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Soothing skin

If you suffer from problem skin you may struggle to find nourishing and kind beauty products. Our beauty experts look at the best ingredients, diet and lifestyle advice for you

Skin issues such as dry skin, acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and everything in between can often be triggered by some of the cheaper ingredients used to bulk up conventional beauty products,” says Niamh Larkin, senior beauty advisor at Evergreen Healthfoods, Mainguard St, Galway. “Harsh foaming agents and mineral oils have been known to clog pores and trigger skin reactions such as rashes and hives.”

“Problem skin can be a headache and can occur for a number of different reasons and at different times of life,” says Sian Eustace from Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. “Often, regular skincare or make-up products can further irritate skin which is already broken out or inflamed.”


“Acne can be hormonal or as the result of excess sebum production which in turn causes a build-up of bacteria in the pores, leading to sometimes painful black and white headed pimples on the face, neck and back,” says Niamh Larkin. “Scrubbing the skin is not the best solution for acne sufferers. Excessive removal of the skin’s natural oils encourages more oil production and can leave the skin oilier than it was. The key is knowing which oils to use and which to avoid. Exfoliating cleansers should be used sparingly and infrequently, and the least abrasive the better. Tamanu oil is fantastic for training the skin to produce less oil. It’s also green in colour which combats skin redness and can be used to reduce the appearance of acne scars.”

“Reducing processed foods and especially poor quality fats and refined sugars should help,” says Sian Eustace. “Nettle tea, or detox tea blends can be helpful to gently cleanse through the skin. There are also a number of gentle cleansing products for external use. Things to look for in a cleanser are green tea, witch hazel and herbs such as white willow.”


“Eczema can present as red, itchy or dry skin and skin can crack, bleed and become infected,” says Sian Eustace. “Some people find it helpful to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing foods such as sugar and refined carbohydrates, trans fats, alcohol and possibly vegetables from the nightshade family. Anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, green leafy vegetables and berries as well as oily fish and avocados which help to reduce inflammation. I would advise avoiding scented products and to choose a product with lavender, and camomile, almond or coconut oil.”

“Topically coconut oil works very well as it has a natural cooling effect on the skin, is easily absorbed and gives great hydration,” says Niamh Larkin. “Eczema sufferers also benefit from supplementation, specifically omega-3 oils which lubricate the skin from the inside out.”

“Recent research has pointed to genetic factors that may impair the functioning of the skin barrier and allow more allergens and pathogens to penetrate the body causing sensitive skin and eczema,” says Rafi Loiederman, content editor at Dr. Bronner’s. “Several factors can make symptoms worse including chemical irritants, stress, allergens and hormonal fluctuations. It’s important to select a soap that will help your skin keep all the moisture it can—one of Dr. Bronner’s more moisturising soaps could help (always use the unscented variety).

The most moisturising soap is our sugar soap. When you step out of the shower or bath, pat yourself dry. Begin moisturising within three minutes to lock in the moisture. Use a balm made with organic beeswax and avocado, jojoba, coconut, olive and hemp oils.”


“Psoriasis is a systemic condition which presents as flaky, scaly patches of skin that can look silvery white,” says Niamh Larkin. “In acute periods, B vitamins or foods containing them can be helpful as they support the skin and the nervous system. It can be useful to use oat baths or oat-based creams as these are naturally high in B vitamins. Reducing inflammatory foods, alcohol and caffeine is also important.”

“Managing psoriasis can often require a food intolerance test as flare-ups are usually a response by the body to an imbalance somewhere,” says Niamh Larkin. “That said, psoriasis can also be triggered by stress, heat and changes in the weather or even laundry detergents. Sea buckthorn or omega-3 supplements can be helpful for long term maintenance but for sporadic break outs, topical application of shea butter or calendula extract can reduce inflammation and irritation.”


“Rosacea is a skin condition where the face is prone to redness sometimes accompanied by angry spots and pimples,” says Niamh Larkin. “It can be caused by stress, weather or genetics but is most often a result of an imbalance in the gut. Getting checked for food intolerances will rule out any dietary issues, but topically the best results for rosacea come from pure rosehip seed oil. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to bring down the redness and itchiness.”

“Rosacea can flare up in acute episodes,” says Sian Eustace. “An anti-inflammatory diet can be really useful to help to prevent acute episodes and to reduce their severity and duration. It is important to avoid direct sunshine as this can create a flare up, so invest in a good sunhat and use a natural, unscented SPF containing zinc oxide.

“Stress reduction is important and lifestyle factors such as t’ai chi, mindfulness or yoga can be useful tools. Avoiding hot places, spicy foods and hot drinks can also be useful as can be avoiding alcohol. Ask in your local health store for skincare products which are formulated to support rosacea prone skin.”

The best ingredients

“The simplest ingredients the better is the rule for any type of problem skin,” says Niamh Larkin. “Look for products with the shortest ingredients list, ideally pure products such as unrefined shea butter, virgin coconut oil or raw cacao butter.”

“Chickweed and calendula are great for sensitive skin,” says Claire Brett, owner and creator of Dublin Herbalists. “They contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce redness, swelling and irritation. This makes them useful for eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

“They have a cooling and soothing effect on the skin, which can help alleviate itching and discomfort and contain antioxidants that can help protect the skin from free radical damage caused by environmental stressors, have been shown to reduce inflammation, making them useful in reducing scarring. Our salve contains both calendula, chickweed, vitamin E, sea buckthorn fruit oil and arnica flower extract.

“Shea butter is rich in fatty acids and vitamins that can help nourish and moisturise the skin. It can help soothe dry and flaky skin. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation and irritation, contains antioxidants and can help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Our shea butter contains only shea butter and almond oil to protect and keep your skin in great condition.”

Super skin supplements

“Supplements should be used in conjunction with lifestyle and dietary changes,” says Laura Johnston, integrative nutrition health coach with Phytoceutrics.

“Supplements that can assist with problem skin include:

  • Vitamin C – a potent antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and support collagen production. Choose a liposomal vitamin C for superior absorption and bioavailability.
  • Omega-3 and glutathione – effective supplements for skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and protect the skin from damage caused by UV rays. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce oxidative stress, which can lead to skin ageing.
  • Vitamin D3 – plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation. It also helps to promote skin cell growth and repair, which can be particularly helpful for psoriasis and eczema.
  • Vitamin B – helps to regulate oil production and can be particularly helpful for those with acne-prone skin. It also helps to promote healthy skin cell growth and repair.
  • Milk thistle – used for centuries to promote liver health and detoxification. Also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals.
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