The Raw Food Diet And Dry Skin
Diet and dry skin are definitely related.
If you start eating a healthy low fat raw vegan diet, you may notice that your skin becomes drier under certain conditions.
Many people, including myself, find that their skin remains well hydrated and comfortable when they're in humid conditions, which is what most of the United States and other temperate climates experience during the warmer months, and many parts of the tropics experience year round.
Our species evolved in the tropics, and clearly many elements critical for our health are not present in colder climates, or present to a lesser degree.
For instance, our requirement for vitamin D isn't being met for as much as half of the year in some parts of North America, Europe, and parts of temperate Asia because the sun is not strong enough to provide it.
Similarly, our skin was designed to function in humid conditions, and when we're in a low-humidity cold climate - particularly when we're mostly staying indoors in sealed buildings where air is heated and dehumidified by a machine - but also in desert climates which are dry all the time, some people find their skin starts to crack or at least become uncomfortably dry.
The Diet And Dry Skin Connection
Obviously, raw foodists do not have a monopoly on dry skin. People eating even the most fatty diets centered around oil, meat, eggs, and dairy have problems with dry skin, as evidenced by the multi-billion dollar skin moisturizer business.
But those switching to low-fat diets similar in fat content to what we were eating during our species' evolution do seem to have more problems than most (but not all people eating low-fat diets -raw or cooked -have dry skin problems) when the humidity drops.
High-fat diets tend to be expressed to a greater or lesser degree through your skin. When I was initially experimenting with a raw diet and still occasionally had cooked vegan foods with oil on them, I noticed that my skin had a shiny oily quality and that I had to scrub off with soap and a washcloth.
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When my fat content was under 10% of calories and I wasn't eating any oil, my skin didn't have this oily look, and I think this largely accounts for the extra "lubrication," that vanishes when you start eating a low-fat diet.
Regardless of diet, I've always had hands and elbows which become dry during the winter, and the switch to a lower-fat diet didn't seem to change much for me.
I have had many coaching clients and raw-food-eating acquaintances tell me that the switch to a low-fat diet did seem to make their skin dryer, though, so I'm fairly certain this is an issue.
Low Fat Or High Fat?
So this brings up the question: Can a low-fat diet be your best option if your skin isn't in top shape when you're eating it in low-humidity conditions?
I consider the evidence for a low-fat diet to be pretty overwhelming from a health perspective. As I mention in Raw Food Weight Loss And Vitality, all of the longest-lived, disease-free, athletically-dominant populations on the face of the earth eat less than 15% of their calories from fat, far less than the average American, low-carb Atkins dieters, high-fat raw foodists, paleo/primal diet eaters, etc.
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Among other things, this protects them from cancer, type two diabetes, heart disease, high and unstable blood sugar levels, and many other ailments.
In this light, the idea that we might want to eat a high-fat diet for the sole gain of better-lubricated skin in dry air situations seems a bit absurd.
Getting Around The Problem
Obviously, cracked, painfully-dry skin isn't pleasant, and you've got some options when it comes to dealing with it.
Get Out Of Dodge
Although most people will be unable or unwilling to take this route, simply escaping your dry climate, or the dryer part of the year, is the best fix. I lived in tropical Southeast Asia for two years, and during that time I never had dry skin because the humidity level was appropriate. Of course, if you're constantly sitting in air-conditioned rooms the advantage disappears with the humidity taken out by the machine.
Low Fat Doesn't Mean No Fat
Often, new raw foodists obsess about fat, rationalizing that if low-fat is good, taking in the smallest amount of fat possible is better. These people try to avoid all overt fats and end up averaging around 5% of their calories from fat.
There's no good evidence that a diet which derives, say, 15% of its calories from healthy plant fat instead of 10% or 5% will lead to worse outcomes, although my anecdotal experience is that very-low-fat diets do allow for an improvement in athletic performance.
As I mentioned in this video advising on fixes for a low sex drive, many people lose their libido after eating no overt fat for a few days, and I've had coaching clients who tell me theirs does not kick in till around 15%.
Similarly, I've had coaching clients who tell me that slightly higher-fat diets improve their skin lubrication. As long as the intake doesn't go too much higher, I don't think there's any cause for concern.
If you want to know if you're going too high, test your blood sugar levels with a glucometer.
Change Your Skin Care Routine
Most people have skin care routines which they established when they were eating high-fat diets, and they may no longer be appropriate, at least when the humidity starts to drop.
Many lather soap onto a washcloth and grind it into their skin, which is effective when you've got oily skin from eating a high-fat diet. Now that you're eating low fat, try ditching the soap when you don't have a specific stain on you, and perhaps experiment with using the cloth less frequently.
Try to find the balance between clear skin and skin that isn't cracked and painful.
Additionally, using spot applications of healthy moisturizer is the best way to deal with dry skin areas. I think aloe vera (preferably squeezed from an aloe plant) is a good choice. Coconut oil comes in a distant second, but will get the job done.
Forget about the chemical-laden store brand moisturizers.
Finally, consider using a humidifier in rooms which you inhabit for long periods of time, like your bedroom or office. It just might make the difference for you.
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