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Beyond Skin Deep

Skin Health & Conditions Skin Health & Conditions

There are a number of factors that can cause skin conditions. Here is how you can help your patients’ skin issues more naturally.

Skin is the body’s largest organ and is also its first line of defense in fighting infection. And while it acts as the body’s protector, the skin can also be the first sign that something is wrong. For instance, an allergic reaction may result in a rash or hives.

Some of the most prevalent conditions include acne, eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. “Eczema affects over 47 million people in the U.S every year. The prevalence of eczema is the greatest in infants,” said Roni Kramer, CEO and founder of Kamedis Inc. in California. “According to the National Survey Of Children’s Health, up to one in three infants suffer from some form of eczema.”

Kramer added that acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S affecting 50 million people every year. Among age groups, acne is most prevalent in adolescents where 85 percent of people will experience acne to some degree. According to the Cleveland Clinic1 (2016), psoriasis affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population, while seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic, relapsing, and usually mild form of dermatitis that occurs in infants and in adults … The prevalence of clinically significant seborrheic dermatitis is approximately 3 percent, with peak prevalence in the third and fourth decades.

There are a number of reasons that can affect the skin from stress to food allergies. “I find the main causes of skin conditions are related to stress, environmental toxins, chemical sensitivities, food allergies/sensitivities in many cases gluten allergy/sensitivity, autoimmune disease and consumption of too many processed, refined, sugary foods,” said Chrysso Neophytou-Tsimis, LAc, DACM of Pinpoint Oriental Medicine in New York. “Gut dysbiosis and deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and other nutrients have also been implicated.”

Michelle Violi, PharmD of the Women’s International Pharmacy added that while hormones do affect the skin, some hormones may have a different affect from others. “Hormones play a significant role in the health and function of the skin, and the skin is greatly affected by hormones in the body. Interestingly, recent studies have shown the skin itself can also produce hormones,” she explained. “Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione are converted in the skin to testosterone and 5 alpha dihydrotestosterone (5 alpha DHT). Scientists hope this will further our understanding of how the skin and its hormones affect the health and wellness of the entire human body.”

For example, according to Violi, the thyroid affects the skin through a number of different mechanisms. Thyroid hormones have a direct action on the skin itself, as the skin can manifest symptoms based on thyroid hormone actions (or lack thereof) on other tissues, and the thyroid and skin can both be affected by the body’s autoimmune response. Skin-related symptoms of low thyroid function include: rough, thin, scaly skin; edema, or swelling of the skin; puffiness of hands, face and eyelids; pale, cold and/or dry skin; decreased sweating; and/or a rash of purple spots.

Skin-related symptoms of excess thyroid function include: smooth, thin skin; warm skin; increased sweating; and/or reddening of skin, while skin-related symptoms of autoimmune related thyroid disorders such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include eczema, hives, and/or vitiligo—the loss of skin pigment.

A person’s stress levels and gut health are major factors when it comes to the health of the skin, noted Nutrition and Formulation Expert Paula Simpson, who is also co-founder of Missouri-based Zea Skin Solutions, who said that a person’s emotional state and response in handling stress may aggravate gut and skin health. “Stress linked hormones, cytokines and neuropeptides may exacerbate the conditions such as acne. The ability for mood, gut microbiota and nutrition to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content may have important implications in chronic skin conditions.”

Violi added that stress conditions can increase cortisol production in the body and contribute to immune system dysfunction and inflammation. This can lead to slowed wound healing, psoriasis exacerbation, acne flares and atopic dermatitis (often associated with eczema and itch). “Increased cortisol and other adrenal related hormones can also impact skin aging by a variety of different mechanisms, such as DNA damage,” she said.

Simpson explained that a balanced gut promotes healthy skin. “The digestive system is the gateway for how we absorb and metabolize nutrients, and excrete toxins from the body. Our digestive system contains hundreds of different species of bacteria, which can have a positive or negative effect on your health,” she explained. “A leaky gut barrier or gut dysbiosis (a term used for a microbial imbalance), releases toxins and harmful bacteria from the gut into circulation. It is proposed that these harmful bacteria and toxins set up a pro-inflammatory environment in the body with negative consequences for the skin. Clinical indicators to prove there is a ‘gut-skin axis’ have been shown in subjects with chronic gastrointestinal conditions and manifestations in the skin.”

Not getting enough sleep or not having quality sleep can also have a major effect on the skin. According to Violi, a study showed poor quality sleepers to have increased signs of skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced elasticity. Melatonin can help regulate sleep and wakefulness in the body and some use melatonin supplements to help them sleep. “A study using topical melatonin combined with vitamins E and C showed protection to the skin from the effects of the sun,” she noted.

Inside Out/Outside In

Natural practitioners know that just addressing what is on the surface (i.e. eczema, a rash, hives, etc.) will only have an effect on the physical symptoms, but by addressing the patient as a whole, they are more likely to get to the root of the issue.

“I find that there is an increased interest in a more holistic approach that works from the inside out, as more and more patients are becoming aware of that concept. This is something I always educate my patients about and only when it comes to skin issues,” said Neophytou-Tsimis. “I strongly emphasize that fact to my facial rejuvenation patients as well, explaining that internal imbalances affect our overall health and can reflect on our skin as acne, eczema, acne rosacea, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and sagging. I stress the importance of addressing those internal imbalances to achieve optimal results, along with whatever topical applications they may need.”

Simpson noted that testing may be a good start. “With the array of testing tools available, practitioners can recognize underlying health issues that may be deteriorating skin health,” she said. “Treating the health of the body including the skin, may offer more manageable and longer term solutions for chronic skin conditions.”

And depending on the problem, changes to a person’s diet, as well as supplemental support, may also be ways to get the underlying issues under control. “Dietary modification focusing on high fiber, unprocessed and lacto fermented type foods has become a growing area of interest to help prevent onset, reduce symptom severity or prevent reoccurrence of chronic skin conditions,” Simpson explained. “Along with diet, high-quality natural health supplements can further support the nutrient requirements for healthy skin. Food-friendly bacteria (pre- and probiotics) have been well documented in effectively promoting skin immunity and in the management of conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne. Consuming healthy bacteria through diet and/or supplement form help to neutralize toxic by-products, defend the lining of the intestine, increase the bioavailability of nutrients and protect the tract against infectious microbes.”

Natural Lifestyle Approaches

There are a number of ways natural practitioners can approach addressing issues of the skin. Often, they can be combined to treat the issue both internally and externally. Neophytou-Tsimis recommends acupuncture along with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding offending foods and chemicals in personal and cleaning products, and supplementation with EFAs and other nutrients, pre- and probiotics, herbal remedies and other nutraceuticals. She added that essential oils may also be beneficial.

As mentioned previously, adopting a healthy diet can have a positive effect on skin health. However, dietary supplementation can also be beneficial when someone has low levels of a certain vitamin or mineral, or when their body doesn’t absorb enough from food sources.

Simpson mentioned that some ingredients have been shown to combat oxidative stress, detoxify and rebalance gut and skin microflora to calm and clear congested skin. These include:

• Zeaxanthin: As a key skin antioxidant, protects the skin and suppresses inflammatory response of skin when exposed to environmental stressors.

• Fish Oil (EPA/DHA): Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) naturally block the synthesis of the pro-inflammatory mediators (eicosanoids prostaglandin E2, leukotriene B4).

• N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) (antioxidant): Protection of glutathione (primary antioxidant enzyme) depletion to offset oxidative stress within skin

• Borage Seed Oil (GLA) (hydration): Balances skin lipids and correct deficiencies associated with chronic skin conditions

Kamedis’ Kramer also recommended high dose vitamin A supplementation for acne, shea butter and ceramide-containing moisturizers for skin barrier repair, curcumin supplementation for it’s anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects, as well as Rheum palmatum, Scutellaria baicalensis, Cnidium monnieri, Dipotassium glycyrrhizinate, Sanguisorba officinalis and Ailanthus altissima topical application for anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immuomudulatory activity.

New York-based NÜD offers a number of formulas that benefit skin health, including: Bare Beauty, which helps fortify hair, nails, and skin with a comprehensive collection of essential vitamins; Vitamin B Complex delivers all eight of the B vitamins to help produce energy, healthy blood cells, glowing skin, hair and nails and supports brain functionality; while Vitamin C helps support collagen synthesis, brain functionality and promotes healthy teeth. Lastly, Vitamin E supports smoother skin and cardiovascular health, and also promotes healthy eyes.

NÜD’s products come in patented stackable bottles and feature the human body on them highlighting the areas it helps, said Naomi Ostrove, COO. “This makes it easier for consumers to pick out the right products for them.”

In conjunction with acupuncture, changes to eating habits and dietary supplementation, topical products can offer the skin relief. According to Kramer, the Kamedis product line is based on botanical extract formulations to support the body’s immune system and fight the underlining cause of various skin symptoms. “We achieve the best combination of herbs for each dermatological condition,” she said. “We develop herb extractions in our own facility using a unique method. The result is highly potent extracts. We validate the efficacy and safety of our botanical combinations through extensive tests.”

Some of the herbs Kamedis uses include Da Huang (Rheum Palmatum Rhubarb), Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis), She Chuang Zi (Cnidium Monnieri), Gan Cao (Dipotassium Glycyrrhizinate Licorice) and Ma Chi Xian (Portulaca Aleracea). “The herbs have a wide range of properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-bacterial, reduction of skin cell proliferation, wound healing, anti-oxidative, anti-fungal, sebum reduction and itch reduction,” Kramer explained. “The combination of herbs in the formula amplify the efficacy and minimize side effects. In addition, a combination complex strategy helps the body resist adjustment to the treatment and prolongs the positive results effect. We add other active ingredients to the herbal formulation to address all skin symptoms related to the specific disorders.”

Kamedis offers a wide range of products that address issues such as dry skin, itchy skin, scaly skin and scalp dandruff solutions, among others.

As patients become more aware of how important overall health affects the look and appearance of one’s skin, they will be more open and willing to heed the information and advice that their health care practitioner is providing. “I think taking a more holistic approach that looks at the whole picture and identifies the underlying cause(s) of skin issues would best serve this patient population,” concluded Neophytou-Tsimis. “Working from the inside out in combination with topical applications when needed is of the outmost importance if we are to achieve optimal outcomes.”

References:

1 Kurd SK, Gelfand JM. The prevalence of previously diagnosed and undiagnosed psoriasis in U.S. adults: results from NHANES 2003–2004. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009;60(2):218–24

Side-bar:

Facial Cupping

While some of the population face skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, almost everyone will have to deal with the fact that our bodies age, and our faces will begin to show the signs of it at some point in time. With a rise in popularity of Botox, Restylane and other fillers, it may be wise to inform your patients that there are safer options.

Cupping therapy has been around for thousands of years and traces back to the Ancient Egyptians. According to Stella Rubinshteyn, president and founder of Lure Home Spa, cupping therapy has endless benefits, both therapeutic and aesthetic. “Facial cupping in particular, offers an effective and non-invasive way with no down time to tone, lift and sculpt your face, visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce under-eye puffiness, help clear sinus congestion, reduce headaches, stimulate collagen, clear toxins via lymphatic drainage, improve depth and efficacy of any skin care product, relieve TMJ, tooth pain and facial tension,” she explained.

Lure Home Spa’s Lure Glam (which includes two face cups, two eye cups, one cleansing brush, and a downloadable guide on cupping benefits and techniques for body and face) targets fine lines and wrinkles, headaches, sinus congestion, reduces puffiness, collagen and elasticity, etc.

The steps to use the system are as follows:

1. Apply oil (e.g., coconut, argan, jojoba) to skin.
2. Squeeze the cup and apply to skin to create suction.
3. Use flash cupping (squeeze and release) technique or sweeping/gliding massage strokes.
4. Apply your regular skin care serum, cream or treatment.
5. To prevent cupping marks, keep the cupping moving at all times.
6. Do not cup over new scars, acute acne, raised moles, sunburn or other skin inflammations.
7. Enjoy a glowing youthful looking skin.

For More Information:
Kamedis, www.kamedis-usa.com
Lure Home Spa, www.lurehomespa.com
NÜD, www.nudtrition.com
Pinpoint Oriental Medicine, www.pinpointorientalmedicine.com
Women’s International Pharmacy, www.womensinternational.com
Zea Skin Solutions, (866) 479-1980