Treating Sensitive Skin From the Inside Out

Image Credit: LisaW123 / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Treating Sensitive Skin from the Inside Out

 Instead of treating sensitive skin topically, with lotions and creams, why not treat it from the inside out with diet?

About half of the American population says they have sensitive skin, defined loosely as tingling, chafing, burning, itching sensations when exposed to various environmental factors. A similar high prevalence has been reported throughout Japan and Europe, and it appears especially prevalent among women. Often there are no obvious signs, so it was dismissed as a “princess and the pea” phenomenon by the medical community. Now it’s largely recognized as a genuine physiological phenomenon, thought to arise from a breakdown of the skin barrier that allows potentially irritating substances to penetrate the skin and generate an inflammatory reaction. So what can we do about it?

In 2011, a paper was published entitled “Supplementation of Flaxseed Oil Diminishes Skin Sensitivity and Improves Skin Barrier Function and Condition.” In a randomized double-blind 12-week study, researchers gave women about a half teaspoon of flaxseed oil a day versus safflower oil as a control. That’s the amount of oil found in about a teaspoon and a half of flax seeds.

To measure skin sensitivity they painted an irritant chemical on their forearms, and after three months there was significant decrease in skin reddening in the flax group compared to the safflower group. Their skin ended up significantly better hydrated, had significantly better barrier function, was less rough, less scaly, and was smoother. If you watch my 3-min video Flaxseeds For Sensitive Skin you can actually see the changes in a close-up view of the skin. Their skin looked just as dry and scaly before and after the safflower oil intervention, but significantly improved after flaxseed oil.

The best source of flaxseed oil is within the flaxseed itself.  Then you get all the nutrition of the whole food, and it’s cheaper and more stable than the oil. Make sure to grind them up to maximize nutrient absorption. Unlike flaxseed oil, you can bake flaxseeds without destroying the omega 3s, and you can even store ground flaxseed for a month at room temperature without spoilage or oxidation.

For more on eating your way towards healthier skin, see my other videos:

For more on flax, see:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

13 responses to “Treating Sensitive Skin from the Inside Out

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  1. Need help. I’m a I year old woman who has been plant-based since February 2013. I have lost 35 pounds and am at my lowest why since high school and feel amazing. My arthritis is at bay after sufferingsomepretty hard days. Do glad that is behind me. However, I have suffered from acne my whole life and while it has improved it isn’t gone. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am. I watch my fast intact and sweets in take. Still nothing seems to improve. In fact it is worst note than for a long time. I do have flax seed meal with my oatmeal every morning. Please! I’m desperate. Can you give me any other clues.

    1. My skin was defatted with Minwax floor stripper as I was wearing the wrong gloves which allowed the xylenes to permeate through and wet my hands.

      With all the health problems I had with the chemical, I no longer strip nor wax my floors and do not use any cleaning or pest control products with petrochemicals.

      I now use Nitrile gloves whenever a container says irritant, or do without.

      At the time, the only thing that worked for me was Shea butter emolient made by Mode De Vie. I constantly covered my skin with the product and eventually when the new skin grew back it was softer and more moist than the damaged skin.

      The organic solvent I was exposed to wax mixed xylene isomers and the side effects are nasty. Nothing, absolutely nothing is worth destroying one’s health over. I now wash my floors with vinegar and water or Shaklee Basic H2 trademark
      an Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate if they are really filthy. No more solvents for me!

      For my health, I’ve been eating certified organic fruits and vegetables, and did eat organic meat for decades. Now, I eat vegan to reduce pain and inflammation in my body. And am carefully about the consequences of being near organic solvents, which I could but won’t write a book on.

    2. Hi, try getting some nutritious seaweed/kelp…it contains good nutrients such as iodine which could be missing from your normal food. Also try minimizing fluoride and chlorine in water and toothpaste.

  2. I suffered terribly for 35 years with dermatitis/eczema on my hands. Even with daily flax seed consumption, my hands still were a mess. I had a particularly bad flare up this year and neither Cortisone ointment nor Eucerin cream did anything to help . I finally discovered the solution, thanks to reading “The People’s Pharmacy” column in my newspaper: Noxzema cream. Yup, the blue jar that’s been around 100 years. I did as recommended, just rub it in a couple times a day like hand cream. Within a week my hands were nearly healed and they continued to improve. I am still using it once or twice a day and now my skin is healthy enough to tolerate exposure to irritants that previously would have caused a break-out. It turns out that Noxzema was originally created as a cure for eczema, hence its name: No-xzema. I never would have believed it could help this much, but it has. Too bad it took 35 years to find out. All that needless suffering…

  3. Hi!
    Many people have stopped eating crushed flaxseeds due to Hydrogen cyanide,the Swedish NFA says (on their website :
    The NFA can not give advice about what is a safe dose of ground flaxseed and advises one to refrain from eating ground flaxseed.

    I’m wondering if it really shoub be on the Daily Dozen,omega 3 is very importnat for vegans & everybody else… So I was thinking of chia seeds instead but your video doesn’t say if they need to be crushed or not for the omega 3 to be absorbed.
    It would be really great if one of the moderators/Gregor could clear this up,thanks!

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