The skin is the largest organ in our body. It is what keeps our muscles, bones, and tissues intact, and also acts as a barrier, keeping bad organisms out and absorbing what is good. The skin helps regulate our body temperature by absorbing and releasing heat and helps flush out toxins. Amazingly, the skin regenerates and heals itself. So it's no wonder that the first signs of trouble in the body appear on the skin in the form of dry skin, rashes, hives and eczema.
Probably the most common skin problem is tight, itchy, dry skin. It sounds innocent, but dry skin can lead to distraction and in some cases become a serious problem. From chapped lips to cracks on your heels, here are some things you can do to treat skin irritations of all kinds.
Every climate has an effect on our skin, and our dry, hot environment contributes greatly to skin irritation. First, there is little moisture in the air for the skin to absorb. Second, as a cooling mechanism, hot weather causes us to sweat out any moisture we have. Finally, the moisture we absorb is distributed first inside our organs, intestines and muscles, leaving little to nourish our skin. Dry skin can be a sign of dehydration. Drinking more water, staying cool, and perhaps adding a humidifier to your indoor environment are good ways to combat the effects of the desert on your skin.
Hormones can also cause dry skin. Estrogen stimulates the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. As we age and estrogen levels decline, dry, itchy skin becomes quite common. Unfortunately, the skin changes caused by hormone depletion are permanent. It is up to us to treat this form of dry skin if we want to keep it healthy. Body lotions and oils are a great place to start. There are many formulas available, but the best are those that contain only a small amount of ingredients that are natural.
Your skin is a great medium to explore when something doesn't agree with you. If you have an allergy/intolerance to something, it often manifests on your skin in the form of an itchy, red rash or hives. Pay attention to these reactions and try to determine the cause. If you can't find the source, consult an allergist for a skin test. If your allergy skin tests come back negative, you may want to consider consulting a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist for a food intolerance test. Once you know the cause, avoidance can control or eliminate breakouts.
Finally, our skin helps flush our system of toxins. This is most evident with acne, but can also manifest as small hives or bumps. According to Dr. Diane Sheppard of AcQpoint Wellness in La Quinta, these outbreaks are considered "weeping" in traditional Chinese medicine, meaning the skin is removing toxins from your system. These outbreaks are of little concern, but they are a good sign that you are well on your way to eliminating internal stressors.
Of course, there are more serious skin problems, such as psoriasis and eczema. The jury is still out, but more and more researchers are looking for a link between these more pronounced skin reactions and allergies/intolerances. Then there is the most worrisome skin problem in the form of cancer. Most skin cancers can be treated with early intervention, so make sure you see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything abnormal.
It is important to take steps to heal irritated skin. Otherwise, your protective layer will become more inflamed and won't protect you just when you need it most. The simplest healing methods often work best. Use moisturizing lotions or natural soothing oils (I found a good one with chamomile and lavender by Indie Lee), turn the hot water dial down when bathing, use a gentle soap and moisturize immediately after showering or washing your hands to help trap and retain water on your skin. Limit your exposure to chlorine and use a humidifier to increase the humidity in your home. You can even try the traditional Chinese medicine remedy of eating pears in water, with ginger and honey. Dr. Sheppard recommended this remedy to me and it works like a charm! Finally, if none of these home remedies work, see your doctor to rule out any internal or autoimmune causes and ask about prescription remedies.