September 12, 2018 | Categories: Beauty & Skin Care
We’ve all had skin issues at one time or another, and they’re some of the top reasons people go to their doctors. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has contributed an additional demand for dermatology services and dermatologists are among the top five specialists booked by ACA patients. While your general practitioner might be able to make some recommendations about your skin issues, they’ll probably refer you to a dermatologist to get to the root of the problem. The dilemma is that there’s a shortage of dermatologists in the U.S. and it’s taking too long for patients to get appointments.
There are currently 13,847 dermatologists practicing across the country, according to 2015 reports. Some online reports say that the average wait time for a dermatologist’s visit is 32 days nationwide, but it varies depending on where you live—51 days in Denver, 52 days in Boston, and 78 days in Philadelphia! Who wants to wait nearly three months to see a dermatologist when you’re suffering from a skin condition like a rash, acne, or fungus? Not us!
To overcome this obstacle of waiting for a dermatology appointment or lacking access to a skin doctor in your town, we recommend you try DIY methods at home for benign, chronic issues. Herbal remedies are usually safe, simple ways to treat your skin problems with a natural solution.
“I’m all for at-home treatments,” says New York City-based dermatologist, Doris Day, M.D., author of Beyond Beautiful: Using the Power of Your Mind and Aesthetic Breakthroughs to Look Naturally Young and Radiant (January 2018, Center Street Publishing). “People can start there even if they have access [to dermatologists]. But I always recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist when possible to get a complete skin check and to determine the best ways to take care of your skin, even with at-home or over-the counter ingredients and products. While getting professional skincare help can be expensive, it’s less expensive than the cost of a delayed diagnosis of a skin issue or even skin cancer,” she says. That being said, Dr. Day acknowledges that not everyone has access to dermatologists through their insurance or due to their geographic location.
“If someone wants to use natural-based remedies that have scientific backing, clinical data, and clinical trials that show they work, I’m for it,” says Dr. Day. “Although I used to work in a research lab with skin-care products, I like to take a holistic approach,” Dr. Day says. It’s okay if you want to try to DIY at home with some small skin problems, she says.
Just keep in mind that the term “natural” doesn’t always mean something is safer, says Dr. Day. The FDA doesn’t have a regulatory definition of “natural” on beauty products so you should think of that term as a marketing term.
Try herbal remedies moderately at first. Research the stores you’re buying products from and pay attention to your body, being on lookout for any changes. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause enlarged breast tissue in boys prior to puberty.
“It’s important to be aware that these ingredients may affect more than your skin, so use them sparingly and stop using them and see your doctor if you notice other changes,” advised Dr. Day.
“Plants are good for the skin because…they tend to have no side effects if you’re using them topically unless you’re allergic to them,” says Stephanie Tourles, licensed esthetician/herbalist, certified aromatherapist at Orland, Maine. “They’re generally non-toxic, safe, gentle, and don’t disrupt the microbiome of your skin, its protective bacteria that enhances its immunity,” says Tourles.
“Plants are very biocompatible with the skin,” Tourles says. “Your skin recognizes vital chemicals, vitamins, and minerals and drinks them up.” She recommends people try something simple, inexpensive, and safe before visiting the dermatologist for skin conditions like dry skin, acne, sunburn, or redness of the skin, for example.
When Kalamazoo, Michigan-based cosmetic chemist and aesthetician, Elina Fedotova, first came to the U.S. from Russia in 1991 she couldn’t even find simple chamomile tea to buy in her local Midland, Texas. Realizing that she didn’t have access to many of the herbs she was used to, she ordered herbal products from Europe and California, worked in a spa, and started selling her holistic skin care products, which would eventually become Elina Organics.
“Back in the 90s, the majority of people thought I was so weird [using herbal remedies],” Fedotova says.
Thankfully, science and society eventually caught up to the benefits of using herbal remedies and now it’s more accepted to use these remedies to solve everyday health problems.
In 2007, Fedotova founded the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners (AHSCP), an organization where institutions and holistic skin practitioners, dermatologists, medical doctors, and naturopaths that work with skin have conversations about holistic approaches, integrative approaches, and education. “Now we have science and a lot of doctors of functional medicine using a holistic approach,” Fedotova says.
SOLVING EVERYDAY SKIN CONDITIONS
We all have that friend with seemingly perfect skin who never seems to age, have a blemish, and glows from the inside out. Why do the rest of us have to suffer from skin problems?
Your skin issues may stem from stress, diet, environment, genetics, atopy (allergic diseases), or possibly using the wrong products for your skin.
>What causes breakouts and oily skin?
Acne is caused when a pore gets clogged, usually with dead skin cells. When your body starts to produce sebum, oil that prevents skin from drying out, the dead skin cells get stuck in the pore, along with dirt and bacteria that lives on the skin, resulting in a pore that’s red and swollen. Hello, angry pimple.
You might find that you break out in certain places on your face and body due to hormonal fluctuations when you’re premenstrual. That’s because excess sebum production is influenced by hormones.Using beauty products with occlusive agents that hold in moisture and protect the skin can also lead to clogged pores and make you more prone to breakouts, Dr. Day says. Read the labels to see if your products contain occlusive agents like petrolatum, lanolin, zinc oxide, silicones, and possibly some oils.
>What causes dry skin?
Dry skin can be genetic, says Dr. Day. You might be using products that are too drying or the environment you live in—whether that’s a dry climate like the desert, a windy climate, or somewhere cold where you’re exposed to dry heat indoors—could be causing your skin to dry out. If you have a job where you’re washing your hands all day long, that could also lead to dry, cracked skin. You don’t tend to be dry on the outside because you’re dehydrated on the inside, Dr. Day says. Even if you’re drinking plenty of water all day long, the outer layers need to be moisturized separately to help dry skin on the surface.
Here are natural, herbal solutions for common skin issues.
When your skin is red and inflamed from too much sun exposure, our experts agreed that applying aloe from an aloe vera plant (A. barbadensis Mill.) can help ease the pain and redness after sunburn. “Aloe is anti-inflammatory and anesthetic,” says Dr. Day.
Often called “age spots” or “liver spots,” these brown spots tend to develop on the face, back of your hands, arms, chest, shoulders, or legs. They’re called “hyperpigmentation,” a common, usually harmless condition when patches of skin become darker than surrounding skin. This darkening usually occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits in the skin. The main culprit that causes these brown spots is usually sun damage.
“Applying plain yogurt to these spots may help them fade over time,” says Tourles. That’s because yogurt contains lactic acid, which can speed exfoliation of the outer layer of dead skin cells while also acting as a natural bleaching agent. Consistent application will reveal clearer, brighter skin, with less pronounced hyperpigmentation.
If you have just a few age spots on your face, Tourles recommends applying a dab of plain yogurt to each spot twice daily for 10 minutes, then rinsing it off. Do this procedure for four weeks and you should see improvement in the darkness of the spots.
You could also apply papaya (Carica papaya) pulp to your face as an exfoliator. It has natural acids and enzymes in it, and keeps skin clear, suggests Tourles. “It reduces potential blemishes, clogged pores, and either one of those will also, if used on a regular basis, help to fade light hyperpigmentation—the little brown spots that show up on your skin,” says Tourles. Use this papaya technique for brown spots on your hands, too.
“It’s vital that you wear a natural sunscreen over the affected area(s) daily as further exposure to the sun will darken any spots that have lightened and exacerbate sun damage,” Tourles says. “It should also be noted that dark, deep age spots may be resistant to natural treatments.” Here’s what happens to skin while you sleep.
Ringworm is one of the most common skin fungal infections. It’s also called tinea or dermatophytosis. When it’s on the feet, you know it as “athlete’s foot,” and if it’s the groin area, it’s “jock itch.” Depending on the location and severity of the infection, a doctor might recommend anti-fungal shampoos or soaps, a medicated cleanser, or an anti-fungal pill. But, when you can’t wait to see a doctor, or you want to use an herbal solution first, try these natural remedies at home to relieve the itching.
“I recommend my clients with either [nail fungus or athlete’s foot] use usnea tincture (an alcohol extract of Usnea barbata–which is a lichen); or black walnut hull ‘Juglans nigra‘ tincture,” says Tourles. Dilute the tincture 50 percent with water and store in a dropper top glass bottle. Label and date it. Apply a few drops to all of your nails, even the ones that aren’t affected as fungus can spread. For athlete’s foot, apply a dropperful of your diluted tincture to each foot and rub in between the toes. “Do these treatments twice daily for several months until the fungus abates. Consistency is key,” she says. Wear clean, dry socks or go barefoot so feet can breathe, she advises. Remember to wear shower shoes in public locker rooms and around pools this summer since fungi can be lurking on the floor.
Redness and Rosacea
Rosacea is a skin disease that tends to show up as someone blushing or having flushed cheeks and nose. While rosacea can’t be cured, it can be treated. “Rosacea is very environmental and lifestyle driven,” says Dr. Day. “With rosacea, triggers that cause flare-ups are stress, extremes in temperature, alcohol, and some spices. I instruct patients to avoid their triggers once they know what they are and to treat rosacea by seeing their dermatologist to help control it,” she says. Besides steering clear of your triggers, the best ways to treat rosacea when it comes out are: avoiding the sun; washing with a gentle cleanser using only your fingertips; and avoiding washcloths, toners, astringents, and deodorant soaps on skin with rosacea.
If you have a tendency toward redness and rosacea, chances are, you’ll tolerate lactic acid better, says Dr. Day. She says that lactic acid helps with exfoliation and it’s gentler than glycolic or some other acids. It’s also a humectant, which keeps the skin’s barrier functioning properly due to its moisturizing component that hydrates the skin and replenishes depleted lipids lost due to a rosacea flare-up. You may want to try a yogurt face mask to reduce the rosacea flare-up, or look for a product with lactic acid in it.
“When clients exhibit this condition, I discuss nutrition, lifestyle, facial care habits (and products), and stress levels,” says Tourles. An herb that can offer immediate relief from the redness is calendula (calendula officinalis) “marigold.” “Use a gentle, natural, non-drying facial cleanser, followed by an application of calendula hydrosol ‘flower water’ (which is produced by distilling fresh plants) and calendula facial cream, to soothe and minimize some facial irritation and inflammation,” she suggests.
When you’re suffering from acne or oily skin, apply witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) as a natural astringent with a cotton ball as a soothing toner after you’re done cleansing your face, suggests Dr. Day. It’ll help remove oils from your skin without drying it out. “A strained solution of water with any type of essential oils, like lavender, will help to combat pathogens on the skin and is helpful for things like acne,” says Fedotova.
A rash can be from a number of things: exposure to poison ivy, related to a fungus, or it could be a sign that you’re allergic to a particular food. A rash is one of the symptoms of Celiac disease, meaning you have a gluten allergy. If you think a rash is related to something you ate, make an appointment with your GP. If it’s accompanied by difficulty breathing, it may be a food allergy and you should get to an emergency room ASAP. Apple cider vinegar helps with some rashes and aloe vera will help ease the itching so you can get relief. If your rash stems from touching a food or something you’re allergic to, washing the area well with soap and water should remove the allergen and help minimize the rash.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition where you have patches of very itchy, dry skin that’s often red and may have small, raised bumps. You can try to treat eczema at home with by regularly moisturizing the area.
“We can’t cure eczema, but we can control it,” says Dr. Day. “It’s not naturally progressive. Taking good care of your skin and managing your stress can have a big impact on eczema flare-ups.”
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and burdock root (Arctium minus Bernh.) can calm inflammation, suggests Fedotova. You could also use calendula or chamomile for inflammation problems.
If you have a family history of eczema or asthma (a lung condition where it’s harder to breathe), you should be aware that there are relationships between the two health conditions. You might have keratosis pilaris (tiny bumps on the skin) on the arms, says Dr. Day. Eczema and asthma are considered autoimmune diseases. “If you have asthma, your child could end up having eczema,” says Dr. Day. Or, if your child has eczema, you might want to be on the lookout for signs that they have asthma as well.
You need to keep the skin hydrated at all times. “When the skin is hydrated, oiled, and kept elastic, then it won’t have an inflammatory, itchy response,” Tourles says. She uses a calendula hydrosol on clients with dry skin. “It’s like a calendula flower water but the oil and the flower water are anti-inflammatory and extremely gentle. The hydrosol hydrates and the oil seals in hydration.”
Skin that’s aggravated from dermatitis, eczema, or dehydration tends to be red and irritated, and calendula calms and soothes any irritation, she says. The holistic esthetician administers facials and back treatments to help hydrate clients’ dry skin with calendula or comfrey (symphytum officinale) in the form of a salve. She uses comfrey on clients’ feet, hands, and on their back because comfrey it’s extremely soothing. [ED NOTE: THROW TO MASK STORY]
Blackheads and large pores
Blackheads are small bumps that appear on your skin due to clogged hair follicles, causing the surface to look dark or black. Fedotova suggests exfoliation through a mixture of buttermilk with baking soda. Start with a tablespoon of buttermilk, which has lactic acid and will brighten the skin. Mix with baking soda to help bring the pH level (potential hydrogen) of the skin down to make it less acidic. Using this combo on your face can help clean the pores as well, she says.
Some breakouts or oily skin could mean that you had too much sun, says Dr. Day. “Sun increases oil production because it makes the facial glands overproduce to make up for the dryness when the sun cooks water out of your skin. To balance it out, it will make more oil and may produce blackheads or pimples,” Dr. Day says.
Use a white clay mask two to three times a week, suggests Tourles. Try a tablespoon of kaolin clay and a tablespoon of either water or peppermint (Mentha × piperita hybrid) tea, or rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) tea. Make a paste, apply that all over your face and neck and back if you’ve got acne on your back. “This mask absorbs oil, stimulates the circulation, helps detoxify those clogged sebaceous glands, and helps remove blackheads and whiteheads,” says Tourles. Keep oily skin free and clear.
Fedotova recommends rose (Rosaceae) water or lavender water as astringents. They can help with oily skin and bringing the pH levels of the skin down. Some people like witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) as a natural astringent as well.
“If you have dry patches on your cheeks and an oily T-zone, I highly recommend jojoba oil on the dry areas,” says Tourles. Jojoba (pronounced Ho-ho-ba) is from the seed of the simmondsia chinesis plant. “It tends to be an oil that’s nonreactive for most people, even with sensitive skin.” She suggests using the clay mask on your T zone of forehead, nose and chin while hydrating the dry areas with this oil.
You’ve probably noticed that when you eat certain foods, when you’re under a ton of stress, or when you’re not sleeping well your skin doesn’t look its best. That’s because your body’s largest organ is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. The epidermis (top layer of skin) has special cells that are part of your immune system. That’s why changes to the skin can be a sign that something more serious is going on in your body: an unusual rash could be a sign of an infection in your body; a new growth could be a sign of skin cancer, or it could be a sign of an internal cancer. Other signs something is wrong with your health could be skin discoloration as a symptom of an adrenal disease, or waxy-looking bumps on the arms, legs, or trunk could be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes. Paying attention to your body and any changes will help you stay abreast of issues that may be lurking beneath the surface. If your skin problems—particularly rashes—aren’t being resolved with these herbal remedies and are accompanied by aches, fever, or an usual symptom, schedule a visit with your doctor (or dermatologist if you can) as soon as you can.
When you’re stressed, your body increases production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol can have a major impact on your immune system, which in turn can show up as inflammation, and aggravate neuroinflammatory skin conditions, like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne, and even wound healing.
Stress will exacerbate anything you’re prone to, says Dr. Day. “So if you’re prone to rosacea, it will be rosacea. If you’re prone to hair loss, it’ll be hair loss. Whatever your concern is: eczema, psoriasis, acne, an ulcer…that’s what your stress will trigger for you,” she says. Some people internalize their stress—and that can impact how your physical body responds, says Dr. Day.
Find natural avenues to reduce stress, like starting a daily meditation practice or praying. You may also want to try these activities that have been proven to alleviate stress, like exercise, playing with a pet, listening to music, taking a bath, talking to a friend, and expressing your thoughts and concerns in a journal.
Working out is good for your skin health and may help you look younger, but you need to practice good skincare habits before and after exercise. One study found that regular exercisers have healthier skin and that it was closer in composition to that of someone 10 or 20 years younger.
That being said, exercise can impact some people’s skin by causing breakouts, says Dr. Day, but that might be more likely due to extremes in temperatures, or if you’re using a sauna. Some people notice more breakouts once they ramp up workouts; that can be due to factors like, staying in your sweaty workout clothes for too long, exercising with makeup on that clogs pores, or breakouts caused by the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Wash makeup off your face before working out and cleanse afterwards as well to remove sweat. Removing sweaty clothes and taking a shower after your workout would be the best move to reduce your chances of breaking out from sweat, but at the very least, try to change out of sweaty clothes and wipe sweat off your body with a body wipe or towel with water to minimize dirt and perspiration that can clog your pores.
“There’s no replacement for sleep,” says Dr. Day. “For all that we can do for our skin, there’s no cream or tonic we have that’s going to replace sleep. Lack of sleep increases your risk of infection, will make your skin look more sallow, and it affects everything about your skin. It’ll make you look older,” Dr. Day says. Ain for seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. If you have trouble falling asleep, valerian root (Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae) can help people fall asleep and sleep better. Drinking valerian root tea helps relax the muscles and reduce tension in the body, suggests Fedotova.
Dermatologist, aestheticians, herbals and skin care experts globally seem to agree that added sugar should be avoided when it comes to building healthy skin from the inside out. If you suffer from fungal problems, eliminate sugar from your diet and reduce simple carbohydrates. Science has found many associations between concentrations of glucose in the diet and an increased rate of Candida (fungus) growth.
“If you have fungus issues, avoid all sugars (natural and processed), high sugar fruits, and refined foods as fungus ‘feed’ on these types of high-glycemic carbohydrates,” says Tourles.
Certain foods may cause an inflammation response in different people: dairy, gluten, peanuts, corn, eggs, soy, chocolate, and sugar, says Tourles She recommends clients—particularly those that suffer from acne—cut dairy of out their diet to see if that helps. “Sometimes when you eat a clean diet, your skin will clear up. When I have acne clients, I suggest a clean, low inflammatory diet,” Tourles says.
If you’re curious about trying these herbal remedies for clearer, brighter, healthier skin, start small with a treatment or two and see how you like the results. You could save money and have gorgeous, glowing skin by the time you would have visited a dermatologist’s office.
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