The medical term for pathologically dry skin is xerosis. Xero is the Greek word for dry. Dry skin usually manifests temporarily, but in chronic cases, symptoms may persist for weeks, or in worst case scenarios, a lifetime. Certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and type 2 diabetes may produce symptoms of xerosis.
How Heat and Moisture Cause Dry Skin
Lifestyle factors can cause dry skin, and in these cases modifying your behavior can help reduce symptoms.
Central heating units, fireplaces and space heaters generate warmth, but at the expense of moisture in the air. Try turning down the heat and using hats and blankets while indoors.
Adding moisture to the air can help with dry skin, so consider using a humidifier in your home. For a quick fix, place an uncovered bowl of water in your room and just let it sit. This allows the water to slowly evaporate and add moisture to the room.
Extended time under a hot shower or in a steamy bath also creates dry skin conditions. Avoid noxious soaps and other products which adversely affect the skin. After bathing or washing hands, apply an oil-based moisturizer to slightly dampened skin. The thick oil helps lock in moisture.
The most common symptoms of chronic dry skin include:
- rough patches
- pulling and tightening sensation after being wet
- cracks, which may bleed
- red or gray coloring
Treating Dry Skin with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Xerosis presents physical and mental challenges. Some patients bear the burden of unsightly areas on the skin and, suffer from pain or bouts of itchiness. For some it can be so bad as to interfere with the duration and quality of sleep. Bleeding from cracks, or chafing from overzealous scratching open the body up to infection. For these reasons, seeking help at the first sign of any of these symptoms can help prevent symptoms from worsening.
A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will most likely identify the element of Metal, as the one out of balance, and therefore contributing to symptoms of chronic dry skin. The acupuncture meridians relating to Metal are the lung and large intestine ones. Meridians are fixed routes carrying energy, known as Qi, throughout the body. Acupuncture needles become tools for healing when they tap into this Qi.
The lungs, large intestine and the skin all correspond to the Metal element. Disruptions of these organs can manifest as respiratory, digestive and skin problems. Autumn, bringing its cool and dry weather, is the Metal season. This type of weather, or an arid environment in general, whether warm or cool, can provoke or worsen symptoms of dry skin.
The following is an explanation to help better understand the bond between the Metal organs. Unhealthy matter deep inside the body, such as putrefied food lodged in the colon, can eventually release into the bloodstream. From there, toxins migrate out of the body through the layers of the skin. In this way, constipation in the large intestine, contributes to dryness, itchiness, or other unpleasant manifestations on the skin.
According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the lungs directly affect the state of the skin. This is because they are one of the organs responsible for fluid metabolism. A healthy respiratory system insures the skin receives the proper amount of moisture. Assisting the lungs is necessary to create fluids which can nourish the skin.
Pool in the Bend, an acupuncture point found near the elbow, assists in mitigating dry skin conditions. One way it accomplishes this is by cooling the blood, which benefits the lungs. As the heat disappears, visible signs such as chapped, raw skin should start disappearing as well. Without extra heat to interfere, the process of creating moisture, via the lungs, thrives again. More moisture means a greater delivery of the cooling and nourishing elements, to where the skin needs repairing.
Additionally, for symptoms of dry skin on the chest or arms, this point is doubly useful, as it is also considered a local point. According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, a local point is one situated near to a specific area needing treatment, and so the point derives its power due to its proximity from the ailment. To reveal its full versatility, Pool in the Bend also pushes heat out of the intestines, where it exits through the feces. In this way it relieves the large intestine of problems caused by constipation, which may contribute to dry skin.
Diet and Dry Skin
To protect your skin as the cold and dry seasons approach, consider adding some warming, wholesome foods to your diet. Yams, winter squash, carrots and cabbage help preserve and transform bodily fluids to prevent skin dryness. All of these hearty vegetables taste delicious when baked with a little salt and oil.
To help your skin hold in the moisture, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and spicy, greasy foods. These tend to turn fluids into a more viscous, less manageable substance.
Contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine on ways to deal with symptoms of chronic dry skin.
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.