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Skin TLC

Face facts about skin care


Winter skin problems such as acne, eczema, and oily skin respond to topical treatments and a healthy skin diet.

Skin takes a lot of abuse from weather, the environment, cosmetics, and our diet. It’s not only responsible for holding us together, providing a barrier to the outside world, and helping us eliminate toxins, but we ask it to look good too.

Show your skin some appreciation with a little TLC.


Up to 90 percent of adolescents and 20 to 30 percent of adults experience acne. Oil glands in our hair follicles become clogged with dirt, oil, and skin cells, causing the follicle to bulge, creating pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads. Nodules are bumps that painfully extend deep into the skin, and can destroy nearby tissue. Acne-prone skin is often inflamed and different forms of skin bacteria, including P. acnes, can be present. Hormones and diet are major players in an acne breakout.

Topical care
Be gentle with acne-prone skin: avoid touching your face and cleansing aggressively which may stimulate oil glands. Avoid scrubs and waterproof makeup, and use only fragrance-free, non-irritating products that don’t block pores.

Wash your face with gentle olive oil soap or cleansing gels containing aloe vera, cucumber, or grapefruit seed extract. Follow by toning your skin to soothe inflammation and normalize oil production. Fill your sink with warm water and add a few drops of calendula, lavender, or camomile essential oils; splash on your face after cleansing.

Although acne-prone skin can be oily, it also needs moisture. Use light, emollient cremes that contain non-pore blocking oils such as sweet almond oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil along with hyaluronic acid to trap moisture.

Also look for antiseptic and astringent witch hazel and antimicrobial tea tree oil to protect against P. acnes bacteria.


An overactive immune response that creates chronic inflammation of the skin, eczema causes dry, red, cracked skin that is itchy and sore. Contact allergens such as soaps, hard water, and dust mites are often triggers. Candida albicans bacteria in the digestive tract may lead to the development of food sensitivities that cause eczema. Stress may be another factor.

New research shows that a breakdown of the skin barrier can be the first step in developing eczema, because allergens are then able to penetrate skin. Prevention, therefore, is key.

Topical care
As a general rule, use only mild, chemical-free cleansing products on your skin and on the skin of little ones. Avoid harsh ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate and mineral oil in your products. To remove makeup and cleanse skin affected with eczema, simply apply coconut oil or olive oil to skin and remove with a damp cotton washcloth.

Dry skin often accompanies eczema, so it’s important to use oils that replenish and reduce water lost through skin. Enjoy luxurious emollient oils such as borage, evening primrose, jojoba, and argan to moisturize and nourish skin. Tamanu, neem, and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) oils are also particularly effective for healing eczema lesions. Honey is also antibacterial and helps bring relief to dry skin.

Your skin mirrors your diet

Acne, eczema, psoriasis, and many other skin concerns have a dietary component. Work with a nutritionist or health care professional to isolate the foods that trigger your facial woes.

Dry, sensitive skin

Dry skin feels tight; its pores are barely visible. While dry skin usually has fewer blemishes than oily skin, it is also more inclined to show wrinkles as we age. Dehydrated skin can flake and often has a rough, sandpaper feel. It also tends to be sensitive and irritates easily.

Obviously, dry skin is lacking moisture. Water temperature can dehydrate our skin. Washing in hot water, for example, effectively melts skin lipids (fats), so opt for warm water when bathing.

Chlorine added to the water we drink, bathe, and swim in can also dry out skin. You may wish to purchase chlorine filters for faucets in your home.

Topical care
The skin care recommendations for eczema also apply for dry, sensitive skin. Because dry skin can be rough, gently exfoliate skin regularly. Chemical exfoliants make use of enzymes in fruits such as papaya and pineapple to help remove dead surface skin without scrubbing. Be careful with abrasive scrubs as they can irritate sensitive skin.

In drier winter months, opt for occlusive oils such as coconut oil, or shea or cocoa butter, to trap skin moisture, especially before a day skiing on the slopes or building snowmen.

Oily skin

Oily skin is shiny and pores are easily visible. Excessive oil production may cause inflammation, making skin prone to breakouts of pimples and acne. As payback, oily skin is more lubricated than dry skin so wrinkles appear less pronounced as time goes by.

Topical care
Suggestions for acne-prone skin also apply to oily skin. To prevent breakouts, keep skin clean using warm water and gentle pressure with your washcloth. Opt for cleansing gels rather than milks, as the latter can leave residue on the skin.

To sop up excess oil, treat yourself to a mask at least once a week. Opt for masks containing ingredients such as kaolin clay, fuller’s earth, oatmeal, cucumber, or honey. Avoid abrasive scrubs for exfoliation as they can stimulate oil glands.

Remember, good-looking skin is healthy skin!

Inside-out skin care

Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water daily to help flush out toxins and keep skin hydrated. Remember that even oily skin can be dehydrated, particularly if your skin care products are too harsh.

No matter what your skin type—dry, oily, or problem—you will benefit by taking 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in fish oil daily. These important fats maintain the fluidity of cell membranes, decrease inflammation, and provide some protection from sun damage.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD