Holistic Skincare Philosophy: Skin as Metaphor

Your Skin is What Comes in Contact with the World

wetappleYour skin is the barrier that divides you from the world around you, and at the same time the surface with which to touch the world.

Your skin gives the first impression of your age, beauty, and degree of health and exposure to the elements. As our population ages and strives to remain youthful, maintaining radiant skin has become a high priority. Modern dermatology and pharmaceuticals have made it possible to control the symptoms of aging, as well as many disfiguring skin conditions, but sometimes at a price of significant side effects. Some skin conditions never seem to clear properly with conventional drugs.

By working back along the causal chain to address the root cause, and using more natural therapeutic agents to do so, we can reduce or eliminate the conventional medications and produce more lasting improvements in skin condition.

Scientific Research that Led Me to Understand Underlying Causes of Skin Conditions

I have been a pioneer in this work, creating the field of holistic dermatology over 40 years ago. As a Visiting Scientist at the Dermatology Branch of the National Institute of Health, I was greatly aided by the information and perspective I derived from my research. I studied the mechanism by which the body’s white cells (lymphocytes) recognize and react to foreign substances. We explored the ability of a foreign chemical to incite an allergic response when combined with a different target. We found that the new combination gave a strong response if the new target had similar genetically determined surface structures know as transplantation antigens.

Discoveries in Cross-Reactivity and Inflammation

In a related fashion, the chemical or bacteria aggravated allergic attack toward one structure, inciting a reaction at a target somewhere else in the body, has been called “cross-reactivity.” It took almost 20 more years for that relationship to be popularized in the medical literature as a summary article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. So, having this understanding from my work two decades early on helped me see the relationships between all sorts of foreign stimuli and the inflammatory skin disorders that followed.

Experimenting with Holistic Treatment for Skin Conditions: The First Good “Side Effects”

teaI was privileged to have a number of patients who were willing to try my suggestions in addition to their regular therapy, and get improvements with the integration of complementary techniques into conventional dermatology. I have helped thousands of patients in this way, who were willing to take responsibility themselves by making dietary changes and taking supplements.

The wonderful thing about correcting underlying problems to improve a skin disease is that often other symptoms which the patient thought were unavoidable, begin to clear up. In other words, they have good “side effects” instead of bad. A few examples:

A young man with acne makes the effort to give up one of his favorite foods, milk, and not only does his acne improve, but his chronic asthma clears, so that he can breathe without inhalers and other medicines.

Rebalancing of minerals in a patient with scleroderma-like changes of the tips of her fingers leads to resolution of her previous problematic infertility, which had puzzled the specialists at a high-powered Medical Center-based fertility clinic.

Digestive supplements helps not only acne, but also chronic problem of indigestion.

Treating yeast condition improves digestion as well as patient’s scalp condition

Patients put on vitamins, minerals and supplements to treat the cause of their skin condition often remarked on having more energy and feeling better than before.

vitaminsOf course, the last improvement was not a big surprise to me; the body functions better when it gets what it needs. The various stresses in our environment, individual genetic weaknesses, and the lack of even the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals in our diets means a lot of people are deficient in what they need. It has been out of my results with skin patients that I have gone on to help other patients as well who wished to get on a nutritional regimen to improve their general health.

Treating More than Just Skin Disorders with Integrative Medicine

Other conditions which respond well to my treatment include Food Allergy, Chronic Fatigue, Candida, autoimmune disorders, digestive complaints, and neurologic conditions. Let us lump together the various bacteria, viruses, pollutants, drugs and other organisms and chemicals and stresses and call them aggravators. Any condition which has an inappropriate immune or allergic attack as part of it, which includes most inflammatory conditions of the skin and elsewhere, has the potential to respond to the identification and removal of the aggravator which started the attack in the first place.

microscopeSometimes, the metabolism of the enzymes which the body uses to break down the aggravator have to be boosted, as do the activity of the organs of excretion ( such as liver and kidneys) which are responsible for removing it. The herbalists call the process “cleansing”, but we can often target specific chemical pathways by which the body breaks down specific toxins.

The better one understands the mechanisms underlying your problem from both a Western scientific viewpoint and the perspective of the complementary healing therapy of your choice, the more likely the integration of those philosophies will produce improvement. My strength as a medical detective is that I have a broad and deep background in Science, Medicine and Complementary Medicine, and can help you navigate through the choices and internet jungle of information with grace.

I have also acted as a “general contractor” for many people, coordinating with their physicians and other health professionals to shift their chronic problems which had previously remained stuck.

Caring for the Earth’s “Skin” as We Care for Our Own Skin

We have an opportunity, to champion the health of the skin of the planet on which we live. The health of that layer affects all life on Earth, and subsequently the health of humans.

Many parallels can be drawn between the health of our environmental “skin” and the skin of the individual. By drawing on these parallels, we can make it easier to have a clear overview of environmental issues that affect the health of the human body and the skin in particular.

For example, we can look at how a “chemical burn” to the Ozone layer of the earth results in more danger of a sunburn to the melanocyte layer of the skin. Exploring the causes of the “chemical burn” and the different ways to prevent it, educating ourselves and the public, and engaging everyone in finding a win-win solution to the problem makes this into an exciting game.

The goal: to improve health and well being by improving conditions in the surface of the earth in which we live.

Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD