By Dr. Anna Gold
In my new Skin Series Blog posts, The Importance of Supporting Skin Health from Within, I go deep into internal factors that contribute to the health of skin. In Part 1, I discuss the structure function of the skin and why beauty and topical products may not be enough for holistic skin health. In Part 2, I looked at skin from a TCM perspective and in Part 3, I point out the how the impact of dysbiosis in in the gut disturbs the equilibrium in the gut-skin axis. In this next segment, I give additional lifestyle tips that impact the glow and resilience of skin.
Now that we've established how dynamic and interconnected the skin is in relation to the rest of the body, here are some lifestyle habits that you should consistently nourish to in order to establish healthy, resilient skin.
Tip # 1: Manage Stress
The most common culprit wreaking havoc on the skin is, not surprisingly, stress. When a person is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system releases cortisol, the hormone associated with the flight or fight response. High levels of cortisol prompts sebum production which can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. Stress, leading to loss of sleep (more on that later), depletes moisture in the stratum corneum of the epidermis and disrupts barrier function repair.
Stress also dysregulates the body’s immune response by creating inflammation and exacerbating autoimmune reactions which can worsen skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. People who suffer from these chronic skin issues will often report worsening symptoms when stress is high. Rosacea, which may or may not be autoimmune related, also flares during higher levels of cortisol.
The following are proven methods that elevate feel-good neurotransmitters and lower stress :
- Meditate. My spiritual teacher said long ago that it's impossible not to think. Our goal is to reign in our thoughts and simply observe them without reacting to our impulses. Just the act of observation gives us space. It is in this space where the breath deepens and the heart opens. Studies show meditation benefits blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
- Walk amongst the trees. Data reveals that just a twenty-minute nature experience (this does not necessarily need to to be out in the woods; it works in urban park too) was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels.
- Adopt a pet. Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. I
- Take DR. ANNA GOLD’S BALANCE herbal tincture. BALANCE is a based on a Chinese herbal tonic that has been around for hundreds of years. In studies it has been shown to significantly alleviate depression and anxiety. This formula regulates neurotransmitters similar to prescription antidepressants.
Tip #2: Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep (for most adults that’s minimum 7 to 8 hours) is essential to mood stability, blood sugar regulation, weight loss, blood pressure maintenance, and cognitive performance, to name a few.
Sleep is one of the best ways to lower inflammation in the body, which is why during stressful periods when you’re not sleeping enough, certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema will worsen.
During sleep, cells repair and regenerate. Deep sleep also encourages collagen and growth hormones. On the other hand, when one is deprived of sleep, cortisol rises which prompts the skin to produce sebum, leading to more acne breakouts. Sleep deprivation is also associated with puffy skin especially under the eyes.
Tip #3: Regulate Your Hormones
Balancing hormones is complicated but we can generally say that if a woman is of childbearing age and she has irregular menstrual cycles, steps should be taken to regulate them. People with polycystic ovarian syndrome are more prone to cystic acne breakouts because of the high levels of androgens in their bloodstream. Women who are peri- or postmenopausal suffer from decreasing estrogen, which is the hormone that plumps the skin and moisturizers tissues. When there is a drop in estrogen, women feel dryness, dehydration, and see more discoloration and acne breakouts.
Because hormones are so complicated, seeking to regulate them should be individualized. Acupuncture and herbs to boost Kidney Yin deficiency can help puffiness and elasticity and control breakouts.
Tip #4: (Mostly) Stay Out of the Sun
The sun emits UV rays which causes free radical damage to the skin. Even though I encourage 10 to 20 minutes in the sun each day to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, if your family history or genetics makes you prone to skin cancer, you should take vitamin D supplementation in a pill.
Photo damage to the skin may take years, sometimes decades, before damage becomes apparent. Signs of skin damage include wrinkling, loss of tone, hyper pigmentation, uneven skin texture and even skin cancer, so make sure that you always have sunblock on when going outside.
Establishing these lifestyle habits, along with eating a healthy skin diet, creates healthy resilient skin and a barrier that that can withstand fluctuations we all encounter in our daily lives. In the next and last segment of the Skin Series Blog, we look into examples of herbal botanicals that help support the skin when we need to rebalance internally.
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