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Natural Remedies: Dry Skin

All you need to know: Treating dry skin

By Hedieh Ghavidel

To have healthy skin, a balance of oil and moisture is crucial. Skin glands secrete oil, which lubricates the surface of the skin. Moisture is the water carried to skin cells through the blood stream. The water present in skin cells keeps them youthful-looking and healthy.

Skin cells need sufficient amounts of water along with enough oil to act as a shield and prevent the excess evaporation of moisture from the top layers of the skin.

There are two types of dry skin -- simple dry skin results from a lack of natural oils and is common among women under the age of 35; complex dry skin results from the lack of both oil and moisture and is usually associated with aging.

Characterized by fine lines, brown spots, discolorations, enlarged pores, and sagging skin, complex dry skin may also stem from the damage caused by prolonged sun exposure to skin proteins -- elastin, collagen and keratin.

Dry skin tends to be dull-looking and flaky and readily develops fine lines and wrinkles. Unless some type of moisturizer or skin cream is applied, it usually feels tight and uncomfortable after washing.

Dry skin is most common on areas of the body that are exposed, such as the face and hands. Chapping and cracking especially in winter are signs of extremely dry and dehydrated skin.

Poor nutrition, cosmetics, excessive bathing with harsh soaps, and environmental factors -- including exposure to sun, wind and cold -- as well as chemicals can cause or aggravate dry skin. Vitamin A and B deficiencies can also contribute to the condition.

Most skins tend to become thinner and drier with age. Fair-skinned individuals are more likely to have dry skin, especially as they age.

Dry skin can also be the result of hormonal imbalance, underactive thyroid, diabetes, dermatitis, eczema and several hereditary skin conditions.

Diuretics, antispasmodics and antihistamines can also contribute to dry skin.

What to do to avoid having dry skin:

A balanced diet that includes fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetables --especially yellow and orange vegetables as they are high in beta-carotene a precursor of vitamin A -- can help prevent dry skin.

Include cod liver oil -- a good source for vitamins A and D -- in your diet. Vitamin A deficiency can cause the skin on the hands and feet to become scaly.

Sulfur helps keep the skin smooth and youthful; therefore, include in your diet plenty of sulfur-rich foods, such as onions, garlic eggs and asparagus.

To keep the skin hydrated, drink approximately 2 liters of water every day.

Try to avoid indulging in soft drinks, or eating sugar, chocolate, potato chips and other junk foods. Avoid fried foods and animal fats.

Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they have a diuretic effect and cause the body to lose fluids and essential minerals.

Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, depriving the skin of the oxygen and nutrients it needs for good health. Smoking also involves the repetition of certain facial expressions which eventually turn into permanent wrinkles around the mouth. Smoking can also result in leathery skin.

Sun exposure can damage the skin and causes dryness, wrinkles, rashes and blisters. Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Always use a good sunscreen on all areas exposed to the sun.

To reduce the amount of moisture lost from the skin through evaporation, use a humidifier to humidify your environment -- particularly in winter.

Do not use very hot water when bathing or showering.

Remove dead skin cells from the face at least once a week with a loofa sponge and hot water.

To keep your skin from drying out, moisturize it after cleansing. Do not use solid, waxy moisturizing creams.

Remove dry surface skin cells and clarify the skin by using a facial mask once a week.

Increase your water and essential fatty acid intake if your skin is dry and chapped. Lubricate and protect chapped areas from the elements.

Herbal tips for healthier skin:

Coco butter is a good skin cream which can help reduce wrinkles.

Coconut oil softens the skin and prevents wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Grapeseed oil has regenerative properties and helps control skin moisture. It is good for severe dry skin and reputedly reduces stretch marks.

RoseHip oil has regenerative properties. It helps prevent premature skin aging. It can be used to treat dry skin as well as for reducing wrinkles, stretch marks and skin discoloration.

Avocado oil is rich in Vitamin A and is beneficial for extremely dry skin.

Castor oil is a traditional skin softener. To treat aggravated dry skin in winter, add ten drops of rosemary or sandalwood essential oil to half a cup of castor oil to make bath oil. Add one teaspoon of this mixture every time you bathe.

Sweet almond oil is rich in vitamins A and B and essential fatty acids. It is an excellent choice for softening the skin and treating eczema and dry skin.

Olive oil is an ideal moisturizing oil used for treating dry and chapped skin.

Topically applied aloe vera has excellent soothing, healing and moisturizing properties.

Calendula and comfrey have skin-softening properties. Comfrey can reduce redness and soothe irritated skin.

Fresh borage leaves are considered to have enlivening, revitalizing and nourishing properties. To prepare borage tea, make an infusion of borage leaves and flowers in boiling water.

Chamomile tea can be used to soothe several skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

Spraying on Lavender water as a body mist throughout the day can help replenish lost moisture. To make lavender water, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to half a cup of distilled water or make an infusion of fresh lavender leaves and flowers.  

Article originally published on Press TV (December 24, 2008). Reprinted with permission.

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