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You can call it xerosis. Or you can call it dermatitis. However you label it, dry skin can be irritating, uncomfortable and unsightly ? and tends to be especially acute as the weather cools and humidity levels decline during the fall and winter months.
Dry skin is characterized by a feeling of tightness, itching, peeling, slight-to-severe flaking, and chapped or cracked lips. For some, it may be a temporary weather-related condition, while for others it may be something they deal with year-round.
What causes dry skin to begin with? Age, lifestyle and environment are all contributing factors. Dry skin tends to affect people 40 years or older who have thinner and drier skin simply due to age. Those who work in a job that requires immersion in water, such as nurses and hairstylists, are also more prone to rough, scaly skin as are those who live in arid climates or who swim regularly in chlorinated pools.
But let?s scratch below the (dry) skin?s surface for a moment. In addition to the above mitigating factors, there are also hormonal contributors that need to be taken into account. According to Dr. Sergey Kalitenko, a holistic practitioner with two offices in the greater New York City area, low thyroid or low testosterone can cause inadequate sebaceous and/or sweat gland production. This, along with excessive sebaceous gland secretion (skin oil) removal due to using harsh soaps and hot water, can result in tight, flaky skin.
A physician consultation that includes blood work will let you know if low thyroid or low testosterone may be the culprits. If so, an iodine supplement may be appropriate to help balance the thyroid, while taking zinc along with copper may help boost testosterone levels.
Other tips from Dr. Kalitenko include:
- Consuming enough ?good fat? (that containing heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids) through pharmaceutical-grade fish oil, grass-fed beef, sardines, herring and anchovies. Coconut oil applied topically as well as ingested may also help.
- Making sure you get adequate vitamins A and C to rejuvenate tired, lackluster skin. The antioxidant Astaxanthin offers added protection from sun damage.
- Avoiding carbohydrates ? particularly those from fructose syrup, simple sugars, processed foods and grains. In their place, consume plenty of nutrient-rich fresh vegetables and fermented vegetables.
- Using gentle face cleansers and shampoos with warm water for personal cleansing. Taking long, hot showers or baths can dry out skin, making already cracked or troubled skin even more uncomfortable.
- Applying sunscreen (yes ? even in winter!) and bundling up with gloves, scarves and hats when heading outside. Opt for skin-friendly cotton garments over potentially irritating wool.
Sometimes dry skin is just that ? dry skin due to cooler weather and less humidity in the air. Other times, it can be the outward manifestation of an inner hormonal deficiency or imbalance ? and that?s where the services of a trained holistic doctor can be invaluable in diagnosing the root cause of flaky, cracked skin.