“How can I maintain healthy skin without spending a fortune on cleansers and other products?”
This is something my patients occasionally ask me.
In other words, how can you maintain good skin, the largest organ in the human body, while eliminating the barriers that 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!
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 comes from the inside out. You can heal many skin issues by balancing your hormones, changing your diet, optimizing your nutrient status, and healing your gut.
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.
These skin problems came 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.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself from the outside. There’s good stuff I recommend you douse in to maintain healthy skin, but that’s not ultimately going to solve the problem if you have skin issues.
Some things dermatologists give, such as steroid creams, peelers, and antibiotics you take by mouth, can harm you long term by wrecking your gut. Using antibiotics for acne, like other invasive procedures, only bury the problem.
Skin problems might also be a sign of something else going on in your body. Dry scaly patches 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 to aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression, and more. Dermatitis, which manifests as eczema, acne, and rashes, almost always signifies excessive inflammation.
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. To get and maintain optimal skin health, these nine strategies will 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.
- 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. If you suspect leaky gut or other gut imbalances, I recommend working with a functional practitioner to pinpoint and eliminate these problems.
- 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, which you can find in my store.
- 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. At the very least, I recommend a high-potency multivitamin/mineral that provides efficacious amounts of these and other nutrients.
- Exercise and sweat regularly. When body temperature rises like when you exercise, skin blood flow transfers heat from the core to the skin. Sweating helps move and excrete toxins from your body. Saunas or steam baths are another smart option that helps 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. Grab 19 of my top sleep tips here.
- Curb stress. Studies show emotional stress can affect, reveal, or even exacerbate a number of skin disorders including psoriasis. Find something that helps you de-stress and do it regularly. My UltraCalm CD provides a great, simple way to melt stress and anxiety.
- Be careful with skin products. Stop using creams, sun block, and cosmetics that contain paraben, petrochemicals, lead, or other toxins. Drugs and chemicals are well absorbed through your skin. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Please visit the Environmental Working Group’s page about skin products to learn more.
If you’ve struggled with skin issues, what strategies made things better? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
Author: Mark Hyman
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Aspen Plummer/Unsplash