Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re redheads, we get sunburned easily, blah, blah, blah, whatever. That’s easy – stay out of the sun, use sunscreen (preferably a natural zinc-based one), and take a vitamin D supplement if you test low. BUT how many of you also are prone to eczema, dandruff, rashes, hives, skin allergies, psoriasis, etc? How many of you are sensitive to skin products and make up? Or am I the only one?
The first time I noticed my sensitive skin was when I was about 4 years old. I had been out in the neighbor’s yard and came home and my mother said, “Have you been playing with the neighbor’s cat?” “No,” I said guiltily all the while thinking, “How did she know?” She knew because I was covered head to toe in rashes. I hadn’t even really noticed them and was probably was scratching them obliviously. She had promptly put me in a bathtub and then covered me head to toe in hydrocortisone cream. I grew up thinking everyone used hydrocortisone cream as body moisturizer. And thus my lifelong struggle with skin issues began. I have had allergic rashes, anxiety rashes, eczema, dandruff, and cystic acne. My absolute favorite skin condition was when I had skin rashes and cystic acne at the same time and just inches from each other…..gggggrrrr what is up with that?
I’ve also had great spaces of time when I’ve had absolutely flawless beautiful skin, but it takes a certain amount of care to get there. Our skin shows our stress, our allergies, our lack of sleep, and even our digestive and metabolic issues as it is one of the organs where the body eliminates waste. It needs to be cared for – nutritionally from the inside out.
But how? Dietary fat has been given a bad name over the years. The truth is that you and your skin need fat, including both saturated fat and essential fatty acids; however, the standard American diet tends to be too high in inflammatory saturated fats and too low in anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3s. The idea is to rebalance the types of fats and to switch to healthier sources of each.
Switch Out Your Fats and Oils:
-For cooking, switch to an unrefined coconut oil. This is a natural vegetarian-based saturated fat that doesn’t cause the same cardiovascular problems as animal source saturated fats. It also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and is great for the skin – nutritionally as well as topically.
-Buy a high quality extra virgin olive oil and use it to make your own salad dressing vinagrette by adding lemon and herbs. Olive oil shouldn’t be used for cooking as it oxidizes easily. I recommend buying it in smaller quantities more frequently to avoid it going rancid. If you want to buy larger quantities, store it in dark bottles in the refrigerator to increase shelf life where it will solidify, then remove it once you are ready to use it.
Increase consumption of the following:
-Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, walnut, sunflower and almonds will add more essential fatty acids like omega 3s and 6s to the diet. They are a good plant-based source of zinc and vitamin E which are both important for optimal skin health. These foods add much-needed fiber to the diet, which assists with proper elimination of toxins and waste. I just remembered how much I used to eat fresh and raw nuts as snacks at work and recently switched back to them as a morning snack. They are so satiating, and believe it or not, I’ve noticed that I’ve dropped a few pounds. Try soaking raw nuts or seeds overnight in salt water then dehydrating them in the oven on the lowest heat setting for a few hours until they are crunchy. Yummy! This also makes them a little easier to digest.
Eat Seafood Once a Week: I believe redheads proliferated in northern Europe for a reason! Download safe seafood recommendations from Seafood Watch and choose deep sea fish which is higher in essential fatty acids.
-Eat Plenty of Fruit, Vegetables, and Whole Grains: The skin loves phytonutrients such as ACES (Vitamins A, C and E), beta carotene, chromium, selenium, and zinc.
Decrease consumption of the following:
-Avoid trans-, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats or oils: The body doesn’t know how to metabolize these fats and it can show up on the skin. Every single time I indulge in greasy french fries, I get a big fat zit usually right in the middle of my forehead!
-Avoid refined sugar and alcohol as it may contribute to essential fatty acid deficiency.
Consider Supplementing with the Following:
-Purified Fish Oil or Flax Seed Oil: 3000mg a day of omega 3s. For fish oil, I like Nordic Naturals. For flax seed oil, I like Barlean’s.
-Probiotics: Skin issues can be caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Be sure to get a supplement that has 10 strains of both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, that ensures 15-30 billion active bacteria, and that has enteric coating so that it travels to the small intestine before dissolving.
-N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC): This amino acid is rich in sulfur, assists EFAs in their function of reducing free radicals, and provides liver detoxification support. Start taking 500mg three times a week and work your way up to taking 500mg daily. Then slowly increase your dose over the course of a few months to 1500mg/day.