From celebrity-branded creams to bottles that promise miracle results, the media is a constant reminder of how fragile our skin is. However for anyone suffering from an inflammatory skin condition such as eczema, acne or rosacea knows that not all skin creams can prevent the boatload of stress on our bodies, resulting in a lack of confidence and negative effects. When stress pumps through our system, it can produce unwanted hormones in our bodies such as cortisol, leading to weight gain. The cherry on top is the effect these hormones have on our immune system increasing our aging process. No wonder our expensive creams aren’t working! It’s time to examine the toxins entering our skin from the outside, and pay more attention to our skin barrier.
Skin is the mirror of overall health, and here is why:
• Prevents bacteria & viruses from entering the body
• Protects internal organs, muscles, nerves & blood vessels
• Product melatonin to filter harmful UV
• Metabolizes & activates Vitamin D3
• Regulates core body temperature
• Excretes excess salt & waste
• Retains fluids & moisture
• Impacts psychological well-being
90% of all skin ailments, irritations & diseases arise from a compromised skin barrier!
Check out the three ways your skin barrier impacts your health:
1. I’m totally stressed.
Neuropeptides, the chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings, are the skin’s first line of defense from infection and trauma. When responding to protect the skin, neuropeptides can create inflammation and an uncomfortable skin sensation, such as numbness, itching or tingling explains dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried, MD, PhD, FAAD, of Yardley, Pa. Neuropeptides are nasty creatures, which we assumed stayed within the skin. Recent findings have revealed that they work their way into our brains and increase stress, directly affecting our emotions. For example, when you have a pimple on your big date night and become stressed out, it can aggravate your emotional state of being which can flare up your skin in other areas. The American Academy of Dermatology explains that the skin barrier function, which is the skin’s protective outer layer, can be impaired by stress. Stress can make the skin more sensitive and more reactive, which is why dermatologists recommend moisturizers to enhance the skin barrier function. If stress compromises the skin’s barrier function, more irritants, allergens, and bacteria can penetrate the skin and cause problems.
2. It’s probably all in my head.
That’s a saying we commonly hear, and it’s usually always true! The US National Library of Medicine found that a large number of skin diseases, including psoriasis, were largely affected by psychological stress. This study examined 27 medical students with no record of any prior skin conditions. Their psychological stress levels and skin were examined during a time of high stress, and times of complete relaxation. It simply proved that during one of the most stressful events in a student’s life known as “exam time”, caused their skin to develop inflammation due to psychological effects. Furthermore, their skin irritations post-exams completely vanished. The same psychological effects can happen to anyone, so it’s best to take Bob Marley’s advice and “don’t worry about a thing!”
3. I think I can eat that?
With more and more food allergies becoming a concern, it’s worth looking into why the gluten-free and vegan trends have vastly grown over the past 10 years. Studies have shown that there is a large correlation between our food allergies, and how our skin is being affected by daily toxins sneaking past our skin barrier. This study reveals that there is a possibility that if we can repair the skin barrier and prevent skin irritations such as eczema effectively, then we might also be able to reduce the risk of food allergies. Having “thick skin” has never been sexier!
1. Remove your food triggers: What you eat (or how you digest it) is often worn on your face, particularly when it comes to skin conditions ranging from eczema to acne. Food sensitivities or intolerances usually involve a set of immune system antibodies called IgG antibodies. Symptoms are less intense and typically do not appear immediately, but rather within 12–48 hours, after eating the offending foodstuff. In my practice, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are commonly connected to food intolerances and are greatly reduced when the key culprits are removed and proper topical products are used. One study included more than 600 infants who were 3 months old and exclusively breast-fed from birth. They were tested for eczema and checked to see if they were sensitized to the six most common allergenic foods. It’s believed that the breakdown of the skin barrier in infants with eczema leaves active immune cells found in skin exposed to environmental allergens — in this case food proteins — which then triggers an allergic immune response, the researchers explained. So not only do food allergies cause eczema, eczema causes food allergies. An easy litmus test would be to go on a 14-day elimination diet and then slowly re-introduce each food group to see if your diet is behind your skin distress. The 14-day elimination diet is highlighted in The Hormone Diet. In addition, I highly recommend doing the HCL challenge or adding digestive enzymes to meals. Purchase Clear Gastric HCL here.
Steer clear of stress for clear skin: Not only is stress bad for your health, it’s particularly offending for your skin. In fact, a branch of medicine called psychodermatology focuses on how the mind affects the skin. Stress also makes the skin more permeable, allowing bacteria to infiltrate and produce a protein that activates the immune system, thereby leading the path for eczema, acne, and psoriasis. In one study, researchers at Stanford University examined the severity of acne in 22 college students during final exam week. Not surprisingly, the students under greater stress suffered more acne than their calmer counterparts. Just another reason to practice stress management techniques.
Switch to alkaline water: When I was still practicing and seeing patients I would regularly conduct bio-impedance tests which, among other things like body fat, tells me about the patient’s cellular health and hydration status. More often than not I find that a dehydrated state can be a contributing factor to skin conditions, from dry skin and itchy skin to eczema and wrinkles. A slightly alkaline environment allows the body’s metabolic, enzymatic, immunologic, and repair mechanisms to function at their best – and your skin is certainly the first to reflect that change in chemistry. Our bodies continually strive to maintain a normal pH balance of about 7.0-7.4. When the pH of our bodily fluids, digestive system, and tissues is pushed out of that comfortable neutral zone, health problems can be the result. Not only should you invest in a non-chlorinated, alkalizing shower filter, but I highly recommend using reverse osmosis or alkaline water filter.
Fix your deficiencies: There are a few nutrients that can make the difference between skin that has people asking ‘what is your secret?’ versus ‘what is the matter?’. In one study, people taking fish oil equal to 1.8 g of EPA (which has been shown to reduce inflammation and rejuvenate the skin) experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of eczema after 12 weeks. Zinc has also been shown to boost the immune system and raise the production of anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. An older study found that 73% of the eczema patients experienced a remission of their eczema flare-ups after just a month on 60mg of zinc a day. If you are battling a flare-up, I recommend taking 30mg of zinc per day and using fish oil in a 6:1 ratio of EPA to DHA to reduce inflammation.
Take the edge off inflammation: Green tea is a well-known staple for many health conditions, from glaucoma to diabetes, with one more to add to its list: psoriasis. Already shown to suppress inflammation, green tea has been shown to regulate a protein in genes that control the life cycle of a skin cell. While I often recommend taking green tea extract daily, you can certainly choose to set a quota of 3-4 cups of green tea per day instead. Another hint: you can also apply it topically. For example, Try adding it to your cleanser in the morning. Run a tea bag over hot water, cut it open, and empty its contents into a small bowl. Spoon two tablespoons of an organic cream facial cleanser into the bowl and mix it together. Apply it to your face, leave it on for five minutes, and then rinse well. For more information click here.
Post your homemade green tea mask recipes below!