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As one of our body’s largest organs, the skin plays a key role in protecting the body from toxic exposure. It’s also where we absorb a lot of toxins. “What you put on your skin really does matter; it contributes to the overall toxic burden,” says Sara Jean Barrett, ND, a Minneapolis-based integrative practitioner who treats patients with chronic health conditions.

Cosmetics, fragrances, and personal-care products can all contain toxins such as phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Unlike drugs, which require U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before they can be marketed, cosmetics and personal-care products do not receive premarket approval. (Learn more about the ingredients to avoid in your personal-care products — and tips for finding worthy alternatives.)

The skin may help us remove some toxins from the body via sweat, Barrett adds. “Urea and ammonia are the main waste products we excrete through our skin, but we also sweat out heavy metals, bisphenols, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds.”

Although both exercise- and sauna-induced sweat contain waste products, studies show exercise-induced sweat contains even higher levels of heavy metals.

How to Support the Skin:

The first step in supporting the body’s detox efforts is to reduce exposure to the toxins in skincare products. Learn which ingredients to avoid, and double-check your favorite brands at third-party sites such as Skin Deep, hosted by the Environmental Working Group. These efforts are worthwhile, as skincare products are one place where we have some control over exposure.

You may also be able to increase detox by sweating more. Along with exercise and saunas, hot Epsom-salts baths can induce a good sweat. And lymphatic massage and yoga may help mobilize lymph and make toxins easier to eliminate.

“I encourage my patients to work up a full-body sweat at least twice a week,” Barrett says, noting that it’s important to shower immediately afterward to avoid reabsorbing everything you just excreted.

Go Deeper

The body already knows how to clear toxins — but you can give your detoxification system a helping hand. Learn more at “How to Support Your Body’s Natural Detox Organs,” from which this article was excerpted.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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