At long last, long warm days are upon us! For many, the return of summer is a time to show off more skin while for many others, it a time to hide the outer layer of the body from sun, humidity, embarrassing blemishes. Summer is a strange time for skin issues, but with some holistic and individualized skin care solutions, healthy skin can be attained.
Cystic acne is defined as blemishes that redden the skin, creating cracks in skin or pimples that are raised but originating from deep with the skin layers. Without active treatment, many of these skin eruptions can leave scars. Teenagers and those in their early 20s tend to endure this type of acne, but it can occur at any age from childhood to over 50 years of age. This acne can be found on the chest, back, upper arms and shoulder, as well as on the face. During the summer, the red and painful cysts may occur longer for longer cycles, more painfully, and be sensitive to any exposure to the sun.
Conventionally, the causes of cystic acne are not well known. It is clear that androgens play a large role in the development of these deep-rooted blemishes. For women, hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or polycystic ovary syndrome, or women who have not regulated hormones.
In Ayurveda, the skin is the picture of health in the inside of the body. Cystic acne is tied a very agitated liver and hormonal imbalances. Very rarely is one or the other cause, but a direct combination of liver function and stressed hormonal signaling. Hormones have a direct relationship with skin. The liver is the detoxifier of the body and when stressed, allows toxin to reach the skin (which is another efficient body detoxifier). The most likely cause if these bodily imbalances are due to improper diet. Other toxins, from the environment and skin care as well as emotional toxins can increase the sensitivity and severity of cystic acne.
Treatment would include healing the liver and hormonal imbalance, as well as the gut, by primarily eliminating foods that assault the body. Getting rid of processed foods, such as boxed meals or fast food will greatly improve the body, as well as incorporating a whole foods diet. Easy to digest and cooling meals will greatly help with cystic acne. Dairy tends to be an apt offender for acne. Reducing or eliminating dairy will provide fast and drastic results for many people with any degree of acne. see recipes.
Herbs such as Tinospora cordifolia help mend the liver while Asparagus racemosus improves both androgenic and estrogenic hormonal dysregulation. Neem, both topically and orally administered, will help to stabilize bacterial populations in the skin and gut, reducing the immune response creating redness and raised skin. Probiotics will heal the gut and help with hormonal signaling.
This skin condition may occur in cycles or be always present. It is characterized by extra thick, red patches that may have silvery scales found anywhere on the body, particular the elbow joint and chest. The disorder causes the life cycle of skin cells to speed up, building up new and dead skin cells very quickly. Severity can range from dandruff-like scaling to huge eruptions covering large surface areas of the body. Many sufferers see an increase in the severity or occurrence of psoriasis during the warmer months.
It is thought that cause of psoriasis is linked to autoimmune properties of T-cells and neutrophils. Rogue T-cells attack skin cells and the result is stimulating other skin cells to replicate inappropriately. Furthermore, overactive T-cells trigger naïve T-cell production and neutrophil population increases, as well as other white blood cells. Neutrophils travel into the skin causing redness or may encounter bacteria creating pus. New skin cells created from these encounters inappropriately move to the top layer of skin much too soon. This cycle repeats itself until T-cells are quelled. It is postulated that possible T-cell dysregulation may be triggered by infection, injury, stress, smoking, inappropriate alcohol consumption, vitamin D deficiency, and hypertensive medications.
Ayurvedically, psoriasis is caused by overactive immune system (pitta in the lymph nodes and thymus). This excess heat in the immune system has nowhere to escape, over-transforming T-cells. Furthermore, the top layers of the skin belong to the same stem tissue of the immune system. Pitta gets trapped in the skin tissue, furthering inflammation and stimulation of new skin cells. For the most part, inappropriate diet and lifestyle cause psoriasis, though genetics as well as unsupported hormonal changes can also cause this skin condition.
Ayurvedic treatment would include Tinospora cordifolia to relieve the immune cell over activation as well as to reduce pent up and toxic pitta. Azadirachta indica, an excellent skin herb, may relieve the redness and will start to regulate skin cell production. Boswellia serrata can be used to calm the immune system, especially during the summer time. Triphala (Emblica officinalis, Terminalia belerica, and Terminalia chebula), most famous for its digestive effects, is also an excellent immunoregulator.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema leads to itchy, red patches anywhere along the body that flares periodically. Children and adults suffer alike, and it is not surprising that hot, wet days lead to longer and more intense flares.
Symptoms may include dry skin, red or brownish patches on the face, hands, feet, joings, neck, and scalp. Small raised bumps which may leak fluid could be evidenced, as well as raw, sensitive, swollen skin (due to scratching affected area). Some people experience thickened, cracked, scaly skin.
Many people suffering from eczema have a genetic propensity towards the skin condition, but it should be noted that food allergies may trigger the gene variants. Ayurvedic knowledge agrees that some people are more likely to get eczema, yet further describes that pathophysiology of eczema stems from pitta in the liver and lymph system.
In Ayurveda, treatment begins with diet and sleep schedule. Eliminating foods that may be causing the gut to weaken is key. Many eczema suffers would benefit from eliminating both dairy products (of all animal origins) and nightshades (tomatoes, chili peppers, and eggplant). Nightshades contain alkaloids that are highly pitagenic to some people, erupting the skin. Trifala as well as Tinospora cordifolia will aid in healing the gut.
Many with this skin condition are very driven people, refusing to relax and rest during times of stress. This heat rises, reaching the skin, leaving red patches. Taking time to rest and reduced stress reduces itchy, hot flare ups. Self-massage with coconut or almond oil can cool the skin as well as bring peace to one’s body. Ashwagandha as well as Bacopa monnieri can bring bliss to the mind, calming down feelings of angst and competition.
Summer Dry Skin
Despite sweating and sun screens, some people suffer with dry skin during the summer. For many, the cause could be due to frank dehydration. Air condition uses dry cold air to cool living spaces, pulling moisture from skin. Furthermore, it is difficult to remember to consume room temperature water because one may feel hot and want something icy. A glass of water with ice is a smaller volume of consumed liquid than the glass without ice. Also, cold water slows water absorption, denying some access to water by the gut.
During the summer, many people think that avoiding foods with fats is best. Though heavy fat should be avoided, fats such as ghee, avocado and olive oils should be incorporated into meals to provide the much-needed lipids that protect the skin cells and gut.
Using coconut or almond oil to self-massage will increase moisture in the skin and provide a barrier from the sun and dry cold.
Summer is an interesting time for the skin. With appropriate diet, exercise, and herbs, the reduction of skin symptoms can occur, allowing people to enjoy summer rather than shy from it.