“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Satchel Paige
Skin is the largest and most visible organ in the human body, our “first impression” organ. Unfortunately, our skin isn’t great about keeping secrets about our health and the impact of skin conditions can have a big impact on our well-being. When we look at common skin conditions, we are seeing premature signs of aging, areas of discoloration (hyperpigmentation), acne, scarring, dry skin, inflammation and other sensitivities. Skin vitality exemplifies functional medicine at it’s core. Having optimal function or dysfunction in one organ system impacts various other organ systems. Let’s look at 5 areas that impact the condition of our skin.
Hormones: Life’s little ups and downs.
Aging itself is not a disease but a process. What we’ve come to expect as we age is often a presentation of the symptoms of underlying hormonal changes.
- Testosterone: During puberty, rising testosterone levels cause an increased production of sebum in the sebaceous glands found on hair follicles. These glands begin to clog as a result of this increased production, providing a wonderful place for bacteria to move in and get comfortable which, in turn, produces the all too familiar white-heads and black-heads.
- Estrogens: Estrogen is crucial for stimulating collagen production. Collagen provides the network beneath the skin that provides the bouncy, healthy, youthful appearing skin. Estrogen levels begin to decline at a rapid rate around age 35, resulting in a drop in the production of collagen and elastin. The visible changes in skin from this decrease in collagen and elastin are thinning skin and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Decreasing estrogen levels also result in a loss of proteins that hold moisture in the skin, leading to dry, itchy skin.
Nutrition: Parting is such sweet sorrow
It’s common for people to associate nutrition with skin by thinking of greasy, fatty foods but when it comes to macronutrients, overconsumption of sugars have the largest impact on your skin. By sugars, we are talking not only about sweets but also any refined carbohydrates. Think bagels, pasta, donuts, cereal, crackers, pretzels, soft drinks and yes…even that glass of summertime lemonade. These processed, refined foods break down into (you guessed it) glucose, raising blood sugar levels. These glucose molecules can cross-link and attach to proteins (specifically COLLAGEN) in a process called glycation. This sticky sugar/collagen molecule is called “advanced glycation end product” or AGE’s. AGE’s break-down and degrade collagen and elastin resulting in an increase in cellular aging which looks back at us in the mirror as stiff, brittle skin.
Vitamins & Minerals: Small but fierce
In addition to considering the importance of food intake, micronutrients are essential for skin health and topical application of many vitamins and minerals have shown tremendous improvements in the quality of your skin.
- Retinoids (a vitamin A derivative) cause an increase in cell turnover and new cell production resulting in more collagen. This increased cell turnover causes a reduction in brown spots and improves the texture of skin, plus it is effective for treating acne by keeping pores unclogged.
- Vitamin C promotes skin health in two distinct ways. First, it is a powerful antioxidant and protects skin cells from damage caused by environmental toxins or sun exposure. Second, vitamin C stimulates the synthesis of collagen production and is crucial in the formation of the collagen protein itself.
- Vitamin E is potent antioxidant that absorbs energy from UV rays protecting the skin from sun exposure. Vitamin E has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and aids in skin moisture, decreasing skin roughness.
- Other nutrients and minerals can impact your skin. Silica is a trace mineral essential for collagen formation, Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties and decreases sebum, therefore can be an effective means of treating acne. Hyaluronic acid is a protein that binds and attracts water, producing volume and fullness. Coenzyme Q-10 enhances the regeneration of Vitamin E and assists fibroblasts in producing more collagen.
External Toxins: Under siege
Skin is unique because it functions both as a barrier and protector from the outside world but is vulnerable to damage from exposure to that outside world. The effects of UV exposure from the sun creates discolorations known as age spots. UV exposure accelerates wrinkling with damage caused by free radicals. These free radicals destroy cell membranes and break down collagen, leading to wrinkles. Protecting your skin is so important to reduce the risk of UV damage. Look for sunscreen that offers barrier protection in the form of zinc oxide over chemical protection like retinal palmitate to protect against exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Smoke is another external toxin know to damage skin cells and impact the appearance of your skin. Cigarette smoke accelerates the aging process by causing constriction of blood vessels which delays healing time. This impacts skin by increasing redness and the appearance of scars.
Products: Where the rubber meets the road
A 2009 study out of England reported that the average woman was applying over 500 chemicals to her body a day. You can read more about this study here.
Are all of these chemicals harmful?
There’s likely not a solid answer but the reality is that we are slathering so many products all over our bodies every day and these products do get absorbed into our bloodstream. Several products are known to be harmful or have toxic effects and others are known to be safe but how reasonable is it to know every chemical’s potential outcome?
So, what should you look for when choosing skincare products? Choose products that do not contain parabens, detergents or fragrance. Parabens are used as a preservative but have known adverse effects like hormone disruption, infertility and organ system toxicity. Products that contain detergents have a degenerative effect on cell membranes and are known irritants to skin. Fragrances often contain hormone disrupting xenoestrogens as well.
How can Revolution help?
We know that our organ systems are connected. The function or dysfunction of any part of our body will impact other organ systems. Using an integrative approach, we can work with you to identify root causes of skin problems and work together to correct them. We offer bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, Spectracell Micronutrient testing, pharmaceutical grade supplements, cutting-edge skincare products with iS Clinical and Revision Skincare, and collagen-induction therapy with SkinPen.
Call today to schedule an appointment 918-935-3636.