Archive for November, 2014

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (AP), affects 10% to 20% (up from 2% in 1960) of the population and is the most common skin disorder in the world. Canada’s rate is higher than the worldwide average. It is skin inflammation caused by a breakdown in the protective barrier, which allows allergens and pathogens to create havoc. This results in dry, flakey, red, itchy and sometimes oozing skin. People are often prescribed topical steroids, which will clear it up momentarily and then stop working. There seems to be a lack of answers for something that is often irritating, painful and unsightly.

There are several ways that your skin barrier can breakdown.

Detergents: From day one, babies are exposed to anionic detergents, which are known to disrupt barrier function. Hospitals typically use Johnson & Johnson baby wash on newborns, which contain several harsh ingredients and can create a problem that can last for years. We are a detergent-obsessed society, using it within our hand soaps, shampoos and body washes. I suspect our growing demand for these types of products are the cause for the dramatic increase in eczema from 1960.

Stress: A study published in the Archives of Dermatology (2001) concluded that there is a link between physiological stress and weakened barrier function. This was the case with my sister who didn’t change a thing in her diet or beauty routine but suddenly had a severe case of red, leathery skin all over her face and eyes that looked like she had been punched. She finally figured out that it was being caused by the recent stress in her life and went away as soon as she was able to relax again.

Winter: Cold temperatures, dry indoor environments and lack of vitamin D can exasperate a skin barrier dysfunction.

Environmental pollutants: Harsh chemicals in the environment and in contact with your skin can lead to barrier dysfunction. Think household products, pesticides, and some personal care products. I have a friend who only gets eczema if she is around lawns that have been sprayed. Now that bylaws against pesticides in effect, she doesn’t have this problem.

The best way to treat eczema is to prevent further damage to the skin’s barrier and stay away from things that may inflame it. Avoid all anionic detergents, which are in most commercial cleansers, body washes, shampoos and hand soaps. Look for more gentle versions such as natural soap, liquid castile or even gentle detergents like glucosides. If it is stress-related, look for ways to manage this more effectively. This is your body’s way of communicating that enough is enough.  You can strengthen the skin’s barrier by applying protective moisturizer to the area. Your best bets are thick balms and ointments because they will sit on the skin and not allow allergens and pathogens to penetrate. Things that can further inflame the condition include food allergens (such as wheat, dairy, soy, and nuts), pet dander, dust mites, and synthetic household and body care products so be mindful of this when a reaction occurs and take the necessary precautions. Maintaining healthy doses of vitamin D and essential fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9) can help as well.

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Whenever I am in public or meeting someone for the first time, I notice their skin. I look at their pores, tone, pigmentation, elasticity and their make-up or lack thereof. I’ve noticed some definite patterns. There is a large group of women that are passionate about beauty but are doing it all wrong. They are clearly putting too much of the wrong product on their face on a daily basis. Their skin in congested, with tiny bumps everywhere and foundation caked on top to cover it up. It doesn’t have to look like this! It can be smooth, even-toned and natural looking by making a few simple changes.

1. Ditch the heavy petrochemical foundations that dominate the shelves. Mineral oil and silicones are foreign substances to your skin and your body has no idea how to process them. Your pores will evict them which is the cause of these mini eruptions all over the skin. These mineral oils and silicones are meant to sit on top of the skin rather than absorb into it which impedes your skin’s natural ability to breathe. This leads to a dull, sallow look. Find a good natural foundation that is formulated with plant oils, pigments and micas or ditch the foundation entirely (if you’re using the right skin care, you won’t need it every day). Which leads me to…

2. Use the right skin care. If your skin is bumpy and congested, it is rejecting something that you are putting on it. There are many cosmetic ingredients that your skin can’t absorb or process and they are almost always of petroleum origin. Choose plant-based products as much as possible, your cells know how to work with them.

3. Exfoliate regularly. Clogged pores can’t happen if there isn’t something to plug the hole. Keep skin free of dead skin cells and debris by routinely buffing it with your choice of scrub, skin brush, cloth or sophisticated microdermabrasion machine. If it’s a gentle scrub, you can do it daily.

Implementing these steps can do a world of good for keeping your skin as smooth, clear and as naturally flawless as possible.

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