Beautiful Skin Comes from Within

Have you heard this ‘beauty’ quote? 

“I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?” Jean Kerr, Author

And to that, I would say – absolutely yes! If everyone in this country had a beautiful pancreas, we would not have the epidemic of diabetes we have today. The point is, beauty may be skin deep but that all happens from within. So if you’re suffering from acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin issues, it’s your insides telling that you have inflammation within that is being manifested on your skin. Stress, poor diet, food allergies, gut imbalances, hormone swings and nutrient deficiencies are to blame for what’s showing up on the surface.

Many of us seek dermatologists to get creams, pills and treatments to address these issues but you really need to start looking beyond the superficial or temporary fix to find the root cause of the skin flare-ups. So in this blog, I’ll share some tips on building beautiful skin from within to keep skin looking gorgeous and young.

Your skin is a reflection of what you put in your mouth

  • Stay away from processed foods, sugar, factory-raised meats and artificial additives. Did you know that excess sugar consumption will create Advanced Glycation End (AGEs) products that age your skin? Those sunspots/liver spots you often seen in elderly people are formed when protein, sugars and the heat in our body combine in a chemical reaction known as the “Maillard reaction” to create charring. Desirable in cooking, recipes often call for sugars as a coating on BBQ or steak to create the charring on the meat. The same happens in our body but we don’t want charring to show up on our skin.

  • Eat whole foods and up to nine servings of vegetables and low sugar fruits. If you simply cannot eat that much, you can supplement with some low sugar vegetable juices every now and then. This is what I drink when I know I won’t be eating well for whatever reason: https://farmersjuice.com
    It’s not cheap but it’s organic, low sugar (very important as a lot of commercial juices are loaded with sugar or cheap high sugar fruit), packs a pound of veggies in each serving and saves me the hassle of juicing my own.

Food Intolerances

If you have sensitivities or allergies to certain foods, it can flare up on your skin. Well-known culprits include dairy, wheat/gluten, legumes, corn and peanuts. So, you can get an allergy test done or try an elimination diet to see if your skin improves. Check out this resource to learn more.

Optimize your gut

  • Your skin is a reflection of your gut so it’s important to keep the trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract healthy and happy.

  • Eat prebiotic foods that feed friendly bacteria so it can eat the sugars you ingest before it goes to your gut. According to Dr. Amy Myers, here are some of the key foods to eat:
    • Asparagus
    • Bananas
    • Apples
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Leeks
    • Jicama Root
    • Dandelion greens

Detox through your skin

Skin is the largest organ in your body and a great vehicle for getting rid of toxins. So work up a good sweat during your exercise routine. If you are like me and do not sweat easily, you could seek a sauna in your area to amp up the detoxification. When used regularly, it will do wonders for clearing up the skin! 

Optimize nutrients

You want to ensure that you are getting optimum nutrition from your diet but you may need to supplement as deficiencies can contribute to skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis. Here are some to consider:

  • Vitamin D: Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in a whole host of skin conditions including cancer? It’s important to keep your vitamin D levels optimal as there is compelling scientific evidence that vitamin D plays a crucial role in cellular function and skin health. Ask your doctor about getting your levels tested so you know how best to supplement.

  • Zinc: Did you know that the skin is the third most Zinc-abundant tissue in the body? So, it’s no surprise that zinc deficiency is implicated in skin disorders. Here’s a zinc compound that is balanced with copper and selenium that I use:

  • Collagen and Vitamin C: Collagen is an essential protein that is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s made in mammals but not in plants. You can take collagen (l like the multi-collagen form as it gives you all five forms your body need: https://www.vitacost.com/ancient-nutrition-multi-collagen-protein-vanilla) but did you realize that you can eat the appropriate amino acids (L-lysine and L-proline) to have your body make your own? Good options for supplying these amino acids include beets, leeks, Parmesan cheese (and related milk products), avocados and nuts. Collagen is like rebar in our blood vessels and skin but they are knit together with Vitamin C so you need both to keep your skin looking youthful. Since we do not make vitamin C, we have to eat foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, grapefruit, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato juice). In addition to the foods I eat, I take a gram of vitamin C 2X a day. Here are some options to get your C in:
  • Liposomal:

  • Powder to add to your shake/drink:

Get proper sleep

Poor sleep not only makes you feel lousy but is associated with increased signs of aging and diminished skin barrier function according to this study. So make sure to incorporate good sleep hygiene into your habits as part of your skin beautifying regimen.

Manage stress

Studies have shown that skin reacts to psychological stress and influences skin diseases. In fact, it’s also been shown that psychiatric treatment (pharmacological and non-drug interventions) has positive effects on dermatologic conditions. So, manage your stress levels with proper sleep, good diet and mind health techniques like meditation and breathing exercises. 

Here’s a reality quote:

Some guys say beauty is only skin deep. But when you walk into a party, you don’t see somebody’s brain. The initial contact has to be the sniffing.”  James Caan, Actor.

Like it or not, we live in a world where there is a lot of ‘sniffing’ so put your best skin on by taking care of your insides (and inner self)!

Anti-Aging Skin Care Hacks Part 3 – Oils & Serums

I’ve always been a strong believer that beautiful skin starts from within, so you have to start with a healthy diet, incorporate lots of movement and get adequate sleep to stay looking youthful. Having said that, I’m also a disciple of not aging gracefully, so in this blog, here are some topical treatments I personally use to not look my age.

Sun protection

Did you know that there are natural substances that when applied topically or even taken internally, can prevent the detrimental effect of sunlight on your skin?

Squalene is in a class of compounds called isoprenoids which are fats /lipids. These isoprenoids are now known to have impressive bioactive properties that can protect you from cell dysfunction, including cancer formation in early stages. Squalene is not a sunblock like a typical sunscreen but works to protect your skin at a cellular level against harmful UVA, UBV and visible light. Squalene also has protective effects against lipid free radical formation which contributes to visible signs of aging. The richest source of squalene comes from olive oil, rice bran oil, red palm oil and shark liver oil. It is even more potent when combined with natural vitamin E. You can purchase squalene with added vitamin E or you can mix it yourself. Here’s what I use liberally particularly during the summer. I mix 2 parts to 1 part of the plant-derived squalene to natural vitamin E and keep in a dark glass bottle in a cool place. Here’s what I recommend:

Facial moisturizer

During a facial at a skin spa about five years ago, I was told about the wonders of emu oil for its anti-inflammatory properties. Emu oil comes from the emu bird that is native to Australia. Emu oil is rich in oleic, palmitic, linoleic acids, antioxidants, and due to the smaller particle size of the oil, it not only absorbs well into the skin but is a great carrier of other ingredients. When used topically, this wonder oil is known to promote skin healing from scars and help with common conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. It’s also used for protection against damage from UV rays. I was sold when I also heard that the plastic surgeon in that spa was using it to give to patients after surgery.  So, I now make my own facial moisturizer using emu oil as a base and add:

  • Frankincense oil – This is used for skin healing, stretch marks and scars as it helps generate  healthy skin cells. It’s also a good disinfectant and good for cleaning wounds and cuts as well as promoting rapid healing without leaving scars. 
  • Fibroblast synthesizers – Aside from collagen, fibroblasts make the remarkable elastin which is the protein that keeps your skin elastic. As you age, the levels of enzymes that synthesize elastin decrease so using fibroblast stimulators is important to give you a springier and less saggy look. Powerful elastin stimulators include rosemary oil, dill seed oil and helichrysum. Increasing elastin produces anti-aging results wherever you apply these elastin-stimulating essential oils.
  • Coconut oil, rice bran oil and red palm oil – these oils have antioxidant capacity and also stimulate fibroblasts production. When applied to wounds, it speeds up healing and increases collagen formation. I prefer the coconut oil or rice bran oil as it is readily available in liquid form.
  • Vitamin E – A highly effective, fat soluble antioxidant that penetrates into the dermis easily while providing protection against the photoaging process.

Here’s my recipe:

Blend it all together and shake – pour into two 4 oz. dark glass dropper bottles. Gift to a friend or keep the extra bottle in the fridge. I didn’t realize the popularity of this blend but I now have a small following of friends and family who ask me for more when they run out!

Anti-Aging Serum

There are many anti-aging serums out there that use Vitamin C, E and collagen boosters like Ferulic acid. Did you know that rice bran oil contains a form of ferulic acid which is now widely available in anti-aging serums? Ferulic acid is very effective at protecting skin across the UV spectrum including visible light. Rice bran has been shown to reverse skin aging and is rich in tocotrienols – compounds that are closely related to vitamin E. It’s interesting to note that in this study, ferulic acid combined with vitamin C and E was shown to prevent sun-induced damage. I haven’t tried making the ferulic acid serum with rice bran oil as you can find ferulic acid combinations readily at cosmetics stores – some are very expensive but it may be worth the investment. Try to find something that has 15% vitamin C, 0.5% ferulic acid and 1% of vitamin E in the formulation.

Here are several to try:

Anti-Aging Skin Care Hacks: Part 2

In my first blog, I focused on what NOT to do to prevent skin aging. In part 2, I will share some more tips to incorporate into your daily routine to keep your skin at its best regardless of your age. And remember:

“It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.” 
― Jules Renard

Collagen

Having youthful skin has more to do with what you put in your body than on it. So, you can spend a lot of money on expensive skin products but you have to feed your body right FIRST.  Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and maintaining your body’s collagen level is critical to youthful, anti-aging skin. Collagen has gotten very popular recently with a number of diets like Primal, Keto and others advocating its use. It has become a superfood with benefits like keeping arteries clean, easing joint pain, and boosting mood and energy. This study has shown that oral collagen consumption increased skin hydration and improved collagen density.

It’s important to note that there are five specific types of collagen we need to help the body absorb and utilize it where it’s needed most:

  • Type I is 90% of the collagen in your body and used to maintain bones, hair, tendons, ligaments and teeth
  • Type II is found in cartilage and this type of collagen promotes pain-free joints
  • Type III is the second most abundant type of collagen in the body and it keeps your skin and lining of organs and arteries smooth and flexible
  • Type V is found on the surface of all your cells and promotes full and healthy hair.
  • Type X also helps with bone and cartilage formation and prevents arthritis and osteoporosis

I recently switched to a food-sourced multi-collagen powder that has all five types of collagen. I use this to add to my morning shake. Here are some brands to try:

This one includes vitamin C which is an essential vitamin for collagen production.

Sleep

We all need our beauty sleep to restore and repair our body and our skin. Aim for a solid seven hours a night – you can read more about how to optimize sleep and create your perfect sleep sanctuary in my blog here.

Sunscreen

Protecting your skin from harsh UV rays is not only important to avoid skin cancer but to keep your skin youthful. While the normal aging process is characterized by a thinned epidermis and fine wrinkles, photoaging caused by chronic sun exposure produces uneven skin tone (dark spots), deep wrinkles and skin laxity. I still regret tanning myself during my teens with coconut oil every summer to get the then sought-after bronzed look – if I had a dime for every dumb thing I did… You need to spend time outside and get adequate sun exposure to balance your circadian rhythm but do it before 10-11am or after 2-3pm to avoid the peak hours. Stay away from synthetic ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate and look for mineral sunscreens or reef-safe titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens. Here are some options to try:

Vitamins

If you have mature skin and feel the need to amp up the free radical fighting power, consider supplementing your anti-aging diet with vitamins A, E and additional C. Vitamin A is readily available in foods like eggs, cheese and fish so only supplement if necessary as it can be harmful if consumed in excess. Vitamin E helps skin cells regenerate and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a fat-soluble vitamin so make sure not to overdose as your body cannot flush out the excess (unlike Vitamin C). Vitamin E can also be topically applied as a face treatment.

Here are some to try:

Vitamin A from cod liver oil:

Liposomal Vitamin C:

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E skin oil:

Vegetables

Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are nutrient dense, contain antioxidants to combat skin aging and also high amounts of vitamin C which is necessary for collagen production. This study found that oral consumption of Vitamin C increased the radical-scavenging activity of the skin. You can use a vitamin C serum on your skin but why not just consume it with a high vitamin C diet of kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach? You’ll also get vitamins and nutrients like folate, vitamins A, K, potassium, and iron. 

Omega-3 Rich Foods

Wild-caught salmon, small mackerel, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, and olive oils are all rich sources of omega-3 and will help replenish moisture and repair the skin. Salmon contains an antioxidant called astaxanthin which gives the fish its pink color – this carotenoid, when combined with collagen has shown to improve skin elasticity and overall hydration after only 12 weeks. So a shake of multi-collagen powder for breakfast with leafy greens and wild salmon for lunch or dinner would make a perfect anti-aging skin diet for the day.

Work up a Sweat

Do you notice how clean your skin feels after a vigorous workout that produced consistent sweating? Exercise does this by stimulating the blood flow and supporting the natural detoxification process to de-stress and de-age your skin. This study showed that exercise moderates against oxidative damage to the skin. So work up a good sweat! If you are like me and need a lot of effort to get sweating, try getting in a sauna or a hot bath with some Epsom salts. It will help you relax, sweat comfortably, detoxify and fight off those reactive oxygen species that promote skin aging.  

I’m a strong believer that beautiful skin starts from within, so you have to start with a healthy diet, incorporate lots of movement and get adequate sleep to stay looking youthful. In a future blog, I’ll talk about some topical treatments to add to your regimen to combat aging.

Anti-Aging Skin Care Hacks – What Not To Do

I was told by my aesthetician that both surgical (facelift, etc.) and minimally invasive procedures (injectables and laser sculpting) are very popular even during COVID. With the work-from home and mask mandates, one can get a lot done to the face and body without leaving the office or even having it visible to others – which is all good if you have a lot of time and money to devote to these treatments. In this two-part blog, I will share some easy and inexpensive habits to incorporate into your daily routine to keep your youthful glow regardless of your age. First, I will start off with WHAT NOT TO DO.

Stop Smoking

If you are a smoker, this habit will put you on a fast path to skin aging as the toxins in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin, which are what keeps skin firm and wrinkle-resistant. Smoking also causes vascular constriction, inhibits blood flow and delays oxygen delivery to the skin cells. This study shows the negative association of aging and smoking.

Use Clean Skin Care Products

Our skin is the body’s biggest organ and it absorbs what we apply to it. Over half of US consumers use skin care products daily and many of us are unaware of what’s in them. I like this mantra: “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”. Most of us, including me, are unknowingly using skin care products with potentially toxic chemicals.

As if that wasn’t depressing enough, the cosmetics and skin care industry is not well regulated in the US. Unlike Europe where over a 1,000 chemicals are banned in skin care products, less than a dozen are excluded in this country. So, short of buying European products that are manufactured there, it’s mainly up to the consumer to decipher the alphabet soup of the various chemical compounds in the products we use. The non-profit organization, Environmental Working Group published a list of ingredients in skin care products to AVOID.

Part of an anti-aging regimen starts with CLEAN skin care so here goes the DO NOT list:

  • Coal Tar: carbo-cort, KC 261, naphtha distillate, benzin B70, petroleum benzin
    A byproduct from coal processing and found to promote and initiate tumor activity. Europe has banned many of these ingredients but it is still found in dandruff and psoriasis shampoos sold in the US.

  • Formaldehyde: Preservative classified as a known human carcinogen – less common in cosmetics but still used in hair straighteners.

  • Formaldehyde releasers (Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15): Used in cosmetics to slowly form formaldehyde to kill growing bacteria. Although these products can trigger allergic skin reactions, they are widely used in the US. Here is an example of just one of them.

  • Fragrance: Fragrance can be any mixture of compounds that can be hormone disruptors and allergens. Look for products that disclose their fragrance ingredients.

  • PEGs and Ceteareth which can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane: These compounds found in cleaning and conditioning agents are often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, which readily penetrates the skin and has been classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen. You won’t find 1,4 dioxane in the label so it’s best to avoid any products with possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane.

  • Phthalates: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di-2-Ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), diethyl phthalate (DEP): Commonly used plasticizer that has been implicated in endocrine-disrupting properties (leading to cancer), insulin resistance and negatively impacting the reproductive system. Any product with ‘fragrance’ will most likely contain phthalates.

  • Triclosan, triclocarban: Antimicrobial agent used in everyday products from toothpaste to soaps and linked to endocrine disruption and impacting thyroid function. Over-use may promote the onset of bacterial resistance.

  • Vitamin A compounds (retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate): Widely used in sunscreens, skin creams and makeup and also commonly prescribed for aging skin. Our bodies need vitamin A but when applied to sun-exposed skin, it can amp up skin sensitivity. In addition, sunlight breaks down vitamin A to product free radicals that can damage the skin DNA, so unless you are living in a cave, it’s best to avoid them.

Here’s EWG’s guide on top tips for safer products.

https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/contents/top-tips/

Does this leave your head spinning on what to buy? Have no fear – check out EWG’s database on CLEAN products that are EWG verified. You can search by type of product (for example, CC cream) and a list of products by EWG rating will show up.

9 Strategies for Glowing, Vibrant Skin: Dr. Mark Hyman’s Housecall Podcast

Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, a 12-time New York Times bestselling author, and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine.

He runs a series of short Housecall podcasts and here are his insights on skin:

  • What causes you to have good skin? The secret to healthy skin is not what you put ON your skin but what you put IN the body. Most skin problems can be healed by what you eat, your nutrient status, balancing your hormones, and balancing your gut.
  • Dr. Hyman earlier in his life suffered from bad skin (pimples, rashes, baggy eyelids, etc.) resulting from chronic fatigue syndrome; he eventually realized that it was a result of being toxic, gut and hormone imbalances, eating bad food and being nutritionally deficient.
  • Topical solutions like creams, lotions don’t work well and steroid creams and antibiotics can deplete gut flora and cause other negative consequences. Dr. Hyman mentions that those that take antibiotics get autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions later in life. So his recommendation is to tend the soil of health, reset your system and biology by working from the inside out rather than outside in. Here are his nine top strategies:

  1. Avoid sugar and processed foods. Excess sugar sticks to amino acids present in collagen and elastin, producing Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) that literally age your skin and other organs.
  2. Eliminate food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can not only exacerbate bad skin conditions but are linked with autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions. 
  3. Fix gut imbalances. Studies have shown that probiotics impact gut microbiota to influences various conditions including inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control and skin conditions like acne.
  4. Eat an omega 3-rich diet. Dry, itchy, or flaking skin could mean a fatty acids deficiency so a diet including omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish and/or fatty acid supplements should be a part of the skin regimen.
  5. Optimize nutrient status. Zinc deficiencies can contribute to eczema, acne and other skin rashes. Studies have found that vitamin D can help with psoriasis and acne. Dr. Hyman recommends a high-potency multivitamin/mineral as part of the daily regimen to ensure adequate nutrients are included.
  6. Exercise and sweat regularly. Sweating is a great way for the body to remove toxins from the body. Saunas and steam baths can be used to detoxify through the skin, which is the body’s largest organ. A study found the protective effect of regular saunas on skin physiology.
  7. Get great sleep. Studies have found that chronic poor sleep impaired skin integrity and accelerated aging. More reason to shoot for eight hours of shut-eye!
  8. Curb stress levels. Studies have shown that emotional stress can affect and exacerbate a number of skin disorders including psoriasis. Dr. Hyman offers mind-body relaxation programs on his website.
  9. Be careful with skin products. Dr. Hyman recommends to NOT use any skin products that contain paraben, petrochemicals, lead or other chemicals (especially ones you can barely pronounce). Drugs and chemicals are easily absorbed through your skin and the rule of thumb is: “if you won’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”. The Environmental Working Group’s database on skin products has good info – check it out.      https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

In summary, Dr. Hyman recommends working with a functional medicine doctor to address issues related to skin with an integrative, inside-out approach.

His podcast: