Instead of treating sensitive skin topically, with lotions and creams, why not treat it from the inside out with diet?
About half of the American population says they have sensitive skin, defined loosely as tingling, chafing, burning, itching sensations when exposed to various environmental factors. A similar high prevalence has been reported throughout Japan and Europe, and it appears especially prevalent among women. Often there are no obvious signs, so it was dismissed as a "princess and the pea" phenomenon by the medical community. Now it's largely recognized as a genuine physiological phenomenon, thought to arise from a breakdown of the skin barrier that allows potentially irritating substances to penetrate the skin and generate an inflammatory reaction. So what can we do about it?
In 2011, a paper was published entitled "Supplementation of Flaxseed Oil Diminishes Skin Sensitivity and Improves Skin Barrier Function and Condition." In a randomized double-blind 12-week study, researchers gave women about a half teaspoon of flaxseed oil a day versus safflower oil as a control. That's the amount of oil found in about a teaspoon and a half of flax seeds.
To measure skin sensitivity they painted an irritant chemical on their forearms, and after three months there was significant decrease in skin reddening in the flax group compared to the safflower group. Their skin ended up significantly better hydrated, had significantly better barrier function, was less rough, less scaly, and was smoother. If you watch my 3-min video Flaxseeds For Sensitive Skin you can actually see the changes in a close-up view of the skin. Their skin looked just as dry and scaly before and after the safflower oil intervention, but significantly improved after flaxseed oil.
The best source of flaxseed oil is within the flaxseed itself. Then you get all the nutrition of the whole food, and it's cheaper and more stable than the oil. Make sure to grind them up to maximize nutrient absorption. Unlike flaxseed oil, you can bake flaxseeds without destroying the omega 3s, and you can even store ground flaxseed for a month at room temperature without spoilage or oxidation.
For more on eating your way towards healthier skin, see my other videos:
- Rosy Glow
- Golden Glow
- Skim Milk and Acne
- Preventing Wrinkles with Diet
- Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep
- Produce, Not Pills to Increase Physical Attractiveness
For more on flax, see:
- Flaxseed vs. Prostate Cancer
- Flaxseed vs. Diabetes
- Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Prevention
- Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence
- Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: LisaW123 / Flickr