Have you been staring at your blemishes in the mirror a little more than usual lately? Do Zoom meetings have you scrutinizing your complexion? Have you happened to catch a glimpse of your makeup-free reflection in the window and been horrified by what you see?
It’s not just you, and it’s not your fault. Skin is a sensitive indicator of changes in your environment, both internal and external. Breakouts or blemishes can occur because of many larger health issues, even if you’ve never had these issues before. I’m going to break that concept down for you and share some practical, actionable information that you can use to fix your skin woes at the source.
First, let’s acknowledge that everyone is different. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the function of our bodies (which is magical and mysterious and downright amazing). I’m going to explain some general rules that you can follow when trying to figure out your skin “issues.”
Secondly, we should recognize that most skin conditions are, at least initially, treated from an “outside-in” approach. Think cleansers, creams, lotions, salves, etc. However, because I approach health and wellness challenges from a Functional Medicine perspective, I prefer an “inside-out” strategy. For that, we need to consider which organ systems might have something to do with skin health, and determine which of these systems is “waving the white flag” or telling us it needs a boost.
The main body systems involved with skin breakouts include, but are not limited to, the digestive tract – which I will refer to this as “the gut” from here on out because I think it’s a kinda funny and it’s easier to type, the endocrine system (especially stress and female hormones) and the liver or detoxification pathways.
BE ADVISED that each of these systems could be an entire weekend seminar all by themselves, so I’m just going to cover the basics.
Let’s talk GUT.
Acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and those tiny “chicken skin” bumps on the backs of your arms and on your cheeks that drive you CRAZY can all be linked to inflammation in the gut.
Ruling out food allergies/sensitivities (yes, they’re different), balancing the happy microbes in your digestive tract, promoting adequate digestion with bitters or enzymes or apple cider vinegar, and making sure there are no micronutrient insufficiencies (essential fatty acids, zinc, Vitamins A, B, and D) are all potentially effective means of clearing gut-related skin breakouts.
How about HORMONES?
When I discuss the hormonal component of skin breakouts with women, I stress that hormone-based birth control medications are not the only way to balance hormone-related skin blemishes. While it may be an “easy fix” for moderate to severe acne, the long-term effects of these therapies may not be worth the short-term relief they provide…especially if other options work.
Here are some alternative ways to balance the hormones that can cause skin breakouts: Stop eating sugar and artificial sweeteners, especially around your cycle. Seek healthy stress relief. Hydrate. Enjoy non-GMO, organic soy-based foods. Maintain a healthy body fat percentage – notice, I did not say healthy weight – because excess body fat can be rogue hormone-producers!
What was that about the LIVER?
Our skin is our largest organ, and it sometimes picks up the slack for another important organ, the liver. The liver has the tough job of removing all the toxins that are absorbed and produced by our bodies so that we don’t rust from the inside out. I’m talking about oxidation, which is what happens if free radicals are allowed to remain in our tissues…they RUST! If your liver is overloaded, the skin tries to “help a sister out” by pushing toxins out via sweat and oil glands. Nice in theory, not great in practice.
How do we make sure this doesn’t happen? We show our liver a little love. Start by cutting back on caffeine and alcohol. Hydrate. Eat lots of cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Choose organic produce when possible. Get a massage (you’re welcome). HYDRATE.
Let me tell you, I’ve seen some pretty phenomenal results when folks stopped “covering up” the symptoms and started investigating what was dysfunctional beneath the surface. And they saved a lot of cash on expensive face creams and cleansers.
So, next time you notice an especially nasty blemish, instead of getting mad at your skin, thank it for reminding you to take care of yourself. Be grateful that your skin is sending you a message and that you know what to do in response. And take an “inside-out” approach to your skincare…you’ll be glad you did.
If you’d like to learn some easy ways to balance your gut, relieve stress and heal your skin at the same time, sign up for my free Stress Less Starter Kit!