Ask The Doctor: Dry Skin

Question:  Many in my family suffer every winter with dry skin, particularly on our hands. While I realize this is not a life-threatening problem, it is an annoying condition and when the skin cracks and gets infected, it can be very painful. Is this normal or can it be helped?

Answer:  I can sympathize with your situation even though, as you say, dry skin, is not a life-threatening condition. However, it can be very discouraging and painful. Fortunately, there are simple measures that can provide significant relief.

First, and at the risk of being simplistic, it is clear that the reason the skin is dry is because the hydration level of the cells, in particularly the skin cells, is suboptimal. In other words, there is not enough water in your cells and therefore the cells contract. In addition, the normal oily secretions that the dermal cells put out is sluggish because the glands are unable to produce sufficient oils to balance out the rate at which the oils are removed. The situation is worsened in the winter because the use of indoor heat has, in general, a dehydrating effect, thereby further lowering the hydration level of the cells.

Many practitioners suggest that the solution is to drink more water–usually eight glasses per day of water is suggested. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much as you may already have learned. The reason drinking a lot of water doesn’t work very well is because the water in our cells is actually derived from the metabolism of fats. (The water we drink mostly goes into the blood stream and then out via the kidneys.) It follows, therefore, that when the skin is dry, it means there is a relative imbalance or deficiency of fats, especially compared to the levels of carbohydrates in the diet. I find confirmation of this in my practice in that most of my patients who suffer from dry skin are thin and have been eating a low fat diet. They are also often hypoglycemic and crave sugar. Thus they are eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates but deficient in good quality fat. By changing the ratio, so that more calories come from fats than carbohydrates, the body produced more water for the cells. In addition, the body will now have more fatty acids available for our oil-producing glands, which are our natural moisturizers. Good fats include butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil and small amounts of flax oil.

Other measures that can help this problem include taking fewer baths, or showers and minimizing your exposure to water or soap. While this may cause social concerns, the traditional view was that our natural skin oils were too valuable to be washed off more than, say, once a week. In many traditional cultures, people didn’t bathe during the entire winter! We do know that the oils on the skin are reabsorbed and recycled and do, in fact, have a nutritive aspect. As a compromise, a gentle dry brushing of the skin with a loofah then a quick rinse with just warm water can cleanse the skin and actually stimulate the glands to produce more oil.

A further measure is to use the element Sulfur as a therapeutic aid. Sulfur stimulates the metabolism and in general counteracts excessive drying and hardening of our cells. In this situation the best preparations to use are homeopathic Sulfur 6X, two times per day, or some type of sulfur bath, such as Epsom salts. One can also take advantage of the high sulfur content of egg yolks. Two or three times per week take a warm full bath to which you have added 2 raw eggs yolks, 1 cup of raw whole milk and 1/2 cup of raw honey. This can be used as either a full bath or locally on the area of dry skin.

For topical treatment, I would suggest Aura Glow, a preparation based on peanut oil recommended in the Edgar Cayce readings. With these simple remedies, you should have nice soft skin within four to six weeks.