In celebration of an exciting new collaboration between NH21 and Splash Lifestyle – NH21 Weekly today looks into the many functions of the skin, and its role in safeguarding our health.  

As well as being our outermost physical layer, the skin is many things to the internal body; so much so, that through the practice of Chinese Face Reading (CFR) we can look beyond the surface of the skin to discern the state of a person’s overall health.

Our skin is actually the largest organ in the body, and in particular, a major organ of detoxification; being a two-way membrane that covers and protects the body, allowing toxins to pass both in and out through its multiple layers.

As such, natural health practitioners often caution that we should never put anything onto our skin, that wouldn’t also put into our mouths; as in either case it will end up circulating throughout our blood and lymph.


If the cardiovascular (CVS) system can be likened to the body’s fresh water supply, the lymphatic system would be the sewage works. It helps to maintain the fluid balance in body tissues, and acts as waste disposal for substances that cannot re-enter capillaries of the CVS for various reasons.

The main lymph organs are the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, tonsils and MALT; mucosa-associated-lymphoid-tissue. These are connected throughout the body by a network of lymphatic vessels.

The fluid that runs in these vessels is called lymph; it bathes all the body’s tissues and is pale and milky in appearance. Lymph is similar in composition to blood plasma, yet contains many more lymphocytes; a variety of white blood cells involved in immunity.

Lymph travels in an upward direction throughout the body, and, unlike the blood, is not directly propelled by the heart. As such, movement of lymph is reliant upon activation of surrounding muscles and the pulsing of blood nearby, creating pressure enough to squeeze it, against gravity, from the soles of the feet to the terminal ducts at the base of the neck.

Like the veins of the CVS, lymphatic vessels have one-way valves that prevent any backward flow. Sufficient fluid throughout the body is also critical for proper activation of the lymphatic system.

Lymph transports lymphocytes to any sites of injury and infection, collects emulsified fats from the small intestine, and drains fluid from the spaces between body cells. This fluid contains various proteins and substances which cannot be absorbed by the blood and thus become congested with pollutants.

It is claimed that when a person’s lymphatic system is working effectively it is extremely difficult to ever become sick. Yet, when muscles are tight with stress, or inactive through sedentary living, the lymph cannot move well.

Additionally, if lymph becomes congested, the skin cannot breathe properly. It is therefore important not to suppress its natural action further, with clogging agents such as antiperspirant’s and chemical-based cosmetics. Among other things, it is congestion of the lymph that therapists trained in CFR look for when reviewing a person’s skin.


According to Chinese Face Reading principles, different parts of the face mirror the health of different bodily systems, for example; the cheeks correlate to the lungs, the brows to the liver, and the lips to the digestive organs.

The skin’s appendages also provide much insight into a person’s internal health. Dry hair, for example, can be a sign of a deficiency in vitamin A (found in fresh fruits) and essential fatty acids (from seeds, nuts and seafood).

A lack of iron can present as splitting, or ‘spoon-shaped’ nails and an anemic (pale) disposition in the skin around the eyes.

Perhaps even more significant is the body’s capacity to manufacture vitamin D, which occurs as the skin is exposed to natural sunlight, and is required for the proper absorption of calcium for strong teeth and bones.

Having identified the internal structures showing signs of distress, the therapist can then advise on treatments that support the function the relevant organ and system.

These may include dietary modifications, appropriate use of nutritional supplements, and guidance on exercise regimes to promote increased respiration (breathing), sweating and of course, lymphatic activation.

Once expelled from the internal body, any pollutants must then be cleared away from the skin; which can be achieved via massage, exfoliation, peels and non-toxic cosmeceutical’s; functional blends of biologically active plant extracts developed from natures very own apothecary.

NH21 regularly promotes practices such as meditation and mindfulness to develop insight and intuition of the internal body; a place beyond our physical gaze yet not beyond our skills of observation and mental scrutiny.

Yet we might be served more expediently by looking in the mirror for health signs in plain sight. Rather than covering up our blemishes with synthetic creams and lotions; we could show them to a natural skincare specialist for interpretation, before implementing health promoting lifestyle modifications that address the cause, rather than effect, of the skins various afflictions.

NH21 and Splash Lifestyle will be presenting “Let’s Talk – Nutrition, Digestion & Chi” on Saturday 29th April. More info is available from – We look forward to seeing you, and your skin, there!


Langley, S. (2011) The Naturopathy Workbook.

CNELM (2012) The Integumentary System.