Problem skin, Rachel Reishman thought, was the bane of teenagers, not women in their 20s.
"I was just in a period of tremendous breakout all the time," says the 23-year-old Central Point resident.
Her skin bumpy, blotchy and red, Reishman tried a parade of skin-care products and sought facials from several estheticians — all in vain.
"I didn't feel like my skin was improving or changing."
Frustrated, Reishman made an appointment with Jessica Schubert, an Ashland esthetician who uses all-natural and organic skin-care products. With Schubert's help, Reishman discovered that her facial imperfections were far from skin-deep.
"It is totally, 100-percent controlled by diet," says Schubert.
An esthetician for 11 years, Schubert, 37, has developed an approach to health and beauty inspired in part by her father, a nutritionist and educator for Metagenics, a California-based supplement company. After working in day spas and clinical settings in Colorado, Schubert moved five years ago to Ashland, where she experienced "a rededication, a reawakening to the herbal world."
Basing her new business around herbal, organic treatments and products, Schubert filled a void she found lacking in other skin-care settings — dietary counseling.
"The nutritional side of skin care has exploded," Schubert says.
In the decade since chemical peels were all the rage, the latest approaches to glowing skin are gleaned from nature, Schubert says. Sound diets for healthy skin are frequent lecture topics at the conferences Schubert attends every year. At the same time, organic skin care has become a booming trend.
"It's the future of skin care; it's the future of our food," Schubert says.
Their skin's future, Schubert's clients soon discover, is directly tied to the dietary habits of today. Starting with an initial questionnaire, Schubert uncovers vices like alcohol and caffeine and shortcomings like ambivalence to drinking water.
She encourages eating a wide spectrum of fruits and vegetables, particularly those richest in antioxidants, and discourages consumption of dairy products, other than yogurt, which naturally contains beneficial bacteria. Green tea, Schubert says, offers superior support for skin, one reason for sharing a pot with her clients before each session at Abasha Restorative Organic Skin Care and Expert Waxing.
"Caffeine dries out the skin," Schubert says. "Green tea is such a great alternative."
She admits that not all clients are open to changing their dietary habits. But by reinforcing positive choices, she sees many destructive patterns fall by the wayside.
"It took a while for it all to sink it," says Reishman, who cut out her daily coffee habit after a few of Schubert's facials. Several months later, if Reishman relapses with just half a cup of coffee, a breakout betrays her within a couple of days.
Reishman is among the 35 to 40 percent of Abasha clients who, Schubert says, eliminate nearly all dairy from their diet because results are so dramatic. Reishman and her 27-year-old sister, Lily, also one of Schubert's clients, eat small quantities of goat-milk yogurt and occasionally fresh cheese such as feta. The change, Lily Reishman says, turned around her psoriasis, a disease that causes red, scaly patches on the skin.
"The conventional medical community said 'Take the drugs,' " Reishman recalls of her diagnosis a year ago.
Reishman was prescribed a topical cream and pills but hesitated to take them because she's "not a big advocate of chemical, synthetic stuff." Instead the Ashland resident started researching natural remedies on the Internet, leading her to discontinue use of any skin-care product containing chemicals, as well as her consumption of processed foods. She instituted supplements of flaxseed and fish oils.
"I saw a rapid improvement," she says.
Touted by numerous medical studies, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids hydrate cells while reducing inflammation, experts say.
Ashland naturopathic physician Dr. Geoff Houghton says he routinely prescribes fish oil. If a food is good for the body, it's also good for the skin, Houghton says, adding that he believes sound nutrition is more important than a regimen of herbs.
"You're dealing with what the body is using on a day-to-day basis," he says.
Ashland resident and Abasha client Karena Toal, 59, says she has long adhered to a healthy, organic diet. While Schubert's dietary counseling didn't lead to any revelations, it's an approach Toal says is underrated in mainstream medicine.
"I've never been offered any advice about nutrition by a doctor," Toal says.
Although Schubert doesn't have any formal training in medicine or nutrition, information she imparts to clients is "common sense," available in any health-food store or from any nutritionist, Toal says. Schubert says some of her knowledge comes from a background in aromatherapy and books on the subject of healing herbs.
"I think she encouraged me to keep on doing what I'm doing," Toal says.
"There are so many things that are so wonderful for our skin that people forget in their daily diets. We've made it so complicated," Schubert says. "But it's so simple."