Don’t deny it.
Sometimes you wish you lived more healthily.
You know how it is. You get together with friends and family, and somehow those irresistible snacks and drinks make it to your side of the table and right into your mouth.
You could’ve said no, but you didn’t want to disappoint your hosts.
And to be honest—it’s fun. And you only live once, right?
So after a get-together when you might’ve overdone it, the next day, your skin looks dull: almost like you’ve aged overnight.
Maybe you even have a guilty conscience about what you might’ve done to your health.
And that’s when you go online to search for a quick solution to last night’s gluttony of drinks and greasy delicacies. You want to get your fresh-looking skin back ASAP.
And among the search results, you find what sound like promising solutions.
TONS of advice. What you need (these online sages say) is a detox.
There appear to be “experts” all over the place who tell you how to detox your body fast.
It’s almost impossible to make up your mind about which detox drink recipe sounds best to give your face back that amazing glow.
You even consider buying one of the products advertised that promises to cleanse your skin of toxins, and fast.
But is “detoxing” really what you need after a night of unhealthy food and drinks?
Can a detox really bring back your healthy, clear skin?
We’ve reviewed the scientific evidence on detoxification, and the findings are astonishing.
We’ll share genuine steps for getting healthy skin and a healthy body, based on peer-reviewed scientific research, that will help you to avoid ever needing a detox.
What does scientific research have to say about detoxification?
According to the Harvard School of Medicine, detoxification is a procedure that “rids the body of dangerous, often life-threatening, levels of alcohol, drugs, or poisons.”
This probably isn’t what you need after a night out (we hope.)
But we get it: even if they’re not immediately life threatening, you want to get rid of the lower-intensity toxins from lifestyle choices that might still be lingering in your system.
What about that kind of detoxification?
One of the world’s leading experts on this subject is Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, UK.
Ernst has authored several books and about 1,000 academic papers in this area.
Based on his research findings, Ernst remains skeptical of the benefits of lifestyle detox because of how your organs work.
He explains that your lungs, kidneys and liver are already giving you a 24-hour detox. For free. That’s their job!
So the great news is that most people don’t need “detox” regimens, or need to pay money for detox services or products.
But wait a minute. Aren’t there natural detox ingredients that can help reduce the level of toxins in your body?
In some cases, yes. Consider lead, for example.
For individuals who are exposed to high levels of lead, researchers from Michigan State University recommend that a diet rich in leafy greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables can help to mitigate lead poisoning.
We’ll tell you lots more about that in a bit.
But in many other cases, detox claims are nonsense.
You know those weight-loss detox smoothies touted in magazines? Or the skin-detox face mask recipes people share on social media?
Unfortunately, most detox claims don’t hold up under scrutiny.
Granted, most of these detox recipes are harmless and usually there are no detox side effects.
Some of them are even packed with nutritious ingredients that can support your health in other ways–but they do not have the ability to detox your body.
And in some cases, well-meaning detox advice can actually land you in serious health trouble.
The Bangladeshi Mymensingh Medical Journal published a study suggesting that spirulina may help to reduce the levels of arsenic in your body.
Sounds good, right?
But ironically, due to the unregulated nature of the nutritional supplement industry, spirulina itself is often contaminated with arsenic.
Even more alarming, spirulina can contain the neurotoxin BMAA, which is suspected to cause ALS, the neuro-degenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
So if you do choose to consume spirulina to detox at home, it’s really important to make sure the manufacturer tests each batch for BMAA.
Similarly, a study in the journal Phototherapy Research found that milk thistle removes toxins in your liver.
But before you open your wallet to buy milk thistle supplements, be sure to read the Mayo Clinic’s warning. In some cases, milk thistle can cause life-threatening side effects for folks who want to detox naturally.
As you can see, while there are safe ingredients that can legitimately help to remove certain toxins from your system, and can be useful in cases of poisoning, most detox advice crumbles under closer scrutiny.
And some of it can actually be dangerous.
The rest of this post will help to sort out the sound advice from the nonsense.
First, we’ll look at the most common detox claims, and put them to the test against scientific research on their effectiveness.
Second, we’ll see what high quality studies have to say about how you can prevent getting toxins into your body in the first place (that’s how you do a pretox).
An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.
Finally, we’ll walk you through 8 scientifically-backed steps that will help you get healthy skin, and a healthy body more generally.
Ready for the only detox guide or detox program you’ll ever need?
Here we go!
1. Skin Detox
Manufacturers have come up with LOTS of products claiming to detox your skin and bring back a healthy, fresh appearance.
But unfortunately, there’s not a single study confirming that a skin detox really works.
That’s why most dermatologists don’t recommend them.
So what is the best way to detox your skin?
When it comes to your skin, it’s actually really easy to solve the issue of toxins.
For the best skin detox you just have to approach it from the other side: It is not a matter of getting toxins out of your skin. Rather, it’s about not putting toxins on your skin in the first place (a.k.a. pretox).
Here’s what the research has to say about how to detox your skin.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, conventional cosmetics contain many toxic substances that could be harmful if they enter your skin.
So the best way to detox your skin? Simply stop using such products.
But does this type of skin detoxification really work?
Yes, it does.
A study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that you can significantly reduce the level of harmful chemicals in your skin after taking just a short break from conventional skin care products.
There you go. That’s how easy (and inexpensive) it is to detox your skin naturally.
But if you’re not ready to part with conventional products just yet, how do you know what ingredients to watch out for?
To make it easy, we’ve created a list of the most harmful ingredients commonly found in personal care products.
You can download the list for free, and compare the ingredients in your favorite skincare products with the ones on the list.
If you keep such chemicals away from your skin, then you definitely won’t need to waste time and money on a detox for clear skin.
The beauty is that you don’t even need any fancy skin detox water, skin detox juice, or any other kind of skin detox product.
But even if you do decide to shell out money for a “skin detox” product, there’s one kind we recommend being particularly careful about.
2. Detox Face Masks
Wanna draw out toxins from your skin?
Why not try a detox face mask!
Well, you could. But unfortunately, no serious study has managed to confirm that detox face masks really accomplish what they say they do.
On the contrary: many dermatologists issue warnings about the detox side effects of conventional face masks that are typically sold in stores.
Here are a few things to look out for with store-bought detox face masks.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C., you should make a habit of always reading the ingredient list before purchasing face detox products.
She explains that if you read the ingredients, you might notice that many chemical face masks include substances like glycolic acid, which can cause severe skin irritation.
The journal Dermatology Review has also warned against using store-bought detox face masks intended for overnight use.
This is because nighttime is when your skin is most vulnerable and seeks to regenerate itself. Some detox masks can be too thick, and prevent your skin from breathing.
These masks may result in dry and flaky, peeling skin. Not good.
If you still want to use conventional skin-care products, but want to avoid such mishaps, you need to know the most important ingredients to avoid.
Here’s the list we were telling you about earlier of the biggest culprits to watch out for in the ingredient list.
One more thing.
If you decide you want to try out a new detox face mask anyway, here’s a little trick to reduce your risk of an allergic reaction.
Just test your facial detox mask on a small patch of the back of your hand or arm before applying it to your entire face.
Although this test isn’t foolproof, because the skin on your face is more delicate than it is elsewhere on your body, it will at least help most people to avoid a nasty reaction.
To give your skin the best treatment we recommend you use only natural and organic ingredients. If you need some inspiration then you should check out these 10 amazing DIY organic face masks by Top Inspired. You’ll love ’em!
Now you almost got a complete natural skin detox – but we’re not entirely done yet.
3. Household Cleaning Products
OK: now you’ve gotten rid of your conventional cosmetics. Awesome! Is your skin safe from toxins now?
Not so fast.
An often-overlooked way that harmful chemicals can easily enter your skin is through conventional household cleaning products.
According to a study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, conventional home cleaning products release toxic substances at levels that exceed regulatory guidelines.
That means that the kind of cleaning products that most people use in their homes can actually lead to health problems.
According to Rebecca Sutton, PhD, of the Environmental Working Group, this is not a surprise.
Due to lax government regulations in the US, she says, neither cleaning products themselves nor their ingredients are required to meet any safety standards.
These products also don’t need to be tested for safety or efficacy before they are launched on the market.
This leaves companies free to include chemicals in their household cleaning products that can harm your health.
One such class of chemicals commonly found in household cleaners are phthalates, which many studies have found to be linked to hormone disruption, reproductive disorders, asthma, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has prepared a list of 40 (yes, forty!) studies that link phthalates to health issues.
And how do chemicals like phthalates manage to get into your body in the first place?
For the most part, they enter through your skin.
“Easy,” you say; “I’ll just use rubber gloves when I clean!”
Good idea. But you’ve only solved part of the problem.
Conventional household cleaning products also give off fumes containing problematic chemicals. Your lungs will still absorb them into your body as you breathe them in.
The American Lung Cancer Association warns that breathing in these toxic chemicals can lead to a number of illnesses, including asthma.
To make stepping away from conventional household cleaning products a bit easier, here’s a list of natural floor cleaner recipes that will not poison your skin or lungs.
If you’re not ready to give up store-bought cleaners just yet, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve put together a simple (free) checklist to help you keep the most dangerous chemicals out of your household cleaning routine– you can download it here.
Here’s to no longer poisoning ourselves!
Eliminating these two major sources of toxins from your daily routine –conventional personal care products, and conventional household cleaners– will not just help your own health, but will also benefit those around you.
Think of how it will also positively support the health of your children, your significant other, your pets, and anyone else who might be living under your roof.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get started you can switch to natural dish soap.
Since you might do dishes a few times a day, getting rid of dish soap that is packed with dangerous chemicals is essential.
You will eliminate skin contact with up to 20 dangerous chemicals found in most conventional dish soaps just by using a natural product.
Make sure though to watch out for greenwashing. Many brands claim to be natural even though they are packed with toxins. To be 100% safe, here’s the most natural dish soap you can find on the market.
Now let’s move on to the most commonly recommended “detox panacea” of all…
4. Water Detox
When you’re looking for advice on how to detox your body then it’s almost certain that you will find plenty of information on water detox.
Just chug water all day long, they say, and you’ll detox while making your skin look younger.
But is it really so? Let’s see what the research has to say.
First things first: yes, your body does need water. (Hopefully that’s not new information.)
A study in the journal Nutrition Review confirmed that drinking water is indeed crucial for the functioning of your organs.
Your kidneys and liver are naturally built to remove toxic substances from your body, and for them to do their job, they require sufficient water.
Nonetheless, many people read about the role that water plays in this process, and start drinking unnecessary large amounts that could actually harm their health.
So what happens if, after a long weekend of partying, you decide to try to detox your skin and detox your body by drinking significant quantities of water, as many well-meaning folks recommend online?
According to Chris McStay, MD, adults’ kidneys are not able to process more than one-half liter of water (2-3 cups, or approximately 17 ounces) per hour.
This also includes the water contained in the food that you eat.
If your body takes in more liquid through your detox drinks than your kidneys can process, you start to upset the balance between water and sodium in your blood.
In addition, you begin sending too much water to your cells, which then become waterlogged.
While most of your body’s cells have room to expand when they become waterlogged, your brain cells are different.
They are constrained by your skull.
According to M. Amin Arnaout, chief of nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, when your cells become waterlogged, the growing pressure of your brain against your skull can cause “seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation and death.”
Death? From drinking water? Yep.
Most likely this is not the outcome you are looking for when you’re browsing the web for health advice!
So how much water should you really drink to support your organs’ ability to get rid of unwanted toxins naturally?
Actually, it depends on a number of different factors that exceed the scope of this post.
That’s why we’ve prepared a checklist you can use to assess your optimal daily water intake, and you can download it for free.
But in most cases, drinking a normal amount of water, using any hint of your thirst as your guide, is the best way to help your organs do their job ridding your body of toxins.
In other words: forget about detox water for clear skin.
Wanting to detox your body with an excessive water detox might be counterproductive to your overall health.
Now you know how much to drink, what about detox diets?
5. Detox Diets
We know how it goes.
After eating a bunch of greasy food, you grab a green juice to cleanse your body and skin.
A simple web search will connect to hundreds of supposed “detox diets,” each one claiming that certain foods or recipes can remove toxins from your body.
Yet the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics notes that in most cases, the research does not support these claims and most detox diet benefits are yet to be confirmed.
It found that the existing studies that have claimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of “detox diets” were “hampered by flawed methodologies and small sample sizes.”
Harvard Medical School points out that the lack of evidence showing that “detox diets” work is not the most worrying thing about them.
More problematically, many such diets could actually damage your health by providing poor nutritional value.
Although most diets promoted on the web cannot “detoxify” you, there are ways you can prevent your food from “tox”-ing you in the first place (pretoxing instead of detoxing).
A meta-study published in The British Journal of Nutrition examined 343 previous studies on the nutritional content of organic versus non-organic food.
(That’s a lot of studies!)
They found that, on average, organic food contains significantly more antioxidants than non-organic foods.
(To read our post on why it’s important to get your antioxidants from whole foods, and not from vitamin supplements or “fortified” foods, click on the link provided here).
The study also found that, while food grown under organic conditions isn’t always pesticide-free, tests showed the level of pesticides found on non-organic produce to be four times higher than that found on organic crops.
In other words: switching to organically-grown foods will expose you to more nutrients and fewer pesticides (a.k.a. toxins).
And if you want to take your detox diet menu up a notch, you can combine organic ingredients with the eating pattern of a plant-based diet.
A large-scale study that included 131,342 participants over 32 years, and was published by the rigorous Journal of the American Medical Association, confirmed that a whole plant-based diet reduces risk of death from all causes.
When you design your detox diet plan around plants instead of animal products you’re reducing the amount of toxins that enter your body significantly.
Other large-scale studies, such as the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, confirm that following a diet based on plants and whole grains reduces cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers, and other leading causes of death.
A plant-based diet puts your body in tip-top shape to clear out harmful substances on its own, making a “detox” irrelevant (it’s not only about what your detox diet meal plan includes, but also what it doesn’t include).
You can read a case study published in The Permanente Journal to learn more about the benefits of plant-based eating, including tips on how to still get enough protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and fatty acids.
An added bonus?
A plant-based diet is also great for your skin!
That’s because one thing that your skin needs in order to stay elastic and strong is omega-3 fats.
Your body gets omega-3 fats from eating nuts, especially walnuts, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables (according to the Harvard School of Public Health), all of which are common in a whole plant-based diet.
Here are some more ways that building your meals around whole, plant-based foods can benefit your skin:
- Vegetables with a high vitamin A content — including broccoli, spinach, carrots and tomatoes — are healthy for your skin.
- Avocados include healthy fats, which support lubrication and give your skin a healthy glow.
- The fatty acids in raw olive oil are great to boost your skin’s youthfulness. Raw olive oil also contains antioxidants that take care of free radicals.
According to dermatologist Heidi Gilchrist, MD, an additional benefit of a plant-based diet is that it eliminates your exposure to hormones contained in meat and dairy.
This reduces inflammation in your body, resulting in clearer skin.
Finally, there are a bunch of foods that can actually make your skin look worse.
If you want to get great skin you should read our free list of foods you should avoid.
6. Lung Detox
Okay, we know this and you know this. But we still have to say it:…
Smoking is bad for your skin. (And the damage is definitely not limited to your skin).
According to the American Lung Cancer Association, cigarettes contain approximately 600 ingredients that create about 7,000 chemicals when you smoke a cigarette, 69 of which have been linked to cancer.
When you smoke, the blood vessels in the outermost layer of your skin get narrow, which leads to reduced blood flow.
As a result, your skin does not get a sufficient supply of nutrients and oxygen.
In addition, smoking reduces the elasticity of your skin.
All of this, combined with the facial expression of pursuing your lips when inhaling the smoke and squinting to keep the smoke out of your eyes, can contribute to wrinkles.
You get the point.
Oh, and one more thing.
You will find lots of advice out there — and even commercial products and services — claiming that you can do a “lung detox” or “lung cleanse” to clean up your lungs quickly.
Harvard Medical School warns against a particular “organ detox” method like a lung detox that spas and oxygen bars like to offer.
In such lung detox services, air containing up to 95% oxygen is pumped into your lungs to supposedly “boost the immune system, relieve headaches, increase energy, and improve cognitive function.”
According to Harvard, this procedure, often referred to as a nicotine detox, isn’t especially risky (unless the air is “flavored” with fragrant oils, in which case it can indeed irritate your lungs).
However, a lung detox is a waste of money, because no scientific study has managed to show that it has the effects that it claims to.
It’s also illegal.
The FDA warns that it’s against the law to provide oxygen from a tank without a doctor’s prescription.
If you want to get a real lung cleanse, there’s only one way.
7. Alcohol Detox
We might as well lay the facts on the table about alcohol, too.
Alcohol has been classified as a “high-risk” toxic substance (according to the journal Scientific Reports).
But that doesn’t mean you need to go through an alcohol detox or liver detox after a few drinks on the weekend.
Your liver has got you covered, says Cathrine Collins, RD at the St. George’s Hospital, UK.
She explains that your liver breaks down alcohol in two steps.
First, alcohol is turned into acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that damages your liver cells. It is then converted into carbon dioxide and water, which the body gets rid of.
Despite the fact that your body can cope with small amounts of alcohol naturally, alcohol consumption will make you look sallow, pasty, and give you huge pores.
It will also dehydrate your skin, making you look less fresh in the morning.
If you’re partial to sweetened alcoholic drinks like margaritas and mojitos, things get even worse.
That’s because sugar promotes systemic inflammation, which eventually adds to cell damage that makes you age faster.
In addition to the inflammation, there is another, more serious risk to consider.
Alcohol consumption increases your risk of cancer in general (see the Journal of the National Cancer Institute).
While we’re talking about the effect of alcohol consumption on your skin, it’s also worth mentioning a study in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.
The researchers in this study worked with a large sample of 59,575 female participants.
The study concluded that the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of getting skin cancer.
So now you know.
And as we’ve said throughout this post, it’s best to pretox: keep alcohol out of your body.
But what should you do if you still wanna have a few drinks in moderation?
Read our free eBook “ How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Skin (And What You Can Do About It)“.
8. Detox Yoga
Some yoga and instructors claim that “detox yoga” can cleanse your body by putting pressure on your liver in a way that makes it release toxins.
Sounds promising, right?
Just squeeeeeze those nasty toxins out of your liver with some magic detox yoga poses.
Unfortunately, we could not find a single scientific study that confirms detox yoga really works.
In an interview, Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, chief of women’s sports medicine at Harvard Medical School, also confirmed that there is no evidence that “detox yoga” actually does what it claims to do.
She repeated what most experts agree on: that your body is able naturally to get rid of toxins.
In so many words: don’t fall for the “detox yoga” promises.
However, you definitely should get regular exercise, and yoga is one way to do that.
Here are some interesting findings from studies that examined the health implications of regular exercise.
A peer-reviewed study that had 13,535 participants found that “higher levels of midlife physical activity are associated with exceptional health status among women” (as published in the journal Internal Medicine).
Research has also confirmed that physical exercise reduces:
- 13 cancer types, including breast cancer (National Institute of Health),
- the danger of getting osteoporosis (Internal Medicine),
- cardiovascular disease (The New England Journal of Medicine),
- diabetes (American Diabetes Association),
- and many other diseases.
Sounds good, right!
Anyone want to join us for a run?
Welcome to the detox champions club!
Now you have the resources to really “detox” your body.
Just plain, peer-reviewed facts.
So proud of you.
So to sum up: if you want to really “detox,” here’s what the science says:
- Avoid conventional personal care products
- Steer clear of detox face masks
- Stop using conventional household cleaning products
- Drink a normal amount of water, paying close attention to your thirst
- Switch to organically-grown ingredients, and build your meals around whole plant-based foods
- Quit smoking
- Abstain from alcohol, or keep your consumption to a minimum
- Exercise on a regular basis.
Now remember: following just a couple of these steps will probably not change your skin much. But if you follow them all, we bet you’ll notice the results in the mirror.
Sound daunting? If it does, don’t think of it as changing your lifestyle “forever.”
Instead, decide that you’ll try making the change for just a week, and see how you feel at the end.
If you’re feeling good, then do it for two weeks. You get the idea.
Now go ahead and share this post with your friends.
If you know any great tips that we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments!
Also, make sure you don’t miss out on the many more tips we share on social media. Just follow us.
And now that you’ve learned a thing or two about detox and keeping your skin healthy, it’s time to read about 30 things you should never put on your face (number 25 is WOW)!
This is where a dry legal disclaimer would normally go, but who reads those? What you really need to know is that this post is for general informational purposes only. It should not substitute for the advice of your doctor. We say this for two reasons. The first reason is that, although we make every effort to provide you with information that is fact-based and accurate, we cannot guarantee that we’ll never make mistakes. If you do spot a mistake, please be so kind as to inform us, and we’ll investigate it and correct the text if appropriate. The second reason is that everyone’s body and health history is different. What might work wonderfully for us or for the people in a particular research study, might not work so well for you. So anything that you might try out based on what is written here will be at your own risk– please use common sense. To be on the safe side, always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, exercise, supplement use, water intake, skincare regimen, or other major lifestyle habits.