Spending time in nature is one of the easiest and most cost effective activities we can do for healthy bodies, minds and skin. By committing to spend more time in nature, we automatically set ourselves up for so many benefits.
Simply by being outdoors in natural sunlight, a beneficial circadian rhythm is reinforced that improves the quality of our sleep and regulates stress hormone production. Studies show that our gut microbiome also has an optimal circadian rhythm, which influences ours and vice versa. Remember, a healthy diverse microbiome is key to healthy skin and a well body.
When we are outdoors, we are often engaging in beneficial self care activities, like spending quiet time alone or reading. Or we are gardening and strengthening our connection with nature. Or we are playing with our kids or grandkids, which serves to strengthen our relationships, which positively influences our health. Or we are participating in a sport, getting exercise for our bodies.
Nature also provides us with colorful fruits and vegetables full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Focusing on a plant-based diet reduces the inflammation that can contribute to conditions from cardiovascular disease to acne. Antioxidants in these foods help to protect our bodies and skin from stressors that can lead to damage or promote cancer.
Let’s not forget about Vitamin D. Sunlight is necessary for our bodies to produce it. Adequate levels are necessary for bone health, along with many other potential positive effects. Low levels have been associated with depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of certain cancers. But remember, sun exposure ages our skin and causes skin cancer. As a dermatologist, I prefer getting Vitamin D from a supplement, because the amount of sun exposure needed to produce an adequate amount is hard to quantify. Skin color, time of day, location, and how much skin is exposed all play a role in how quickly Vitamin D is produced. Generally, I recommend 15 minutes of midday sun exposure on arms and legs three times per week if sunlight is your method of choice to maintain Vitamin D levels.
And what about all the amazing plant-derived topical therapies for the skin? Green tea, pomegranate and Vitamin C are just a few ingredients utilized in skincare products that act as topical antioxidants to help protect our skin from negative stressors. Bakuchiol is a plant-derived ingredient that helps minimize fine wrinkles in the skin without the irritation of retinoids. Honey can be used to reduce inflammation and speed healing. Clays can be used to cleanse, reduce inflammation, and gently exfoliate the skin.
We do not have to look much further than nature to really optimize our health and wellness. Spending time outdoors and eating food that grows from the ground will help you reach your overall health goals. Look to skincare brands that are transparent about their ingredients and what they do, or see a dermatologist or aesthetician to help you harness the benefits of nature in your skincare products.