Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Lim Sock Ling
9 Common Skin Conditions and Your Natural Treatment Options
Published | 8 min read
As the largest organ of the body, it's very important to take care of the skin. Sometimes various skin conditions can occur which can be treated naturally.
Our skin is quite incredible. As the largest organ of the body, the skin essentially provides coverage and protection to our body that’s made up of 19 million skin cells and 60,000 melanocytes. These are the cells that make our melanin or skin pigment. Our skin protects us from germs, helps us to feel, produces vitamin D, and regulates our body temperature. It is also prone to skin conditions when it is irritated, clogged, or inflamed. This includes skin cancer, hives, acne, rosacea, wrinkles, age spots, and more. The skin is also believed to be a mirror into our internal organs, thus taking care of our skin, can help us improve our lifestyle and overall health. This is why it is crucial to get treatment for any skin conditions as soon as possible.
Read on as we discuss the functions of the skin, common skin conditions, and ways to naturally treat them.
Understanding Skin Health
Our skin is made up of three layers. The epidermis (top layer) acts as a protective barrier. The dermis (middle layer) makes up 90% of the thickness of the skin and the hypodermis (bottom layer) is the fatty layer of the skin that cushions the bones and muscles. Generally, the skin has many roles that help the body to function properly. These include:
- The skin acts as a protective barrier between our internal organs and the outside environment. It’s our first line of defence against UV rays, chemicals, infections, germs, and cuts. Because of this, our skin also plays a significant role in our immune system.
- The skin makes oil glands to make it smooth and soft.
- It produces new skin every 30 days.
- Blood vessels in the dermis provide nutrients to the epidermis, keeping the layers of the skin healthy.
- It regulates body temperature through the blood vessels and sweat glands. When it’s too hot, our skin will cool us down by transferring the heat out of the body and producing sweat.
- It is responsible for our sense of touch so we know to move away when it’s too hot.
- When exposed to UV rays, it makes vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. Vitamin D does more than just promote healthy bones — it also prevents cancer, heart disease, obesity, and neurological diseases.
- The condition of our skin mirrors what’s happening inside our body. For instance, the appearance of yellow skin may signal jaundice.
Common Skin Conditions and Their Causes
Our skin is prone to various issues and diseases, which can be harmless to fatal. In total, there are more than 3,000 possible skin disorders. The following factors contribute to some of the most common skin problems in both men and women:
1. Yin–Yang imbalance
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that there are two opposite yet complementary forces inside our body: yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy). Yin is a calm and cool nourishing force, while yang is a warm, active, and invigorating force. To achieve ultimate health, the yin and yang must be in balance.
However, women are more likely to experience yang deficiency (excess yin). This usually happens during their period, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. As a woman ages, they gradually lose yin, which can manifest into menopause symptoms.
On the other hand, men have excess yang (or yin deficit). As the man ages, they will lose yang gradually as well. As yang is related to heat, it causes a man’s skin to accumulate more dampness. Too much heat can cause oil gland secretion, creating skin problems like acne or rosacea that can develop into rhinophyma. Excess yang — which leads to dampness — also causes other skin issues like ringworm and psoriasis.
People who find themselves in stressful situations sometimes develop habits that harm their skin. For example, scratching can cause dermatitis, or nail-biting can lead to infection. People might also develop a stress rash that appears throughout the skin. From TCM’s point of view, stress can also result in qi (vital life energy) stagnation, presenting as chloasma on the skin.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is one of the most common skin conditions that affects approximately 50 million Americans. This happens when the skin gets clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This leads to pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads. This typically impacts teenagers, but can also affect people of all ages, even babies. It usually goes away, but in some cases, it can become painful, large, and cystic that can linger for years.
Drinking alcohol enlarges blood vessels, which leads to a red or rosy complexion. In severe cases, the damage to the blood vessels causes bigger oil glands and, therefore, larger pores. Additionally, alcohol dehydrates the skin, taking away its moisture and nutrients. Over time, this leaves the complexion looking dull, dry, and can even lead to acne and inflamed skin papules. According to TCM, alcohol also adds to the heat and dampness in the body, which leads to skin problems.
5. Bad Hygiene
We need to take care of our skin every day. This includes washing it with a gentle cleanse to rid it of germs, dead cells, and other agents. You also need to take regular showers. Neglect of the skin can lead to a serious condition called dermatosis neglecta, which is basically dermatitis that happens when people don’t maintain their hygiene. This can also lead to acne, itchiness, redness, or swelling of the skin.
6. Vitamin deficiency and hydration
Lacking nutrition and water can impact your body, including your skin. Some of the vitamins you can take for healthy skin are Vitamin A, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pyridoxine (B6), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin D. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats such as the Mediterranean Diet can be beneficial to your skin. To fulfill your daily fiber intake, consider taking a soluble fiber supplement made from a selection of fruits, vegetables, spirulina, and oligosaccharides. It is also important to keep your skin hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water every day.
In general, smoking is bad for your overall health, and over time it shows on your skin. For example, cigarettes and tobacco cause yellowing and uneven skin tone. In the long run, chronic smokers can also develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). When this occurs, they will suffer from shortness of breath, causing the skin to turn blue from the lack of oxygen.
8. Skin cancer
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70 and 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. However, when detected, melanoma has a 99% survival rate. Skin cancer mainly develops from prolonged sun exposure. You can reduce your risk by limiting ultraviolet (UV) radiation, getting moles checked, and using sunscreen every day.
Many people are also allergic and may experience itchiness, redness, or swelling on the skin. Some common skin conditions include psoriasis, eczema, contact dermatitis, or hives to name a few. It is important to see a dermatologist for treatment options for your specific case.
Skin Health Daily Practices
As the largest organ, it is important to maintain healthy skin. It is important to see a dermatologist and follow these daily practices below:
- Be aware of any skin changes such as moles
- See a dermatologist regularly
- Wear sunscreen every day as protection from the sun’s rays
- Do not smoke cigarettes
- Use a gentle cleanser such as a hypoallergenic products
- Consume a healthy diet
- Cut down on sugar
- Destress and relax
- Get ample sleep
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit contact with irritants or harsh chemicals
- Shower regularly
- In severe cases, such as with cystic acne, your dermatologist might prescribe an acne medication
- Use a hypoallergenic detergent (non SLS) on your clothes
TCM Treatments for Skin Conditions
Additionally, TCM uses herbs that can effectively help you treat various skin conditions, such as:
- Healthy-looking skin: bird’s nest — for centuries, this delicacy has been coveted for its ability to promote healthy skin.
- Acne: forsythia, dandelion, coix seed, and red peony root. Formulations with marine collagen peptide and antioxidants can also help maintain skin health.
- Ringworm: rhubarb.
- Rhinophyma: loquat leaf, mulberry root bark.
- Psoriasis caused by blood stasis (dark, thick, hard scales on the skin): Tao Hong Si Wu Tang.
- Psoriasis caused by blood heat (reddish, itchy skin): rehmannia, red peony root, and tree peony root cortex.
TCM also suggests that acupuncture can help with skin problems. Acupuncture needles can boost collagen and elastin production when inserted into the skin. Furthermore, the practice mainly fixes internal issues that affect the condition of the skin.
It is important to take care of our skin every day to ensure that skin conditions don’t occur. With simple practices, you can have healthy, glowing skin in no time. Adding in TCM practices can also help you with your skin health and treat various issues.
This is an adaptation of an article, “Facing The Facts: Tackling Skin Issues”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
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