There’s more to “having a thick skin” than you may have thought. Figuratively, it helps you deal with a mean boss, but in a more literal sense, the thickness of your skin is related to your overall health.
The skin is the human body’s largest organ. It weighs about eight pounds and, according to National Geographic, the average adult has 22 square feet of it. The skin plays a key role protecting our bodies, which is why our skin barrier is so important.
Our skin is the mirror of overall health, and here’s why:
- It prevents bacteria and viruses from entering the body
- It protects our internal organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels
- It produces melatonin to filter harmful UV
- It metabolizes and activates vitamin D3
- It regulates core body temperature
- It excretes excess salt and waste
- It retains fluids and moisture
- It impacts our psychological well-being
Every day, we’re bombarded with messages promoting the latest cream designed to protect our skin. But anyone suffering from an inflammatory skin condition, such as eczema or acne, knows that not all creams can prevent the external stresses often responsible for flare- ups. When stress pumps through our system, excess hormones (like cortisol) surge. Not only can this lead to weight gain, but these hormones affect our immune system and speed the aging process.
To truly understand skin health we need to start focusing on what’s upsetting the balance of our skin barrier. Whether it’s stress or food sensitivities, find out how to keep your skin barrier strong:
1. Reduce stress
Our skin releases chemicals called neuropeptides that protect us from infection. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) describes neuropeptides as, “the chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings . . . the skin’s first line of defense from infection and trauma.” Dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried explains that stress can cause these neuropeptides to be released when they shouldn’t be and aren’t needed. This can lead to a vicious cycle where worrying about a skin issue can create more stress, thus worsening the condition. If you get a pimple the night of a first date, stressing about it can actually cause other reactions and inflammation in your skin because of the release of neuropeptides caused by the stress. Dr. Fried’s research explains that stress weakens the skin’s barrier. For this reason, it’s important to reduce stress and also reach for moisturizers that build up your skin’s barrier.
Bottom line: The AAD says it best: “Stress can make a person’s rosacea more red or acne lesions more inflamed and more persistent. It can worsen hives, fever blisters, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.” For this reason, visiting a dermatologist and understanding why your skin is irritated are paramount. A dermatologist can recommend the best topical option for you as well as figure out if there are any underlying stressors causing flare-ups. I recommend SkinFix to many of my clients as a front-line option for skin.
Tip: Take a photo of your skin condition when it flares up, and bring it to your doctor’s appointment.
2. Meditate to calm your mind and your skin
The U.S. National Library of Medicine found that a large number of skin diseases, including psoriasis, were largely affected by stress related to a specific event. Researchers focused on 27 students, and how their skin was affected in three different circumstances (two were low-stress vacations and one was the highly stressful exam time). When comparing the three time periods, it proved that under stressful circumstances the outer layer of their skin became very weak. The participants’ skin cells also reduced in size, allowing the skin to become vulnerable to harmful bacteria that could have lead to eczema or psoriasis.
3. Improve your digestion
Believe it or not, healthy skin starts in the gut. Improving your gut flora is essential for minimizing breakouts and skin flare-ups. One of my favourite remedies for acne is a high- potency probiotic mixed with Cenitol by Metagenics. The Cenitol is a stress relief formula that supports stable moods and is great for nervous system support which I find to be a stellar combination when combined with a good probiotic to assist with alleviating chronic acne.
4. Watch what you eat
Most people with food sensitivities don’t realize how bad they feel (or look) until the problematic foods have been removed from their diet. Suddenly getting out of bed is easier, and their energy, mood and concentration are improved. Joint pain, headaches, skin conditions and sinus congestion often disappear too. Eight common foods – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, soy, wheat and shellfish – cause an estimated 90 percent of all food allergies.
A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology confirmed a link between the skin barrier’s role and food allergies. Symptoms to food allergies are less intense, and typically appear within 12 to 48 hours after eating the offending food. In my practice, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are commonly connected to food intolerances and are greatly reduced when the key culprits are removed and proper topical products are used.
Bottom line: It’s no surprise that diet can play a large role in building a strong skin barrier. To get to the bottom of your symptoms, I recommend that you do a 14-day elimination diet where you remove the most common food allergens from your diet to give your body a break, alleviate stress off your immune system and detox overall. Slowly re-introducing each food after a 14-day break can allow you to connect particular symptoms with your food choices. If you don’t want to do a 14-day elimination diet like my Supercharged Hormone Diet Program, you can consider IgG food-allergy testing.
Originally Published: December 9, 2017
Dr. Natasha Turner, ND, Contributor and Founder & Director of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique
+ Read Bio
Dr. Natasha Turner, ND is a regular contributor to various publications and television programs as a natural health expert. Shows like The Dr. Oz Show, The Marilyn Denis Show, Canada AM, CP24, CTV News, Breakfast Television, Rogers TV, Shaw TV, and more have used her expertise to educate audiences. Print publications include SELF, ELLE, Glow, Canadian Business, Health, Today’s Parent, Lush The Magazine, Alive, National Post, Metro, Tonic, Vista, Fit Life, Cocoa, Viva, Healthy Living Now, Get Outside, and several websites, including a regular column for Chatelaine.com, Blisstree.com, and Huffingtonpost.ca.
Written by Natasha Turner, ND
According to a large survey, less than one in 10 Americans sleep in the buff. This is a sad finding considering the fantastic (and scientifically proven!) reasons we gain from ditching PJs and slipping into our birthday suit. Check out these surprising health benefits ranging from improved hormonal balance and mood to less belly fat, more sex and beyond.
Boost your anti-aging hormones:
Plenty of people like to feel cozy at bedtime, but a sleep environment that’s too warm can prevent the natural cooling that should take place in your body while you sleep. Keeping your body or your bedroom too warm (higher than 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit) will disrupt the release of your main anti-aging hormones, melatonin and growth hormone. When we sleep in total darkness, melatonin is released, triggering a very slight but critical cool-down in the body. As body temperature drops, growth hormone is released and works its regenerative magic.
In fact, sleep itself has been touted as a magic pill precisely because it encourages the release of this youthful hormone. In a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers showed that you can get safe, legal doses of growth hormone – and even improve athletic performance – just by hitting the sack for a deep, restorative sleep. It’s also good for your health in other ways – researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20 to 30 percent reduction in blood pressure and 10 to 20 percent reduction in heart rate during sleep.
Improve body composition:
As mentioned, wearing heavy blankets or clothing to bed will impede the release of growth hormone, which means you won’t burn fat while you sleep or benefit from night-time repair of your bones, skin and muscles. Growth hormone (HGH) affects just about every cell in the body. It’s essential for tissue repair, muscle building, bone density and healthy body composition. People who sleep less than six hours a night may be three times more likely to develop a condition which leads to diabetes and heart disease (and in turn, weight gain), according to researchers at the University of Warwick. When your sleep is insufficient, your cortisol and hunger hormones both surge, causing a corresponding increase in insulin. You also experience decreases in the fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones.
Get deeper sleep:
Research has shown that certain forms of insomnia associated with faulty body temperature regulation and the inability to cool down at night enough to spark a deeper stage of sleep. In one Dutch study, scientists placed thermosuits on participants to lower skin temperature less than one degree Celsius without affecting core body temperature. The result? People didn’t wake up as much during the night and the percentage of the sleep spent in stages three and four (deep sleep) increased. In elderly subjects, a 0.4 degree decrease in skin temperature caused a decline in the probability of early morning waking from 0.58 to 0.04. And believe it or not, you don’t sweat or shiver during REM sleep so have no fear that ditching the layers will have you dreaming of icicles.
Lower cortisol and belly fat:
As you cool down at night and growth hormone increases, cortisol will also decrease with healthy sleep patterns. Between the hours of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am is the time when your body is truly resting and recuperating (and cortisol should be at its lowest). By 2:00 am your adrenal glands (stress glands) begin to work to produce cortisol, in preparation for the next day, which also peaks at 4:00 am and then should naturally reach its highest point around 6:00 am – just at the right time to get you up out of bed feeling energized. On the nights that you do not sleep enough, you will wake with a level of cortisol that is abnormally high.
This is known to trigger your appetite – especially for comfort foods (muffins, cookies, etc) and your tendency to overeat, increase tension/anxiety and fuel belly fat – even in people who are otherwise thin. High cortisol levels weaken the body’s immune system, raise blood pressure and cholesterol, increase appetite, disrupt our normal sleep patterns, lower libido, increase cravings for sugar and carbs and more. It will also contribute to other hormonal imbalances and health conditions including PMS, infertility, thyroid disease and abnormal blood sugars.
Higher levels of oxytocin.
If you and your partner both sleep in the nude, you can be reaping the benefits of this feel-good hormone. Skin to skin touching (with intimacy, a massage, or cuddling) is all that is required. Also involved in sexual responsiveness, the hormone oxytocin counteracts stress and depression by combating the harmful effects of cortisol and reduces blood pressure. It has also been shown to improve gut motility and decrease intestinal inflammation. Another bonus? More... ahem... opportunities. Let’s face it, there’s nothing that turns your partner off faster than head-to- toe flannel pyjamas.
Natasha can be reached at
Originally Published: April 10, 2017