The Health Case for Vanity

By Shellie Rosen, Ph.D., Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)®, DOM, L.Ac.

Skin hides beneath layers of clothing where sinister potential skin cancers may go unnoticed. Spots, rough patches, and scaly skin are early signs of skin cell dysfunction (premalignant cutaneous neoplasms) that can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. Luckily, some therapies stimulate healing in damaged, vulnerable skin to prevent cancer from developing or reoccurring. Novel treatments can help push the reset button on a potentially dangerous situation by removing layers of skin or reducing inflammation, leading to more vibrant-looking skin and whole-body health.

Skin becomes harmed from exposure to toxins and excess UV radiation, creating oxidative stress. A diet high in antioxidants helps combat the impact of these stressors, but exposed skin can become overwhelmed, forming actinic keratoses (AK). AKs are small, slow-growing, scaly skin patches that surface around age 40. Sometimes AKs heal without treatment, but nearly 10 percent transition into squamous cell cancer. If not treated, the cancer can spread throughout the body. Skin carcinoma kills about 3,500 Americans per year. Healing existing AKs prevents them from becoming dangerous.

Chemical peels and laser resurfacing improve the look of skin and help its health and function. In 2021, the Journal of Dermatologic Surgery published a systematic review of “chemical peels as field therapy for actinic keratoses,” lauding the use as a favorable option. Laser therapy is effective in removing AK-damaged layers of skin. Prescription topical creams are currently effective as anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and chemotherapy solutions. However, non-prescription options are also worth considering when treating AKs.

Hypochlorous acid (HOCI) is a small microbicidal molecule electrophile produced in the immune system. It gained attention for its potent effects against bacterial, viral, and fungal microorganisms, including the COVID-19 virus. Additional attention is now on HOCL for actinic keratoses. In mouse studies, topical HOCI has proven to be a photo-chemopreventive against solar UV-induced non-melanoma skin cancer. Topical HOCI “blocks tumorigenic progression in UV-exposed… high-risk mouse skin.”  Epidermal thickness “common in UV-induced hyperplasia” was diminished by more than 50 percent after HOCI application, according to scientific research journal Redox Biology 2021.

Skin creams with HOCI may be worth investigating along with other topicals, such as Kanuka honey. A PubMed case study in 2018 titled “Successful Treatment of Actinic Keratosis with Kanuka Honey” shares the details of a 66-year-old patient with a scaly AK plaque who applied the honey for three months. This treatment resulted in improved “skin integrity” and no signs of AK.

If you miss the chance to treat an AK early, visit the dermatologist before things worsen. In many cases, removal is an in-office procedure involving local shots for pain. Some cases require topical chemotherapy cream or additional surgery to remove more cells. Consider HOCL post-treatment, too, as the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology has published research illustrating HOCL as a superior component for the healing of wounds.

This holiday, consider a gift card to pitch in for a chemical peel or laser resurfacing for loved ones, as the treatments are pricey. Spots on the head or face are commonly affected by AKs, and treatments will lead to better-looking and functioning skin. Skin creams with HOCI or Kanuka honey are other gift options. Take photos of your spots and note where to point your dermatologist for future visits. Remind family members over age 40 to begin scouting for spots and caring for skin.

Abundant blessings on your beautiful, healthy skin care journey.

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