Dry, Flaky Skin? Nourish from Within

September 4, 2018 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Dry, Flaky Skin? Nourish from Within
Baby soft, crepe, leathery, dry and cracked, and oily. These are all different terms that describe the largest non-internal organ of the body – the skin. It is more than just a layer of tissue on the outside of the body that covers up the inside. It is a fascinating, complex work of beauty –literally and figuratively.

Skin Fun Facts

There are an estimated 19 million skin cells in every inch of the body. The skin cells that you see now will be gone in about a month, as the body is in a constant state of making new skins cells and removing old cells. About 30,000 to 40,000 are sloughed off each day. In one inch of skin, there is an estimated 1000 or more nerve endings, 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands, and 60,000 melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that make melanin which provide the substance for skin pigmentation.

Some of the most important functions of the skin include body temperature regulation, protection from loss of essential body fluid, detoxification through sweating, protection of the body from radiation, sun, and other elements. It offers mechanical support to fascia and other connective tissue. It is a vital sensory organ for touch, temperature, and communication. It is essential for vitamin D synthesis. In order for our skin to provide these functions, it depends on the integrity and quality of skin, especially its moisture.

Dry Skin

One of the most common complaints with loss of skin health pertains to dry skin. Dry skin is a process that happens gradually over time. Dry skin may appear flaky, tight, red, itchy, and even cracked. If skin is dry, its ability to function as a barrier is impaired. Excessive skin dehydration affects the layers of epithelial tissues and cellular integrity, which may lead to skin cracking. Loss of skin hydration affects skin elasticity that leads to wrinkles and a breakdown in its barrier function. The functions that an intact, hydrated skin barrier does well become impaired with moisture loss. Skin hydration and integrity is akin to wet versus dry sponge. A wet sponge works better than a dry sponge at pliability, flexibility, and movement.

Dry Skin Causes

Common reasons for dry skin include hot showers, hot dry summer temperatures, sunburns, cold winters, central heating, space heaters, fireplaces, etc., lack of water intake, harsh soaps and detergents, and smoking. Occupations that require a lot of hand washing and exposure to harsh chemicals can significantly dry the skin. Chronic exposure to chlorinated water (unfiltered city tap water, swimming pools) also dries the skin out. Psychological and academic stress has been shown to cause dry skin and other skin disorders. Other skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema may cause extremely dry skin. As the skin dries out it, it may crack and cause itching. Scratching dry skin will intensify the injury and skin breakdown.

Chronic dry itchy skin that doesn’t go away with good hydration, proper oils, and collagen support may indicate an underlying disorder. Dry skin and dry itchy skin may indicate hypothyroidism, diabetes, adrenal fatigue, liver disease, kidney failure, HIV, iron deficiency anemia, cancer, food allergies, hormone changes, heart disease and congestive heart failure, and neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, nerve entrapment, and shingles. Lack of essential nutrients like zinc, copper, biotin, potassium, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, fatty acids like EPA/DHA, and GLA can also lead to dry skin. Cadmium heavy metal toxicity may also cause dry skin.

Adverse drug side effects may also cause dry skin. Known drugs include water pills or diuretics, cholesterol lowering medications/statin drugs, antiandrogens, cimetidine/Tagamet (stomach acid blockers), antihistamines, and chemotherapy.

Dry, itchy skin may lead to sleepless nights and distraction from work or day activities – just ask anyone recovering from a bad sunburn, poison ivy, nettles, or psoriasis. Skin cracks and a disrupted barrier may increase the risk of skin infections. Embarrassment may also occur with eczema, dry patches, flaking, and increased wrinkles. Moreover, severe cases of pruritis or severe dry itchy skin associated with kidney failure or other medical disorders experience a significant decline in quality of life.

Long-Term Dry Frail Skin Linked with Frail Health

Skin tears, easy bruising, increased wrinkles, and thin skin are consequences of long-term poor skin health associated with dryness. Skin frailty seen with decreased skin elasticity is even associated with more frail health. Scientists relate dry thin skin and loss of elasticity in thin individuals with more frail health

Think about the amount of skin cells, nerves, and blood vessels and the complexity of the skin listed above in the Fun Facts section. Then think of your elderly relatives or friends who experience easy bruising and skin tears from a simple bump. The outer fragile skin appearance and function correlates with their inner fragile health. Aging gracefully and well is a process that involves the entire body. Skin breakdown and its consequences is no small problem in the elderly. What we do today and tomorrow with our dry skin will affect the skin’s integrity years later.

Optimizing Skin Moisture with Nutrition

Skin integrity and vitality require several nutrients. In fact, we saw earlier that several nutrient deficiencies (zinc, copper, biotin, potassium, vitamin A, B vitamins, essential fatty acids like EPA/DHA, and GLA) lead to dry skin. Yet other nutrients help protect skin cells from oxidative stress, sun irritation, stress to cellular DNA, and other insults to this most unique organ.

Green tea extract, grape seed extract/proanthocyanidins, and silymarin are some of plant-based antioxidants or polyphenols that are highly protective to the skin. Skin protection with plant-based antioxidants helps reduce the wear and tear to the epithelial lining and collagen, which in turn helps keep the skin hydrated.

Other nutrients like MSM sulfur, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides are needed for the skin’s structure, which is essential to moisture management. Sulfur or MSM sulfur is known as the beauty mineral. It is needed to hold collagen together. Without adequate sulfur, collagen cells may still hold water, but cells won’t connect well or bond together. Tensile strength of the skin tissue requires sulfur for the disulfide bonds.

Hyaluronic acid holds about 1000 times its weight in water. The skin’s inner structure or matrix is about 50 percent hyaluronic acid. This combination helps provide baby soft skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles associated with dry skin.

Healthy collagen is essential to holding in moisture in the layers of skin. Intake of collagen peptides has been shown very helpful for connective tissue strength, elasticity, and integrity that lead to improved hydration and fewer fine lines and wrinkles. Squalene, a compound naturally found in olive oil, helps skin moisture levels. Squalene has been found helpful for skin barrier integrity, and due to its hydration effects, it is used for sensitive and irritated skin. More in-depth information may be found below.

Anti-Age Your Skin with Collagen

Hyaluronic Acid – More Than Just Joint Support 

Skin health gets left-over nutrition. This means that internal organs and brain receive attention first with nutrition and hydration. Collagen/amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, water, and oils are needed by the skin just like our internal organs, but when there is only so much to go around, the skin nutritional reservoir may be depleted. If skin shows signs of skin cracks at your fingertips and heels, flaky dry skin on your legs, rough skin on pressure points, or you spend a lot of time in the pool or sun or dry climate, then your skin has taken a beating. Make sure your skin has proper support, especially if you have any of the underlying medical concerns or medications that lead to dry skin. Keep your skin healthy, moist, vibrant and glowing now so it doesn’t thin, breakdown, and leads to more serious health complications.

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