The in's and out's of skin.



The skin is our bodies largest organ.


The 'dermatological' system or 'integumentary' system is the fancy term to describe our skin, hair, nails, mucous membranes and glands. Due to the large surface area of our skin it is commonly referred to as our largest organ.


To understand how to honour your skin and take care of it, it is important to know how it works.


The skin is comprised of three layers:

  • The epidermis is the layer that is exposed to our external environment and contains different types of cells such as Langerhans cells (responsible for immune signalling), Merkel cells (for touch reception) and melanocytes (for melanin/pigment).

  • The next layer down is the dermis. The dermis contains connective tissue and elastic fibres. This layer is probably the biggest and juiciest layer as it holds a host of functions such as, sweat production, oil production, hair production, reception of light touch and vibration. It also contains a large amount of capillaries and lymphatic vessels that help supply and filtrate the dermis and all of its cells.

  • The deepest section of the skin is the subcutaneous layer, it contains our adipose (fat) and connective tissue. There are an array of capillaries and blood vessels located in this region.

 

The four functions of skin.


Our skin is more than just an aesthetic cover and should be treated with care. If we break up the main functions into four main areas we can grasp all the incredible roles it plays for us. Hint: skin is more important for just the way we look!



Protection.


One of the more obvious functions of our skin, is that of protection from our external environment. The body uses our skin for protection by producing sweat (temperature regulation and toxin dilution), secreting melanin (to protect from UV rays), exocrine secretions (to lower the pH for microbial protection) and immune cells (for further microbial and infection protection).


Sensation.


Multiple nerve and sensory receptors present in the dermal layers of our skin signal both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. This sensory input is important as it can warn us from danger (have you ever accidentally grabbed an oven tray fresh out of the oven and quickly flinched away?! Ouch!!). They are also responsible for messages of light touch, vibration and deep pressure.


Homeostasis.


The main function of homeostasis via the skin occurs through perspiration. Sweating helps us lose heat through convection (sorry lots of oven related terms in here ha!) and evaporation, this supports a drop of our core body temperature and return to homeostasis. We can also warm ourselves up via activation of 'piloerection' which causes goosebumps, this helps insulate the skin from heat loss when we are cold. Our bodies are so clever!


Nutrition.


The surface of our skin is actually a giant vitamin D sponge. Exposure of our skin to UV radiation causes the conversion of 'dehydrocholesterol' in the epidermis to 'cholecalciferol' aka vitamin D3. The subcutaneous layer of our skin also stores fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E, A and D. This is important to highlight as the presence of adipose tissue is crucial for fat soluble nutrient conversion and storage, low body fat or extremely low body fat can lead to potential deficiencies in these nutrients.


 

Common skin conditions and how they come about.



Treating our skin from the outside only may produce great results in the short term, however if we do not address the body internally we may never get to the bottom of things. Think of it this way, if you had a big infected wound on your arm that was making you sick, you wouldn't just chuck a bandaid over it and think it will get better- it won't. You would perhaps need to address the infection with antibiotics or other treatments, skin treatment is the same! Inner and outer health needs to be addressed to get on top of it.


Starting with the most common disorder, Acne vulgaris. Acne affects 85% of teenagers, 43.5% of men and 50.9% of women aged 20-30 years old. If you've experienced acne, I probably don't need to tell you about the various impacts it has on quality of life. Not only is acne uncomfortable and often painful, it affects our confidence, mental health, finances and relationships. With such massive impacts, why is this something that we can really struggle to get on top of??


My view is that it's complex. There are multiple drivers for acne that all interact and can be hard to pin point. More recently, research suggests there are hormonal, endocrine and pathogenic factors including specific microbes (p.acnes and c.acnes) that heavily contribute to acne.


Similarly, dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea can be driven by these factors mentioned above. Our immune systems are a less commonly known driver for skin conditions and are often associated with these issues, therefor immune function needs to be addressed in treatment.


Skin disorders can be tricky to work with as there are multiple systems and organs that influence the production of excess oils, inflammation, infections and integrity of our skin.


Common realms that can lead to skin issues:

  • Gut dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance), digestive infections, SIBO, candida

  • Sluggish liver function with reduced detoxification capacity

  • Sex hormone imbalance, especially with androgens, testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone

  • Stress and overburdened adrenal glands leading to cortisol imbalance

  • Insulin and blood sugar issues related to sensitivity, signalling and release

  • Lymphatic congestion

  • Dietary triggers, the main ones being dairy, whey protein, refined grains and sugars, fast foods and chocolate

 

So what can we do to help?


Often the wisest step is seeking practitioner support as this will truly address your situation from a holistic perspective backed by evidence, knowledge and clinical skills. There are however a few simple ways to support your skin health on your own that you can do now!


As I mentioned earlier on, we need to look after ourselves internally and externally.


Internal


My number one tip for good skin is hydration. Not drinking enough water is a big cause for dry, wrinkled and poor quality skin. My recommendation is at least 2-3 litres but no more than 4.5 litres. For every hour of exercise make sure you add an extra 0.5 litres to counteract fluid loss (0.5 litres = 2 cups).


Remember, not all supplements are made the same. Often over the counter or supplements from chemists are non-activated or synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals. For the highest quality supplements please seek support from your practitioner.


The following nutrients are commonly deficient in skin disorders but are also needed for many processes in the body contributing to skin health:

  1. Zinc

  2. Vitamin D

  3. Selenium

  4. Chromium

  5. Omega 3's

  6. Vitamin A

  7. Vitamin E

  8. Vitamin C

  9. Copper

  10. Glycine

  11. Vitamin B5 and B6

A caveat to this, is the prescription of pharmaceutical drugs to combat common skin issues are known to deplete many of the above nutrients. Another reason why guidance from natural medicine practitioners can be helpful.


You can however get loads of these specific nutrients from foods, include shades of red, orange, yellow, green and purple! These coloured foods are high in antioxidants and the nutrients mentioned above so eat up.




External


My favourite tried and tested weapons when it comes to looking after your skin are:

  1. Dry skin brushing- I can't recommend dry skin brushing enough for lymphatic drainage, cellular turnover and detoxification.

  2. Gua sha- I love my jade gua sha stones but rose quartz is also beautiful! I recommend checking out stephflockhart on instagram as she has loads of amazing tutorials.

  3. LED suanas- if you live on the Gold Coast I recommend the Freedom Float Centre.

  4. Sunlight- 15-20 minutes of sunshine on the skin daily, on the belly and forearms is best.

  5. Salt water- salt is a lovely natural cleanser for the skin (and soul!), be careful swimming in water that is murky or contaminated as it can worsen bacterial infections.

  6. Hydration- you can hydrate from the inside but outer hydration is great to support your barrier to the environment. Serums, oils and moisturisers daily are obvious choices here.

  7. Face masks- these can help remove unwanted bacteria and sebum whilst improving cell turnover and hydration. My favourite is the superdose luminosity masque by sansceuticals (not sponsored but wish I was).

 

Navigating skin care.



How society and social media influences our perspectives on skincare.


The beauty industry shapes our thinking style into that of 'needing'. We think we 'need' all of these products because duh, they make a profit the more you buy! Truth is, when it comes to skincare less (on the outside) can be more. Try to catch yourself when you're being lured by clever marketing, influencers selling products or glorifying things that quite frankly don't work or are not necessary. Also remember, influencers often have no specific qualifications in the areas of products they are pushing so misinformation can be spread like wildfire. By empowering yourself with the knowledge to know a 'shoddy' product when you see one, you can see straight through these marketing tactics and re-frame the way you think about skincare and skincare products.


With the rise of social media and loads of information at our fingertips, it's any wonder we end up buying all these serums, mists, masks, oils, day cream, night cream, eye cream because we are persuaded to think they will fix our skin!


Let me gently remind you, external potions and products are only 50% of the picture here, without addressing our health from the inside we can only get so far.

 

The golden message.


After lots of research into this area, it seems the potentially harmful ingredients are well referenced in the literature, so why is it still so confusing? Thing is, most of the evidence suggests that the ingredients aren't necessarily the threat to our health, it is the amounts in which we are exposed to them. There are also some highlighted issues with a lack of safety data for some ingredients, which is even more reason to minimise or eliminate them.


A saying we use a lot in herbal medicine, 'the dose defines the poison' cannot be more true here! Rather than stressing ourselves to completely eliminate all these toxic ingredients from our lives, our aim (which is much more reasonable) should be on minimising our exposure and use.


In saying that, you could absolutely eliminate the ingredients highlighted below. My perspective is that this is not always realistic for people with budget constraints, social issues or other priorities. So do your best!


Ingredients to include:

  1. Vitamin E (tocopherol)

  2. Vitamin A

  3. Vitamin C

  4. Collagen

  5. Herbal botanicals

  6. Hyaluronic acid

  7. Lactic acid

  8. Manuka honey

  9. Vitamin B5 (panthenol)

  10. Enzymes (betaine, papain, bromelain)


Ingredients to minimise:

  1. Aluminum

  2. Formaldehyde

  3. Fragrance

  4. Lead (including eye makeup containing kohl)

  5. Mineral Oil and Petroleum

  6. Parabens

  7. Phthalates

  8. Sulfates (SLS and SLES)

  9. Talc

  10. Triclosan

 

I hope you love this post and got something out of it, skin is something I am super passionate about and really enjoy treating in clinical practice. With the right support we can get great results. If you have any questions about how I can help, please don't hesitate to reach out.


Yours in kindness,


Brooke x

 

Special thanks for Tayla Gardinder, Student Naturopath who contributed to this post. Follow her over at essentieelhealth.


*All information mentioned in this post has been referenced from relevant text and journal articles. See references below for sources:


References:


Barrett, J. R. (2005). Chemical Exposures: The Ugly Side of Beauty Products. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(1). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.113-a24

Halla, N., Fernandes, I., Heleno, S., Costa, P., Boucherit-Otmani, Z., Boucherit, K., Rodrigues, A., Ferreira, I., & Barreiro, M. (2018). Cosmetics Preservation: A Review on Present Strategies. Molecules, 23(7), 1571. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071571

Hechtman, L. (2019). Clinical naturopathic medicine. Elsevier, Chatswood NSW.


Bone, K. (2020). Beyond Skin Deep, Clinical Naturopathic Dermatology. Integria Healthcare.

Juhász, M. L. W., & Marmur, E. S. (2014). A review of selected chemical additives in cosmetic products: A review of selected chemical additives. Dermatologic Therapy, 27(6), 317–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.12146

Kaličanin, B., & Velimirović, D. (2016). A Study of the Possible Harmful Effects of Cosmetic Beauty Products on Human Health. Biological Trace Element Research, 170(2), 476–484. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-015-0477-2

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Goodkind  Naturopathy acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of our country, the Yugambeh language group and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

 

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