Designing Skin Friend AM has been a labour of love. It might just look like a normal product to you, but for me, I kinda feel like AM is my third child.
As you might know, AM was initially designed to help my daughter's eczema. That was 15 years ago as it took more than 10 years to develop and test the product before launching it online last year. I have prescribed it to my skin disorder patients for years and years. I have obsessed over the packaging in the middle of the night. I have chosen my favourite colour combo for the labels (grey and camel together... Skin Friend PM is grey). I really do love this product.
Photo: Ayva's skin before and after. My daughter's eczema began when she was a baby and she would scratch her skin until it bled so we put mittens on her hands and used every topical treatment we could find. Nothing worked for her until Skin Friend AM and The Eczema Diet.
In the early days working as a nutritionist, I varied the formula to suit my eczema/skin disorder patients so there were a few versions. Now Skin Friend AM includes some ingredients that went into the early formula and I'm excited to share with you why I absolutely love this particular range of vitamins and minerals. It can also be paired with Skin Friend PM for additional benefits (see my next blog for information on PM).
Why is THAT not in my product?
You might wonder why I haven't put probiotics in my eczema supplement and I've shunned the latest trendy Amazonian ingredients that are guaranteed to have stock flying off shelves like bugs in a bushfire. However, I have very good reasons for doing so.
Often it's what you leave out of a formula that helps it to work the way it should. It's like having a pin number like 54321 to unlock your iPhone7S. Now if you add '8' instead of '5' you won't unlock your phone.
Know what to leave out
Vitamin formulas work in similar ways, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
For example, let's say you want to make an 'eczema formula' with biotin, zinc, B6 and magnesium (to help the FADS2 gene to work properly). It's a great formula until you add vitamin A (retinol forms), cacao or a high dose of vitamin B5 ... Now the formula will dry out your skin and cause it to crack and flake like crazy. Ouch. If you're an eczema sufferer you will be crying into your pillow for the next 3 days.
Natural fruit extracts (and artificial ones)
What about yummy fruit flavourings like natural cherry, blood orange, berry, apple or pineapple? If you have eczema and you had these ingredients in your skin supplement you could soon be itching like you've slept on an ants' nest. You might have trouble sleeping and your sheets might even be covered in spots of blood from last night's itch fest.
Probiotics certainly have a place in treating eczema, however probiotics are rich in amines (histamines) which 35% of people with eczema adversely react to. So for this group of eczema sufferers, probiotics can worsen their eczema. So it was necessary to leave probiotics out of the Skin Friend AM formula in order to make it suitable for a wide range of people.
If you have eczema, it's also important to avoid colours, preservatives and hidden additives as these can worsen your eczema.
Read about each nutrient that I've chosen for AM, below, and find out how it works in the body to aid in liver function, detoxification, acid-alkaline balance and healthy skin.
I love zinc. It's a mineral that is good for balancing the oil production in your skin so people with acne love it too. It's also vital for skin repair and maintenance, helping to speed up wound-healing so it plays a role in managing eczema and dermatitis. (Lansdown, 2007)
Histamine is the stuff that makes you itch and zinc is a natural anti-histamine which can help to reverse histamine intolerance, along with vitamin B6 and vitamin C (Marone, 1986).
As I always say, no nutrient works alone, so zinc is teamed with other nutrients including vitamin B6 and vitamin C for maximum effect. We chose zinc gluconate as it's well tolerated and research shows it can be beneficial for scleroderma.
Vitamin C is vital for the formation of collagen in the skin and, like zinc, it is vital for wound healing. In fact, without enough vitamin C in your diet your skin will mysteriously bruise and cuts won't heal properly.
Ascorbic acid, like zinc, is a natural anti-histamine as it destroys the imidazole ring of the histamine molecule. So vitamin C deficiency can result in histamine toxicity and as a consequence allergic reactions may increase in severity. This is a vital piece of information especially if you have allergies and intolerances.
So if you have allergies and eczema, it’s essential to take vitamin C. The new Skin Friend AM contains extra vitamin C which gives it a pleasant natural citrus flavour (minus the citrus, of course as citrus can flare up eczema). Again, vitamin C is best taken in combination with other histamine lowering nutrients such as zinc gluconate and B6.
I'm in love with taurine as it literally changed my life.
If you are sensitive to chemicals or suffer from anxiety or depression this could be your new best friend (especially when teamed with other nutrients as no nutrient works alone).
Taurine and liver function
The liver plays a major part in the detoxification of many chemicals including salicylates and amines, and taurine is essential for proper liver detoxification, helping to defend liver cells against free radicals and toxins (Devi, 2009). Fatty liver is common in people with eczema, according to Japanese researcher Dr. Kimata, and studies have shown that taking taurine daily can significantly decrease the risk of liver damage and fatty liver (Miyazaki, 2009).
Taurine and anxiety
Skin conditions can create distress and anxiety, and research shows taurine has an anti-anxiety effect (Zhang, 2007). Taurine does this by helping the production of GABA, a calming brain neurotransmitter (del Olmo, 2000).
Taurine deficiency is common in vegans and vegetarians and people with chemical intolerances, so taurine is an important new addition to Skin Friend AM.
Choline is a component in lecithin and is best known for helping reduce the risk of developing fatty liver, which is common in people with eczema (Kimata 2005). Choline works a bit like dishwashing detergent, breaking down fats when you wash a greasy frying pan. In a similar manner, choline breaks down the fat in liver cells to keep the liver free from excess fat buildup that can accumulate and affect the proper functioning of the liver.
Choline instead of lecithin
We added choline to Skin Friend AM so people who are following The Eczema Diet do not have to search for lecithin granules. Lecithin is usually derived from soy (or a gunky brown sunflower seed version, which can dry out your skin). However, our choline is soy-free and sunflower-free so more people can gain the benefits without needing to use lecithin. Choline has a distinct scent but it naturally tastes delicious and tangy!
Inositol is a part of all skin cell membranes and is involved in cellular signalling so it's a pretty important nutrient, helping your cells 'talk' to each other. Like a good football team that works together to win a game, when inositol is teamed with choline they help the liver to process and eliminate fats to create a better functioning liver (Kenney, 1995).
Inositol and depression
Research shows that lower levels of inositol can be found in the spinal fluid of depressed patients. Inositol may be useful as a treatment for depression according to research (Mukai, 2014).
Inositol and psoriasis
According to a small research study, inositol helped to reduce psoriasis symptoms that were triggered by prescribed medications (Allan, 2004).
Molybdenum deficiency signs include acne, allergies, asthma, sulphite intolerance and sensitivity to mould and yeast. So it's important to take extra molybdenum if you suffer from these conditions.
Molybdenum and sulphite sensitivity
Eczema sufferers are commonly sensitive to sulphite-rich products including wine, grapes, dried apricots and vinegar, and it could be due to molybdenum deficiency.
I have worked with many eczema and rosacea patients who are sensitive to sulphites and their skin swells and itches as soon as they consume it. I always turn to molybdenum (and other Skin Friend minerals) to help them. Molybdenum activates an important enzyme called sulphite oxidase which plays a key role in breaking down sulphites in the liver.
Molybdenum is not just a one trick pony, it also helps the liver process carbon, nitrogen, drugs and toxins, so it's an important part of any skin health program designed for eczema, psoriasis, acne, TSW and rosacea.
Magnesium is best known as a muscle relaxer but it's a star in my books for another reason: It helps to gradually decrease food chemical intolerances when combined with team players taurine, calcium carbonate and vitamin B6.
The ability for your body to absorb magnesium naturally declines as you age and magnesium deficiency is common. And while AM can help to keep your magnesium levels up, it's in Skin Friend AM because of another reason: our magnesium is alkaline to balance the acidic ingredients (ascorbic acid and the B group vitamins) so the product is acid-alkaline balanced. This is especially important for people with eczema.
Biotin is famous for making fingernails rock hard so it's in every hair-skin-nails formula. In fact, many supplement companies put so much biotin in that it can cause your fingernails to become so rigid that they snap easily (I learnt this the hard way).
Biotin is a bit of a 'one trick pony' if it's not teamed with other nutrients. So we have added biotin (not too much, not too little) with vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc. This team works together to reduce skin inflammation by promoting the enzyme needed for the FADS2 gene (in the PGE series 1 and 3 pathways).
Chromium saved me when I was suffering from hypoglycemia and bad skin.
And while it's better known as a diabetes treatment, it is an essential part of creating healthy skin for more subtle reasons... Chromium, when teamed with best mate vitamin B3, helps your cells to process glucose better so it helps you to feel good and it decreases the risk of skin breakouts.
Chromium and liver health
Researchers also found that a combination of chromium and vitamin B3 helps to regenerate liver cells and reduce cholesterol, so these two nutrients are in our skin formula for many reasons.
You might know vitamin B1 as one of the 'anti-stress' B vitamins but it's so much more than that. I love vitamin B1 for it's many liver detoxification benefits. Along with vitamin C and other B vitamins, it plays an important part in liver detoxification which can help to gradually reduce chemical sensitivities and food intolerances.
Vitamin B1 and digestive health
Gut health is a hot topic right now and AM is designed to heal and repair the gut lining, as it contains a range of collagen-forming nutrients which help to repair the gut lining.
Vitamin B1 also boosts digestion and improves your gut health as it triggers the secretion of hydrochloric acid which helps you to digest your food properly.
Vitamin B2 is crucial for the healing and repair of your skin. Cracked corners of the mouth and lips are one of the first signs you need more B2 in your diet.
Vitamin B2 is one of many nutrients used in the recycling of glutathione, which is often low in patients with eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
Glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants in the body and plays a big role in detoxification, which is essential for clear, healthy skin. As no vitamin works alone, we have teamed vitamin B2 with other glutathione boosters including biotin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin C.
Vitamin B3 boosts the function of the skin and has shown in clinical studies to protect skin cells from sun damage.
Symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency include fatigue, rough skin, indigestion and dermatitis. It's one of those nutrients that is best taken in low doses especially if you are sensitive (like me). I know some naturopaths and B vitamin supplement manufacturers love to induce a 'niacin flush' with mega-high doses of vitamin B3, but when you already have hot flushing skin (TSW, eczema or rosacea), vitamin B3 works best in the low dose we use in the AM formula. All you need is enough to avoid deficiency and we have you covered!
'Not too much, not too little' should be this vitamin's motto.
Vitamin B5 encourages skin wound healing and promotes the growth of keratinocytes, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy skin barrier function (which is often lacking when you have eczema). So you need a little bit of B5 to have healthy skin, about 1 to 5 mg is plenty.
Vitamin B5 increases glutathione levels which is a powerful antioxidant in the skin. Vitamin B5 is also great for acne when combined with other liver detoxification nutrients.
Vitamin B6 is essential for healthy skin and a normal functioning immune system. Without enough vitamin B6 you would get sick more often than normal. A deficiency in vitamin B6 will also raise your cholesterol levels and it can cause fatty liver so it's important to get enough in your diet.
Why I love vitamin B6 is its talent for acting like a natural anti-histamine in your body, making it a helpful addition for people with allergies and amine intolerance.
Without vitamin B6 your liver would not be able to detoxify salicylates effectively and this can lead to salicylate sensitivity. B6 can also helps your liver to detoxify benzoic acids, food preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG), alcohol and heavy metals, so it's a multi-talented vitamin.
Methyl-folate is like the cool older cousin to folic acid - it's the converted form of folate so it can do more stuff in your body without needing to be converted, like detoxify chemicals and repair DNA.
Remember no nutrient works alone: all of your B vitamins, including folate, are team players and your body only needs small amounts, in the correct ratios. So we've added just enough methyl-folate to supplement a healthy diet which is often rich in folate.
Cracked lips and cracked corners of your mouth are signs your body could be low in folate and other B vitamins so the AM formula should help to alleviate those symptoms.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked with changes in skin pigmentation, cracked corners of the mouth, depression, memory loss and fatigue so you can feel pretty crappy when deficient in this vital nutrient.
Luckily you only need a tiny amount to function properly as a human being - about 5 micrograms will do the trick. Vegetarians and vegans can easily become deficient in vitamin B12 so supplementation is essential for them.
Vitamin B12 detoxifies cyanide, a heavy metal, and with the help of folate and vitamin B6, it converts toxic homocysteine into beneficial methionine and other amino acids. It also helps your body produce red blood cells so you feel energetic.
Nitric oxide and TSW help
But I love vitamin B12 because it can naturally reduce elevated nitric oxide levels which are common in people with TSW.
As always, no nutrient works alone and all of the B vitamins should be taken together so they have all been included in Skin Friend AM.
I hope you now have a better understanding of Skin Friend AM. A lot of thought and care have gone into making it and we love receiving your feedback.
If you have eczema and food intolerances (and allergies) remember to avoid the foods you are sensitive to. Drink plenty of water while detoxing and get some rest.
How to use Skin Friend AM?
It easily mixes into water or you can add it to a warm drink (not hot) or a smoothie, like the following smoothie recipe.
Image: Georgie making the Healthy Skin Smoothie using Skin Friend AM (source 7 News Australia)
Healthy Skin Smoothie recipe
This drink is designed to hydrate and repair your skin and boost liver detoxification.
Here are some tips: Pre-freeze a peeled banana to make a cold smoothie. You have the option to choose between banana and papaya or use both. If pre-freezing the banana, peel it first, slice it into bite-sized pieces then store in a freezer bag or sealed container. Use within three days as banana goes brown in the freezer if not used quickly.
If you are using fresh fruit (not frozen), add a few ice cubes made with water or milk to ensure it’s a lovely cold smoothie.
This recipe serves 1 adult, preparation time 5 minutes (plus optional freezing time).
Click on the image to see the 7 News story where the Healthy Skin Smoothie and Skin Friend AM were featured:
- ½ ripe banana, peeled and chopped (normal banana, not ladyfinger or sugar as these contain salicylates which can worsen eczema)
- 1 slice papaya or pawpaw, skin removed (use fresh or frozen)
- 1 ½ cups milk (such as Cashew Nut Milk, organic gluten-free soy milk, rice milk or oat milk)
- ½ teaspoon flaxseed oil (up to 2 teaspoons if well tolerated)
- Skin Friend AM (1 to 3 scoops depending on your age, read jar for dosages)
Combine all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.