Beautiful skin is created and maintained from the inside out. The right diet and supplements combined with simple lifestyle changes can keep your skin healthy at any age.
1. How Healthy is Your Skin?
Skin cancer is a risk for everyone - not just for those living in sunny areas or who have fair skin. Start by checking your body for signs of skin cancer - studies show that people who regularly inspect their skin can reduce their risk of melanoma by as much as 63 percent. Use the following list to guide you through your self-examination:
- Note any changes in freckles or moles or any new bumps or nodules.
- Look for moles or freckles with irregular borders, mixed colors (especially black), signs of inflammation or pallor, and any increase in size.
- Pay attention to moles or freckles that are bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, fail to heal after a minor injury, or are scabby or scaly.
If you notice any of the above, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist - he or she can help to determine if treatment is necessary. In addition, you can help to prevent melanoma by protecting yourself from the sun with hats, sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, sunglasses, and UV-protective clothing.
2. Battling Dry Skin
If your skin is tight or scaly, and you're looking for something to improve its condition, try supplementing with sources of essential fatty acid. Evening primrose oil, black currant oil and borage oil are all good sources of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which promotes healthy growth of skin, hair and nails. Of the three oils, black currant oil (in doses of 500 mg twice a day) is the most economical remedy for dry skin conditions. You won't see immediate results from this treatment, but in six to eight weeks you'll begin to notice positive changes. To discover more about the supplements that can address your unique skin and overall health challenges, visit the Vitamin Advisor.
3. Understanding Eczema
Eczema, an allergy-related skin condition, is characterized by red, scaly dry patches that are extremely itchy. The disorder is especially common in young adults, children and infants. Dermatologists usually treat eczema with topical steroids, but these drugs may simply suppress the problem - and may worsen it over time. Steroids can also negatively impact immunity. Instead of steroids, consider a drug-free approach - the one outlined below has worked well for many of my patients:
- Eliminate milk and all milk products from your diet, as well as products that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (often found in snack foods and baked goods) and trans-fatty acids (margarine, vegetable shortening).
- Take 500 mg of black currant oil twice a day (half that dose for children younger than 12). It contains gamma linolenic aid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that promotes healthy growth of skin, hair and nails. You should begin to notice positive changes in six to eight weeks.
- Apply aloe vera gel (from a fresh plant or buy lotions or moisturizers containing aloe) or calendula cream to affected areas.
- Experiment with lotions and salves containing chaparral (Larrea divaricata), a desert plant used topically in Mexican folk medicine for skin conditions.
- Visualization and hypnotherapy can also have a significant positive impact on allergy-related skin conditions. And try to relax - stress can make the condition worse. Explore relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga.
In addition, be sure to bathe or shower as quickly as possible, and use a non-perfumed moisturizing soap. Apply a thick moisturizing cream immediately after patting yourself dry - don't rub your skin when you towel dry your body. You also may want to look into hot springs therapy - many Japanese doctors believe that daily mineral soaks can relieve eczema symptoms. If you happen to live near a hot spring, go for a dip to see if it helps.
4. Aloe for Your Medicine Chest
The gel extracted from the inside of aloe (Aloe vera) leaves is a cost-effective, natural way to treat a variety of summer ailments: it can be used topically for the treatment of sunburn, first and second degree burns, skin irritations or inflammation, mosquito bites, and rashes from poisonous plants. Look for a whole, living plant at your local garden store, cut open the leaf and apply the gel generously as needed. Or, choose a lotion (look for those with a high percentage of aloe gel) or a gel product. Be aware that topical use can trigger rare allergic reactions and may delay surgical wound healing. Always contact trained medical personnel for burns with significant blistering.
5. Cracked Skin Making You Cranky?
If dry skin is getting to you, try finding natural relief in calendula - from petals of the ornamental "pot marigold" flower. Available in tinctures, oil, lotions and creams, look for products with at least 10 percent extract of Calendula officinalis. A gentle, effective remedy is to wash the skin with a diluted solution of tincture. You can also apply ready-to-use calendula skin products or oil directly on irritated areas. Calendula can safely be used for skin irritations, rashes (including diaper rash), eczema, acne and minor burns.
6. Eating 101: Preventing Acne
Acne is a common problem among teenagers as well as adults. Heredity, stress and hormones all influence the appearance of inflamed hair follicles, which result in breakouts. While cleansing the face with a mild glycerin soap and applying topical treatments such as tea tree oil or benzoyl peroxide can help, making dietary changes can also be helpful.
- Increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables.
- Include omega-3 fatty acids like Wild Alaskan salmon or freshly ground flaxseeds to help reduce and prevent inflammation.
- Drink lots of water to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Limit processed and refined foods, and opt for whole, healthful foods instead.
And, don't be afraid to eat a piece of dark chocolate now and then - there is no link between chocolate and acne, and dark chocolate actually has antioxidant benefits!
7. Coping with Corns
Corns - usually caused by pressure or friction from shoes that are too tight or too loose - can be painful and unsightly. Medically, corns are known as hyperkeratoses of the skin - thickening and hardening of the surface layer with a deep-seated core or nucleation. They can make walking or standing miserably uncomfortable. The first step is to find and wear shoes that fit properly and comfortably. Making sure they are appropriate for your daily activities, and that they do not slip or bind when you walk, will help to prevent corns from forming. If you already have corns, consider the following suggestions:
- Use a pumice stone to reduce the thickness of a corn. Soak your feet first so the corn is soft when you rub it.
- Use moleskin or other non-medicated pads to reduce the pressure and pain.
- Avoid socks or stockings that bind your feet too tightly.
- Limit you use of high-heeled shoes - they increase pressure on the forefoot where corns develop.
- Consider an over-the-counter corn removal solution - they do contain acid so be careful, and never use them if you're diabetic or have any problem with diminished circulation in the feet.
See a podiatrist or other health care professional who treats foot problems if the remedies suggested above don't help. Medical treatment usually involves paring or shaving the corn and its core. This will relieve the pain, but the corn will come back if you continue wearing the wrong shoes.
8. Reducing Odor-Causing Bacteria
The bacterial breakdown of sweat is what causes most body odor. Perspiration itself is normally odorless. If you want to reduce body odor naturally, consider the following:
- An easy solution to reducing bacteria is to splash on rubbing alcohol.
- Most commercial deodorant products contain irritating or harmful ingredients, including aluminum salts and dyes. Avoid the antiperspirant varieties. You can find better products in health-food stores, such as those containing extracts of green tea, which is antibacterial.
- If you buy "natural crystals," make sure they do not contain aluminum in any form.
- Stimulant drugs, including coffee and tea, contribute to body odor by increasing the activity of apocrine sweat glands, special glands in hairy parts of the body that produce strong-smelling, musky secretions. Try eliminating caffeine if body odor continues to be a problem.