Skin Problems and Solutions

Rosacea: Causes And Treatment
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The flushing and redness caused by this chronic facial skin condition is really distressing to sufferers - increasingly, young women. Secondary symptoms include facial burning, stinging, papules/pustules, dryness or oiliness. The area’s most commonly affected are the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin, but the eyes may be involved too (ocular rosacea), making them sting and feel gritty. Sometimes the skin swells and thickens; if this happens around the nose, it's called rhinopyma, or bulbous nose. (Incidentally, although it's sometimes called acne rosacea, this condition has nothing to do with acne.)
 
Conventional drug treatment focuses on treating the secondary symptoms, rather than the flushing, now generally believed to be caused by a disorder of the blood vessels in the face, which become hypersensitive to internal and external triggers. These results in more blood flow through the facial skin, causing more inflammation and more damage, making the condition progressively worse. However, no one knows the underlying cause of rosacea, and it is difficult to treat. Some doctors believe that the only effective way of treating the disorder in the blood vessels is to 'shut them off' with laser treatment, used in conjunction with lifestyle changes and skin-calming products. But, even if this does work, it is unlikely to be a permanent cure and may need to be repeated one to three years after the first series of treatments.
 
There is a wide range of triggers, including alcohol, spicy foods and hot drinks, food intolerances, sunlight and extreme temperatures (such as those found in saunas), stress, anger or embarrassment and excessive exercising.
 
Research shows that people with rosacea may not produce enough stomach acid (HCI), which helps digestion, and that supplementing diet with this at mealtimes can improve symptoms. Additionally, stress often interferes with HCI production, and many sufferers experience much worse symptoms when stressed. One study found that members of a subgroup who had indigestion after eating fatty foods were deficient in the pancreatic enzyme lipase, which helps to digest fat. When they were given pancreatic enzyme supplements with meals, their indigestion and rosacea improved. Constipation may be a contributing factor, too.
 
Drugs that cause blood vessels to dilate are another risk factor, and a small skin mite (Demodex folliculorum) occurs in far greater numbers on the faces of rosacea sufferers and may be an exacerbating factor, stimulating an immune response that results in inflammation.
 
Reproductive hormones may be involved, too. Many women report more flushing episodes and increased numbers of bumps and pimples at the mid-month point in their cycle and during menopause. So, rosacea is complicated. Leaving aside laser treatment (which may be effective, but is expensive), it makes sense to start by identifying individual triggers and avoiding them as much as possible. After that, it's a case of following an anti-inflammatory regime in much the same way as for acne, including diet, stress management, supplements and soothing topical products.
 
Natural prescription
 
Essential Fatty Acids are the best starting point for supplements, because they have an anti-inflammatory effect, help to cleanse the colon (thus improving any problems with the gut) and also help to balance hormones. In a small study, a comprehensive fatty acid supplement containing omega-3, 6 and 9 (Ultimate Beauty Oil, by Viridian) significantly helped some participants.
 
A good probiotic will help balance bacteria in the gut, which are known to have an effect on the skin and help get rid of acids and toxins that may kick off inflammation.
 
Topical treatments containing specific compounds have been shown to help rosacea in clinical trials. These include creams or ointments containing one or more of Chrysanthellum indicum, green tea, liquorice and niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 (nb: don't be tempted to take this as a supplement internally).
 
Azelaic acid cream, which is based on derivatives of wheat, rye and barley, appears to be as effective as topical metronidazole (an antibiotic) at reducing papules/pustules and slightly better at reducing skin redness. Physicians rated the overall improvement with azelaic acid as better than with metronidazole and patients preferred it, although some experienced stinging on application. ActivClear cream contains a combination of skin-repairing and soothing agents, including tea tree oil, zinc sulphate, vitamins A, Bl, B5, B6 and E, plus the herb tribulus, a yellow-flowered plant also known as puncture vine. Pycnogenol, an extract from the marine pine bark tree, has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, and may help the fragile capillaries and strengthen outer layers of the skin. A cream containing MSM, a form of sulphur (which is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory), aloe vera and calendula is popular with some sufferers.
 
A good mineral-based sunscreen is vital, as UV light and heat will aggravate the condition, as will cold winds.
 
Milia
 
Milia are tiny white bumps or small cysts which appear when dead skin becomes trapped in little pockets on the skin surface. Primary milia are found on the faces of babies and adults, while secondary milia occur in areas of inflamed or injured skin, particularly sun-damaged skin. In babies, they tend to disappear within the first few weeks of life. In adults, however, they are difficult to remove without the risk of scarring, so it is best to consult your doctor or dermatologist. (Some skilled beauty therapists are adept at dealing with them with a fine needle and magnifying mirror.) The most likely risk is smothering the skin with heavy skincare products, which prevent dead skin cells being exfoliated. So avoid anything with mineral oil - which can clog pores - exfoliate regularly and opt for light, simple products. If you get milia around your eyes, or on the lids, you may need to change your eye make-up and remover.
 
Thread veins
 
Thread veins (spider, broken or capillary veins) are small dilated veins or capillaries (blood vessels) found on the cheek, nose and legs. They are usually red, though larger veins may appear to be bluey purple. They can start to show up as a result of sun exposure, smoking, thinning of the skin due to over-use of steroidal creams, and often after pregnancy or weight increase. Conventional treatments include laser therapy and sclerotherapy (saline injections) but there are some good alternative treatments and supplements. Topical treatments containing horse chestnut (which is said to increase local circulation and tonify capillaries) may help; pycnogenol (which is said to strengthen the capillary network) and witch hazel (which may help to shrink the capillaries). Supplementing with dietary pycnogenol could help.
 
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