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Case sensitive

Skin problems can be distressing because they are so visible. Rude Health asks the experts for their top advice on natural help for psoriarias, acne and eczema

Cause and effect

“There can be lots of different causes of skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema,” says Sian Eustace at Healing Harvest, Kinvara, co Galway. “Some examples are hormonal changes at puberty, the onset of menstruation, menopause and pregnancy; allergy; dehydration; insufficient essential fatty acids in the diet; stress and a virus or other illness. It is worth remembering that the skin is the body’s largest organ of detoxification, so internal problems are often reflected in the skin.”

Skin triggers

“Eczema can be triggered by allergies, such as wheat, dairy, chemicals in toiletries, pollen, mould, pets and house dust mites,” says Rebecca Goodyear of beauty blog Biteable Beauty. “Psoriasis on the other hand is linked to the immune system as it occurs when T-cells, part of the body’s defence system, mistakenly attack healthy skin cells. Acne is commonly associated with teen skin, but more older women are also experiencing the condition.”

Health store advice

Tips for how to deal with common skin problems from Sian Eustace:

Psoriasis – someone with long-term psoriasis should seek the support of an alternative practitioner. I would also recommend oat baths, a B complex and relaxation class.

Eczema – seek the care of a practitioner. There are a number of creams which can be useful to soothe and heal eczema. Reducing inflammatory foods, such as red meat, certain vegetables, black tea and coffee, can be helpful as well as drinking cleansing teas.

Acne – look at cleansing teas, particularly nettle, and the reduction of inflammation-causing foods. If there is a hormonal basis for the condition, herbs such as agnus castus can be helpful. There are a number of skincare products aimed at young skin which can help fight local infection on the skin.

Allergy – nettle can help reduce an allergic reaction in the skin. Another product which can help is quercetin which can be bought in capsule form.

The Acne Specialist's Advice:

Dr Makoto Trotter is the author of new book The Complete Acne Health and Diet Guide (clear skin without antibiotics) and recommends the following:

  • Consult with a dermatologist to assess your skin and review all conventional treatment options with them.
  • Consult with a naturopathic doctor specialising in acne to assess your skin from a holistic perspective.
  • Eat a diet of whole foods, eliminating all processed food, and artificial ingredients.
  • Cut out all forms of sugar, whether natural or refined; avoid foods that contain gluten, dairy or eggs; eliminate all soft drinks, juices, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eat every three hours, with small-to moderate-sized meals and healthy snacks.
  • The most important supplements are l-glutamine, probiotics, fish oils, zinc, vitamin D3, calcium D-glucarate and indole-3-carbinol.
  • Be aware of your stress levels and incorporate stress management techniques, regular exercise and adequate sleep into your daily life.

Acne Beauty Routine

According to Dr Makoto Trotter you will need:

A gentle cleanser – to remove dirt, oil and make-up without irritating the skin.

A hypoallergenic fragrance-free moisturiser – to help soothe irritated skin and speed up the healing process of acne. Make sure it has no synthetic fragrances, colours, petroleum or other irritating ingredients.

“If you feel that your moisturiser isn’t providing enough hydration, especially in colder and drier weather, add a few drops of good quality organic, cold pressed oil to your moisturiser,” says Dr Trotter. “Olive oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil and rosehip oil blend nicely with almost any moisturiser.”

Healthier environment

Tips from Rebecca Goodyear:

Humidity control – for dry eczema or psoriasis symptoms that worsen seasonally set a humidifier to around 35-45% humidity in the cold and dry months, and use a dehumidifier in the hot, humid summer months.

Increase UV exposure – try to get 30 minutes a day out in the sunshine. This can be a great healer for eczema and psoriasis. Don’t overdo it however as too much UV can lead to flare-ups. When it is cold and the sun is lower in the sky, use a UV lamp.

Remove stress – high cortisol exacerbates inflammation throughout the body, including in the skin.

Go natural – for all cleaning and personal care products, especially if an association between exposure to the products and irritation has been made.

Food for thought

“There are certain foods that can trigger an allergic reaction and immune response, exacerbating eczema because certain proteins are not digested properly,” says Rebecca Goodyear. “These include dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat/gluten, corn and other grains. The best way to test for these allergies is to eliminate all these foods from the diet for 30 days, and then introduce them one by one. This way you can determine if a particular food group is causing a reaction.”

Eating a diet rich in healthful fats is important. Good sources include coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and omega-3-rich foods such as wild salmon, walnuts and grass-fed meat (and dairy if it’s not a trigger food). “Licorice tea has an anti-inflammatory effect and home-made bone broths help heal the gut and improve skin health,” says Rebecca Goodyear.

“Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, don’t smoke, and drink lots of water. Acne can be caused by being deficient in zinc and essential fatty acids. Good sources of zinc include shellfish such as oysters, beef and lamb, spinach, cashews and pumpkin seeds. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of oily fish, and colourful antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables.”

Natural solutions

“Gentle cleansing through products such as nettle, milk thistle, and other cleansing teas and tinctures can be very useful,” says Sian Eustace. “Natural skincare products will always be gentler on the skin.”

“For acne or skin prone to blemishes and breakouts, look for products to target these problems,” says Rebecca Goodyear. “Natural ingredients that may help include willow bark extract, aloe vera, chamomile, tea tree oil, honey, lemon and oatmeal. Do not look for products to dry out the skin as this will only cause the affected areas to produce more oil in the long term, and also don’t be scared to use products that contain the right types of oil such as bergamot, clove and lavender oils.”

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