What is Holistic Dermatology and Is It Right For You?
In the recent decades, dermatologic issues have widely been remedied based on their visible symptoms. These illnesses are addressed with localized treatments. A myriad of topical, oral and injectable medications are widely available for conditions like acne, eczema and rosacea. When these types of non-invasive treatments fail, more intensive ones like radiation, surgery, lasers, and phototherapy are recommended. But what about a whole body approach with holistic dermatology?
- Holistic dermatology involves lifestyle changes to address your skin and overall health.
- Diet, sleep, exercise, stress, alcohol and smoking are the biggest factors you can control.
- Small steps are still steps!
What is it?
Throughout history, holistic dermatology has been the go to. It has been practiced in various civilizations across the world, and it still reigns supreme in many Asian communities today. Holistic dermatology focuses on treating the entire human body, not just the symptoms, to improve general health.
The thinking is that in healing the body overall, a dermatologic disease will improve as a result. It focuses on environmental variables, dietary factors, the gut microbiota, history of exposures, stress, and boosting immune system function, from herbal treatments to acupuncture. Holistic dermatology focuses on making lifestyle changes to improve skin disease treatment and prognosis.Holistic dermatology is not trendy. In western society, generally we look for a quick fix to daily problems that arise. Though there have been many studies relating lifestyle variables and skin health people are still skeptical about the seemingly roundabout method to improving their skin in a holistic way. Additionally, because holistic lifestyles are not always covered by insurance and healthy meals may not be readily available or financially feasible, they can be costly and difficult to execute.
Furthermore, the positive lifestyle changes need to be consistent in order to produce results. This is where many get discouraged because it involves truly breaking and changing habits like getting more sleep, eating nutritious food and committing to a regular exercise schedule.
The holistic approach
By modifying your daily life routine you can practice holistic dermatology and completely rethink your skincare routine. There are six major changeable lifestyle factors that have been shown to have an effect on skin health and appearance and they are diet, sleep, exercise, stress, alcohol and smoking.
“You are what you eat” is something you might have heard and taken lightly, but diet is probably the biggest factor that you have control of in positively affecting your skin health. Anti-inflammatory foods like fish, nuts and vegetables are best when it comes to improving skin and your overall health. Try to avoid or limit red meat, dairy and foods with high-glycemic levels.
Another factor to consider when thinking about the link between diet and skin health is the cooking method. For example if you are using a charcoal grill your skin will likely be exposed to smoke for an extended period of time. Smoke and heat are awful for our skin, they weaken it and leave it open to bacteria and other toxins.
Getting 6-8 hours of sleep does far more for you than simply giving you the energy to go through your day. Sleep is the time where your body is able to repair itself on a cellular level. Insufficient sleep has been linked to various health issues, when it comes to our skin one of the most common is acne. It has also been found that sleep deprivation for 42 hours produces a substantial increase in interleukin 1B levels, which inhibits collagen synthesis and compromises the skin barrier.
Physical activity boosts the synthesis of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory factors, which strengthens the antioxidant defense system thus strengthening your skin.
Exercise also promotes blood flow to the skin transporting oxygen and nutrients and discarding waste. It helps to repair skin, unclog pores, and decrease cortisol which wreaks havoc on the body and creates noticeable flaws in our skin. It is important to remember that while this is always true, regular-moderate exercise is critical to maintaining overall holistic health.
Stress weakens the skin's barrier function, causes inflammation, and causes or worsens the progression of psoriasis, acne, and atopic dermatitis, to name a few. Emotional and psychological stress have a huge impact on overall health and skin. From a holistic perspective, dealing with stress may involve many steps. A great place to start in trying to manage your stress is writing in a journal and meditation. Get down all of the things on your mind in a form that is more manageable to process and take small steps to resolve conflicts.
While all correlational research has a margin for error, the link between smoking and wrinkles is basically causal. Over decades, it has been documented that smoking causes the skin to age at a more rapid rate. Skin aging is a direct window to overall skin health. Smoking reduces the rate your skin can heal, reduces blood flow to the skin, and increases risk of infections. Do yourself a favor and quit smoking, are there really any benefits???
Alcohol is a part of many peoples lives to varying degrees. We all know that it isn’t great for our health, immediate consequences like hangovers are a fairly blaring symptom of the damage it causes, but it seems that only the surface. Alcohol has been shown to reduce our healing speed, and overtime with chronic alcohol use your immune system will fail, you will not be able to absorb nutrients properly and you will be more susceptible to disease. In terms of issues related to our skin, alcohol is linked to:
- Discoid eczema
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Postadolescent acne
- Superficial cutaneous infections.
Research has also shown that there is a link between alcohol consumption and melanoma or skin cancer. This may be due to the effect alcohol has in increasing permeability of the skin and decreasing the amount of antioxidants/natural UV protecting substances.
The combination of all these factors and with the correlation of “heavy drinking and higher rates of sunburn” could be something to acknowledge in terms of holistic lifestyle thinking and how drinking alcohol affects our skin. For example, day drinking at a sunny event without sunscreen or any sort of skin protection probably isn't the best idea.
Though holistic dermatology seems complex, it's actually pretty simple and anyone can do it. We all know what things are good for us and what things are not. Limit harmful behaviors and indulge in positive ones. Consistency is key, if you want to be physically and mentally the best you that you can be then you have to actively work towards that.
Written by Kiana St. Onge