Spring is in full swing and as summer beckons, our thoughts turn to fun in the sun. It's all too easy neglect skin care – but not so smart. Damaged skin is unattractive and can lead to health problems. Here are a few skin care tips – some you may already know – some that might surprise you – for healthy skin this spring and summer.
"Physically 'roughing' the skin helps stimulate the release of certain naturally-occurring chemicals within the skin's tissue that, when combined with nutrients, rebuild and rejuvenate cellular integrity," says Skagit Valley licensed esthetician Joan Barlow.
"When choosing an exfoliating product, be sure the ingredients do not tear or burn the skin. I prefer calcium bentonite clay over chemical peels. Dry brush with a natural sea sponge, using a light feather touch. Brushing off the calcium bentonite clay (in my practice) does not tear or burn the skin."
Joan's Exfoliating Tip: Buy a dry sea sponge. Create a flat side of the sponge or buy one that has a flat side. Prior to showering, brush up from the toes to the neck with long, swift strokes. Leave the dry sponge in a drawer so it never gets wet. This is great for stimulating chemicals in the skin, stimulating collagen production, and adrenal function in the body.
2. KNOW YOUR SKIN
"Know your skin type and ask questions," says Ms. Barlow. "If you have rosacea or acne or sensitive skin, you would not want to sign up for a chemical peel. Even if it is botanical and sounds wonderful, it can burn your skin. Your esthetician should be aware of your skin needs and respond in a responsible manner."
"Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer to those that are having trouble with their skin," reports Glenn D. Soja, L.Ac. EAMP, Diplo. O.M. Mr. Soja practices acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and is trained in Chinese herbal dermatology.
Glenn's Tip for Treating Skin Conditions: There are numerous chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, etc., that are often ineffectively treated. I've found in my practice that through the use of appropriate Chinese herbs, many of these inflammatory conditions can be brought under control and even stabilized after discontinuing the herbal treatment.
Many are unaware of this treatment option and often continue addressing their skin with long-term steroidal use. This method of treatment is detrimental to the integrity of the skin and can leave the tissue atrophied and damaged if used long term. Chinese medicine is unique in that it addresses inflammatory conditions in a very specific manner.
Outside of the Chinese medicine realm, most of what I've seen in terms of treating chronic skin conditions is the use of anti-inflammatory supplements, digestive support, and dietary restrictions. These methods aren't enough by themselves to manage extremely inflamed skin. Better results can be achieved by combining Chinese herbal medicine treatments with the elimination of foods that trigger digestive and skin reactions for a particular patient. The underlying inflammatory condition needs to be brought under control and stabilized, something that Chinese medicine can achieve quite well.
"Each person's skin must be considered on an individual basis," cautions Soja.
"During the course of treatment, the formula will be modified periodically to address the current presentation."
3. EAT NATURAL FOODS
"Select foods that support the body and skin," says Barlow. "Go Local and strive to obtain half or more of your calories from local sources. Take advantage of farmers markets, eat seasonally, and include almonds, avocados, blueberries, spinach, kale, cod liver oil, salmon, kiwi, and fruits that pack a lot of vitamin C."
Joan's Dietary Tip: Beware of designer coffees, energy and sports drinks, bottled juices, flavored milks, powdered drink mixes, soft drinks, sweetened cocktails, and sweetened teas. These may provide heavy doses of carbohydrate, and no food value. Added sugars and chemicals bloat the belly, causing inflammation and flushing of the skin.
Glenn's Dietary Tip: There are specific dietary restrictions for specific skin conditions. In the case of psoriasis, I recommend individuals refrain from consuming alcohol, spicy and greasy foods, shellfish, sugar, and pickled foods. Some people have known food allergies, and these should be avoided.
Drink plenty of water, especially when you're out enjoying the sun. If you don't, your skin will feel dry, flaky, and tight. Dry skin has less resilience and is more apt to wrinkle (UW Health, 2011).
4. READ LABELS!
"When choosing skin care products," says Barlow, "study the ingredient label to see that whole-plant ingredients are present and harsh preservatives and additives, like formaldehyde, are not."
Joan's Label Tips: Many department store products are filled with petro-chemicals and harsh preservatives. Over 80 percent of what you put on your skin surface is absorbed into the skin or scalp. Look for whole-plant materials on the ingredient labels, including:
Antioxidants to fight off free radicals that can lead to disease and cellular destruction. Sources: rosehip, sea buckthorn, Oregon grape, and other herbal extracts.Protein for healthy tissue development. Sources: soy lecithin and silk amino acids.Essential fatty acids for building and maintaining cellular integrity. Sources: jojoba, borage, shea butter, and evening primrose.Vitamins and minerals to support cellular strength. Sources: sea buckthorn, rosehip, calendula, MSM, zinc oxide, and raspberry.
5. BE SMART ABOUT SUN
"Some sunscreens on the market can have a deleterious effect on our health," cautions Soja.
Glenn's Sunscreen Tips
Avoid products containing:
Oxybenzone, which has been shown to have significant photoallergic effects when applied topically and then exposed to the sun. Some individuals may breakout with a rash following sun exposure after the application of an oxybenzone-containing sunscreen. Retinyl palmitate, which has been shown to produce free radicals when exposed to UV rays – it has the potential to cause cancer. Excess exposure during pregnancy is of concern as well. Retinol (vitamin A),a compound in retinyl palmitate, has been linked to fetal defects when used during pregnancy.
Look for sunscreens containing:
Zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide that are labeled broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection to protect you against both UV rays. Mineral-based sunscreens will give you the most protection from the sun and will also protect you from the UVA rays, which tend to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Most people don't apply an adequate amount of sunscreen to achieve the protection that they think they are having, or they don't reapply sunscreen during extended stays in the sun, which further diminishes the UV protection.
"The best form of protection," says Soja, "is avoidance or limited sun exposure and keeping exposed skin covered when out in the sun for extended periods."
6. CHANGE YOUR BED LINENS
"To combat bacteria, make sure you are changing sheets weekly on your bed," advises Barlow. "Change pillow cases more often than that. Reduce what your face comes in contact with for eight full hours a night. Think about changing your goose down pillow or foam fire-retardant filled pillows with millet-filled pillows which do not harbor bacteria or dust mites."
7. AVOID SMOKE
Smoking is linked with increased wrinkling, sagging, and other skin damage to the face and to skin on other parts of the body (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
8. TREAT RELATED SYMPTOMS
"Read about leaky gut syndrome and how that effects the overall body and skin health," suggests Barlow. "If you have recurring responses like winter rash, itchy patches on scalp, or itchy areas around rectal area, you are having a food-related histamine response in the body. Get an allergy test done and avoid triggers. See a naturopath or holistic herbalist or nutritionist."
"As we enter into spring and summer," says Soja, "flowers and grass will be abundant – and so will pollen and other air borne allergens.
"Approximately 30 percent of patients suffering from atopic eczema are also struggling with asthma. As asthma becomes irritated by any airborne allergens, a consequential aggravation of the inflammatory response will trigger the eczema to flare as well. Both conditions can be treated effectively with Chinese herbs and can often be addressed simultaneously with the same formula.
"Hot, humid air brings to mind a condition called pompholyx eczema. It is common to have an initial attack of this type of eczema during these summer months, where tiny vesicles form on the palms (occasionally the soles), sides of the fingers, and/or the near the nails on the top of the fingers. These vesicles then reabsorb or burst and leave behind dryness, scaling and/or fissured skin.
Chinese medicine is quite effective at addressing this form of eczema while avoiding the use of steroids."