Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 1/4/23
Your skin and hair are often the first things people see when they look at you. Your skin defines your physical boundaries and shelters you from the big bad world. In the world of functional wellness, your skin offers a picture of your overall wellness that is different from the wealth of wellness information to be learned from your hair. This post takes you through the different messages your skin can be sending you about your internal health and wellness.
Table of Contents
- Your Skin’s 3 Layers
- Pilaris Keratosis and Vitamin Deficiency
- Dry Skin, Hydration, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 5 Ways to Keep Your Skin Hydrated
- Itchy Skin and Immune Issues
- Overactive Immune System and Mast Cells
- Skin Related Autoimmune Conditions
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Skin’s Immune Health
- Wrinkles and Your Connective Tissue (Fascia)
- 5 Ways to Build Wrinkle-Free Elastic Skin
- Glowing Skin and a Circulation Boost
- 5 Ways to Improve Skin Circulation
- Thin Skin and Thyroid Hormones
Your Skin’s 3 Layers
Skin is your largest organ. Skin is composed of 3 distinct layers each with a different function.
- Epidermis : Top and outermost barrier layer
- Dermis : Middle layer that feeds the epidermis
- Hypodermis : Deepest layer that connects skin to rest of body
Your skin’s epidermis is tasked with creating and maintaining a physical and liquid barrier protecting your insides from the outside world. This outermost layer is constantly replenished by new skin cells. You have new skin every 30 days! The color of your skin is defined by the melatonin produced in the epidermis. Specialized immune cells reside in the epidermis which are particularly important in places such as the vagina, foreskin of the penis, and the mouth.
Your skin’s middle layer, the dermis, provides blood flow to support the growth occurring in the epidermis and nerve endings that give information about the world around you to your brain. The fascial layer that gives your skin structure and pliability is located in your dermis as well as your sweat glands, oil glands, and hair follicles.
Your innermost skin layer is made of fat cells that cushion and insulate the muscles and larger blood vessels that feed the dermis. Your hypodermis connects the outer layers of skin to your skeleton and muscles.
Pilaris Keratosis and Vitamin Deficiency
Pilaris keratosis is the name given to the condition where your skin has little bumps resembling chicken skin (after plucking). When extra keratin production (a protein that makes up skin) creates these bumps on your skin, it is happening on your other epithelial membranes too. Your gut lining, nasal passages, the wrapping around your liver and other organs, the lining of your blood vessels, and more get bumpy too – and your eyes get dry. Your entire body is easily exposed to infection since the first barrier, the living physical one of your mucusal membranes, is not functioning well.
This skin condition occurs when you are deficient in Vitamin A and likely other vitamins as well. When your body does not have enough fat soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E and K, your mucus membranes suffer an identity crisis. They can not longer do their job to protect outside things from coming in.
Your 4 fat soluble vitamins must all be balanced in the body in order to work properly. When you have enough of all 4 vitamins, they fight chronic inflammation throughout the body – not just the skin. Low vitamin A levels are often seen first when your night vision goes down and your daily circadian rhythm (sleep & wake hormones) gets wonky. A Personal Nutrition Analysis can help you discover if your vitamin intake and digestion are giving you plentiful and balanced anti-inflammatory vitamins.
Dry Skin, Hydration, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Your skin’s epidermis (outermost layer) forms the barrier between your insides and your outsides. There is an optimal “wetness” or hydration level needed in order for your skin to function superbly.
Skin hydration is a balance between water intake, mineral availability within the body, circulation to the skin, and anti-inflammatory fat or lipid content within the skin cells themselves. Fatty acids in the skin cells seal your skin and turn it into a water resistant coating.
If your skin is dry, the water inside the skin quickly evaporates into the outside air. Many people choose to solve this dry skin problem by applying moisturizer to the skin itself. Moisturizer works in the short term, but you have to keep re-applying moisturizer externally.
5 Ways to Keep Your Skin Hydrated
I suggest that you moisturize from the inside out. Hydration is about so much more than drinking water!
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids : My favorite Omega 3 fatty acid supplement is Super Omega 3 Plus by Life Extension because of the anti-aging and health enhancing additions to this formulation. My clients with gut health issues tend to prefer the gel formulation of Citrus Flavor Omega 3 Squeeze by Brain MD. For people sensitive to fish oils, Algae to the rescue! Spirulina provides a terrific way to get your Omega-3’s along with great protein, minerals, and vitamins. All are available at my store for existing clients.
- Water : Water inside the body’s tissues (in the EZ form) will help your blood flow with less work from your heart, assist the flow of toxin removing lymph fluid out of the skin, provide the oxygen your mitochondria need in order to make energy, and provide the hydrogen needed to detoxify the cell. Keeping your water from evaporating through your skin will improve your whole body health and give you better looking skin!
- Minerals : Water needs minerals in order to carry nutrients to your cells. Plain water will just dilute the blood, activate your kidneys, and make you pee. When the right amount and types of minerals are in your water (on purpose!), your water gets all the way to your cells – even in your skin. Hydration means water + minerals + movement to get the water out of your blood vessels and all the way to your cells.
- Vitamin E : This fat soluble vitamin has a special affinity for skin. Vitamin E oil can be applied directly to the skin (fair warning: it takes a long time to absorb) or you can get your Vitamin E from delicious foods like avocados and seeds/nuts. With the right amount of Vitamin E, your skin will be able to lock in water without needing to slather on moisturizer several times a day!
- Gentle Whole Body Movement : Yoga, Pilates, or other forms of gentle exercise on a daily basis will assist with both blood and lymph flow all the way out to your skin. Drinking water with minerals does no good if the water just gets peed out rather than moving into your skin!
If you are having trouble hydrating your skin from the inside out, I would love the opportunity to meet with you to see if we are a good fit to work together.
Itchy Skin and Immune Issues
Skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema are unfortunately a reflection of your gut and immune health. Given that ~70% of your immune system is located in your gut – they are almost the same thing! In the middle layer of your skin, your dermis, lie many cells that have jobs for the immune system including your mast cells.
Overactive Immune System and Mast Cells
Mast cells are designed to explode when agitated and release pro-inflammatory bits to stimulate healing. When mast cells go rogue, you start to get immune system reactions like hives and swelling to the craziest things!
Skin Related Autoimmune Conditions
Psoriasis involves extra keratin production but is really an autoimmune condition. In psoriasis, your skin cells grow like crazy but not never fully mature. You get new skin on the outside every 4-7 days rather than every month like normal. There is an immune problem that is stimulating growth but not all growth is good!
Rosacea is an inflammation response within your skin that is visible in the chronic red face that tends to give it away. The skin inflammation is often related to gut inflammation and a suboptimal gut microbiome.
5 Ways to Boost Your Skin’s Immune Health
Improving your skin health by supporting your immune health can be easy. My favorite ways to achieve and maintain low inflammation in my skin (and gut) are to:
- Skin Brush : Using an ionic skin brush with copper and zinc bristles (my favorite is from PranaBrush – I am not an affiliate) improves the health and look of your skin by stimulating circulation (just from the brushing action), stimulating your detoxifying lymphatic flow in your dermis, and offering both copper and zinc bristles to stimulate and support your immune system’s ability to attack and remove microbes that have gotten just inside your epidermis.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids : Omega-3’s solve both the hydration and anti-inflammatory needs of your skin. Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet or through supplementation will calm your skin’s irritation and inflammation while also increasing the ability of your skin to hold on to its water.
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet : Your skin health depends on your diet. The healthier your diet, the healthier your skin! When you eat foods that activate your immune system in your gut, your skin often also responds with itchy, red, angry areas. Organic vegetables and fruits are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Get yourself on the Next Step Produce client list and you could pick up your incredibly healthy plant foods grown by the best experienced farmers in the Southern Maryland area – right in the lobby of Zen and Vitality.
- Red/Infrared Light Therapy : A red/infrared light session gives energy to your skin to use for healing, raises your circulation to your skin, reduces inflammation, and just plain feels divine! If you are in the La Plata, MD area, schedule a time to come in to my studio to get in the lights and take your next step towards improved skin health!
- Gut Health : Your gut microbiome belongs in your large intestine. Absorption of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other nutrients happens in your small intestine. All of that depends on your stomach acid doing it’s job of breaking down your food and keeping you safe from invading microbes. If your gut health is suboptimal, you might be accidentally letting in microbes that are contributing to the unfavorable way your skin looks and feels. If you would like some help with your digestion and diet, request a Personal Nutrition Analysis.
Wrinkles and Your Connective Tissue (Fascia)
Wrinkles are fine lines in the skin that occur when your skin can not hold its shape well. Skin is held together with connective tissue – just like your blood vessels, lungs, ear, ligaments, cartilage. Connective tissue is created by a combination of elastic and collagen. Elastin provides the spring and bounce to your skin. Collagen provides the structural integrity to hold your skin together. When they degrade faster than they are recreated by your body, you will get wrinkles and folds.
Stress hormones, dehydration, low fatty acid intake, poor circulation to the skin, and an inflammatory lifestyle/diet all increase the development of wrinkles and fine lines that you see in a mirror.
Keep in mind that these connective tissue changes are happening everywhere inside the body too – in all the places you can not see in the mirror!
Your effort to reduce wrinkles is then an opportunity to improve the health status of your entire body!
5 Ways to Smooth Out Wrinkles
Try these steps and watch the wrinkles slowly but surely fade:
- Vitamin C : This water soluble vitamin is needed to make your own collagen. I doubt you get enough daily (since you pee it out every day) for all your body’s needs and your skin might be the last to get any! Two of my favorite ways are to drink tea incorporating rose hips and to take the incredibly bioavailable Liposomal Vitamin C from Quicksilver Scientific (both available at my store to existing clients).
- Protein : Check both your protein intake and your ability to digest protein. You need building blocks to make new collagen and elastin – and those come from your dietary protein intake. You have to both eat enough and be able to properly digest (break down) your food in order to have small enough building blocks to make new connective tissue.
- Red Light Therapy : It has been established both scientifically and by my clients that red/infrared light therapy sessions stimulate collagen production in your skin. This is easy to add to your wellness routine, but be sure to invest in sessions that target your entire body for maximal benefits. If you are near La Plata, MD, come and get in my Joovv light therapy panels!
- Fascial Elasticity Training : Train the elasticity of your connective tissue by joining me for a fascial movement class. You know the importance of training and building your muscles but what do you do for your fascia?
- Lower Your Stress Hormones : Even if you think you are handling your stress well, your adrenal glands might disagree. If they are pumping out cortisol trying to keep you ready to run away from a saber-toothed tiger, that excess cortisol will contribute to the breakdown of your connective tissue. If you need some healing support for your tired adrenal glands, consider becoming a functional wellness client or working on your stress management!
Glowing Skin and a Circulation Boost
Glowing skin is associated with youth, beauty, and sexual arousal! You glow when you have great circulation to your skin.
Circulating blood brings nutrients and hydration to the various parts of your body. To improve the circulation to your skin, you want to get hot in a good way! Your body cools you off by sending blood to your skin to release heat to the outside world.
5 Ways to Improve Skin Circulation
My favorite ways to get hot and boost circulation are:
- Infrared Sauna : The gentle warmth created by your body during a session in an infrared sauna will get you glowing with sweating as the next health step. If you are near Charles County, Maryland, schedule your sauna session at my studio and leave looking younger!
- Walk : An inexpensive, attainable way to boost your circulation is to go for an invigorating walk. My daughter and I walk outside year round and nearly weather independent. An after dinner walk will both improve digestion and help your skin glow.
- Resistance Train : You can work your body from the inside out with spring resistance in Pilates Equipment Classes. You can practice Vitality Flow Yoga with me. You can schedule an independent session with the X3 Bar. You do not need to work up a sweat in order to improve skin circulation. You can have great looking skin and a strong body!
- Pelvic Floor and Sexual Arousal : Many people find their skin glows when they also experience the blood flow needed for sexual arousal. Pelvic floor work can help your skin and your mood! Mat Pilates classes support a pelvic floor that responds well to your thoughts and brings increased blood flow – everywhere!
- Healing Water : Blood is essentially water with “stuff” in it that travels around the body. When your blood is thick, it does not flow through your blood vessels well. Even slight dehydration makes your blood thicker and harder to flow all the way to the tiny capillaries in the skin. Avoid dehydration and drink the best water you can! In my post about water, I mention how I use my HEAL Capsule to make my drinking water even more beneficial for my body.
Thin Skin and Thyroid Hormones
When the epidermis layer of your skin is thin, we focus on the health of the dermis. The dermis supplies all the materials to build new thicker skin in the epidermis. The dermis also offers the scaffold on which the epidermis is built. A stronger, more pliable dermis means the epidermis will grow smooth and supple. Oxidative stress will increase the breakdown of tissue and slow down your skin regeneration. Oxidative stress is caused by toxins stuck in your tissues wreaking havoc until they are removed. All of these support ideas for the dermis will be for naught if your thyroid hormones and growth factors are not activating growth in your skin.
Thyroid hormones stimulate growth and activity across your entire body. Low thyroid action leads to less growth of hair, skin, and nails which could lead to hair loss, thinning skin, and nails that are thick and brittle.
Low thyroid action might be an issue with your thyroid gland, but more commonly the issue is related to either your nutrition (diet and digestion) or to the ability of your tissues to make use of your thyroid hormones. Either way, a functional wellness service called a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis can give you fabulous information about what is going on inside you that will help your thinning skin and so much more!