Skin is the largest organ in our bodies. It’s what holds our muscles, bones, and tissue intact and also provides a barrier, keeping the bad organisms out and absorbing the good. Skin helps regulate our body temperature by absorbing and releasing heat and helps flush out toxins. Amazingly, skin also regenerates and heals itself. So, it’s no surprise that the first signs of difficulty within the body appear on the skin in the form of dry skin, rashes, hives, and eczema.
Perhaps the most common skin problem is the tight, itchy feeling of dry skin. It sounds innocuous, but dry skin can drive you to distraction and, in some cases, become a serious problem. From chapped lips to cracks on your heels, here are a few things you can do to heal skin irritations of all kinds.
Every climate has an impact on our skin and our dry, hot environment contributes significantly to skin irritation. First, there is little moisture in the air for the skin to absorb. Secondly, as a cooling mechanism, hot weather causes us to sweat out any moisture we do have. Lastly, the moisture we imbibe gets distributed internally to our organs, intestines, and muscles first, leaving little left over to nourish our skin. Dry skin can be a sign of dehydration. Drinking more water, staying cool, and perhaps adding a humidifier to your indoor environment are all good ways to combat the environmental impact the desert has on your skin.
Hormones can also cause dry skin. Estrogen stimulates the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. As we age and estrogen levels decline, dry, itchy skin becomes quite common. Unfortunately, skin changes caused by hormone depletion are permanent. It is up to us to treat this form of dry skin if we want to keep it healthy. Lotions and body oils are a great place to start. There are many formulas available, but those that contain only a small number of ingredients that are all natural are best.
Skin is a great medium for discovery when something doesn’t agree with you. If you’re allergic/intolerant to something, it often manifests on your skin in the form of an itchy, red rash or hives. Pay attention to these reactions and try to pinpoint their causes. If you can’t find the source, consult an allergist to have a skin test. If allergy skin tests appear negative, you may consider consulting a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist for food intolerance testing. Once you know the cause, avoidance can control or eliminate the breakouts.
Last but not least, our skin helps flush our system of toxins. This is most evident with acne, but can also manifest as little hives or bumps. According to Dr. Diane Sheppard of AcQpoint Wellness in La Quinta, such outbreaks are deemed “weeping” in traditional Chinese medicine, meaning that the skin is purging toxins from your system. These outbreaks are of little concern, but are a good sign that you’re on the right track to eliminating internal stressors.
Of course, there are more serious skin problems, such as psoriasis and eczema. The jury is still out, but more and more researchers are looking to see if there’s a connection between these more pronounced skin reactions and allergies/intolerances. Then there’s the most concerning skin problem of all in the form of cancer. Most skin cancers are treatable with early intervention, so make sure you get in to see your doctor as soon as possible if you see something abnormal.
It’s important that you take steps to heal irritated skin. Otherwise, your protective layer will only become more inflamed and fail to protect you when you need it most. The most simple cures often work the best. Apply moisturizing lotions or natural soothing oils (I found a good one with chamomile and lavender by Indie Lee), dial down the hot water when you bathe, use a gentle soap, and moisturize immediately after showering or washing your hands to help trap and retain any water on your skin. Limit your exposure to chlorine and use a humidifier to increase the moisture in your home. You can even try the traditional Chinese medicine cure of eating pears poached in water, with ginger and honey. Dr. Sheppard recommended this fix for me which works like a charm! Finally, if none of these home remedies is working, see your doctor to rule out any internal or autoimmune causes and inquire about prescription remedies.
In the end, your skin is your friend. It will defend you when needed and can tell you if you have a more serious problem lurking beneath it. Take care of your skin and it will take care of you.
Contributing writer Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com.