From Dr. Mark Hyman, Author of Eat Fat, Get Thin
What causes you to have good skin, which is the largest organ in the human body, and what wreaks havoc to create bad skin?
If you believe the dermatology, plastic surgery, and cosmetic industries, you should slather on numerous products to get great skin and make you look better. Of course, I take a different approach. What if I told you the secret to healthy skin is not about what you put on your body, but what you put in your body?
My Skin Story
I know this personally. I used to have great skin, and suddenly I got lousy skin. Along with my chronic fatigue syndrome came psoriasis, acne and bags under my eyes. I was getting pimples. All these things came on suddenly, and you can imagine my frustration considering that until that point I had great skin.
I discovered these skin problems were coming from the inside. Things like being toxic, gut imbalances, food allergies and nutrient deficiencies were making my skin look like crap. Once I addressed these issues, my skin began clearing up.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself from the outside. There’s good stuff I recommend you use to maintain healthy skin, but that’s not ultimately going to solve the problem if you have skin issues.
Some of the stuff that dermatologists give, such as steroid creams, peelers and antibiotics taken by mouth can harm you long term by wrecking your gut. Using antibiotics for acne, like other invasive procedures, only buries the problem.
Dermatologists also don’t recognize that skin problems can be a sign of something else going on in your body. Dry scaly patches, for instance, could signal that you have excess insulin in your body, which paves the way for diabesity. Dry skin could signify low thyroid function. Itchy skin could be a sign of food allergies.
Inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats that sometimes populate the Standard American Diet also contribute to crappy skin. Inflammation can trigger everything from mild skin irritation to brain fog, aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression and more. Dermatitis, which manifests as eczema, acne and rashes, almost always signifies excessive inflammation.
Functional Medicine Approach to Skin
The science behind creating great skin involves cultivating your soil to reset your system. Functional Medicine, which focuses on the underlying causes of disease, is the medicine of WHY, not WHAT.
Functional Medicine doctors are like soil farmers. We create a healthy soil, so pests can’t come and weeds can’t flourish. A healthy soil means disease can’t come. That becomes an inside-out rather than outside-in approach.
I handle skin issues like acne and psoriasis the same way I deal with other issues. I define the imbalance, address the causes first (usually diet and lifestyle) and then help the body repair and regain balance. The body’s natural intelligence takes care of the rest.
When you use this method, your skin clears up, you look and feel better, and other issues begin to heal on their own. Follow these steps for healthier skin:
Dump sugar and processed foods. Among its many other problems, excess sugar sticks to amino acids present in collagen and elastin, producing Advanced Glycation End products or “AGEs.” Like the acronym suggests, sugar literally ages your skin and other organs.
Eliminate food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can trigger or exacerbate bad skin conditions. Studies show dairy contributes to acne. Other studies link autoimmune diseases, allergic diseases, psoriasis and miscellaneous diseases with gluten intolerance.
Fix gut imbalances. Your gut influences healthy skin far more than you might realize. Researchers find probiotics impact gut microbiota to influences various conditions including inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control and skin conditions like acne.
Eat an omega 3-rich diet. Dry, itchy, scaling, or flaking skin could signify a fatty acids deficiency. Eat omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish and flaxseed regularly, and also supplement with a high-potency fatty acid formula.
Optimize nutrient status. A variety of nutrients play a role in healthy skin. Zinc deficiencies can contribute to eczema, acne and other skin rashes. Studies also find vitamin D can help treat skin problems like psoriasis and acne.
Exercise and sweat regularly. When body temperature rises like when you exercise, skin blood flow transfers heat from the core of the body to the skin. Sweating helps move and excrete toxins from your body. Saunas or steam baths are another smart option that help release the toxins through your skin as you sweat. One study found a protective effect of regular sauna on skin physiology. Get the toxins off your skin after the sauna or steam. Use a hot shower with soap and even a skin brush.
Get great sleep. One study found chronic poor sleep quality increases signs of aging, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance. Another found that lack of sleep as well as other types of stress could impair skin integrity. Those are among the reasons getting eight hours of solid sleep every night becomes so crucial.
Be careful with skin products. Drugs and chemicals are easily absorbed through your skin. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.