What is the body's largest immune organ? If you guessed the skin, you are correct. Our skin, when healthy, provides a dynamic and adaptive barrier against the environment, protecting us against germs, microorganisms and moisture loss. It also regulates our internal temperature. As a dermatologist
, I look at the skin as a barometer of the overall health of the organism. Skin is the first area that betrays the effects of a nutrient deficient diet, environmental stressors, lack of exercise and overexposure to elements. These three common skin disorders can vary greatly in severity and in some cases are quite traumatic and painful for those afflicted. While there are no known cures for these skin disorders, they can be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes, therapeutic nutriceuticals
, the anti-inflammatory diet
and topical anti-inflammatories
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by an overall redness or ruddy tone, also known as facial erythema. It is often accompanied by broken superficial capillaries known as telangiectasia and breakouts that look like small red domed bumps, known as papules and pustules. In some cases, a red lobulated nose (rhinophyma) may occur. Rosacea commonly appears as patches of redness that span the central plains of the face, such as the cheeks, nose and forehead, but can also affect the neck, chest, ears and scalp.
Types of Rosacea
Rosacea affects people of all ages and has four main types, three of which affect the skin. The last type, ocular rosacea, affects only the eyes and eye lids, making them appear red, swollen and itchy. If untreated, Rosacea typically worsens over time, and while some treatments (such as topical steroids) can benefit the skin temporarily, over time they may thin skin and ultimately aggravate the condition.
The Role of Genetics
Rosacea mainly affects Caucasians of northwestern European descent, and has reportedly been called the 'curse of the Celts' by some in Britain and Ireland. While Rosacea does affect both sexes, women are almost three times more likely to suffer from the symptoms of rosacea as are men. Sufferers note that it is most likely to manifest and peak between the ages of 30 to 60.
Eczema, often referred to by umbrella term atopic dermatitis, is a form of inflammation of the epidermis. It is in the very origins of the word (from the Greek “to boil over”) that we can feel the pain and discomfort of this condition.
Unfortunately, eczema is a common misdiagnosis because the term itself serves as a classification that encompasses a range of persistent skin conditions, which can greatly vary. Some classic eczema symptoms include chronic dryness and ongoing skin rashes that may to have some or all of the following: redness, skin edema (swelling), itching and dryness, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing, or bleeding. Inflamed areas can be quite painful and difficult to soothe with conventional moisturizers. To make things even more difficult, camouflaging eczema can prove nearly impossible as most makeup serves only to highlight imperfections by creasing, caking and settling into the skin in unflattering ways.
Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that manifests on the skin, caused by faulty signals sent by the immune system, setting off a rapid growth cycle of cells. Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States with an estimated 7.5 million Americans diagnosed.
Psoriasis is not contagious and has five main types, the most common of which is plaque psoriasis. It appears as textured or raised red patches, often with a silvery-white buildup of dead skin cells. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body and is frequently associated with other serious health conditions such as diabetes, depression and heart disease.
Tips for Healing
- Look for hypoallergenic products or products formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid overly fragranced products.
- Areas of discoloration may show temporarily on skin and are sometimes part of the body's healing process. Be patient when treating these injuries, as scratching a healing lesion could potentially enlarge the rash and perhaps even lead to scarring.
- Some Rosacea clients report that spicy food, alcohol and caffeine can trigger more severe symptoms.
- Refrain from exfoliating until affected areas are healed and certainly do not use “scrubs” with granules of any sort.
- As with most health problems, skin disorders can be an external indication of excess stress. Consistent exercise and the unconditional love of a pet can help tremendously in the relief of stress and anxiety.
- Avoid treating skin with bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone. Instead use non-acidic ingredients, such as vitamin C ester versus conventional vitamin C.
- Follow the anti-inflammatory diet. Adherence to these foods will help to quell the underlying inflammation that is at the root of these disorders.
- Keep the affected areas moisturized at all times with a nourishing moisturizer and follow with a barrier, such as Vaseline or Acquaphor, to seal in moisturizer.
- Increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids and foods rich in omegas. I recommend taking a high quality Omega-3 supplement in addition to eating plenty of wild caught fish. Raw nuts, flax & chia seeds, avocado and extra virgin olive oil all great vegetarian sources of healthy fats.
- Avoid chemical sunscreens as they have a higher chance of increasing skin sensitivity than physical or mineral sunscreens. Keep any areas of broken skin well covered from the sun, as fragile skin exposed to the sun tends to scar.
Each of these conditions can be quite painful and difficult to treat. Unfortunately, very little actionable information is out there for helping to treat the underlying causes. If someone you know suffers from one of these skin conditions, please share this email with them.
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