Can You Detox Your Skin? Here's What Experts Say
What do you think when you hear the word “detox”? Maybe you think, “Ugh.” Or, “What a bunch of marketing B.S.” When Goop released its G.Tox Detoxifying Superpowder earlier this month, I knew there would be naysayers (as is the case with all things Goop-y) and felt compelled to set the record straight: You can detox your skin. Detox is a real thing! Your body does it all the time! You’re detoxing right now as you read this!
“Your body is detoxing, every day, thanks to things like your liver, kidneys, lungs, and intestines,” Dr. Jennifer Kovacs-Nolan, Ph.D., the Director of Science and Research at Goop, tells The Zoe Report. As for what it’s detoxing from? The aggressors it accumulates from food, water, the environment, and more — common substances that aren’t necessarily “toxic” in small doses, but can cause serious issues if they aren’t filtered out of your system. Luckily, you were born with a built-in filter: your liver.
“Along with helping to break down food and nutrients into usable forms, the liver metabolizes things like alcohol, medicines, or the food we eat into less toxic substances that can then be removed from the body,” Dr. Kovacs-Nolan explains. “These waste products are then excreted — for example, in your stool.”
It’s not a glamorous thought, but think of stool as an indicator of how well your body is handling the whole detox thing. “Regular elimination through bowel function is the most visible sign of elimination,” Dr. Nadia Musavvir, N.D., a naturopathic doctor who specializes in skin health, tells TZR. “Problems with digestion indicate you are likely not absorbing nutrients or detoxifying efficiently.”
The liver and intestines aren’t the only organs associated with detox, though. “Your kidney processes about 200 liters of blood and eliminates waste and extra water as urine,” Dr. Musavvir says. “Your lungs exhale toxins in the form of gases. This includes carbon dioxide and normal breakdown products of the respiratory system.” Your skin plays a part in detox, too, via sweat; while your lymphatic system works to filter toxins from your blood.
When the body is functioning properly, detox isn’t as issue — it just happens, and it works, and you are blissfully unaware of it. Here’s the problem: Modern living places a big burden on the body, which can start to interfere with natural detoxification. “Consumption of alcohol or a poor diet may overtax our detoxification systems and lead to the production of excessive free radicals, or oxidative stress, which may damage cells or negatively impact liver function,” Dr. Kovacs-Nolan states. (I mean, raise your hand if you enjoy wine and pizza on the regular.) “Stress, anxiety, lack of exercise, and sitting at a desk all day reduce respiration, and thus reduce the lungs’ ability to remove toxins,” Dr. Musavvir adds. (Aaaand, raise your hand if you’re always anxious-slash-stressed.)
There’s also the issue of exposure, or rather, overexposure. The human body wasn’t necessarily designed to handle the amount of toxins and toxicants you, as a person existing in 2020, encounter on a daily basis. “We are exposed to toxins at a much higher rate than ever before,” Dr. Musavvir confirms. According to the naturopath, these include but are not limited to: air pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides and herbicides in foods, heavy metals, flame retardants that coat appliances and fabrics, alcohol, food additives, EMFs, and trans fats. Add the constant onslaught of chemicals — both natural and synthetic — in cosmetics and personal care products, and you can see how your body could maybe use a hand in the detoxification department.
Luckily, there are easy, actionable ways to support your body’s natural processes (and none of them are a juice cleanse, which — it needs to be said — is not conducive to detox). “The basics are always best,” Dr. Musavvir shares. “Eat a nourishing diet with fresh, whole foods and mostly plants. Take some time out of your day to spend outside. Do deep breathing exercises, move and sweat daily, and hydrate adequately.”
To amp up your efforts, you can add a liver-supportive supplement to the mix. I recently started stirring Goop’s G.Tox Detoxifying Superpowder into my morning smoothie, and even though I haven’t noticed any major changes, it just makes me feel like I’m giving my liver a hug. The silymarin inside, sourced from milk thistle extract, is key for “healthy levels of glutathione, a key antioxidant involved the detoxification process,” as Dr. Kovacs-Nolan explains. It also features zinc, selenium, and pantothenic acid — all important for enzyme and liver function — as well as antioxidants like vitamin C and resveratrol to tackle free radicals. Best of all, it tastes like nothing, so it’s got green juice beat in more ways than one.
“There are no risks to note, but it’s important to always consult your healthcare practitioner before use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have any concerns,” the Goop Director says. Should you have concerns about supplementation, Dr. Musavvir notes you can get all the glutathione you need from garlic, onions, and shallots, too.
Finally, if the thought of your (probably) poor, overtaxed liver isn’t enough to spur you into action, consider your complexion. “When the body is overburdened with toxins, it needs a place to ‘store’ them,” Dr. Musavvir explains, “and the skin is an easy and large target.” Skin-stored toxins could cause rashes or even acne, she says. “By supporting the liver and the body’s detoxification process, the ingredients in the Detoxifying Superpowder can help in neutralizing free radicals that could have negative impacts on skin health,” adds Dr. Kovacs-Nolan. I’ll raise a glass of G.Tox — and a few cloves of garlic — to that.