Natural solutions for clearer skin – A Naturopathic perspective
Updated: Jan 11
What shows up on our skin can also be a red flag for a lot of underlying issues, and unfortunately skin issues can be the most difficult to resolve requiring the most patience, like all things healing from within.
Our skin is the largest organ in the body and has one the most important jobs. It is a sensory organ, a major channel of elimination, a protective barrier against injury and infections, prevents our bodies from losing moisture, and help to regulates our body temperature.
Inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, acne, and psoriasis can be driven by underlying issues within the gut, poor detoxification, chronic stress, the immune system or hormone imbalances.
The first line of defence from a Naturopathic perspective is to start focusing on the underlying causes such as THE GUT, certain health issues like PCOS which presents with elevated androgens (male sex hormones = excess sebum), also what’s going on with diet and lifestyle, and address what may be missing or needing extra support when prescribing supplements.
In saying that, it’s important to understand the basics of what skin needs (and doesn’t need) to function properly.
Removing inflammatory foods from the diet can help which studies have shown cows dairy and gluten particularly those with autoimmune conditions is definitely a priority, as well as removing added sugar which wreaks havoc systemically.
Ensuring proper HYDRATION is key to flush toxins via the kidneys, but also keep skin hydrated. The best time to start is upon waking up by drinking a full glass of water first thing, sip more herbal teas, drink green juices and smoothies and eat lots of brightly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables.
Colourful fruit & veg are also important due to the antioxidants that scavenge for free radicals that can cause cellular damage and ageing, as well as Vitamin C to naturally stimulate collagen production, and repairing damage from UV radiation.
Nutrients skin loves: Zinc, Silica, Bovine collagen, Vitamin C, probiotics, Omega 3s, Vitamin A and Vitamin E.
I can’t stress this enough, without enough healthy fats in your diet, your skin will become dry and inhibit the healing of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, and even acne. Omegas are essential meaning you need to acquire these in the diet have many functions including being neuroprotective, maintain healthy eyes, joint pain and inflammation, and prevent dry brittle hair.
To achieve this in the diet you want to include small portion of avocado, EVOO, wild salmon or mackerel, sardines, nuts and seeds on rotation each day. You don’t need much at all!
Zinc is essential nutrient for skin health having functions in wound healing, hormone regulation specifically lowering androgens where acne is presenting, as well as immune function, cell growth and more. If you eat animal products then you should be covered for the basics, but extreme skin issues often need higher dose supplementation via a Nutritionist/Naturopath.
We should also maintain a good balance of healthy microbes both internally in the gut, but also lets never forget topically on the surface of our skin. Bacteria in the gut influences the overall health of your digestive function and the immune system. Probiotics for skin is a huge topic with many studies and there are specific strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the prevention of eczema, or Bifidobacterium breve for UV damage or acne which can be incorporated into a treatment regime.
Topically, avoiding harsh soaps and using more natural toxic chemical free products on skin is absolutely essential part of skin health and maintaining a healthy balance of microbes on the skin, as well as not aggravating any existing problems. The less ingredients the better and AVOIDING anything with the ever-growing list of endocrine disrupting carcinogenic chemicals from Phthalates, parabens, SLS, SLES, synthetic fragrances, BHT and it goes on and on…There are so many amazing natural skin care and make up brands out there now which makes transitioning to low-tox life easier.
You also want to avoid anything that inhibits natural detoxification and excretion as toxins can be reabsorbed and result in breakouts if constipation is an issue, so you want to ensure you eat a varied and high fibre diet, and you want your liver and lymphatic system firing as much as possible so reducing toxic load is vital and yes that means cut back on the alcohol too.
Incorporating our wonderful sulphur containing brassica family vegetables to help our phase 2 liver pathways such as onions, garlic, shallot, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, as well as turmeric, and green tea have an effect on the liver enzymes involved in detox.
Weekly dry body brushing is a great way to support lymphatic drainage, while clearing dead skin and promoting circulation.
There are also many Medicinal herbs with skin loving actions which I love to use in clinic.
Calendula is wound healing and immunomodulating, targeting the underlying causes of many chronic skin conditions such as Psoriasis and eczema and even acne and can be used both internally and topically.
Nettle is a depurative and is high in Vitamin C which naturally stimulates collagen production, as well as an antioxidant. Nettle can help remove waste and toxins from the body that can build up and come out through the skin as a major organ for elimination. Supporting our lymphatic system our bodies ‘sewage system’ can drain excess fluid away from tissues and escort toxins out of the body.
Supporting our liver function with Dandelion and St Marys Thistle is also key to aid in metabolising and processing all toxins we are exposed to. “Silymarin, a flavonoid complex isolated from the seeds of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), has been demonstrated to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and anticarcinogenic properties in vivo in animal models. Moreover, Silymarin may favourably supplement sunscreen protection and provide additional anti-photocarcinogenic protection from UV exposure.” (1).
Protecting the skin matrix with Burdock (Arctium lappa). “There are two mechanisms of the action of Arctium lappa. Firstly, anti-inflammatory effects in terms of inhibition of IL-6 and TNF-α effectively and continually protect the extracellular matrix from subclinical, chronic tissue inflammation. Secondly, the profound stimulation of connective tissue metabolism (e.g., collagen and hyaluronan synthesis) regenerates the dermal structure (1)”.
Lastly Red Clover which was traditionally used as a blood cleanser and contains Isoflavones which had shown to have positive effects on skin aging, skin thickness and amount of total collagen in animal studies.
Some of my personal favourite skin loving products are listed below:
Skin care brands I love: GWAPA, Lavera, LAMAV, PAI, Raww, No Pong deodorant and Weleda.
Supplements: Nutraoganics Collagen Beauty, The Beauty Chef GLOW Inner Beauty Essential, WellCo The Super Elixer Daily Greens.
Problem skin relief: MooGoo Eczema and Psoriasis cream.
Make up brands I love include: INIKA, Nude By Nature, and 100% Pure.
If you are in need of some support with skin issues please book an initial consultation so together we can find the underlying cause and work on a treatment plan that reaches your goals of healthier skin.
1. PMID: 23431351
2. Braun & Cohen: Herbs & Natural Supplements Vol 2, Pg 825, 2015