One of our customers, a fairly young man, asked me recently ‘Will your lotion get rid of the wrinkles on my face?’. The answer (quite possibly not what he wanted to hear);
‘It might make them look slightly less obvious, but our advise; eat healthily, drink lots of water and frown less!’
He bought the hand & body lotion, and went off, clearly more determined than ever to lead a healthy life.
Whilst our organic lotions are absolutely wonderful for delivering moisture, silky softness and delicious scents to the skin, topical skincare is not the only thing which can promote skin health.
Collagen is the most common protein in our bodies at 25-35% and creates the structure of our bodily tissues – skin included. It is the protein which lends a plump full appearance to our cheeks and skin in general. It is immensely strong. Contrary to popular belief, collagen cannot be absorbed by the skin as the molecules are too large to be absorbed. However, Vitamin C in the diet is a great promoter of the production of collagen (source), and in addition Vitamin A or retinoids applied topically can also encourage production of collagen. Vitamin K also helps the integrity of cell walls. Any deficiency can result in bruising or bleeding underneath the skin. The absorption factor of vitamins and minerals varies massively, therefore it is important that we receive enough of our daily requirements through diet. One notable exception is the vitamin D synthesized by the skin from exposure to sunlight, though this also requires conversion in the Liver and Kidneys to become active.
Sources of Skin Conditions
Some of the most frequent questions we get is ‘will your lotion help my skin?’ We are presented with all sorts of different skin issues. Some eczema like, some dry and flaky, some red and splitting, some rashes and all with varying degrees of discomfort. Our first questions to these people might be:
- Is the condition all over or just in a certain area?
- Are you allergic or sensitive to anything?
- What do you eat?
You might think, what on earth does what I have to eat have to do with my skin? Well it is pretty simple. Unless you have a contact dermatological issue (which is where touching a substance creates a reaction to the area directly in contact with that substance), then the chances are that it is something ‘Inside’ your body that is creating the skin manifestation. It is almost as if the skin is the last port of call for an internal malady.
One of our interests at Virginia Coram is TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine. The premises of TCM is that everything within the body is connected; organs, fluids and tissues. There are correlations between the vital bodily organs and the effects their state have on emotions and climate (or the general balance of the temperature and humidity of the skin and digestive system). For example if the liver is out of balance, we may find that along with headaches and irritability we may also have skin that cracks, hair that falls out and other skin conditions that appear due to stress. For problems with the spleen we may see nausea, bloating, poor appetite or obesity but also dry, lustreless skin, thinning and easy bruising of the skin. For more on the TCM view of health and skin click here.
One of our key thoughts, when looking at skin conditions, is what is going on inside? There are some conditions which are closely linked with internal gut health for example. In Coeliac disease, symptoms of consumption of gluten can manifest in a condition call Dermatitis Herpetiformis. Sounds horrendous, but it can really vary in how it manifests… from tiny little spots (a bit like chicken skin) on the upper outer arm, along with associated roughness, to large red itchy patches on the elbows, backs of the knees and other areas. It varies in intensity and also in location. Generalised itching is a common manifestation of gluten contamination.
The next is Eczema, or atopic dermatitis. It can sometimes be quite difficult to differentiate between Eczema and Dermatitis Herpetiformis as, by the time the doctor gets to see the affected skin, it could well be one itchy red raw scratchy mess! But there is again a connection between Eczema and gluten sensitivity and/or coeliac disease. There is also a significant link between dairy and eczema. This is listed as one of the possible causes on the NHS website along with of course gluten, other food allergies, contact irritation (to fabrics or substances), hormone changes and skin infections. Interestingly, a study of babies being breastfed exclusively by the University of Bristol show a 56% lower risk of having eczema by the age of 16, therefore potentially connecting eczema to consumption of cow’s milk and cow’s milk products (A1 particularly).
We also have skin manifestations of fungal infection, to the toe nails and to the skin in general (we are rarely shown these!). Whilst these are manifested externally, it is also possible that internally the sufferer has an overgrowth of a common intestinal fungus called Candida. This can positively encourage the development of skin related fungal infections. Candida can proliferate when we fail to rebalance gut ecology after Antibiotics for example. It can also thrive on sugar and processed carbohydrate rich diets (breads, pasta, cakes, sweets).
When trying to improve our skin health we should always look at the body as a whole. What are we eating, what are we putting on our skin, is there anything else going on inside? It can take a bit of detective work but a Food diary and some determination to eat and live healthily can work wonders.
Important Disclaimer – this article consists only of our thoughts on skin and general health. It does not constitute medical advise in any way. If you have a skin and/or health problem that you are concerned about please make an appointment to see your doctor.