Home > Lifestyles > TCM's role in health maintenance and promotion > Aging According to Traditional Chinese Medicine > Keeping the Skin Young
I. Herbal remedies | II. Food supplements | III. External beauty remedies | IV. Massage, acupuncture and moxibustion

Keeping the Skin Young

Ancient beauty

Internally, the spleen provides the source of blood and qi (vital energy), and the lung is responsible for disseminating the blood and qi to the skin. These two organs ensure the skin is constantly nourished; however, other organs also attribute to the smoothness of the circulation. Along with the aging process, a sluggish metabolic rate and an excess of waste products will inevitably lead to malnourished skin causing dullness, wrinkles, age spots, dryness and hair loss as well as brittle and deformed nails. TCM claims that the texture and elasticity of skin can be improved by:

Replenishing blood and activating its circulation,
Nourishing yin for lubrication.

This is achieved by the following practices:

1. Herbal remedies keeping the skin young

Herbs are mainly used to regulate lung, kidney and spleen functioning, promote blood production and nourish yin and qi (vital energy). Common ingredients include ginseng, Solomon's seal rhizome (huang jing), wolfberry fruit, Gynostemma pentaphyllum (jiao gu lan), ginkgo leaf, dates, raspberry fruit, angelica root, fleece flower root, fragrant Solomon's seal rhizome (yu zhu), black sesame , Ganoderma lucidum (ling zhi), Siberian ginseng (ci wu jia) and pollen. They help to maintain a softness, luster and spotless skin. Some ingredients are combined to assist in the elimination of accumulated metabolic wastes, such as giant typhonium rhizome (bai fu zi), peach kernel, dahurian angelica root (bai zhi), Ledebouriella root (fang feng) and Biond Magnolia flower(xin yi), so as to solve specific beauty problems. Traditionally, for long-term consumption, people would consult a physician for a customized prescription. A considerable amount of ingredients (at least two-month's dosage) are prepared as a concentrated decoction, then further concentrated in strained liquid, and finally cooked with the addition of honey to make into a syrup or gel-like extract. They are known as "enriching soft extracts", which are easy to take and sweet to the taste.

Siberian ginseng (ci wu jia)
Gynostemma pentaphyllum
(jiao gu lan)
Ginkgo leaf

Some simple ancient remedies help to promote complexion and brightness of the skin :

Dried tangerine peel (30g), water melon kernel (50g) and peach blossom (40), grind into powder mixture. Take 3 times a day, each time 2g.
Water melon kernel (40g), peach blossom (30g) and willow root cortex (15g), grind into powder mixture. Take 3 times a day after meal, each time 3g.
Chinese arborvitae kernel (150g), water melon kernel (150g), abutilon seed (150g), poria (150g), fried and ground into a powder. Take with a small amount of wine, 8g each time, 3 times a day after meals. The remedy is also suitable for individuals with acne and constipation.
Collect peach blossom from the blossom tree directly, sun dried and grind into powder. Add in the food as seasoning, 3 times a day, each time 3g.
Dried ginger (480g), red dates (240g), liquorice root (90g), fennel seed (120g), salt (60g) and clove (120g), grind into a powder. In the morning, take 10 -15g of this powder and serve as hot tea.
Milk (240ml), ginger juice (120ml), red pepper powder (0.3g), poria (20g) and ginseng (15g). Grind the last two ingredients. Heat the milk and ginger juice first, bring to a boil and then add in the other ingredients, simmer on low heat until the liquid dry and becomes thick. This amount is enough for 10 days.
Hawthorn fruit (20g) and rhemannia root (12g); prepare as a tea and add brown sugar to taste.

2. Food supplements to keep the skin young

Food therapy provides additional natural elements to help the body to repair and regenerate itself; in other words, it supplies what our body needs as we age and thus assist the body to function as if we were younger. Common foods recorded in ancient books for "beauty", "anti-aging" and "rejuvenation" purpose are sesame, honey, mushrooms, milk products, pumpkin seeds, lotus root, water melon, cherry, wheat and radish. Foods that modern TCM recommends for skin health are white fungus, lily buds, wolfberry fruits, red dates, bird's nest, sea cucumber, fish sound, oyster, conch, soft-shelled turtle, eels, pig skin, animal bone marrow and pond loach. These ingredients can nourish yin and promote blood production.

White fungus
Lily buds & lotus seeds
Mung beans

Sample of recipes that can enhance skin condition:

Dried persimmon fruit one or two per day is said can keep skin glowing.
Fresh cucumber (500g) and garlic (25g). Wash and crush the ingredients, season with soybean sauce, sesame oil and red pepper to taste. This is also suitable for obese individuals.
Wolfberry fruits invigorate the liver and kidney, and replenish blood and qi. It can be served as a tea; use 120g (fresh) or 30g (dried) daily.
Strawberry milk 200ml per day, for 10 to 20 days. Each time, ground 5 pieces of strawberry, and mix with 200ml of boiling milk.
Soybean milk (200ml), walnut (30g) and black sesame (20g). Grind the two ingredients together, and boil with soybean milk for 5 minutes. Add rock sugar to taste, serve warm in the morning.
Prepare a juicy mixture by celery (100g), tomato (200g), pear (150g) and lemon juice (15ml). Drink it once a day, good for itchiness, facial brown spots and acne.
Bird's nest (6g) and rice (60g). Prepare the bird's nest by soaking fully in warm water and discarding impurities; put the two ingredients in a pot with 1000ml of boiling water, simmer for 2 hours. The congee is then served warm; add rock sugar to taste.
Red dates (10 pieces) and rice (100g), make into congee, add brown sugar to taste and serve warm in the morning.
Coix seeds (30g), lily buds (10g) and rice (60g), make into congee, serve warm in the morning.
Carrot (200g) and rice (100), slice the carrot, and then cook with rice and water, make into congee and serve warm.

3. TCM External beauty remedies

TCM external remedies aim at promoting blood circulation and lubricating the local body regions. They can be in forms like creams, jellys, lotions, and masks as well as powder. Common ingredients include pearl, notoginseng, motherwort herb, aloe, common bletilla tuber (bai ji), dahurian angelica root (bai zhi), almond and ginseng.

Pearl powder
Common bletilla tuber
(bai ji)

Ancient beauty remedies:

Prepare almonds (100g) by soaking in warm water, removing the brown coat and ground into a cream; then mix with one egg white. Put on the face and leave overnight. Next morning, clean the face with liquid that has been used for washing rice. This is effective for removing the dull color, brown spots, acne and fine wrinkles on the face.
Collect the fine inner coating of chestnuts, grind and mix with honey. Apply on the face regularly can help smooth out wrinkles.
Prepare a mask with pearl powder and egg white. Every night after cleaning the face, cover for 30 minutes, then wipe off with honeysuckle flower water.
Herbal bath: prepare mung beans, lily buds and borneol (10g each); talc, monkshood, Dahurian angelica root, sandalwood and resin (30g each). Grind all the ingredients and pour directly into warm water (around 38 °C); soak for 30 minutes.

4. Massage, acupuncture and moxibustion for skin health

Acupoints are the sites through which the qi (vital energy) of organs and meridians can flow to the body surface. Stimulation of these points can regulate the function of organs and meridians, and enhance the circulation in the skin. Two simple massage techniques are recommended for promoting good skin health:

On waking in the morning, use the hands to rub the ears and pull them slightly; then massage the scalp and comb the hair with the fingers; finally, rub hands together to heat up and then sweep from the forehead down to the chin for 14 times.
Every morning before putting on facial cream or cosmetics, meditate for 1 minute; blow out the cheeks and gargle for 1 minute; rub the hands together to warm them up and then sweep them over the face once.

For skin beauty therapies, the most important acupoints are along the Gallbladder Meridian, Kidney Meridian, Liver Meridian, Stomach Meridian, Triple Burner Meridian, Large Intestine Meridian and Small Intestine Meridian. Physicians will select the points according to individual needs. For example, acupuncture for removing facial wrinkles will choose the following acupoints:

Major points: si zhu kong, cuan zhu, tai yang, ying xiang, jia che, yi feng.
Assist points: zhong wan, he gu, qu chi, zu san li, wei shu, guan yuan, lou gu.

Each time, stimulate 2-4 acupoints for 8-16 minutes in one side, 10 times as one cycle.

Facial points for beauty therapies

Moxibustion is also a good method for skin beauty; points that are commonly selected include shen que, guan yuan, qi hai, zhong wan, ming men, da zhui, shen zhu, gao huang, shen shu, wei shu, zu san li, san yin jiao, qu chi, xia lian. Each time choose 1-2 of the points, heat 3-5 moxa cones, or moxa sticks for 3-5 minutes. Apply on a daily basis.