"How can I maintain healthy skin without spending a fortune on cleansers and other products?" asks my reader in this week's House Call. This is a great question, so I decided to dedicate the next few weeks to developing and maintaining great skin.
This week we'll talk about overall skin health. During the next few weeks I'll specifically address acne, eczema, and psoriasis. If you struggle with any of these issues, stay tuned because you're going to want this information!
The question becomes: 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, these industries have a wide range of these products to sell you!
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?
The dirty secret these industries don't want you to know is that beauty really does come from within. You can heal many skin issues by balancing your hormones, changing your diet, optimizing your nutrient status and healing your gut.
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.
Most dermatologists take the opposite approach by treating great skin from the outside in. They want to sell us overpriced stuff that doesn't work. You have to keep putting it on and putting it on, so essentially you become a customer for life. That's good for their business but not so much for your skin.
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.
Better skin starts not with expensive cleansers and other beauty products, but from within. Again, I'll go over issues like acne and psoriasis specifically in the coming weeks, but for overall skin health, I find these nine strategies can help tremendously:
- 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.
If you've struggled with skin issues, what strategies did you take to make it better? Did you visit a dermatologist or take a Functional Medicine approach to healthier skin? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, M.D. believes that we all deserve a life of vitality -- and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That's why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.