Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ. It has many roles in the maintenance of life and health but also has many potential problems. There are many layers that make up your skin, the epidermis being the outermost. It takes about 28 days for a layer of skin to work its way up to the outer surface.
The basic day-to-day functions of the skin include:
- Works as a barrier, protecting against water loss as well as physical and chemical injury
- Helps fight off bacteria, viruses, allergens, toxins and carcinogens through the parts of or immune system that exist in our skin
- Regulates body temperature
- Protects us from UV radiation by producing melanin
- Gives us a sense of touch
- Is involved with producing Vitamin D
- Heals wounds
Like the gut, the skin is home to over a trillion organisms at any given time, including thousands of species of bacteria as well as viruses and fungi. These all serve a purpose and are important for proper balance. Like the gut, when the balance is altered, it can create problems. Generally, when there is an outbreak with the skin, there is an underlying internal issue. Oftentimes the skin takes over when the liver is overloaded and cannot detoxify properly.
The skin is under constant assault from environmental agents, harsh cleansers and soaps, deodorants, and even medications and cosmetics. Our obsession with cleanliness may be doing more harm than good for microbiota balance on the skin.
A healthy skin microbiome appears to begin during and shortly after birth with a flurry of immune activity. Unfortunately, many of the modern practices surrounding birth may have a dramatic and unfortunate impact on gut bacteria. The wide use of antibiotics for mom during labor (and for mom and baby after birth) may have some big unintended consequences. This could be a part of the reason we are seeing a rise in skin-related disorders.
In conclusion, gut health is extremely important when it comes to skin issues. Almost 90% of our immune system is within the gut. Focusing on healing and nurturing your gut will usually help with certain skin issues.
There are different forms of eczema (dermatitis) a person can suffer from, and an individual’s triggers are unique to their body. Some common forms of eczema include:
- Atopic: the most common form, usually starts in childhood. Typically is accompanied with allergies & asthma.
- Causes: genetics, dry skin, immune issues, environmental and food triggers
- Contact: a reaction caused by substances you touch (allergen or irritant)
- Causes: detergents, bleach, jewelry, latex, nickel, paint, plants, skin products, soaps, perfumes, solvents, smoke
- Dyshidrotic: small blisters that form on the hands and feet
- Causes: allergies, damp/sweaty hands, and feet, exposure to substances like nickel, cobalt or chromium salt, stress
Eczema symptoms include:
- Dry scaly patches on the skin
- Small bumps that open and weep when scratched
- Redness and swelling
- Burning of skin
- Thickening of skin
- Oozing & weeping
- Gets worse with scratching
The most prescribed treatment is corticosteroids which can be helpful for short term acute conditions, but doctors usually do not recommend natural remedies to try first. Doctors often do not explain how to properly use these potentially harmful medications, leading to over-prescription and accidental abuse.
A chronic autoimmune condition that is a symptom of an imbalance in the gut. It causes the rapid buildup of skin cells. This buildup of cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface. Inflammation and redness around the scales are fairly common. Typical psoriatic scales are whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. Sometimes, these patches will crack and bleed.
Psoriasis is the result of a sped-up skin production process. Typically, skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface. Eventually, they fall off. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is one month. In people with psoriasis, this production process may occur in just a few days. Because of this, skin cells don’t have time to fall off. This rapid overproduction leads to the buildup of skin cells.
Most people with psoriasis go through “cycles” of symptoms. The condition may cause severe symptoms for a few days or weeks, and then the symptoms may clear up and be almost unnoticeable. Then, in a few weeks or if made worse by a common psoriasis trigger, the condition may flare up again. Sometimes, symptoms of psoriasis disappear completely.
It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, and sometimes what the skin can tolerate will change. “Natural” does not always work with people who have sensitive skin. Helpful natural treatment options include:
- Avoiding triggers like allergens, soaps, detergents, animals
- Taking healing baths using Epsom or dead sea salts, apple cider vinegar or garlic
- Exercising (even gently like yoga or walking) will help the lymphatic system detox
- Sweating can make rashes worse so be sure to rinse off quickly after exercise
- Don’t use harsh soaps or antibacterials – when showering/bathing only use soap on your armpits & groin to avoid stripping the body of its natural oils
- Good moisturizers – coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, Eucerin, Aveeno, Avene AD line, Elaj, Waxelene, Aquaphor, BeautyCounter, Moogoo – ALWAYS PATCH TEST – Usually the fewer ingredients the better.
- Avoid scratching and keep nails trimmed short- use ice packs when itchy
- Minimize stress with yoga and meditation
- Avoid fragrances and dyes in detergents, cleansers
- Get plenty of Vitamin D; UV therapy can be beneficial
- Stick to an anti-inflammatory diet – known skin triggers include dairy, gluten, sugar, and sometimes nightshades.
- Sometimes essential oils can help like tea tree, lavender, calendula. Be cautious when using essential oils on the skin and be sure to dilute in a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba
- Check out EWG.org to find out how harmful or safe your bath & body products are
Acne appears when a pore in the skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to the surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin, p. acnes, also get inside the clogged pore. Inside the pore, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly. With loads of bacteria inside, the pore becomes inflamed (red and swollen). If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears.
- Use a gentle cleanser but do NOT over-cleanse – apple cider vinegar, honey, coconut oil
- Use fragrance-free products that do not contain harmful chemicals
- Use healing masks to hydrate and soothe the skin
- Exfoliate regularly with natural items like sea salt, brown sugar, and oatmeal.
- Avoid too much sun exposure
- Eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet
FACE MASK FUN
- Always try to get fresh & organic ingredients when applying produce to the skin
- Honey – always buy organic! Manuka Honey (4x more nutritious than regular honey, get UMF 10+) – helps treat acne. Eczema, MRSA, burns, heal wounds
- Bentonite clay – helps detoxify pores, reduce acne, clear redness, heal poison ivy, eczema & heal wounds
- Vitamin E Oil – use sparingly, good for excessive dryness, antioxidant & anti-inflammatory
- Before applying mask, use a warm washcloth on face to open pores
- Avoid putting mask over eyes, lips & eyebrows
- Leave masks on for about 15-20 minutes
Avocado Mask – Mash ½ ripe avocado with 2 tbs honey
Coconut & Honey Mask – 2 tbs virgin coconut oil & ¼ cup honey blended
Fruit Mask – 1 ripe banana, 1 tbs honey, 1 tbs lemon juice
Aloe & Honey Mask – 2 tbs aloe vera, 1 tbs honey
Avocado & Coconut Oil Mask – ½ ripe avocado & 1 tbs coconut oil
Honey & Lemon Mask – 2 tbs honey, 1 tbs lemon juice
Cucumber Mask – Blend ½ cucumber w/ 1tbs honey (1 tsp bentonite clay optional) (sit for 20 min)
ACV, Honey & Clay Mask – 1 tsp ACV, 2 tsp honey, 1 tsp clay
After using a facemask, a sea salt spray or 1tsp ACV diluted in 1 cup cool water will work as great toners to lock-in effects.