I get so many letters like yours. We have to remember that skin is a living, breathing, constantly changing organ. You can compare its structure to the layers of an onion. The outer layer, or epidermis, consists of cell strata that are in a constant process of turnover, with a life cycle of about 27 days. The very top layer of cells (stratum corneum) is at the end of the cycle; it’s also called the horny layer because cells here are basically “dead”.
As this outer layer peels away, the next one is exposed, dries out and peels away in turn. All the action takes place in the middle layer of skin, or dermis, which is home to nerves, blood vessels, glands, hair follicles and cells that are actively multiplying; also elastin, which provides firmness and elasticity, and collagen. Under that is a fatty layer, which cushions the skin from bones and muscles.
The cells in the epidermis are mostly keratinocytes, which contain keratin – a fibre that packs the cells in straight lines, and makes the outer horny layer a tough, resilient, waterproof membrane. This vial barrier protects the body against invaders such as infections and toxins, and equally stops vital body fluid getting our (although toxins from the gut can be diffused to the surface via the blood vessels in the dermis and eliminated).
The degree of dryness that you are experiencing is abnormal. however. The reason for your ‘snowstorms’ is probably that your skin’s life cycle is turning over far faster than it should. There are several possible causes. I’ve noticed that when patients save very high stomach acid, they develop dry, flaking skin, for reasons we don’t understand. Certain types of drugs, including antibiotics, steroids, pain killers and diuretics. and also excess vitamin C (ie, an intake of more than I gramme daily), may cause dryness, as do diseases of the liver or kidneys, diabetes and stomach ulcers. Nutritional deficiencies also lead to similar problems. Most skin disorders, including Eczema and Psoriasis, cause flakiness in the affected areas.
For hundreds of patients, however, the problem is simple: they bathe in over-hot water day in, day out and this causes the skin to burn and moult as it would after too much sun. Showering in tepid water is the solution. In India, it used to be a ritual to massage the body with a few drops of sesame or mustard oil ten to l5 minutes before bathing. This keeps the skin in perfect condition.
Here are some more suggestions:
- Soak three twigs of kadu in a cup of hot water overnight, strain and drink on an empty stomach in the morning. This is a good detox tea.
- Take one capsule of aloe vera twice daily for two months to help skin generally.
- Take two tablets of Stomach Formula twice daily for two months to aid digestion.
- Eat fresh wholesome food, with plenty of oily fish, nuts and seeds, vegetables and non-citrus fruit.
- Eat every three hours to keep blood sugar levels steady.
- Soak ten almonds in room-temperature water for 24 hours, peel off skin and eat in the morning.
- Avoid acidic foods, including citrus and sour fruits (oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, lemons, pineapple, passion fruit rhubarb, tomatoes and kiwi).
- Avoid deep-fried and spicy foods, chillis and chilli sauces, rich curries, all ready-mixed sauces and other foods containing additives and preservatives.
- Avoid conventional soap (which has had the naturally moisturising glycerine removed) and don’t use foam baths and gels – they contain harsh chemicals that remove essential fats from the skin and have been known to cause skin problems. (You could try brands such as Spiezia Organics, tel 0870 850 8851, Neal’s Yard Remedies, tel: 0161 83 1 7875, or Simply Soaps, tel 01603 720869.) Many household cleaners and washing powders seem to trigger skin problems, so consider switching to a brand such as Ecover.
- Massage the soles of your feet and toes with pure sesame, mustard, sweet almond or jojoba oil at bedtime. In some mysterious way, the oil is absorbed and distributed to the rest of the skin. For temporary relief, you can also apply this oil to your body after bathing.
Bathing and cleaning