9 Ways to Beat Common Skin Problems

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College of Naturopathic Medicine Fitness Health Natural Beauty Questions & Answers /

9 Ways to Beat Common Skin Problems

We’re used to hearing about our skin in connection with beauty, rather than health.  Skin however, is a remarkably complex organ (the largest in our bodies), which reflects your total health.  Treatment for common skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea therefore, often include a closer look at what’s going inside the body, especially at the digestive system and the liver, as well as recognising the effects of external factors such as injury, sunlight, environmental pollution, cigarette smoke and germs.

Experts at the College of Naturopathic Medicine share their top tips:

Get a naturopathic diagnosis

According to naturopathy, conditions of the skin point to an imbalance in the body.
Oily skin (caused by overactive sebaceous glands) – try a liver detox/diet
Excessively dry/flaky skin – deficiency of blood or body fluids and essential fatty acids
Sweaty/clammy palms – irregularity of adrenal glands
Cracked skin – lack of vitamins A and C, zinc and essential fatty acids
Hard skin – lack of essential fatty acids
Thin skin – can occur from long-term steroid use.  Bioflavonoids could help, especially rutin


Get your nutrients

The quality and health of the skin, including the repair and rejuvenation actions require specific anti-oxidant nutrients such as vitamin A, in its beta-carotene form. This nutrient is necessary for healing and construction of new skin tissue and alongside the other anti-oxidants vitamins C & E, the minerals zinc & selenium, and the B vitamins, is important in helping to protect against free radical damage, stress related skin conditions and is required in all cellular functions that help to maintain healthy skin.  Also, Zinc, levels of which are often found to be lower in people who suffer from acne, are important to skin health. This key mineral is involved in local hormone activation, wound healing, immune system activity, control of inflammation and tissue regeneration and along with B6 and magnesium is required for the normal production of hormones.


Cool down with acupuncture

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) skin diseases mat be classified as ‘hot’ conditions, which often correspond to an inflammatory condition or a hormonal disturbance.  Acne for example, is often caused by ‘heat in the stomach’ (caused by food and drinks, which are heating, such as fried food, spices, alcohol, drugs, and junk food).  Eczema is often caused by ‘heat in the blood’, which may be caused by toxins (often passed through the mother in the uterus in the case of childhood eczema, or environmental), stress, or hormonal disturbances.  Rosacea on the other hand, may be caused by ‘kidney yin deficiency’, often corresponding to menopausal or hormonal problems in western medicine.

For any kind of skin disorder, acupuncture can help to cool the body down by altering the hormonal balance, calming the patient, and reducing the amount of adrenaline in the system.  There are also many specific acupuncture points, which reduce itching immediately.


Give your skin a detox

The largest organ in the body and a major organ of detoxification, is a two-way membrane, allowing toxins (which are associated with common skin problems) both out and in through the layers.  To these ends, we should never put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t put in our mouths.  In order to detox, it’s also important to remove dead skin cells that clog up the pores making it difficult for proper elimination via the skin.  This can be done through skin brushing (remember to always brush in the direction of the heart), which also stimulates lymph flow.  This should be followed by a detox bath.  A number of ingredients can be added to a hot bath to aid detoxification.  These include Epsom salts, Ginger root and Apple-cider vinegar.

Foods can also aid detox.  Raw and lightly steamed vegetables such as carrots, beetroots, peppers, pumpkin, yam, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress and cabbage all contain both cleansing and antioxidant qualities, whilst onions and garlic should be eaten for their detoxifying and anti-bacterial actions.  Plenty of drinking water is also crucial to detox.


Support the liver

If your liver is overwhelmed with toxins then they are likely to pass into the blood stream causing skin conditions.

  • Milk thistle has the ability to improve liver function, inhibit inflammation and reduce excessive cellular proliferation, which is especially relevant to psoriasis.
  • Dandelion root is a tonic for the liver and increases the flow of bile which has a laxative effect.
  • General systemic treatment would include Burdock, which in small quantities has some action on the liver and also ‘drains’ the tissues of the skin and has anti-microbial powers.


Follow an anti-inflammatory diet

Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea are all inflammatory responses that can be helped by eating certain foods.  Try eating plenty of Oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines or, for vegetarians, linseed/flaxseed, all of which are rich in Omega 3 essential fats, that possess potent immune modulating activities, and play an important role in the production of powerful hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. These help to inhibit the migration of inflammatory cells to sites of inflammation and prevent other inflammatory cells from being activated.  Hypo-allergenic foods such as pears, apples, rice, most vegetables (except the Nightshade family), most beans and legumes (except peanuts) and the non-gluten grains (for example, millet, quinoa, and amaranth) will also help.


Homeopathic help

A variety of different homeopathic remedies can help treat acute skin conditions.  Try:

Kali bromatum 6c – for acne that’s worse on the chest, shoulders and face
Hepar Sulph 6c or 30c – for eczema or dermatitis where the skin is very sensitive and easily infected
Petroleum – 6c or 30c – for eczema or dermatitis where the skin cracks easily
Rhus Tox 6c or 30c – for eczema or dermatitis where the itching is always worse at night, during sleep and is better for warmth
Sulphur 6c or 30c – for psoriasis that consists of dry, red, scaly, itchy patches that are worse when hot
Arsenicum bromatum 6c or 30c – rosacea with violet papules on nose, worse in spring


Enjoy the sunshine

Skin conditions frequently improve when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  This is partly because the sun promotes the growth of skin cells, along with all living organisms.  Getting out and about in the sunshine is especially well known to help conditions like eczema and psoriasis. To these ends, modern allopathic treatment uses UV light along with chemicals called psoralens, termed PUVA treatment, to treat psoriasis for example.  The same chemicals can be found in herbs like katuki and vakuchi seeds, which have been used historically by both Ayurveda and Chinese Traditional Medicine for the treatment of psoriasis.


Herbal helpers

  • Turmeric has an anti-inflammatory action and protects skin by quenching free radicals. b. Adding small quantities of either ginger or black pepper to turmeric makes the curcuminoids in turmeric more bioavailable to the body.
  • Frankincense is an anti-inflammatory herb used in diseases (such as psoriasis) characterized by elevated levels of leukotrienes.
  • Ginger should be used to improve circulation and digestion and to enhance the effectiveness of the other herbs. It’s also been shown to modulate biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation.
  • A cream of Calendula, Chamomile or Chickweed will be soothing and healing and essential oils of Peppermint or Lavender can be used to help ease itching.
  • Aloe Vera, used topically  can help to cool and sooth inflamed skin


Freedom to Eat Fats?


After years of low-fat diet recommendations, fats have made a positive comeback. Avocado, coconut oil, and various types of oils are now being recommended, marketed, and are extremely popular.  Fewer and fewer people fear fats. But can good fats be eaten freely just because they’re classified as healthy?


Saturated Fats

Fat requirement is different for each individual depending on age, sex, weight, height, and activity level, among other factors. It is an essential component of our diet and is necessary for good health. Therefore, they should be eaten however, not all fats are created equal. There are two main types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are generally found in dairy products, meats, palm and coconut oils, as well as fatty snack foods, cakes, biscuits and pastries.


Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are classified as monounsaturated fats (avocadoes, olive oil and some nuts) and polyunsaturated fats, the latter being further classified as Omega-3 (oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds) and Omega-6 fatty acids (nuts and seeds).

There are also trans or hydrogenated fats – mainly found in deep fried foods and commercially baked products. These should be avoided as they increase the bad type of cholesterol, and hence, increase the risk of heart disease.


As part of a healthy lifestyle, opt for sources of unsaturated fats, paying special attention to foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Consume animal-based saturated fats in moderation while plant-based saturated fats such as coconut oil can be more widely consumed. Intake of trans-fats should always be kept to a strict minimum.





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