Holistic Skin Care: How I Naturally Healed Facial Scars After a Life-Threating Car Accident

April 27, 2018
Holistic skincare - Dr. Axe

by Andy Hnilo

On March 20, 2011, I woke up in in an ICU bed after getting hit by series of large vehicles. Crossing a busy street on foot in car-crazy Los Angeles, I was first struck by a westbound Land Rover while traveling westbound on Melrose Avenue. I was pushed into the eastbound lane, where I was then run over by a Toyota Tundra.

I laid unconscious in the middle of Melrose as paramedics and first responders cut my clothes off of me and rushed me into the ambulance. I had seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung and the worst compound fracture that the maxillofacial specialist at the hospital had ever seen … but I was lucky to be alive.

I also knew I had a long road ahead to recovery. As a 30-year-old actor and model, I was unsure of what the future had in store for me. 

Would I ever look the same?

Would I be able to work again?

What I didn’t understand at the time, however, is that my accident turned out to be a blessing in disguise — it was truly the catalyst that rocked me towards my purpose of helping others feel better about what they see in the mirror.

After refusing to use the paraben-laced scar removal creams recommended to me by my surgeons, and being unhappy with products I found on store shelves, I began to educate myself. I learned that that toxic fragrances, synthetic fillers and harsh preservatives didn’t serve my skin, and it was very difficult to find products without them. So I began to study spa treatments and ancient beauty remedies and natural skin care, and I began sourcing handpicked ingredients to test at home. 

Andy Hnilo

Andy Hnilo, before and after his skin treatments

With my jaw wired shut and two front teeth missing, social situations were pretty uncomfortable. I truly had nothing else to do but immerse myself in research, essentially becoming my own biggest science experiment. And the results I saw only propelled me forward. In less than three months, I was back on the runway, modeling for Macy’s.

How did I do it? Essentially, I fed my system from the inside-out. In addition to eating a whole foods–based, healing diet that promoted the regeneration of skin internally, I was diligent with a skin care routine that included a mineral-rich blend of four clays, organic superfoods and nutrient-dense ingredients. Our skin is our largest organ and I truly believe in treating it like another mouth.

Through trial and error and years of fine-tuning, my Alitura Clay Mask and Night Cream were handcrafted out of a small apartment in Los Angeles. Bulletproof CEO, Dave Asprey, heard my story and invited me to join him on his top-ranked podcast, Bulletproof Radio. The rest is history — months later, we partnered up, and in June of 2014, Alitura Naturals was born.


My Favorite 8 Skin Healing Ingredients

My research and self-experimentation have helped me confidently and carefully select the most potent renewing elements in nature, which I used to support the health and recovery of my skin.

Here is a short list of my top ingredient picks:

1. Bentonite Clay

According to research and experience, bentonite really does it all! It provides deep cleansing, increases blood-flow to the surface of the skin and has powerful detoxification properties. Often used in spa treatments and masks, it is even known to improve collagen fiber count, resulting in fewer wrinkles and fine lines.

Also, due to its rich mineral content, bentonite clay exfoliates, softens and conditions the skin. Bentonite was especially effective in treating radiation after my CT scans and x-rays following my accident. During that time, I would do a whole-head mask after each treatment to assist in extracting toxins and heavy metals and mitigating the effects radiation. (1, 2

2. Grass-fed Bovine Colostrum

Topically or internally, bovine colostrum is one of my favorite ingredients. According to my personal results and some compelling research, the regenerative properties of IGF-1 (present in colostrum) have powerfully accelerated the regrowth of my skin cells.

After years of regular use, I notice a more rapid healing time from my abrasions and scar areas. Looking at the science, IGF-1 is literally a growth substance, stimulating the regeneration of cells. IGF-1 levels are higher during adolescence, peak during puberty, then decline as we age, suggesting a strong correlation between IGF-1 and aging in general.

Considering the physiological actions of IGF-1, including the reduction of oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory responses, it’s likely that IGF-1 can positively impact the overall aging processes — skin degeneration included. With oxidative stress and inflammation being two pretty well-known causes of skin aging, inhibiting these factors should slow that process, and I’ve found that to be true in my personal experience. (34)

3. Ground Freshwater Pearl Powder

Pearl powder was used traditionally as an astringent tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine due to its skin renewing and healing properties. I began to experiment with it and found pearl powder to be very beneficial in smoothing areas where I had experienced scarring and abrasions.

With regular use, I saw my skin tone even out and its texture became baby-smooth. In my opinion, it’s the most visibly beneficial ingredient that I use in my clay mask. There has not been much recent clinical research on pearl; however, there is one study that points to the antioxidant and anti-aging effects of pearl on the cells. Research suggests that pearl can enhance the cell adhesion and tissue regeneration of skin fibroblasts. (5)

4. Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a type of raw honey that contains a special compound known as K Factor16 and is well-known for its antibacterial effects. These effects are due to the hydrogen peroxide, glucose oxidase, catalase, oligosaccharides and phytochemicals found in manuka. All of these give this honey the ability to fight skin infections, promote wound healing, and reduce inflammation and scarring.

Manuka also contains many powerful antioxidant flavonoids, including asapigenin, pinocembrin, kaempferol, quercetin, galangin, chrysin and hesperetinas, as well as phenolic acids, including asellagic, caffeic, p-coumaric and ferulic acids, ascorbic acid, tocopherols, catalase, superoxide dismutase and reduced glutathione. As a potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance, I find manuka honey to be an all-in-one, naturally healing substance for the skin. (6)

5. Plant-Derived Hyaluronic Acid

The aging of human skin is a complex biological process that is not yet entirely understood. What we do know is that there is a correlation between hyaluronic acid and the overall process. HA is a non-sulphated group of repeating polymeric disaccharides. It plays a key role in skin hydration, providing the framework through which cells migrate.

In simpler words, hyaluronic acid is essential for healthy, hydrated skin cells — and as we know, skin aging is associated with the loss of hydration. I have personally found that when topically applied, hyaluronic acid gives my skin a more supple, hydrated appearance. (7)

6. Edelweiss Flower Plant-Derived Stem Cells

Stem cells derived from the Edelweiss flower show a protective effect and strong anti-collagenase and hyaluronidase activity, which make it a premium anti-aging ingredient. Edelweiss has high concentrations of leontopodic acids A and B, which have strong antioxidant properties, protecting the skin from the aging effects of oxidative stress. (8)

7. Organic Helichrysum Hydrosol

Helichrysum is a potent antioxidant botanical extract with anti-inflammatory abilities. In research, extracts of helichrysum were found to inhibit enzymatic and non-enzymatic lipid peroxidation, and it also has free radical scavenging properties. In other words, it can inhibit inflammation and prevent oxidative damage from free radicals, which is why I use it as the base of my night cream. (9)

8. Pracaxi Oil

One of the greatest obstacles I faced after my accident was scarring. But when injury is severe (as in the case of my accident), healing can be imperfect and scarring can occur.

However, I had faith in the powerful regenerative ability of my body, and with the help of pracaxi oil, my scarring is almost unnoticeable. Best of all, I’m not the only one to experience this: In a group study of seven patients, all seven cases reported improvement in scarring — including scar and wound size, severity, color  and pain — from the use of pracaxi oil. (10)


My Journey to Healing and Purpose

My road to recovery has been an incredible learning experience. From the ashes of the life I lived prior to my accident, a fiery passion was ignited, ultimately leading to my purpose: to help others feel better about themselves by achieving beautiful skin, naturally. 

Andy HniloAndy Hnilo is the founder and CEO of Alitura Naturals. Their mission is to provide customers with an exciting healthy experience from superior ingredients in a fine selection of high quality skin care products.


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