We all strive for that dewy, soft, glowing skin that reminds us of youth and vitality. Yet our skin is often dry, blemished and dull. Our skin tone, clarity, hydration and overall appearance is a direct reflection of our health, so it’s worth paying attention to not just for vanity’s sake, but also for our wellbeing. Our skin communicates with us that something is wrong internally, and then sends out a physical signal that requires attention. The good news is that the human body is resilient; its main goal is to heal itself and given some help, it can do just that! Let’s take a look at how Naturopathic Physicians diagnose and treat common skin conditions.
Improve the Gut, Improve the Skin
The skin is our largest organ, and it gives us many clues as to what’s going on in our bodies. If you want a glowing complexion, let’s first look at the skin/gut connection and how it all works. Naturopathic doctors carefully consider the microbiome, which is filled with a community of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses that inhabit our body. Our microbiome is vital for our daily functioning and protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.
An imbalance in our microbiome is often the cause of conditions such as acne, rashes and psoriasis. A good probiotic can work toward balancing out the bacteria in the gut and has a positive effect on the skin. There are also many common food triggers that manifest themselves through the skin. Gluten intolerance can cause rashes and psoriasis, and dairy insensitivity can lead to eczema, especially in children.
Naturopathic physicians consider our body’s cues and treat appropriately based on each individual patient and his or her unique set of symptoms. The approach may be to avoid a particular food trigger, while also incorporating more nutritious foods that help to nurture our gut and skin. Our liver and kidneys are closely connected to our complexion. These organs filter out impurities and toxins from the body, so if you are consuming food that requires these organs to work overtime, it’ll show up in your skin with breakouts.
Sugar causes both acne and aging of the skin, so we encourage minimizing processed foods and sugars and focusing more on whole foods. We often need to add in more organic fruits and vegetables, along with foods high in omegas such as walnuts, salmon and flax. Our cells need to be hydrated, so increasing water consumption will help to flush out toxins, and plump up our skin’s surface by filling in fine lines and wrinkles.
NDs will examine vitamin and mineral deficiencies that could be affecting your skin. For instance, if your immune system isn’t operating at a top level –a rash, acne or eczema could present itself. In particular, Vitamin A is vital in this area and some signs that a patient may have Vitamin A deficiency include getting sick often and having a hard time getting over a cold.
It’s important that Vitamin A is taken under the care of a doctor. In high doses, Vitamin A can be very dangerous and isn’t safe for pregnancy. Caution must be taken to prescribe the right dosage of a medical grade supplement, in this case, typically 25,000 IUs of Vitamin A. Always consult with your ND or functional medicine doctor first.
Skincare with Simple Ingredients
We’ve heard the advice that our food labels should contain simple, easy-to-recognize ingredients. The same goes for our skincare. The human body absorbs whatever product we apply topically to the skin, which can lead to toxicity, even from brands that claim to be “natural.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, and corporate accountability. EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a great resource for learning about the safety of a product’s ingredients. They report on a variety of products such as makeup, skin care, sunscreen, hair products, fragrances and products for babies and children. Check out www.EWG.org to learn more about what’s in your cabinet.
Natural Products to Try
- Herbal products are more powerful than you may realize. Try herbal serums and primrose oil to get your skin dewy and clear.
- Moisturizers made from manuka, honey and aloe are wonderful – they are as soothing as they are regenerative.
- For a gentle herbal face wash without harmful chemicals, try Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap https://www.drbronner.com. (They also have great lip care products.)
- Castor oil is great for detoxifying and for helping drain lymph. Try it on eyelashes and brows to improve hair growth.
- For a great exfoliator, try Acure’s Brilliant Brightening Facial Scrub made with sea kelp and French green clay. https://www.acureorganics.com/brilliantly-brighteningtm-facial-scrub.html
- 100% Pure offers a line of hydrogel sheet masks that hydrate, boost collagen, repair, and brighten. Naturally derived ingredients come from herbs and flowers. www.100percentpure.com
- Need a great skincare line that’s right in your kitchen pantry? Try apple cider vinegar toner, honey face wash, and coconut oil moisturizer for the face and hair.
- Witch hazel is a tried and true multi-tasking product and a great toner.
- To help dry legs and arms absorb products better, try a brown sugar or sea salt and olive oil exfoliator. Add peppermint oil for a refreshing foot scrub, or lavender for relaxation benefits. (In general, try to go fragrance-free unless it’s an herb or essential oil)
- Tea tree is a great essential oil to treat infection, or acne – but dilute with a carrier and use in small doses. A drop of tea tree in your shampoo can help a flaky scalp.
- Colloidal silver is antibacterial and antiviral, so it’s safe and effective to spot treat acne. You will notice a difference in a blemish by the next day! An added benefit of having colloidal silver in the house is you can use it on cuts instead of Neosporin, or as a hand sanitizer. NDs also use it as a treatment (internally) for Lyme Disease or an oncoming cold. Because it is safe, it’s also great for kids.
- For sunscreens, go with non-toxic zinc based products.
- Deodorants – the crystal rock! Yes, it works! The naturally occurring aluminum combats bacteria that causes odor on the skin. There are many crystal rock products on the market now in conventional sticks, roll-ons and more, so you don’t have to keep a giant crystal rock on your bathroom shelf if you don’t want to, but it does look pretty cool. Another great product is Tom’s unscented natural deodorant.
Skin Care Services and Techniques
- Facial massage is wonderful for improving circulation and giving your complexion a rosy glow. Try using a gentle upward motion when applying your favorite face wash, moisturizer, or exfoliator.
- Take it to the next level and YouTube various facial massage techniques that include exercises that help to drain lymph nodes and strengthen facial muscles to improve tightness and firmness. (Stagnant lymph in the face can lead to aging.)
- Similarly, dry brushing is a wonderful technique to detoxify lymph nodes – brush lightly toward the heart.
- Acupuncture Facelift – Offered right in our office at ProNatural Physicians Group, a skilled and certified acupuncturist can target specific facial points that lift and tighten the skin. Acupuncture will stimulate blood flow, release blockages and treat specific areas that correlate to internal organs that require attention.
- A silk pillowcase can reduce friction of the skin during the night, and many swear that it prevents wrinkles. An added benefit is reduction in frizzy hair.
Cait Barbiero is a Naturopathic Physician at ProNatural Physicians Group in Berlin, CT. For more information, please visit: http://www.pronaturalphysicians.com.