Herbal Skin Care for All Ages

Herbal skin care for adults and children

| March/April 1999

Natural health practitioners view the skin as a barometer of overall health. And when skin is clear and glowing, there’s nothing more attractive. But when it’s troubled, natural remedies can often provide relief. Sometimes topical treatment is all that’s necessary; other conditions require an in-depth health analysis.

In this article, we focus on herbal treatments for common but often perplexing skin problems experienced by children and adults alike. Unless otherwise noted, these remedies are gentle enough for both children and sensitive skin. But first, a few skin basics.

Skin Savvy

The skin is one of our primary defenses, a barrier between our bodies and marauding microorganisms, damaging light rays, and toxic chemicals. It helps regulate body temperature, receives sensory information from the outside world, secretes water and salt, and manufactures vitamin D. The outermost skin layer, the epidermis, is a band of tough cells stacked atop one another. Below the epidermis is a thicker layer called the dermis that contains collagen and elastic fibers, which make skin strong and stretchable. Within the dermis are blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, sweat, and oil glands.

To remain healthy, skin needs plenty of fluids, a nourishing diet, and nutrients such as carotenes and vitamins A and C—they help make skin strong and supple. Vitamin E and selenium help repair damage caused by insults such as ultraviolet radiation.

The type of fat we eat is important, too. Essential fatty acids form components of cell membranes. Without the proper ratio of fatty acids, cell membranes become less fluid and don’t function well. Skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced, so we need to eat the right fats regularly. Diets heavy in saturated fats and certain omega-6 fatty acids (the kind contained in corn, soy, sesame, and safflower oils) tend to be deficient in the skin-friendly omega-3 fatty acids found in the seeds of flax, hemp, and pumpkin and in cold-water fish and green leafy vegetables.

Body organs can influence skin health, most notably the liver. The skin is the largest eliminative organ; the liver is the body’s biggest filter. If the body produces too many waste products because of stress and food allergies, the liver can’t filter these products completely. This increases the skin’s burden to eliminate wastes and may cause skin inflammation as a result.

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