1. Blackheads, Whiteheads, and Zits
Breakouts for the first time since high school—or ever? You may be looking at adult acne, caused by hormonal shifts, medications, stress, and other factors. Avoid salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and harsh products geared toward teens—they can make matters worse—and choose those suited for more mature skin. Glycolic acid toners, cleansers, creams, and masks gently slough off dead skin cells to prevent build-up that can clog pores, and witch hazel reduces inflammation and fights bacteria, without drying. Or try zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E: studies show zinc is effective in treating acne, and people with severe acne have significantly lower blood levels of vitamins A and E.
2. Brown Patches or Spots
Brownish-gray patches on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, and upper lip may be melasma, a skin discoloration related to sun exposure, birth control pills, and extreme hormonal shifts; it’s especially common in pregnancy. Brown spots (also called liver spots) are usually caused by long-term sun exposure. A skin-lightening cream with alpha-arbutin (bearberry), mulberry, vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice, or hydroquinone—a compound that works by decreasing the formation of melanin—can help. Use sunscreen religiously; choose a mineral-based block made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. And try grapeseed extract or pycnogenol; both have been shown to reduce hyperpigmentation associated with melasma.
3. Flushed, Red Patches
If they’re around your nose and cheeks, it could be rosacea, a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that may also include facial flushing, dilated or broken blood vessels, thickened skin, changes in pore size and skin texture, and small red bumps. The cause is unknown, but rosacea can be exacerbated by alcohol, spicy foods, stress, extreme temperatures, or wind and sun exposure. Topical homeopathic formulations with calendula, chamomilla, rhus tox, thuja, and other ingredients can soothe redness; or try a lotion or cream that contains rutin, bioflavonoids, and wild yam to strengthen capillaries. Use a fragrance-free tinted sunscreen to temporarily camouflage redness, and try taking evening primrose oil and zinc; both can improve redness and other skin parameters.
4. Red or White Bumps or Dots
Keratosis pilaris, caused by plugged hair follicles, is marked by tiny whitish bumps that resemble chicken skin, most commonly on the cheeks, upper arms, and buttocks. Bright, cherry-colored dots that look like red moles may be cherry angiomas, tiny clusters of small blood vessels. Both are harmless—but if they bother you, try natural treatments. For keratosis pilaris, regular exfoliation is a must; use a sea-salt or sugar-based scrub to remove dead skin cells, and follow with a rich moisturizer—dry skin tends to exacerbate the problem. Try treating cherry angiomas with topical essential oils; tea tree, chamomile, lavender, orange, and pelargonium leaf oils can help.
5. Itchy Skin
It could be eczema, a group of several skin conditions; the most common of these is atopic dermatitis, characterized by dry, cracked, and inflamed skin with intense itching. Red patches with a silvery-white coating and milder itching may be psoriasis. Most commonly seen on the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that leads to overproduction of skin cells, which then become inflamed, itchy, and irritated. While eczema and psoriasis are different conditions, the treatment is the same: use gentle, unscented soaps and cleansers, and keep skin well-hydrated to minimize dryness and itching. Look for creams and lotions that contain neem oil, vitamin E, pine extract, pycnogenol, bearberry, or Cardiospermum halicacabum to tame itching. And try taking fish oil, vitamin E, vitamin D, and selenium; all have been shown to help reduce psoriasis and/or eczema.
6. Rashes and Irritation
Contact dermatitis, a form of eczema, occurs when skin is exposed to an irritant, like detergents, poison ivy, latex, nickel jewelry, or chemicals in body care products. It’s marked by a rash, redness, burning, itching, or swelling, and sometimes includes small blisters or raw, peeling skin. Most rashes caused by contact resolve on their own in a few days to two weeks; in the meantime, if you’re exposed to an irritant, wash the affected area well with mild soap and cool water, and apply a soothing salve; look for those with chamomile, calendula, licorice, marshmallow (hypericum), or aloe vera.
A Natural Anti-Inflammatory For Your Skin
The oil that comes from the seeds of the evening primrose plant contains a high amount of its active ingredient, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA leads to the important prostaglandin E1 series (PGE1), which are important hormone-like substances that help reduce inflammation in the body. Studies have shown evening primrose oil, found in Natural Factors Ultra Prim, to be helpful in cases of eczema, dermatitis, and acne. In fact, one study found that 62 percent of those patients with severe eczema treated with 2 grams of EPO twice a day saw improvements after 12 weeks or less. The anti-inflammatory element of EPO may also be beneficial for cardiovascular disease, allergies/asthma, premenstrual syndrome, and arthritis.
Meet the Expert: Dr. Marita Schauch is the author of two books, Making Sense of Women’s Health and Collagen Myths & Misconceptions. She also coauthored The Adrenal Stress Connection. In addition to her clinical practice, she lectures across North America, educating people on positive lifestyle choices.