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February 2, 2010

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Soothing dry and itchy skin

COLD dry winter weather is the time to be good to your skin, from inside out.

The cold weather not only robs people of heat, but also of moisture from the skin's lipid layers and sebaceous glands. Skin can get scaly, flaky and itchy.

Indoor heating and frequent use of hot water to bathe contribute to dryness, and experts suggest turning down the heat, using a humidifier and using less hot water less frequently, using mild cleansers. Hydrating facial creams and body lotions help.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners suggest eating blood- and energy-reinforcing foods like jujubes and gouqi (wolfberry) to improve skin condition.

To resist the cold, the muscles and blood vessels in the skin contract to reduce heat loss. This also reduces blood circulation, reduces sebum production and depletes the lipid layer so the body loses natural oil.

Those who suffer the most from dry itchy skin are elderly people with insufficient blood, those who drink and smoke too much, those who eat too much spicy foods and children with allergies, says Dr Li Yongmei, chief dermatologist at Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.

"The function of sebaceous glands declines with aging. That's why skin itchiness happens more often in the elderly," says Dr Li. "Unhealthy diet, drinking and smoking can lead to shang huo (ascending fire) internally that burns up the internal moisture and causes dry, itchy skin."

A healthy diet for healthy skin should include plenty of water and fresh fruits, vegetables and foods rich in vitamins A, C a B complex. These include carrots, celery, cod-liver oil, wheat bran, potatoes, peas, soy beans, and bananas.

TCM holds that the skin is nourished by foods that help nourish lungs, spleen and reinforce blood and energy. These include red glutinous rice, jujubes, lotus seeds and qianshi (gorgon euryale seeds).

Taking long hot showers every day in winter increases moisture loss as it opens pores and washes away natural oil,

Dr Li suggests not washing all over every day with hot water if possible, and not using strong soap, but mild cleanser or weakly acidic bath milk. Water shouldn't be above 40-45 degrees Centigrade. After bathing, don't rub dry too vigorously, because that too rubs away natural oil and aggravates dryness and itchiness.

After bathing use a moisture lotion right away, especially on limbs with fewer sebaceous glands. Cover up right away, this will keep the moisture from evaporating.

Air-conditioning blows warm air in winter and reduces humidity, which also worsens dry skin conditions. A humidifier helps, so do water plants and fish bowls. Placing a bowl of water by the bedside can keep the skin moist during sleep.

Loose-fitting cotton underwear, rather than synthetic garments are recommended to reduce chance of itching. Clothes that produce static electricity should be avoided, as they produce a lot of positive ions that rob the skin of moisture. Soybean The soybean is known as the king of beans for its high nutrition, especially high-quality protein. Soybeans contain three times the protein contained in eggs of the same weight.

Protein is essential to healthy cell functions and building protein. Deficiencies cause loss of muscle and problems with skin, hair and nails.

Soybeans also contain carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids like linolic acid, oleic acid and linolenic acid.

Linolic acid helps promote healthy nervous system development in children and helps reduce cholesterol; it's helpful for patients with high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

It contains a range of B vitamins that accelerate metabolism and relieve skin problems. Soybeans are rich in micro-elements like iron, calcium and potassium.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that soybeans can help improve the complexion, reinforce energy, improve appetite, provide overall nutrition and act as a laxative.

Soybean and pork chop soup

Ingredients: Pork chops (500g), soybeans (50g), green onion pieces, sliced ginger


Soak soybeans in warm water until they fill out. Chop the pork and boil. Combine pork, soybeans, green onion, ginger and (a little) salt. Simmer until pork is soft.

Benefits: Reinforces energy and blood, benefits the skin, strengthens bones and improves complexion.

Soybeans, onion and red wine

Ingredients: soybeans (250g), sliced ginger, chopped green onion, soy sauce, sugar, red wine


Wash and soak beans in warm water until plump. Boil beans until soft and remove them.

Pan fry beans with ginger, onions, a little oil. Add sugar, red wine and soy sauce.

Benefits: Reinforces energy and blood, improves appetite and complexion.


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