The skin is a complicated organ says Karen Davis, Head of Pharmacy at Westlab, the UK mineral salts specialist.

If healthy and well-nourished, it should work normally to form an effective barrier between us and whatever our environment throws at us. “But when the skin is exposed to — for example — irritants in soaps or gels or air conditioning, it may not work as effectively and can dry out,” she says. This is how eczema’s itch-scratch cycle can begin.

Unless moisture is replenished, the skin’s natural barrier can break down — and then the skin itself becomes prone to infection. The problem is, in our day-to-day lives we’re exposed to many chemicals that can harm the skin. “Strong soaps or antibacterial products can strip it of its natural moisture,” says Davis. And while antibacterial products kill bad bacteria, they also kill the beneficial bacteria which help maintain that all-important natural barrier. To counter this, traditional dermatology advises application of emollient creams, which tend to include mineral oils.

“Mineral oil will make the skin feel better by treating the symptom, but it usually can’t penetrate through the layers to give the skin the real nourishment it needs,” says Davis.

 

Essential nutrients

 

Salt bathing is popular for dry, itchy skins, as specialist salts are cleansing and soothing. Salts can be rich in natural barrier building nutrients such as magnesium and other minerals, which are essential for skin health. Colloidal oatmeal, which has been used in herbal medicine for the last 100 years, can calm redness and itching, providing the skin with nutrition and moisture.

“A more natural way to support a healthy skin barrier is with products that include natural plant oils which encourage the skin to retain moisture”

Davis’ tips for healthy, hydrated skin include drinking lots of water, and eating a diet rich in natural oils and also probiotics (in food such as yoghurt) which help maintain the right balance of good bacteria in the gut.

“Eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruit and veg,” she says, and avoid too much sugar which can deplete the body of magnesium and probiotics. “Lastly, if you are prone to eczema fl are-ups, refrain from using shower gels and shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate and soaps that include antibacterials so that the skin can be allowed to work naturally.”

 

Westlab Skin Nourishing Dead Sea Supersalts with Colloidal Oatmeal are available at Boots. 

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