Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. Sure, when elevated it can lead to heart attacks and strokes, but on the bright side it is good for your skin.
The main function of the skin is to act as a barrier — it keeps things out. The structure of the skin is an incredible feat of engineering that manages to keep you protected while still allowing select things to pass through.
The way it accomplishes this is to employ fats. Yes, there is a natural layer of grease on your skin. In order to provide a relatively water tight seal, your skin synthesizes and releases fats and cholesterol at the surface which function as a sealant and a water repellent. Without it, the moisture in your skin would evaporate, and any liquids that came in contact with your skin would be soaked in.
Cholesterol is one of the main components in this greasy layer. Just as cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) such as Lipitor®, Vytorin®, and Zocor® lower the cholesterol in your blood, they also lower the cholesterol in your skin. People on cholesterol-lowering drugs often have dry skin exactly for that reason.
So do you have to choose between smooth skin and a stroke? No. Of course continue taking your statin as directed, but here are some things you can do to try to counter the drying effects of your medications:
- Take Omega-3 supplements; they can bolster your skin’s natural barrier by delivering good fats.
- A good place to find Omega-3 is in flaxseed. Try 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil with your morning shake. You can also add actual ground flaxseed to your cereal or baked goods.
- Avoid drying soaps. Using harsh soaps like Irish Spring®, especially in the winter, can strip these natural oils off your skin, exacerbating the problem.
- Use non-soap cleansers. Dove® is a great cleanser that helps maintain your skin’s natural oils.
- Use soaps only in select body parts. You know where I mean. Your arms and legs and back don’t need to be scrubbed with soap everyday (unless of course you work out).
- Avoid long, hot showers. The hot water strips oils off your skin.
- Moisturize daily. Use a body cream and apply everyday after your shower to replace some of the fats you lost from bathing.