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One of the most common observations I make as a naturopathic doctor is dry skin and dry hair with little lustre. It’s the first thing I look for during an examination, since it’s a sign of two of the most important aspects your body requires: healthy skin to protect against microbes, and secondly, a sufficiently hydrated body to allow inner metabolism to happen efficiently. Of course, as the cold and dry winds settle in for the Fall and Winter months, this problem tends to appear at these times of the year. In this article, I’ll explain the reasons why your skin and hair can get so dry and important points on how to resolve the situation from a nature-based perspective.

Nutrition

The first important explanation of why you are prone to dry skin is based on your nutritional intake. Water itself should make up a significant part of your diet, whether it’s water in your fruit, vegetables, soups and broths, tea, or just plain drinking water. Examine your diet and make sure there’s sufficient amounts of water included. Another important aspect of nutrition is the water-retaining properties of fats. Even though oil and water don’t mix directly, your body has evolved unique ways where fats help contain and retain hydration (water); so what’s the quality of the fats in your diet? One of the most important fats to help this situation are the omega-3 fats (found in seeds like flax and chia, walnuts, fish and small amounts in vegetables). When your body is deficient in omega-3 fats, you develop dry and flaky skin and dry and easily damaged hair.

Circulation

Despite having good nutrition, you may still have dry hair and skin from simply inadequate circulation. If the blood flow to your skin is poor, it won’t bring the nutrition to the skin. Common causes of poor circulation are insufficient exercise, stress and Raynaud’s disease (narrowed blood vessels). In addition, exposing your hair to the dry and cold weather allows for moisture-loss from the outside, so try and keep it covered while you’re outdoors in the cold.

Long Hot Showers/Bathing

Just spending too much time in a hot shower or hot bath actually dries out your skin. It strips away the natural oils your skin has, which removes the skin’s water-retaining properties… presto, dry skin and hair. Try shorter periods of bathing, perhaps 5-10 minutes instead of 10-20 minutes; and consider not bathing daily if you don’t really need to that day.

Excess Hair Washing and Treatments

Even hair washing routines and chemically treatments can strip away the coating of your hair. Consider shampooing once or twice a week. This will often mean less need to use blow dryers and styling irons which will also help your situation.

Skin and Hair Moisturizing Tips

One of the best ways to moisturize your skin directly is massaging oils directly into the skin. As mentioned earlier, fats/oils help to retain moisture, so use oils in your skin after you bathe. Good oils to use are avocado, apricot, coconut, olive, sesame, rosehip, shea or sweet almond. For your hair, apply coconut oil before you wash your hair, which helps retain your hair’s protein component to maintain internal hair structure. You can also use coconut oil after washing your hair to help condition and groom it.

Hormones and Dry Skin and Hair

If the above measures haven’t solved the situation, it’s worth checking out your hormone status. If your body is low in certain hormones (eg. thyroid, adrenal), then you will be prone to having dry (and cold) skin and dry hair. See your primary care practitioner for assistance.

About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.

 

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