Preventing Dry Skin & Cellular Raisins from the Inside Out
“I’m like a deconstructed snow globe!”, said one of my well-humoured clients of his dry skin problem. “Everytime I move, flakes fly everywhere!”
With the cold weather, skin issues rage in the winter. Many people complain of psoriasis and eczema flaring up, pimples popping up, and dry, inflamed, itchy skin abounding. Cuticles are ravaged, lips are cracked, and your hands feel like your uncle’s yard work gloves. If you’ve recently had a cold, maybe you’ve been blessed with this gorgeous after-effect: a crescent moon crust over each nostril, badges marking the bravery to withstand the aggressive blowing and wiping that comes with congestion.
Winter skin issues are due to a cocktail of causes. Indeed, North of the Wall (aka. during Winter) the air outside is drier. And, because we don’t dress in/sleep under layers of animal furs anymore, we heat our homes and workplaces to make ourselves comfortable enough that we could go naked all the time (hello casual Fridays!). All that heating burns up moisture in the air too. Additionally, you may be more likely to compensate for the cold by taking extra hot showers and baths, which can further steal precious oils from your skin.
Basically, where your skin cells were once plump, juicy grapes, winter seems to turn them into cellular raisins.
While dry skin appears to be an external problem, and can be aggravated by our external environment, solutions to dry, irritated skin may be remedied better by what you put in your body rather than what you put on it.
If you find yourself hallucinating about taking a bath in warm oil with a yellow butter ducky, I have some supplement suggestions for you.
GLA- Hose down the fires of inflammation
Omega 3’s get a ton of buzz in the health food world. Omega 3 promoters claim that because omega 6’s are abundant in our diet, we shouldn’t supplement with them. In general, I would agree. However, a specific type of omega 6 called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is rare in foods and for some, warrants supplementation.
GLA inhibits the formation of leukotrienes, which are inflammatory mediators. By discouraging this fiery pathway, GLA may help to decrease inflammation in the body, and has been used to calm inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (conditions which, along with general dryness, are also triggered by winter weather). GLA also discourages epidermal hyperproliferation, which means it can prevent the overproduction of skin cells leading to thickened, hardened, dry skin.
GLA is found abundantly in borage oil and evening primrose oil.
Astaxanthin- So that’s why flamingos are pink
Astaxanthin (asta-ZAN-thin) is a rare carotenoid in the vitamin A family. It has antioxidant properties and is probably best known for its role in eye health and as being a naturally occurring component of the still-trending krill oil. It is also found in some species of crustaceans, salmon, and some species of algae, like spirulina.
And did you know that the characteristic blush of flamingo feathers is actually due to their diet of astaxanthin-rich crustaceans like krill?
For us humans, astaxanthin is wonderful for the eyes and helps prevent macular degeneration, and has also been shown to support the cardiovascular system. But since this article is on skin, let’s get superficial.
Research has shown that people taking astaxanthin report a reduction in fine lines, better moisture and elasticity, smoother skin, and reduced signs of sun damage like freckles . Astaxanthin has also been shown to function as a sort of internal sunscreen, increasing participants’ tolerance to sun exposure . This is likely due to astaxanthin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which counteract the oxidation and inflammation that excessive sun exposure can trigger.
Sea Buckthorn- Berry within, berry without
Sea buckthorn, a small, bitter-tasting yellow berry containing tiny, oil-rich seeds, has particular interest for treating winter skin because in addition to taking it internally, it can also be used topically. That’s two birds with one berry, folks
Sea buckthorn is the richest source of the lesser talked about fatty acid omega 7, also known as palmitoleic acid. Omega 7’s, like omega 3’s and some omega 6’s, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, and have also shown benefit to the cardiovascular system and blood sugar regulation.
Used internally or externally, extracts from sea buckthorn seeds and/or berries can be used to nourish the skin. Rich in carotenoids, omega fatty acids, and phytosterols, sea buckthorn can help to reduce inflammation and redness, and provides healing nutrients to prevent and treat skin damage. Applied topically, the seed oil has a mild SPF effect.
On my skin, I prefer using the seed extract; when using the fruit extract, be sure to dilute with other oils… Even one drop will be enough to colour your face a bright marigold!
Ceramides – Wax on
Think of ceramides as a wax and your parched skin cell membranes as an old, splintery wooden floor. When you wax that dried out splintery floor, it’s going to be smoother and more resistant to damage and drying out.
Ceramides are like floor wax to your skin.
Along with a delicious cocktail of cholesterol and fatty acids, ceramides make up the primary component of nourishing fatty acids that form a protective barrier over the outermost layer of your skin. In addition to preventing skin infections, this barrier also helps to seal moisture into the skin and prevent excessive water loss. You know, the type of water loss that occurs in the over-heated high-rise office building you spend most of your waking hours in.
Depletion of ceramides can also contribute to more severe skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis  which are often, not coincidentally, aggravated in the winter.
Ceramides are now available as a supplement and taking them internally can, as you may imagine, preserve and contribute to ceramides on the skin, helping to lock in some of that summer moisture and prevent winter from robbing you dry.
You can find all of these amazing skin hydrating supplements at our Wholistic Dispensary. We welcome you, you poor little winter raisins, you.
Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach