Chronic Skin Conditions Demand Internal Solutions
by Heather Granato

One in three teens would give up a date with Cindy Crawford or Brad Pitt if it meant freedom from acne, according to a survey by the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD). Such drastic measures may not be necessary, though, if teens -- and their parents -- discover a more natural and effective way to clear skin.

Chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema, herpes and dandruff plague more than 90 percent of the population at some time during their lives. Americans spend more than $100 million a year just for nonprescription acne treatments, not including special soaps and cleansers.

Because outer beauty reflects inner health, it makes sense that treating imbalances internally has an outward effect. "You cannot separate form and function by treating just the external," says Gregory Young, Ph.D. (Oxon.), CEO of San Diego-based Vaxa, a cosmeceutical manufacturer. "Like plants, our metabolism works from the inside out to rebuild on an ongoing basis."

The first steps to healthy skin are the basics: eating a healthy, organic diet, drinking lots of pure water to hydrate the body and exercising to flush toxins. But we all need help from time to time to battle stresses that show up on the skin. And those stresses are increasing daily. Environmental toxins, a rapidly changing job market, getting married and getting divorced--internally and externally such stressors tax the immune system, which is the first line of defense for all the body's organs. "There is more stress everywhere these days," affirms Eve McClure, president of Eugene, Ore.-based Quantum, a personal care manufacturer.

Stress is a particular factor in flare-ups of acne and herpes. There are more than eight types of acne. The most common form, acne vulgaris, is characterized by hair follicles being plugged up and infected; AAD says it is primarily a hereditary skin disorder.

The herpes virus shows up in a variety of forms--chicken pox, shingles and cold sores most significantly. It is estimated that four out of five people in the United States carry the herpes virus, but it only becomes medically significant in some people. In those that do suffer from cold sores or shingles, environmental stress in particular is a determining factor, though the stress of menstruation also can precipitate an outbreak.

Natural therapies are particularly attractive for avoiding herpes outbreaks, because there is no cure for the virus. Intake of L-lysine, an amino acid, has been singled out for its ability to block uptake of L-arginine, which the virus needs to replicate. "The medical community recognizes lysine's effects in controlling the herpes virus," McClure says.

Even beyond advocating lysine, increasing numbers of health professionals are accepting nutritional ideas for treatment of ongoing, incurable conditions. "Mainstream medicine is actively drifting toward alternative therapies and medicines," says Steven Smith, M.D., formulator and CEO of Tulsa, Okla.-based Loma Lux, a homeopathic product manufacturer.

Treatment does exist for more transient conditions such as dandruff and eczema. "Problems such as eczema are probably not genetically based," Young says. "Rather, most problems come about because of a lack of homogenization between the oil and water in the skin." Interestingly, a topical treatment can work in this scenario, as long as the needed nutrients are being delivered to the system through transdermal delivery. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which have been the darling of the media, can be particularly helpful in this regard, as they outwardly condition the skin while delivering nutrients to the dermis. The boom in sales of AHA products evidences Americans' desire to find a new way to treat conditions without seeing the doctor.

And looking for alternatives to seeing a health professional is pervasive. Even the AAD admits that only 9 percent of all teens with acne go to see a dermatologist, though almost 100 percent of males will be afflicted with acne at some point in their lives.

Some information provided by the Article Resource Association.