Our skin forms a barrier to the outside world. It helps detoxify our bodies. It even breathes. Did you know our skin has 80% capacity to absorb oxygen from the air around us? It’s easy to take it’s beautiful design for granted. Keeping our skin healthy keeps us healthy.
Dry skin can be caused by many reasons, but here are some tips to keep your skin nourished and moisturized during the fall and winter!
1. Ingest Oils
In the 80s and 90s, fats were seen as the enemy. Luckily, for the good of our health, we’ve come around to embrace healthy fats. Omega-3 oils are the healthiest fats with a wide range of benefits. Our skin doesn’t make these oils but they are vital to the health and flexibility of each one of our cells.
To supplement these oils, eat more dietary sources of Omega-3s like salmon, sardines, and crushed flax seeds, or take a purified supplement guaranteed to be mercury-free. I personally opt for a high quality supplement since it takes the guess work out of making sure you prepare the food in just the right way to preserves the oils (ie. no high heat!).
Taking these oils benefits more than just your skin. They can help fight winter depression, lower triglycerides, and improve focus in ADHD.
2. Consider Vitamin D
Skin, like all organs, needs vitamins to function optimally - and Vitamin D is one of them. Our skin actually makes Vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. In the fall and winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, we just don’t get enough sun on our skin to make the Vitamin D we need. Most of our skin is covered and many of us wear sunscreen year round on the bit of our face that is not covered.
Because of this, I think Vitamin D is one of the most important supplements to take. Vitamin D helps improve our overall health and optimizes immune function. It contributes to healthy skin cell growth, repair and metabolism. It also helps our mood. Many people can tolerate 2000+ IU Vitamin D-3 daily during the winter months, but you can also have your doctor check your levels to be sure supplements are right for you.
3. Humidify the Air
Keeping our environments warm in the winter increases dryness in the air and that dry air pulls the moisture out our skin. That toasty fire may look cozy and romantic, but the dryness it creates can adversely affect our skin. If exposed to wood burning stoves or fireplaces regularly, our skin becomes dry and inflamed. Remember, our skin breathes, so if it’s breathing in smoky air, it generally won’t be as healthy and will age faster. Even forced hot air heating systems can dry out our skin, so using a humidifier during the cold winter months replenishes moisture in the air and helps our skin stay healthy.
It’s also important to nourish your skin’s natural barrier. Rejuvenating our skin with products designed to repair and maintain the skin’s own moisture barrier is crucial to keep it performing well. This should include products with ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids which form the basic structure of our skin’s lipid barrier. Gentle exfoliation a couple times a week helps with skin cell turnover and promotes fresh and healthy skin. Soap can be too drying for most of your skin, and you really don’t need to suds up unless your skin is visibly dirty. Over-washing disrupts the skins natural balance of bacteria that it needs to stay healthy, so be careful with the cleansers you choose.
5. Nourish Your Microbiome
Did you know that there are over a billion bacteria living on our skin? Collectively known as the Microbiome, some bacteria keeps our skin moisturized, some help our mood, and some help our immune system. Researchers are learning more and more about our Microbiome - and that we shouldn’t do things to disrupt it like eat too much sugar or take antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary).
To nourish your microbiome, eat a diet rich in fiber, eat natural sources of probiotics like raw fermented vegetables (pickled cucumbers, kimchi, or beets usually found in the refrigerated section of your natural grocery store), and eat less sugar. By nourishing your gut health, you nourish your skin health. It’s all connected.
If after all of these tips your skin is still dry (or itchy), consider trying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, there are several reasons why a person might have dry skin, itchy patches, or red spots. Individualized, time-tested herbal prescriptions are solutions for skin conditions without side effects... actually there are some common side effects: feeling healthier, less bloated, sleeping better, and more. Because TCM treats a person holistically, your overall health improves!
More About Dr Dilks
Mary Claire Dilks is a licensed Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine/Chinese Herbs and owns Emerging Energy Acupuncture, located in the Jewelry District in Providence. In practice for over 13 years, Dr. Dilks completed a year long advanced herbal training in Dermatology with a world renowned herbalist from the UK. She makes natural skin care and aromatherapy products and has been named Best of Rhode Island, “Best Inner Healing” by Rhode Island Monthly.
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