Skin Breathing

By Heath and Nicole Reed

Our skin is our largest organ and can be considered our third lung. It breathes. It’s alive. And it has its own rhythm—an inhalation and an exhalation. It absorbs (inhales) nutrients and oxygen, senses light and pressure, and regulates heat and cold. It releases (exhales) carbon dioxide, sheds dead skin cells, and completely regenerates itself every 28 days. Every minute, you lose 30,000–40,000 dead skin cells, all of which are replaced immediately. Our skin protects our bones and organs, and allows us to feel the power of touch! 

Touch is the first of our five senses to develop in utero and is fundamental to our existence. Babies can die from lack of touch; as adults, touch helps to protect us from harm and soothe us into relaxation. Recent research from DePauw University and psychologist Matthew Hertenstein reveals touch communicates emotion. Scientists used to believe touching was simply a means of enhancing body language and the spoken word. Now, experts say “touch is a much more nuanced, sophisticated, and precise way to communicate emotions, like joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy.”1
Though often taken for granted, there is much to learn from the skin. Every square inch is like an antenna receiving a constant stream of information ranging from the firmness of the chair you’re sitting on, to the heat of the sun shining through a window, to the feelings expressed from a hand resting on your shoulder.
In each square inch of skin there are:
• 65 hairs
• 100 sebaceous (oil) glands
• 32 feet of nerves
• 8 feet of blood vessels
• 650 sweat glands
• 9,500,000 cells
• 1,300 nerve endings
• 12 cold and heat receptors
• 155 pressure receptors for the perception of touch.2
 The skin is also our first line of defense, protecting the rest of the body from illness or imbalance. It eliminates approximately 2 pounds of waste a day in the form of perspiration.3 The toxins removed in this process are formed from the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. They are created in the body through metabolism, shedding of dead cells, relentless stress, and constant churning of emotions.
Keeping the skin pores clean, clear, and open is one way to help relieve the body of ongoing buildup of toxins. Exfoliating scrubs boost our immune system. In traditional Chinese medicine, the skin’s pores are seen as the “doors of qi,” and must be kept clear to maintain the body’s defensive energy (“wei qi”).
I enjoy incorporating scrubs, especially during the changes of the seasons, to cleanse, smooth, and moisturize the skin, and restore its natural balance. I find sugar scrubs less abrasive than salt scrubs and use these most often, but my husband, Heath, loves the feel of a coarse salt scrub (maybe it’s a yang thing). Try making your own scrub from our suggestions.

Try These Sugar and Salt Scrubs!

Moisturizing Sugar Scrub
2 cups white or brown sugar
1 cup sweet almond oil (coconut oil or olive oil can be substituted)
2 tablespoons jojoba oil or vitamin E oil
5 drops tangerine essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil

Energizing Salt Scrub
1 cup sea salt (coarse or fine)
1 cup coconut oil (in liquid form)
2 tablespoons jojoba oil or vitamin E oil
5 drops rosemary essential oil
3 drops grapefruit essential oil

Mix well. Both recipes will retain their freshness for up to two months, stored in airtight containers. Feel free to explore with different essential oil blends that fit your needs. To support your body and constitution in spring and summer, consider a detoxifying blend that may include one or all of the following: cypress, fennel, geranium, helichrysum, laurel, and lemon.  

After you’ve crafted your scrub, apply it in the shower after washing. Use a tablespoon or more for each limb. To enhance immunological benefits, scrub moving toward the heart. You may want to begin at the feet and work your way up.

1. Rick Chillot, “The Power of Touch,” Psychology Today, accessed March 2014,
2. Milady’s Standard Esthetics, 11th edition (New York: Milady, 2012).
3. Alison Finn, “Cleansing the Organs of Elimination,” The UK Centre for Living Foods, accessed March 2014,

Heath and Nicole Reed, LMTs and movement therapists, team-teach seminars featuring ancient healing techniques adapted to modern-day needs. They delight in presenting dynamic therapies that “feel good to give, and feel good to receive.” Visit for more information.