Think acne appears just on teenagers? Or eczema is common only on a baby’s bottom? Turns out, acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions can crop up regardless of age and have a host of culprits, including the environment, diet, hormones and chemicals in everyday products.
“Toxic overload is the cause of all of these skin conditions,” says Laeh Benyamin, a lead practitioner at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Boulder, Colorado. Luckily, managing—or even eliminating—symptoms is not impossible. The first step? Diet. “All people that have these issues need to go on an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid sugar, white refined grains, gluten, dairy and nightshade vegetables,” Benyamin recommends. “Buy a filter for drinking and showering that removes as much chorine and other harmful chemicals as possible,” she adds.
What other lifestyle, supplement and skin care tips can help you conquer these common skin issues? Read on.
Clogged skin gland follicles lead to acne, the nation’s most common skin condition.
Cause: Pesky pimples are just part of the problem. Acne indicates any number of deeper health issues: hormonal imbalances, digestive upset, overactive oil glands or bacteria buildup, says Kate Tackett, ND. Although the condition is most common among 11- to 30-year-olds (approximately 80 percent of people in this age group experience it), many adults never outgrow acne and others may even experience acne for the first time in adulthood.
Topical solution: Look for serums and washes that use antimicrobial ingredients, such as tea tree oil, witch hazel and willow bark. Recent research also supports thyme for its acne-fighting properties. Salicylic acid (from willow bark) remains an effective go-to for alleviating inflammation and irritation. Green tea and neem may also help.
Supplements: Use vitamin A to reduce sebum production; vitamins C, E and selenium to support skin “immunity” and skin cell repair; and probiotics to restore digestive imbalances. For severe redness, Benyamin recommends a high dose of 50 mg zinc (avoid long-term use at this dose; reduce it once redness subsides to avoid copper imbalance).
Eczema, from a Greek word meaning to “bubble or boil over,” is an itchy, red rash that can appear anywhere on the body and affects more than 30 million Americans. Although there is no cure, there are various ways to manage it.
Cause: As with acne, eczema triggers are vast—and vary from person to person. Common causes, according to Tackett, include excess stomach acid and leaky gut syndrome, candida overgrowth, food sensitivities, stress and contact with irritants found in cleaning and personal care products. Skin’s moisture loss can greatly exacerbate the condition.
Topical solution: Use gentle, nontoxic lotions that contain nourishing, plant-based oils and extracts. Research has shown that shea butter and sunflower seed oil can control and soothe dermatitis- related skin issues. Avoid “fragrances,” which are common skin irritants.
Supplements: Probiotics balance gut bacteria and fight eczema-related inflammation. Omega-3s and hyaluronic acid restore moisture from the inside out.
Less common than acne and eczema (10 percent of people inherit one or more of the genes that eventually lead to psoriasis, but only
2 to 3 percent of people develop it), psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly skin patches.
Cause: One main cause is silica (a trace mineral) deficiency, says Benyamin. Other triggers include genetics, leaky gut and diminished liver function.
Topical solution: Products that use salicylic acid can reduce scales and soften lesions, according to research published in Canadian Family Physician. Research has also shown that using aloe vera for four weeks can reduce psoriasis irritation. Jojoba moisturizes and soothes, while apple cider vinegar and capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili peppers) may alleviate itching and pain.
Supplements: In addition to omega-3s and probiotics, look for beauty supplements that contain silica, with additional skin- and nail-supportive nutrients such as collagen and biotin. Tackett also recommends milk thistle for liver support and fiber to help eliminate toxins from the body.