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December 29, 2010

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

TCM advice for dry skin in wintertime

AS the weather gets colder, our skin is the most important protective organ. Outside the house, the skin shields us from the cold, rain and wind; inside it shields us from the warm air (produced by air-conditioning) and hot water.

We expose ourselves to these extreme temperature differences during the wintertime and thereby dry out our skin. As a result, the skin feels irritated and itchy.

However, dry skin is not just a cosmetic or comfort problem. Dry skin becomes a medical issue when it splits, bleeds and doesn't heal.

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that skin problems are related not only to the influence of external factors but also to the health of the body's fluids, functions and its emotional status.

The lung is the organ which nourishes and controls the skin. The lung controls the opening and closing of the pores to regulate sweating. Our skin functions as a superficial lung in our body.

In winter, not only is the skin sensitive to dryness but also the lung should not be exposed to extensive air-conditioning. So, entering autumn and winter, we get thirstier.

If your skin is dry and has fine lines, you might have a yin (cold energy) deficiency, accompanied with a dry mouth, dry eyes and dry bowel movements.

Herbal remedies that address these internal problems can help the skin to heal from inside. The benefit of TCM treatments is that they don't just treat the symptoms of dry skin but the cause from the inside of your body. This prevents the symptoms from returning.

One of the famous ingredients in Chinese herbal remedies for dry-skin care is wolfberry (gouqi). It is the fruit of two species of box thorn. Wolfberries nourish and tone the fluids of the liver, kidneys and blood.

In Western understanding, the active substances are anti-oxidants, vitamin C, linoleic acid, thiamine, beta-carotene, riboflavin and trace minerals.

Nutritional TCM recommendations include some of the same products also considered beneficial in the West, such as avocado, olive oil, honey, pumpkin, spinach, salmon, berries, plain yogurt, walnuts and aloe juice. These foods are moisturizers from the inside and will help your digestive system stay healthy and hydrated.

Additional care advice includes showering with lukewarm water for a shorter time.

Long and hot showers can damage the skin's own protection and make it more dry and tight. Use the air-conditioning system as little as possible and keep the air fresh.

The usage of fragranced lotion and cosmetics should be reduced because it stresses the skin. Additionally, high-fat natural moisturizers (like pure coconut or almond oil) are the best. In general, drink sufficient water or herbal teas to hydrate your body from the inside.

If dry skin is a continuing problem, you may wish to contact a TCM doctor for further help.

(Doris Rathgeber is founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.)

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