Natural skin solutions

Aliyyaa Spring-Charles, president of the British Naturopathic Association and the General Council and Register of Naturopaths lists some of her top natural skin fixes

Vitamin B6

This is involved as a co-factor in over 100 enzymatic reactions in the human body including amino acid metabolism, particularly homocysteine; carbohydrate metabolism, including gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis; and lipid metabolism. A deficiency in this crucial vitamin may lead to novel dermatitis, dandruff and flaky skin. Ensuring a diet that includes oats, Brewer’s yeast, lentils, rice, oily fish, meats, alfalfa, catnip and wheatgerm may help to alleviate or prevent these conditions.

Silica/silicon

This is the second most abundant element on Earth, and the third most abundant trace element in the human body. It is present in water, plant and animal sources. On the skin, it is suggested that silicon is important for optimal collagen synthesis and activation of hydroxylating enzymes, improving skin strength and elasticity. Ensuring a diet rich in silica from root vegetables, brown rice, oats and green leafy vegetables may help to reduce weakened and rough skin issues.

Zinc

The skin is the third most zinc-abundant tissue in the body and consists of the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue. A naturopathic favourite, zinc aids in healing the skin and has multiple health benefits including delayed wound healing. Many women favour zinc supplementation to prevent stretch marks and scarring. Foods to consume for their zinc content include seafood, alfalfa, Brewer’s yeast, lentils and whole grains. Common herbs are chickweed, dandelion root, eyebright, fennel, milk thistle, parsley, sage, rosehips and hops. These may be taken as herbal teas or food-based supplements.

Essential fatty acids

It is very common today to hear about the diet of our ancestors, which was less dense in calories, higher in fibre, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and fish. As a result, their diet would have been lower in total fat and saturated fat, but contained equal amounts of omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) essential fatty acids, with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of approximately 1. Today, the ratio in Western diets is 15/1 to 16.7/1 omega-6 to omega-3, promoting the pathogenesis of many diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and dry scaly skin, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Fatty fish such as wild salmon and sardines contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while plant sources of omega-3s, such as walnuts and flaxseed, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A balanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the diet is essential for amelioration of common skin ailments.

Witch hazel

Hormonal imbalance, stress, diet, pH, genetics and poor liver function are all reasons for oily skin. Excess production of oil can lead to many skin ailments like blackheads, pimples, whiteheads, large pores and others. Yet, the advantage of oily skin is that we tend to age better and develop fewer wrinkles. However, it is very difficult to maintain oily skin. Commercial treatments only provide temporary results. A simple home remedy to control oil production and absorb the excess oil from the skin is a homemade facial scrub. Mix dry ground oats with witch hazel to create a thick paste, massage onto the face, then rinse with warm water. Witch hazel is a known astringent and originates from the leaves and bark of Hamamelis virginiana, which is a type of shrub that is native to North America and Japan. Regular use of witch hazel for topical treatment of skin disorders such as oily skin, has a drying effect, helping to remove excess oils from the skin.

Vitamin A

This important vitamin contains a group of compounds which includes its active forms (retinal, retinol and retinoic acid) along with other provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene (and the other carotenoids) is the form of vitamin A that we get directly from the plant foods we eat. Women should aim for 700 mcg of vitamin A daily, while men should get 900 mcg. Eggs and dairy products are excellent sources, while orange and green leafy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe and spinach are loaded with beta-carotene that your body will use to make all the A it needs.

Aliyyaa Spring-Charles is the president of the British Naturopathic Association and the General Council and Register of Naturopaths. For more information, visit www.gcrn.org.uk/the-british-naturopathic-association

A word on natural skincare

What we put into our bodies has a huge effect on the quality of our skin, but so does what we put on it. Here, Ian Taylor, Cosmetic Scientist with natural and organic beauty brand Green People (www.greenpeople.co.uk) offers some insight into the toxic chemicals you should avoid in your beauty products.

“The range of ingredients that can be used in cosmetic products is huge. Whilst the vast majority of these ingredients are perfectly safe to use topically there are some which, from their very nature, can have potentially toxic actions. The most common of these are ingredients used as preservatives which are used to prevent microbial contamination of cosmetics. Examples of preservatives that have been linked to adverse health effects are methylisothiazolinone and some of the paraben group. Other ingredients that have potentially toxic effects are those that act as penetration enhancers. These can transport other materials across the skin/blood barrier so that substances that would normally remain on the surface of the skin can penetrate the skin and interact with living cells within the body. Examples of penetration enhancers are alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) and propylene glycol.”

Making sure you get enough sleep is vital to get your body working at its best. Beauty sleep will help your skin to hydrate, repair and rebalance. The body literally renews and rejuvenates during sleep, as recorded evidence shows that skin cells regenerate faster at night than during the day. Cell division does occur throughout the day, but peaks around 2am, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep to take advantage of it.

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