Dr.Hauschka Med

Extremely dry skin

When the skin becomes dry and irritated

Many of us have experienced extremely dry skin. The uppermost layer of the skin (epidermis) becomes chapped and cannot maintain sufficient levels of moisture. Scratching the skin triggers a vicious circle of escalating itchiness and dryness. The skin can become flaky, chapped and even painful.

Causes

Dry skin can be caused by a number of different factors. In some cases it is a symptom of dermatitis. A person with a fully developed case of dermatitis suffers from extreme itchiness and weeping eczema. Up to 20 percent of the population of the Western industrialised nations suffer from atopic skin conditions such as dermatitis – among children, the figure is as high as 25 percent.

There is a genetic predisposition to dermatitis. A quantitative and qualitative alteration in the composition of the lipids or a mutation in the protective protein filaggrin may be partially responsible for the defect in the skin's barrier function. These changes mean that the skin is no longer able to sufficiently protect the body from losing moisture, a phenomenon that can be quantified by measuring transepidermal water loss. The factors that trigger the genetic skin disease have not yet been sufficiently explained. Environmental causes seem to play a key role. In today’s society, our bodies are exposed to and must cope with an excessive amount of chemical substances. Added to this are the mental and emotional demands of our families and professional lives. Sometimes it only takes a little nudge to tilt us off balance. We are suddenly raw and vulnerable.

The close links between skin and perception are already apparent in the embryonic phase of human development. Not only the skin, but the nervous system and the sensory organs have the same embryonic cell origin, the ectoderm.

The skin is made up of three parts: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutis. The epidermis consists of multiple strata of cells (keratinocytes), the surface layer of which is mainly made up of dead skin cells (keratinous cells). A layer of lipids and proteins binds the keratinous cells together to form a secure barrier that prevents too much moisture from evaporating from the surface of the body. A change in the composition of the lipids or a defect in the filaggrin, the protein which forms the bond between the keratinous cells, can lead to weaknesses in this natural defence. The skin becomes dry and itchy.

Treating the whole person

The skin is not only a mirror of the soul – it also reflects the body’s internal processes. The surface of the skin contains numerous nerve endings that lead deep beneath the skin. When an organ is weakened or diseased, it can have a visible effect on the skin. Therefore, when an individual is suffering from dermatitis, it is important to treat the whole person. Holistic therapy often makes it unnecessary to treat the skin with anti-inflammatory medicines. Instead, medicinal herbs which have a therapeutic effect on the skin are used. Rather than suppress the eczema, they promote healing.

Skin research in Freiburg: medicinal herbs help the skin
Plants are not just pleasing to the eye. They contain a variety of interesting ingredients such as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories and anti-microbial substances, which are all good for the skin. The usability of many plant substances for treating skin conditions, such as tannins to treat dermatitis, has not been extensively researched before now. The Competence Center skinitial® was founded in the dermatology department of the University of Freiburg in order to close this knowledge gap and ascertain both the healing and the harmful effects of plants and light on the skin. WALA Heilmittel GmbH and the non-profit Dr.Hauschka Foundation are among the sponsors of this project. For additional information on skinitial®, please see: www.uniklinik-freiburg.de/hautklinik.html