There are myriad causes of skin complaints, but in my opinion, the issue usually starts from inside the body. The skin is responsible for eliminating various toxins from the body, and therefore much of what is going on inside the body can be reflected in the appearance of the skin.
Many natural treatments for skin problems often target the digestive system first. For example, psoriasis can often be helped by improving the levels of good bacteria in the digestive system. Similarly, other skin problems can be due to food allergies which are acting in the gut; the lining of the digestive system is a bit like your ‘internal skin’ so keeping it healthy and happy can have a knock on effect on your external skin.
A general state of inflammation in the body is also a factor in many skin conditions, and inflammation can be eased with a variety of anti-inflammatory nutrients including aloe vera and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact it has been found that aloe vera applied topically is more effective than steroid cream in helping psoriasis*. My favourite Aloe Vera gel is this one made by Jason available here. The aloe vera juice I recommend most frequently is made by Nutrigold. Aloe vera juice has more of a ‘whole body’ anti-inflammatory effect, whereas the gel applied topically acts locally on the skin.
Essential fats, including omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, are also helpful where the skin is dry or itchy. A good all round supplement containing omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids is OmegaSmart from Nutrigold.
Another nutrient that features prominently in any skin improvement programme is Zinc. Zinc helps regulate the production of hormones in the body, which is especially useful in cases of acne which have a hormonal element. It also is closely involved in protein and collagen synthesis, both of which are important for healthy skin formation. Zinc is abundant in many foods such as meat and poultry, sea foods, oats, beans, nuts and pumpkin seeds, but many factors can hinder zinc absorption so taking a supplement is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough of this useful mineral. Fortunately, zinc supplementation is fairly inexpensive and can often show improvements fairly quickly.
If you do have sensitive skin, this can be exacerbated by the chemicals found in skincare products. We are not always aware of how many chemicals we expose ourselves to, and pasting them onto an already sensitive skin is not a good idea. In fact, I think even if you don’t suffer from skin problems it’s still better to use chemical free skincare products to limit your overall exposure to artificial chemicals.
One of my favourite brands is Pai Skincare. All Pai products are suitable sensitive skin types and are made organically with totally natural ingredients. Their products contain natural skin soothers such as Chamomile, Rose and Rosehip which calm, hydrate and regenerate troubled skin without causing irritation. My favourite product is their Avocado and Jojoba cream. They also offer free samples on their website (plus p&p).
Another excellent brand is Green People. They have a huge range of organic products, including babycare products and a men’s range. Their products were developed because the founder of the company had a child with skin that was reacting to chemicals in widely available toiletries. So again, Green People products are safe for all types of sensitive skin.
If you do have trouble with your skin, before trying natural approaches, do get it checked out by your doctor. Your GP should always be the first port of call when you have a concern about your health.
*Choonhakarn C et al, A prospective randomized clinical trial comparing topical aloe vera with 0.1% triamcinolone acetonide in chronic plaque psoriasis. ICD 2009