright and supple due to improved blood circulation.
4 Tips for Bright, Beautiful Skin
Ms. Wu also shared her four tips for bright, beautiful skin.
- Moisturize the skin frequently: As women age, their skin becomes more susceptible to dryness. Ms. Wu believes moisturizing more regularly is the first requirement for pretty skin.
- Choose medicinal herbs: Ms. Wu said that ginseng can enhance qi and blood circulation. When used in beauty products, it can help clear and tonify skin. That is why many beauty products from Korea, a country known for its skin care products, contain ginseng. In addition, Scutellaria baicalensis, Coptis chinensis, and Cortex phellodendron are good for inhibiting acne and dark spots.
- Whiten with barley: When Ms. Wu was a student, she was very tan—too tan for her taste. Her mother used barley water to help her skin return to white again. To this day, she drinks barley water to keep her skin bright and fair.
- Use blood-activating Chinese medicine: From her clinical experience, Ms. Wu found that the most effective blood-activating Chinese medicinal herb is Panax notoginseng powder. Panax notoginseng and ginseng are both Araliaceae plants. In addition to nourishing blood and qi, they enhance keratin metabolism and lighten dark spots.
The active ingredients of skin care products mainly target the outer layer of facial skin. In addition to daily skin care products, Chinese medicinal herbs can replenish qi and blood and enhance their circulation, safely and effectively increasing collagen production and making skin appear brighter and firmer.
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Must Have: Consider purchasing Vitamin C to support your immune system and overall health, as it is known for its antioxidant properties and potential benefits.
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