How To Start A Holistic Skin Care Journey (in 7 Easy Steps)

How To Start A Holistic Skin Care Journey (in 7 Easy Steps)

There are plenty of terms in the skin care world, but none is more confused than ‘holistic skin care’ itself.

So what does it mean?

Holistic skin care is often talked about these days as an extension of holistic healthcare. Although many people think they know what the term ‘holistic’ means, it pays to look at what it isn’t.

In the world of medicine, skin care, and aesthetics, the traditional approach to treating conditions and diseases is essentially ‘lock and key.’ If you have dry skin, then you apply something that reverses the dryness, like a moisturizer. If you have pain, then you take a painkiller.

There is a problem, so you apply the ‘solution.’ Sounds sensible?

Well, this lock and key method is the opposite of holistic treatment. It looks purely at the problem and finds a solution that specifically treats that issue.

Holistic care, on the other hand, looks at the big picture. When treating skin, holistic estheticians don’t just use product after product. Instead, they look at everything else that impacts skin, both directly and indirectly.

In this article, we look at the core holistic concepts that you need to apply to your life to give your skin the best chance of being happy and healthy.

Holistic lifestyle skin care concepts

As the word holistic implies, there is a multitude of behaviors you can engage in, which will result in some improvement in your skin health. This impact may be small or large and may take some time to see the effect or no time at all.

In contrast to medicated solutions, a delay in seeing results or seeing small results isn’t a big deal. When you look at the world holistically, every step you take is giving your being and body some benefit. Not some unverified, fluffy benefit either. All the potential results listed are backed by solid research.

When you take this stance, you worry less, knowing that each positive decision helps your skin in the long run. Just remember when reading through this list to not fall back on old habits. The idea is to improve your health overall by making small, manageable improvements to multiple areas at once.

Don’t fanatically attack one area of your life that you think needs fixing. The likelihood is you will neglect something else important and miss out on the benefits that holistic care for your skin is supposed to bring.

Finally, you may be wondering if this is all for vanity or if holistic body and skin care actually bring some real benefit to your life. Well, even if you are doing this simply to ‘look better,’ there is serious science and proven benefits behind holistic self-care.

Have you ever been told you ‘look old for your age’ and felt offended?

Humans know intrinsically what has been proven by science many times: Looking old for your age brings with it a higher risk of disease and can be used as a predictor of early death.[22][23]

Following this article’s advice is a great first step to looking younger but fending off disease and illness.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in (and who doesn’t want to live happier and healthier?), sign up to the ZELEN Life email list to get our latest and greatest skin care advice delivered straight to your inbox.

Does holistic mean natural and organic?

Keep in mind that living a holistic lifestyle and having a wellness skin care routine doesn’t mean adhering to a specific fad or brand of care. It simply means looking after yourself in a complete way that doesn’t lose sight of any part of your health or well being.

You may look after your skin with the best products possible, but if you smoke, don’t exercise, and never drink water, then your skin will suffer appropriately.

Similarly, natural and organic products can form part of holistic skin care, but they aren’t holistic by themselves. Don’t be tempted by creams or lotions that are labeled as holistic. It is more than likely just a marketing ploy.

By slowly integrating the advice listed below, you can start to take a complete view of caring for your skin, body, and being.

7 Steps on your holistic skin care journey

1. Eat well

eat well fruit and vegetables

Eating well is such vague and inexact advice that it is no wonder people struggle to get it right.

We won’t go into detail on healthy diets. That information can be found in volumes on multiple health and medical websites. By eating in moderation and including fruit and veg, you will already be going a long way in letting your skin repair and heal itself.

What we will tell you is actionable steps to be included or certain products to be avoided in your overall healthy diet to make sure you get benefits that will aid in the support and growth of your skin.

When we talk about skin care, some may think of specific complaints like acne or dryness, but most are concerned about a whole host of problems. This is interchangeable with anti-aging, as holistic care for your skin slows and can even reverse the aging process.

Eating well and maintaining the best diet possible could fill a whole book. But for those who want quick, actionable pointers, read on below:

Reduce carbs and fats

Cutting down on carbs and fats is directly linked to fewer wrinkles, better hydration, and stronger skin.[6]

Eat more greens

Increasing your intake of green and yellow vegetables has a significant effect on skin wrinkling and hydration in the long term.[7]

Limit high GI foods and dairy

Worried about acne? Research is still ongoing, but there is now strong evidence that high GI (glycaemic index) foods that are energy-dense exacerbate acne.

Currently, there is a weak (but still present) association between dairy and acne. It’s worth trialing a week off dairy to see if it makes a difference for you.[8]

Increase vitamin A intake

The biggest factor in skin damage and aging is photodamage or sun damage, as it is more commonly known. Vitamin A has been shown to protect the skin against UV radiation and helps avoid premature aging.[9]

Increase vitamin C intake

Vitamin C helps mop up free radicals and also builds up all-important collagen within the skin. Over time it reduces the occurrence of wrinkles and uneven skin pigmentation.[10]

Increase vitamin E intake

Taking both Vitamin C and E together has been shown to provide more sun protection than either vitamin alone.[11]

Our ZELEN Life Moisturizer contains Jojoba oil, which contains Vitamin E and other antioxidants to give you natural protection from the sun.

Get outdoors for some vitamin D (carefully!)

As many of us know, Vitamin D is only made when exposed to sunlight and is a requirement of healthy, holistic living. There is, however, much concern over skin cancer risk and its link to UV exposure.

While this is a real and serious risk, we already spend much of our time in the West indoors – further sun avoidance is likely to exacerbate Vitamin D deficiency, especially for those who already have darker skin.

With specific regard to skin, Vitamin D is an essential part of protecting the epidermis and dermis from inflammation and damage from the sun.[12]

Consider a collagen supplement

Collagen has long been understood as an important component of skin. However, the usefulness of collagen supplementation is only recently being understood.

Oral collagen has been shown to improve skin elasticity, decrease skin evaporation, and retain skin moisture.[13] Over time the thickness and density of the collagen layer in the skin increases. This leads to decreased skin wrinkling, especially around the eyes.[14]

2. Stay hydrated

One of the factors that can seemingly accelerate or reverse skin aging in a matter of hours is hydration. Most of us know already that 60% of our body is made up of water – we need it for every bodily function to survive.

Holistic health means getting the basics right first. By making sure that you are well hydrated, you allow your body to run effectively and efficiently. Dehydration makes everything from thinking to moving that much harder.[16]

As discussed, holistic health means looking at the big picture, not trying to solve problems in isolation. Hydration obviously keeps your mind and body ready for action, but what happens if they’re not ready?

If you have skipped over the previous section about exercise and stress, you won’t even hydrate properly. Stressed people can, of course, drink as much water as the rest of us, but it doesn’t give the same benefit.


Because a stressed body simply takes on water weight rather than hydrating your cells fully. This leaves you looking puffy, and in the worst-case scenario, can leave your skin more susceptible to sores and infections.

So as you can see, despite the strength of any of these tips and insights, you must still take the holistic approach if you want to see results.

3. Exercise your mind and body

exercise your mind body

Exercise is again one of the staples of healthy living and, indeed, a holistic lifestyle. Movement keeps your blood flowing, stops the build-up of toxins, and ensures that proper levels of nutrients and oxygen reach your vital organs.

It is beyond this article’s scope to cover all the benefits and nuances of exercise, but the simplest way to think of the indirect benefits is stress reduction.

Excess stress is holistically bad for you, affecting every aspect of your growth, bodily repair, and happiness. It limits your ability to adapt to new situations and rediverts resources away from organs like your skin.

The hormone cortisol is increased throughout your body when we experience chronic (long-term) stress. This, in turn, turns on your body’s defenses in preparation for the ‘threat’ or attack that your mind and body think is imminent.

While this may sound like a good thing, in practice, it means the level of inflammation within your cells and organs rises. This makes any underlying or preexisting skin conditions like dryness, eczema, or other become that much worse.

For those of you who suffer from acne, you may notice that your flare-ups get worse when you feel stressed. This is because cortisol increases sebaceous gland activity, making your skin more greasy and outbreak prone.[15]

4. Don’t worship the sun

This is the number one cause of skin damage and aging.


Some people claim to care about their general and skin health but are happy to lie out in the sun for hours to get a tan.

Holistic care means avoiding this damage rather than trying to cover it up with after sun or coating yourself with chemical-laden sunscreen.

The important thing to realize about sun damage is that the premature aging it causes is superimposed on top of the natural again caused by time.

All sun damage is not equal – depending on your skin color (darker is more resistant) and where you live in the world (closer to the equator is worse), you will experience different levels of risk.[19]

Sun damage is really the main factor to consider when looking to care holistically for your skin. The inflammation and damage that results are made worse by modern pollution that we all experience.

If the rest of your self-care, like nutrition and hydration, isn’t up to scratch, then sun damage will only accelerate further.

5. Proper sleep

get proper sleep

A marker of skin aging that is seen across ethnicities, genders, and skin types is transepidermal water loss, i.e., how much water evaporates from the skin.

If you regularly get 5 hours of sleep a day or less, you will have much greater skin water loss, just as if your skin was prematurely aged. It will also be less able to recover from any damage or inflammation.

Most of us don’t sleep for less than 5 hours a night, however. The typical western habit is to sleep for around 6 hours (2 less than the recommended) and ‘catch up’ on missed sleep on the weekend.

However, even a single night’s bad sleep has been shown to increase the prevalence of dark circles and skin puffiness.[17] This is due to the immediate impact on cellular function, which negatively impacts many tissues around the body, including the skin.

6. Live holistically

Some ‘busy professionals’ live by the motto ‘work hard, play hard.’ While there is nothing inherently wrong with this outlook, what you shouldn’t ever take it to mean is ‘be responsible and healthy, then be really unhealthy as a reward.’

Just because you eat relatively well and meditate to reduce stress doesn’t mean you can drink, smoke, and take drugs on the weekend. It doesn’t create a balance; it simply means that all the stressors on your body are grouped.

Like stress and lack of sleep, smoking negatively affects every part of your body – essentially the opposite of holistic health. If you want to care holistically about your skin, this will mean cutting out smoking.

We have known for decades that smoking is bad for your health. We know now that smoking damages the tiny blood vessels that supply the skin and slow down any healing of damaged skin.[20]

One of the most illuminating studies for skin and smoking was a 5-year identical twin study from Ohio. 79 pairs of twins were found – the only requirement was that one smoked for at least 5 years and the other one didn’t.

Unsurprisingly when photos of each pair were shown to judges, they found a high number of differences between the twins.

The smoking half of the pair consistently had sinking upper eyelids, bigger under-eye bags, upper lip lines, and were beginning to form jowls.[21]

Alcohol is another lifestyle factor that can easily be overlooked whilst struggling between poor skin quality and choosing from mountains of products.

Big nights of drinking draw water from all cells in your body – hence the hangover. But this includes the skin, which becomes dry, fragile, and tired-looking after too much consumption.

Whether you drink often or rarely, any significant volume of alcohol will flush your skin – this is caused by capillaries in your face dilating. Over time the tiny blood vessels can’t return to normal size and can even burst.

This is before we even take into account the amount of sugar that comes along with alcoholic drinks. A whole multitude of skin disorders like acne and eczema can be made worse by excess sugar consumption.

Finally, remember how important we said good sleep was for your health overall, including your skin?

Well, alcohol may make you pass out when you drink enough, but any amount of alcohol gives you a lighter and more disturbed sleep.

This poor sleep stresses your body, with alcohol reducing your breathing depth and limiting oxygenation and repair of your skin and organs overnight. Not a combination you want to aim for regularly, if at all.

7. Your environment: The hidden factor in holistic health

protect skin from your environment

Our final point brings us back full circle to the main purpose of our skin as an organ. First and foremost, our skin is a barrier that keeps us in and the outside out. While you can feed, nourish, and care for it from the inside, a holistic approach means making sure your skin is not subject to any avoidable damage from the outside too.

Environmental stressors are typically external and can be physical, chemical, or biological. In our modern ‘health and safety’ world, our bodies don’t really get subjected to that much physical trauma.

However, our physical world has introduced higher and higher levels of pollution every year. In 2018 the World Health Organization found that at least 90% of people breathe in high levels of air pollution every day.[1]

What impact does this have on skin care and holistic health?

It is estimated that this level of pollution kills over 4 million people every year. That is a staggering amount, but it only hints at an even bigger underlying problem. For every person who dies from air pollution, thousands, if not millions, will live their lives with multiple health complaints, including breathing and skin conditions.

These skin conditions are often hard to treat because, of course, the cause of the issue is not being removed or addressed.

If you want to live holistically and have happy, healthy skin, you must carefully consider where you live in the world. Living right next to busy roads or industrial and chemical plants surrounds your body with nasty chemicals like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

Exposure to these factors is known to affect your skin’s internal balance, aging, your risk of skin cancer, and the likelihood of developing inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.[2]

These negative changes happen for 3 main reasons:

  1. Free radical formation
  2. Inflammation of the skin surface and below
  3. Breakdown of the skin barrier

Do you take vitamins and supplements to help your skin and overall health? Air pollution fights against these good efforts, with Ozone (O3) mopping up your reserves of antioxidants as well as pushing down your levels of Vitamin C and E.

With modern medicine and science moving towards a more holistic approach, there has been mounting research and direct evidence that skin care goes beyond your morning routine.

There are too many pollutants to cover in this article, but for dermatologists and holistic estheticians looking into holistic care, avoidance of particulate matter is top of the agenda.

Particulate matter or PM for short affects more people than any other air pollutants. The small size of the particles means they can pass deep into the lungs, with the smallest penetrating the bloodstream and accumulating in organs.[3]

There are well-documented risks to your lungs, heart, and cancer risk—the exact opposite of holistic health. Impacting your lungs and heart lowers the amount of oxygen and blood that gets pumped to your skin, leaving it undernourished, anemic looking, and dehydrated.[4]

The skin is also affected more directly by PM that is only now beginning to be understood. The particles can pass straight through the top layer of skin and start damaging the underlying dermis. On top of this, it has been shown to pass into the circulation and alter the skin barrier.

This all serves to weaken your skin, leaving you with a tired and unhealthy appearance.

Protecting yourself with a good daily cleanse and an antioxidant containing moisturizer will go a long way to fight against pollution damage. Fighting pollution holistically means adding antioxidant foods to your diet and making sensible decisions about where you choose to live or go on holiday.

One of the biggest studies of the effect of pollution on skin has been ongoing for over 45 years. It is the Yusho Study Group based in Japan – the site of a massive poisoning in 1968.

It has been found that exposure to organic pollutants can lead to multiple skin complaints, including damage to sebaceous glands, skin cell overgrowth, acne, scarring, and accelerated aging.

In attempting to combat the mass poisoning fallout, the group found that antioxidant phytochemicals (antioxidants from plants) and herbal extracts were the most effective options.[5]

Luckily most of us don’t have to deal with a pollution disaster like the one in Japan, but we are still subject to unhealthy pollution levels day after day. It makes sense to protect your skin daily with an antioxidant-rich moisturizer like our ZELEN Life Moisturizer.

The use of topical antioxidants has been proven to help protect against the effects of particulate matter and free radicals generated from our atmosphere.


Holistic Skin Care

Well, that wraps up our 7-step guide to starting your holistic skin care journey.

There is a lot to think about and, more importantly, apply in this guide, so leave a comment to let us know how you get on.

If you want to know more about applying holistic face (and body) care into your life, feel free to ask a question below.

To get regular insider updates on the best, natural, and science-backed methods to improve your skin care regime sign up to our email list. We include our latest research and how-to guides that you won’t find anywhere else on our site.


  1. World Health Organization (2018). WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database (update 2018)
  2. Recognizing the impact of ambient air pollution on skin health. Mancebo SE, Wang SQ. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Dec; 29(12):2326-32.
  3. Exposure to airborne particulate matter in the ambient, indoor, and occupational environments. Hopke PK, Rossner A, Clin Occup Environ Med. 2006; 5(4):747-71.
  4. Pollution and skin: from epidemiological and mechanistic studies to clinical implications. Krutmann J, Liu W, Li L, Pan X, Crawford M, Sore G, Seite S, J Dermatol Sci. 2014 Dec; 76(3):163-8.
  5. Current state of yusho and prospects for therapeutic strategies. Mitoma C, Uchi H, Tsukimori K, Todaka T, Kajiwara J, Shimose T, Akahane M, Imamura T, Furue M, Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Jun; 25(17):16472-16480.
  6. Cosgrove, Maeve C et al. “Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 86,4 (2007): 1225-31. doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.4.1225
  7. Nagata, Chisato et al. “Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 103,10 (2010): 1493-8. doi:10.1017/S0007114509993461
  8. Bowe, Whitney P et al. “Diet and acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 63,1 (2010): 124-41. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2009.07.043
  9. Meinke MC, Friedrich A, Tscherch K, et al. Influence of dietary carotenoids on radical scavenging capacity of the skin and skin lipids. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2013;84:365-373.
  10. Cosgrove MC, Franco OH, Granger SP, et al. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:1225-1231.
  11. Fuchs J, Kern H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Med. 1998;25:1006-1012.
  12. Scott JF, Das LM, Ahsanuddin S, et al. Oral vitamin D rapidly attenuates inflammation from sunburn: an interventional study. J Invest Dermatol. 2017;137:2078-2086.
  13. Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, et al. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015;14:291-301.
  14. Koizumi S, Inoue N, Shimizu M, et al. Effects of dietary supplementation with fish scales-derived collagen peptides on skin parameters and condition: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Int J Peptide Res Ther. 2018;24:397-402.
  15. Yang, Jianting et al. “A Review of Advancement on Influencing Factors of Acne: An Emphasis on Environment Characteristics.” Frontiers in public health vol. 8 450. 17 Sep. 2020, doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.00450
  16. Cheuvront, Samuel N, and Robert W Kenefick. “Dehydration: physiology, assessment, and performance effects.” Comprehensive Physiology vol. 4,1 (2014): 257-85. doi:10.1002/cphy.c130017
  17. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Axelsson J. Sleep. 2013 Sep 1; 36(9):1355-60.
  18. Gilchrest, B A. “Skin aging and photoaging: an overview.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 21,3 Pt 2 (1989): 610-3. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(89)70227-9
  19. Anne Han, Anna L. Chien, Sewon Kang, Photoaging, Dermatologic Clinics, Volume 32, Issue 3, 2014, Pages 291-299, ISSN 0733-8635.
  20. Effect of nicotine on vasoconstrictor and vasodilator responses in human skin vasculature. Black CE, Huang N, Neligan PC, Levine RH, Lipa JE, Lintlop S, Forrest CR, Pang CY. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2001 Oct; 281(4):R1097-104.
  21. Okada H, Alleyne B, Varghai K, Kinder K, Guyuron B. Facial changes caused by smoking: a comparison between smoking and nonsmoking identical twins. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2013;132(5):1085-1092.
  22. Bulpitt CJ, Markowe HLJ, Shipley MJ. – Why do some people look older than they should? . Postgrad Med J. 2001;77:578–581
  23. Christensen K, Thinggaard M, McGue M, Rexbye H, Hjelmborg JV, Aviv A, et al. – Perceived age as clinically useful biomarker of ageing: cohort study. BMJ. 2009;339

About The Author


Board-Certified Doctor and Educator

Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery MBBS (Cardiff University)

London, United Kingdom

Dr. McKeown is a UK based NHS clinician with over 10 years experience in both hospital medicine and surgery. After an initial career in maxillofacial surgery his focus now lies in elderly care and rehabilitation medicine. A board member for Wadham College of Science, Dr. McKeown is passionate about widening access to both education and healthcare around the world and as a result, outside of his clinical work he spends much of his time either teaching or providing medical consultancy to healthcare startups. Commercially, his interests lie in helping research and promote novel, evidence-based medicines originating from natural sources and processes.

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