Skin Health Part I - Coping positively with skin conditions

Skin Health Part I - Coping positively with skin conditions

Coping positively with skin conditions By Dr Rosy Daniel

Skin Health Part I - Coping positively with skin conditions

Dr Rosy Daniel, Weleda’s Integrative Health Consultant, shares ways to cope positively with chronic skin conditions

The health of our skin depends largely on our nutritional status and having a really good blood flow to the skin. The key nutrient that affects our skin, nails and hair is vitamin B complex. So, whether we get this from our diet from fish, eggs, grains, pulses, seeds and leafy greens or as a food supplement, this is an excellent starting place to support skin health.

We often forget that our skin is a major organ of excretion. We can tell, for example, when we have been eating garlic or curry spices by the smell of our skin, and when drinking lots of carrot juice the palms of our hands may become a more orangey colour from the beta carotene. Everything we consume, be that food, drink, tobacco or medicines, will have a bearing on our skin’s health.

Our skin acts as a barrier between us and the world but it is highly porous allowing absorption of skin care products and medicines that we put on it in the form of creams or patches. The absorptive capacity of our skin is so high that it is possible to taste aromatherapy oils in the mouth within minutes of them being applied. So, we must really be doubly cautious in terms of what we take in, orally or topically, to protect ourselves from the inside out and the outside in.

A holistic approach to skin health

We should also think about the effect of our emotions and mental state on our skin. The late Dr Anne McGuire, eminent dermatologist and Jungian Analyst, once lectured on the subject of ‘Symptom as Symbol’, in which she described the skin as the ‘mirror of the psyche’. She told a story, with some embarrassment, to illustrate her point. At the end of a long clinic when she was tired and irritable, she told a patient who had terrible, itchy psoriasis that he was simply ‘in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing with his life’. He left in a state of shock, and she quite expected to be sued for being so callous! He reappeared in her clinic a year later and, far from chastising her, came to tell her how right she had been! When he saw her initially he had been running an abattoir on his cattle farm and loathing his work. He had gone away and considered her words and realised that he had to stop this work and convert to arable farming. His skin had completely cleared, and he came back to tell her how grateful he was. So, when considering skin conditions, we must take the holistic view and consider not only the physical components of skin problems but also what is going on within our emotions, relationships, environment, work and lifestyle.

Types of skin condition

Skin conditions fall into 6 main groups:
  • Inflammatory conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, allergies, hives and psoriasis
  • Infectious conditions such as impetigo, and fungal or viral infections
  • Skin eruptions such as spots and acne
  • Thickened, flaky or congested skin
  • Burned or blistered skin which has been traumatised
  • Skin cancers such as melanoma, basil cell and squamous cancers

Inflammatory skin conditions

With all inflammatory conditions we must look for causative factors. In dermatitis it is quite likely to be a cleaning agent or soap powder; in eczema very often intolerance to milk based products or other foods; with allergies and hives it is usually very specific allergens or a response to excessive heat or insect bites; with psoriasis most often the cause is tissue acidity that can be caused by elements of the diet such as tomatoes, wine and sour fruit.

Usually having a reactive skin is a sign of a hyperactive immune system. This is called ‘atopy’ and can be accompanied by a tendency to asthma and rheumatic conditions. However, the allergic or atopic threshold can vary greatly with our emotional state and it is always helpful to address stress or upset and look for emotional triggers which may have set off an inflammatory cascade.

Eczema usually occurs in the creases of our elbows and at the backs of our knees. There is also a form called seborrheic eczema that can occur where we have sebum-secreting glands around our noses and in our scalps. Usually eczema manifests when we are anxious or upset, for example where there is conflict in a family home or exam stress this can activate a tendency to eczema. Unfortunately, medical treatment with steroid creams to suppress the itching may work short term but if the root cause is not addressed, either the eczema pops up in another place or the atopic tendency is driven deeper, with asthma developing. With eczema it’s important to address the stress first and foremost and use mind-body techniques to release the emotional charge in the system.

In psoriasis, patches of itchy skin tend to arise on the outer edges of the elbows and knees and in other places all over the body. It is caused by a rapid overproduction of skin cells which build up into itchy, scaly patches. This is due to an autoimmune process and the trigger is not known. However, for a client of mine the psoriasis turned out to be triggered by tomatoes and was greatly improved by adopting a low-acid diet.

Skin eruptions or infections

With eruptive conditions or infections, it is always wise to check sugar consumption and hygiene. Fungal and bacterial infections will thrive if the skin is sweet and the blood sugar high. We can become susceptible to spots and acne if the skin is oily and bacteria are able to thrive. So when troubled with spotty skin it is always wise to simplify the diet first, excluding fatty and sugary foods, before resorting to the long term medication that can be prescribed for acne. And of course, keep the skin beautifully cleansed and toned with skincare from the Weleda treasure chest.

Congested skin

Skin that has a tendency to become thickened, dry and congested can lead to flaky skin and blocked pores, keratosis pilaris, milia and blackheads. Here the emphasis is on stimulating good blood flow and gentle exfoliation with appropriate moisturisation to keep the skin soft and supple.

Remember too that exercise and skin brushing will bring blood to the surface to oxygenate and nourish the cells of the dermis and carry away impurities that may be collecting. Warm water will also increase circulation to the skin, but it is not good to overheat our skin if we have inflammatory or eruptive skin conditions.

Sun protection

Finally, regarding sun burning or blistering of skin and risking more serious skin cancer conditions, it is all about great preventive self-care to make sure we never put ourselves at risk in the first place. So, hats and cotton cover ups are the order of the day once we have had our safe limit of sunshine, which for most of us is around 20 minutes of direct sun.

Read Part II

Caring for Problem Skin

Dry Skin & Eczema Relief Oral Spray
A gentle but effective homeopathic oral spray for the symptomatic relief of dry skin and eczema. Suitable for adults, older people and children over 12 years of age. Simply hold the spray upright, open the mouth and apply one or two metered sprays onto or under the tongue up to 3 times daily.
Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash
A must for anyone with skin prone to eczema or psoriasis, dermatitis, or reactive skin that’s easily irritated by standard shower gels. This creamy wash is great for both hair and body, whether newborn or in later life. The gentle plant-based cleansing agents are made from coconut and provide a lovely soft sudsy lather. The formulation is free from foam boosters, SLS or SLES, or potentially irritating synthetic preservatives and fragrances.
Baby Calendula Moisturising Body Cream
This nourishing and protective cream is a super useful natural alternative to the usual barrier creams or emollients commonly prescribed for eczema and psoriasis. It’s made with organic calendula to soothe and smooth together with pure plant oils. It’s free from petroleum derivatives for those wanting to avoid the fire hazard of paraffin-based emollients that can build up in bedding, bandages and nightwear with constant use. All the richness of Weleda’s iconic Skin Food, but with a barely-there fragrance from baby-friendly essential oils.
Baby Derma White Mallow Face Cream
A fragrance-free moisturiser suitable for even the most delicate hypersensitive baby skin, to gently nourish and soothe dry skin prone to eczema or dermatitis. White Mallow gently wraps a calming protective layer around the skin, to maintain moisture levels and alleviate itching.