No More Winter
Winter time brings harsher climates, leaving our skin exposed to more extreme temperature changes, less humidity and ultimately becoming drier and itchier. Our skin is one of our most important organs. It is our first barrier against the environment, bacteria and infection. It is also an important means of detoxification, as our body uses our skin to clear toxins and other unwanted chemicals through sweat and secretions. Dry itchy skin can not only be unsightly and uncomfortable, but it can also increase risk of infection and reduce the ability to detoxify. Simple steps can support healthy skin throughout the year, including the winter months.
Hydrate your environment
Skin, like our cells, has a protective oily layer on the outside, to keep in moisture and protect us from the environment. Anything that takes the natural oils off our skin, like abrasive soaps, hot water or dry air will make our skin drier. Adding extra humidity to the air with a humidifier or even a pot of boiling water on the stove will reduce the amount of moisture the air steals from your skin. Shorter and less hot shower as well as using more mild soaps will also preserve the oily layer keeping your skin moist. Making your surroundings more skin friendly doesn’t require much preparation, but can dramatically improve symptoms of dryness.
Check your Medications
Another cause for dry skin could be medications. Dry skin is a common side effect to medications such as treatments for high blood pressure and acne. Symptoms may be experienced year round, only to become worse in dry months. Evaluating medications and discussing alternative treatments with your physician may be a necessary step to improving symptoms.
Treat the Underlying Cause
Though many people have uncomplicated cases of simple dry skin, some people have an underlying cause which needs to be addressed to improve skin health. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis may be associated with systemic imbalances, such as food allergies, nutrient deficiencies or immune system dysfunction. Assessing and addressing these causes can help treat these conditions associated with itchy dry skin.
Diabetes can cause dehydration leading to dry skin. Controlling blood sugar levels through diet and exercise can help not only help keep moisture in skin but also reduce risk of infection, as elevated blood sugar levels are associated with poor wound healing as well.
Hormone imbalance, particularly associated with menopause, has also been known to cause dry skin. Otherwise, often low thyroid function could be a culprit. Low thyroid function reduces the levels of oils produced in the skin, creating rough and very dry skin. Hormone levels can be assessed with various tests, both from blood and saliva, to ensure dry skin isn’t a sign of a more systemic imbalance. Improving either of these conditions will often times resolve symptoms of dry skin.
Support Your Skin
Whatever the cause of dry skin, there are many ways to support its function and reduce symptoms. The healthy oils in skin can be supported with essential fatty acids, such as omega three, six and nine. These fats need to come from our diets, as our body cannot make them. Seafood, nuts and seeds are wonderful sources of these oils that will nourish your skin’s moisture inside out. Vitamin C and zinc are very important nutrients for skin health as well, supporting collagen and connective tissue. Adequate levels in the diet may also help prevent colds and flu.
Hydration ultimately comes from water, which many people do not drink enough of. Making a conscious effort to consistently drink enough water may start out as struggle, but quickly becomes a great habit that helps all of your organs including your skin. Extra protection topically may also protect skin. Good lotions and salves should help add oils to skin and protect against the elements and environment. Dry itchy skin shouldn’t be something to suffer with in the winter months or any time of year. Simple daily habits and overall balanced health can help ensure comfortable and healthy skin year round.
Dr. Lauren Young is a board certified naturopathic physician with a family practice in Manchester, CT. She is currently accepting new patients and is in network with most insurance companies. To make an appointment, call (860)533-0179 or visit www.ctnaturalhealth.com.