We all have our own individual garbage truck scouring our bodies collecting waste and disposing of it. This process, is known as the lymphatic system. The skin, is our largest organ and facilitates one of the main ways we excrete waste from our bodies (like sweating) as part of the lymphatic system operation. But what happens, when our waste system backs up and we have a backfill of garbage? It can start to show on our faces.
What is the lymphatic system?
We have three circulatory systems in the body:
- Arterial System: brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues in the body
- Venous System: removes waste from the body
- Lymphatic System: removes waste from the body
The Arterial and Venous systems are fuelled by the automatic mechanical pumping of our heart – our inbuilt motor. The lymphatic system unfortunately doesn’t have this pumping mechanism and relies on our movements in our arms and legs to circulate around the body.
The venous system removes about 90% of the waste from the body, and the lymphatic system removes the remainder that are mainly protein molecules, cancer cells and bacteria. So imagine what is being backed up and stored in your body, if your lymphatic system isn’t working properly or at all, and your body is storing these nefarious substances that aren’t being flushed out?
How does the lymphatic system actually get rid of waste?
When working properly, the lymphatic system will carry the waste in lymphatic fluid and take it to our lymph nodes. It literally pushes against the bounds of gravity as the lymphatic fluid travels in one direction – up towards the neck.
Our lymph nodes live in the armpits (the axilla), the neck, the gut, between our lungs and the groin area.
The lymph nodes operate like a water filter – they filter the fluid, destroy nefarious bacteria and cancer cells and allow the cleansed fluid back into the body through blood circulation. The lymph nodes can undertake this destroying action because they contain the body’s immune response agents – white blood cells and lymphocytes, their job is to destroy pathogens (diseases and bacteria) when they come into contact.
How the lymphatic system is linked to the skin
The lymphatic system may not be circulating revitalised flows to your skin if it’s not operating at an optimum level. This means you may not be receiving fresh oxygen, nutrients and proteins to your skin and the wastage may be backing up if the lymphatic system isn’t operating at normal levels to cleanse your skin.
5 things you can do right now to get your lymph system moving
1. Body brushing
According to Dr Cynthia Thaik, a Harvard trained cardiologist, dry brushing promotes the unclogging of pores that are storing dead skin cells. Brushing with a high quality body brush will help stimulate the lymphatic system flow around the body and help to break down cellulite.
Do this just once a week starting from your feet, up your legs, then circular motions up your torso, arms and neck (do not brush your face). According to the American Holistic Health Association you are best off to do your dry brushing before or after your shower.
Don’t forget to wash and cleanse your body brush as it will otherwise build up with your dead skin cells.
Don’t forget, brush your boobs!!
A study published in the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy concluded that manual lymphatic drainage techniques like massage, can aid in the repair and processing of cellular damage.
If you have regular massages, you can ask to have a specific lymphatic drainage massage or just ask your massage therapist to work the areas around your collar bone and neck up to just behind your ear.
Otherwise this is something you can do when you’re laying in bed at night by yourself. You can massage the base of your neck, just above your collarbone, and move your way gently and slowly up your neck to just right behind your ears. This will get your lymph system moving!
Beware of anti-perspirants. The sweat is a sign your lymphatic system is working (great) but I know it can be stinky. What happens though, when you put on a product that purposely prevents your sweat glands from working and encourages your body to hold onto the toxins the sweat glands were trying to excrete? You guessed it, it will back up right inside your body and come out in a different form, or even disease.
So switch to the organic deodorants if you really need to that don’t have the anti-perspirant capacity. Alternatively, dab on essential oil in the armpit region if you really need to.
4. Move it!
According to a study published in Sports Medicine, lymphatic movement was almost twice as impactful within 65 minutes after high intensity endurance training compared with smaller compression based exercises.
So what’s endurance training? Weights. Big ones. The best way to start off is looking at trialling a personal trainer just to make sure you start doing the workouts at an optimum level so you’re not wasting time doing them incorrectly, and then you can move onto a routine pump class where you focus on weight lifting. Now, pump and weights will not make you big or bulky. If anything, they will tone you up, that’s all.
5. Enzyme therapy
I remember the first enzyme mask I ever had, I felt slightly like an extra in Alien and I didn’t quite know what was going on. But after a lot of research and training, I’m absolutely blown away at how impactful enzyme therapy is because of the reaction it stimulates for our skin.
What’s an enzyme
We have hundreds of enzymes in our bodies creating different enzymatic reactions. In enzyme therapy, the enzyme that is activated is called transferase. Transferase is a reaction that transports messages from our skin to our other body parts through changing one molecule to another molecular compound.
Two of the most natural forms of enzymes are protein based enzyme foods known as protease, namely papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple). However in the DMK enzyme mask I use, the protein used to stimulate the enzymatic reaction is egg protein powder.
The enzyme mask is a very thick paste which is then applied in areas that impact the lymphatic areas to stimulate the correct enzymatic response – underneath the collarbone, up the neck, to the back of the ear to the hairline and of course covers the whole face.
What happens next is the reaction. The enzymes react and take action for about 40 minutes, which is the duration you should have your mask on for it to be effective.
The transferase kicks in, and starts to send messages to your lungs requesting it to pump oxygen to your pores and stimulate the lymphatic flow whilst at it. You will start to feel a pumping sensation while this is happening (at about the 15 minute mark) meaning your body is responding and ready to start flushing oxygen to the surface.
For those with cystic acne, this is critically important. The oxygen flushes to your skin from the inside. Now it will give the P.Bacteria a good kicking whilst it’s at it. Those with cystic acne, you most likely have a P.Bacteria infection – you can read more on what it is and how to tell if you have it here. We all have P.Bacteria (yes, even people with clear skin) but P.Bacteria starts to really thrive, grow and stimulate cystic pimples when it is deprived of oxygen. In acne, our hair follicles are blocked by the excess in oil production stopping oxygen from hitting the pores. This is when P.Bacteria grows, flourishes and causes the cystic acne. The enzyme though, can flush the oxygen up to the skin and support the dismantling of the P.Bacteria.
In doing this, it also pushes the blocked pores out onto the skin so you’re getting rid of the congestion. It will push the backed up oil, out onto the skin so it’s not sitting in the pores clogging your skin up. So this is generally why you might have a slight breakout after a treatment.
This is the result you definitely want though – because the clearer your pores are, the closer you become to clearing acne. Because once all of your pores are free of the oil build up, pimples and pustules, you are more than halfway to curing your acne. The next stages after that are scar revision and ensuring healthy oil function.
The enzyme mask will harden throughout the course of 40 minutes, and you will feel a slight ‘pulling’ when it sets. It does feel a bit like wearing cement, but this just means it is working. It does feel slightly cool to feel like an extra to one of of the Terminator films though!
The other thing the enzyme mask will do, is eat up dead protein and dead skin cells. Enzymes also act like little dead-cell scavengers. They eat up the dead skin cells so they can make room for the generation of new skin cells which you will definitely need to nurse your skin back to health.
Recipes for enzyme therapy
- Professional enzyme treatment
I use this enzyme therapy treatment for its effectiveness. I have an in-clinic treatment at least once every two weeks and have a take home treatment (not as potent) for each week I’m not at the clinic. If you do suffer from acne, it is best to see a dermal therapist before you start looking at starting enzyme therapy (even at home treatments) as the reactions can be quite strong that you might not be used to.
- At home DIY enzyme treatment
Papaya or Pineapple Enzyme Mask Recipe:
- Wash cut and dry the insides of a quarter pineapple or papaya (organic is best)
- Blitz in your blender so the consistency is pulp like, just like a facial
- Place over the face, 5 minutes should do. If it starts to tingle and sting because of the acid, wash off and pop on a moisturiser (even a soothing yoghurt mask would do wonders after that) or coconut oil
- Do not get it in your eyes! If you do, rinse immediately