An interview with Dr. Claudia Aguirre

By Rona Berg / February 14, 2017

 Neuroscientist, mind-body expert and member of Comfort Zone’s scientific committee

Organic Spa Magazine: What does neuroscience have to do with the skin?

Claudia Aguirre: Neuroscience is the study of our nervous system and the skin is the largest organ. It is densely populated by nerves; it’s a neuro-endocrine organ, which means our skin has a level of sensory nerve responses, it produces its own hormones and interacts with our own internal environment as well as our external environment. It’s almost like you’re wearing your brain on the outside, on your skin. For example, even if you don’t want to show that you are embarrassed, your skin will blush and show everyone.

OSM: We hear a lot about balance, and a holistic approach to health and wellness. What does that mean for beauty and skincare?

CA: Balance in skincare is about using products that are right for your skin, it’s not a one-size-fits-all concept. If your skin is sensitive, you need products to address the hypersensitivity. The balance is about finding the products that tie into how your skin responds to them. You may be sensitive to fragrance or essential oils. It’s all about finding what helps your skin perform best and work at its optimal level.

We are reinventing the word beauty now, and looking at beauty with a different lens. For me, it’s a neuroscientific lens. Balance and a holistic view means being comfortable with yourself and your beauty. Striving for perfection isn’t helping anybody, but what is important is doing things that make you happy–it’s that well-being piece. And throwing on some lipstick can make you feel better. We’re always talking about how our brain controls our body, but I love how the body controls the brain.

How you move, your posture, what you wear–in psychology, it’s known as embodied cognition, or how your body has a level of intelligence outside the brain. Human behavior can easily be shaped by what we wear, our exterior, and that’s where beauty comes in. We shouldn’t just dismiss the outside as superficial when it does have an impact on our well-being.

OSM: What are the top lifestyle stressors that affect the skin?

CA: I gave a TED talk on this area. The concept of stress has been thrown around as a negative. But stress itself isn’t bad—we need the stress response. If we don’t have it, we don’t know how to interact with our environment.

What’s bad is our response to chronic stress, and this is where resilience comes in. For a person unable to cope with chronic stress, it could be damaging in the long term, and they might
even develop cardiac issues, diabetes or cancer, because their immune response is stunted during stress. Stress can literally damage our cells by inflammation and oxidation. But if your thinking is, “I can’t change this, but I can change how I react to this,” you become resilient and able to cope with stress so that it’s not so damaging.

OSM: For healthy, beautiful skin, what are the most important things to look for?  What to avoid?

CA: You want to do inside out and outside beauty. If you want healthy, beautiful skin, you need to take the mind and gut into consideration, the brain/gut/skin axis. Inflammation from stress is the brain segment, which can lead people to eat high GI foods (pizza, ice cream) that have been shown to lead to inflammation in the gut, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome, and that also shows up on the skin.

For healthy, beautiful skin, you need to look for a clean, healthy diet; ways to manage and cope with stress on a daily basis; and the proper skincare products for your skin. You can get a glow from healthy foods that are rich in carotenoids: red and yellow foods—tomatoes and bell peppers. They actually give you a bit of a tint, or healthy glow to the skin. Organic is always better, obviously. You have less risk of pesticide exposure.

Formulators have been working harder to create better natural ingredient alternatives that are not irritating, but are effective. Comfort Zone has a concept called “science-based conscious formulas,” which are their guidelines to how they formulate. No parabens, because we have better natural alternatives, and no silicones. Silicones are polymers that give you a silky feel, but on the down side, they can block pores. People are concerned about them from an environmental point of view. They are petroleum-based.   doctorclaudia.com

Sacred Nature Kit

Geared toward even the most sensitive skin, this kit by Sacred Nature, the organic division of Comfort Zone, comes in a pretty box perfect for a gift, with a delicate Cleansing Milk, Day Cream and exfoliating Gommage. comfortzone.it/en/

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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg

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