Is your itchy, dry or scaly skin getting to you? The wintertime is usually the worse season for dry skin, especially for people with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. The lack of sunshine, cold air, and forced heat often create an inhospitable environment for the skin. In addition, the season of hibernation and holidays also comes with eating excessively and/or processed foods and imbibing alcohol, factors that may aggravate the skin.
In Chinese medicine, internal and external sources of heat can cause the skin to be irritated and dry out. Spicy and greasy foods, alcohol and smoking can produce heat internally, whereas, external sources of heat include sitting in front of a fireplace or heater. In addition, common triggers for skin conditions include stress, food allergies, skin injury, medications (such as drugs for high blood pressure and arthritis) and other infections and illnesses (even the common cold).
Blood deficiency is also another reason skin can be withered and dry. Blood deficiency is very similar the the diagnosis of anemia, low red blood cell count. Eating foods and herbs that nourish blood can promote blood flow to the skin bringing it nutrients it needs to maintain its structure. Foods that nourish the blood include beef, dark green leafy vegetables, black sesame seeds, and beets to name a few.
Some people can manage their mild dry skin conditions with home remedies or over-the-counter topical treatments. However, moderate and severe skin conditions, especially eczema and psoriasis, usually require additional treatments and people with these conditions should seek an individualized treatment program.
Unlike Western medicine, the fundamentals of holistic skin care comes from healing from within the body. Elimination of inflammatory foods, exposure to toxic chemicals, treating underlying nutritional deficiencies and improving lifestyle habits can greatly impact the skin’s ability to heal and be nourished.
Fundamental treatments for dry skin in Naturopathic medicine include the following:
Hydration. The body is approximately 70% water and includes hydration for the skin cells. Drink approximately 1/2 your body weight in water. When traveling in an airplane, the recirculated air may cause your skin to be drier. Increase your consumption of water prior and during the flight, and consider spritzing water on your face to hydrate and create more humidity in the space around you.
Sunshine vitamin. Studies show that taking vitamin D helps reduce winter time eczema. Ultraviolet light therapy, also known as phototherapy, converts vitamin D into its active form and is a common treatment for severe eczema and psoriasis. Vitamin D deficiency is common in San Francisco and worse in the winter months when people get less exposure to the sun, which may explain why eczema often gets worse during the winter months.
Anti-inflammatory Diet. There are many foods that can create inflammation and cause irritation to the skin. Although there are commonly known inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol, each individual has a different reaction to various foods may it be from a food allergy or sensitivity. Consider eating a Mediterranean diet full of vegetables and fruit, and healthy oils to give your body and skin the nutrients it needs.
Topical treatments. The skin is a breathing organ and the pores not only excrete, they absorb. Topical treatments can be just as harmful for the body as something taken internally. The Environmental Working Group website is a great resource to learn about how clean your products are from chemicals, from shampoos to lotions. ‘Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat’ is a great way to determine what products to choose from.
The basic foundational treatments for dry skin are essential, especially during the winter months. For moderate to severe skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, additional therapies are required to help regulate the immune system and decrease inflammation. Using the fundamental Naturopathic and Traditional Chinese medicine skin care essentials is a great way to combat the dry skin season.