Integrative Dermatology: The Next Best Thing in Skincare
Medicine that goes beyond prescription pills and creams.
The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle
These days, feeling good is just as important as looking good. More than ever, people are appreciating the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This is not surprising since more than 50% of diseases in the United States are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.[1,2]
Not only are these diseases deadly and costly, but they are also very preventable. A highly processed diet, lack of exercise, excess stress levels, tobacco and alcohol use all contribute to the high, rising rates of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and obesity. While modern medicine has done wonders in treating emergent diseases, it has not been as effective when it comes to more chronic diseases.
How are these facts relevant to the skin, you may ask? The skin is an incredibly important part of the body, and all organ systems in the body work together to maintain a balanced state. Chances are if one system is off, other organs are also being affected on some level.
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Health
The effects of an unhealthy lifestyle are also increasingly being noted in dermatology. Proper nutrition is essential for skin health, yet most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. We depend on essential vitamins and minerals found in our diet to maintain healthy skin function, yet many people also don’t meet the daily minimum requirements for nutrients in their diet.
Influence of diet on skin health
The typical American diet, high in refined carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids, has also been associated with acne. It’s well known that smoking and sun exposure can cause premature aging, but so can high levels of sugar in the diet. [5,6] On the other hand, a low glycemic diet, high in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with decreased risk of acne and skin cancer.[7-12] The quality of food we eat also makes a difference as food additives and preservatives can worsen eczema.
Influence of stress on skin health
Stress is also another factor of daily life that impacts many of us and has also been associated with worsening of acne, eczema, and psoriasis.[14-16] Furthermore, stress-relieving activities such as meditation and mindfulness practices have been shown to improve psoriasis. Yoga and exercise also offer many benefits for the mind and the skin. [18,19]
What’s the Solution?
Modern medicine’s solutions to dermatological issues typically come from a prescription pill or a cream. While these therapies can be very effective, they also come with many side effects. Antibiotics, for example, can cause antibiotic resistance related diseases and disrupt the gut microbiome’s balance. Pills also can’t change an unhealthy lifestyle, which is why disease prevention and lifestyle modification is key. Fortunately, science, medicine, and alternative healing modalities are coming together to provide people with more options for their health.
Integrative Medicine and Dermatology
Integrative medicine is a newer branch of medicine that aims to provide solutions where conventional philosophy yet has not. It is a patient-centered approach that focuses on the root cause of disease and the whole person – not just physical symptoms. Treatments are not one-size-fits-all, but rather personalized for the individual. Pharmaceutical agents and surgical procedures are recommended when necessary, and the goal is to prevent the need for drastic approaches in the first place. A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep are emphasized. Moreover, integrative medicine incorporates alternative healing modalities such as herbs, nutraceuticals, and acupuncture when appropriate with an emphasis on evidence-based approaches.
Emerging research in dermatology
Integrative approaches have been shown to be effective in dermatology. Research has shown how probiotics may help improve acne, as well as prevent eczema and sun damage.[20-23] The colorful Ayurvedic herb turmeric is more than just a delicious culinary spice, as it has been found to contain anti-inflammatory properties that benefit the skin.[24,25] For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have considered healthy digestion central to wellness. This ancient concept is now being explored and researched as the gut microbiome appears to influence the whole body.
Integrative medicine also recognizes the effects of the environment on the body. Since our skin is the first point of contact with our environment, it is especially important to protect it. Many skin products contain potentially harmful chemicals that can ultimately be absorbed into the body. Fortunately, the field of integrative dermatology is expanding to include safer skin care products. Cosmeceuticals containing antioxidants, for example, can provide powerful anti-inflammatory, photoprotective and antiaging skin benefits. [27-29] The scientific research in this unique and much-needed field only continues to grow.
Be Your Own Skin Wellness Advocate
With all of the abundant health information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to determine what’s best for our health and skin. Recognizing that we all have a great deal of influence over our health is the first step to developing an optimal skincare regimen. The growing field of integrative dermatology will continue to bring safe, effective skin care products and treatments, providing more options for maintaining healthy skin.
Are you interested in learning more about integrative dermatology? Sign up for the world’s first Integrative Dermatology Symposium here.
- CDC. The Power of Prevention: Chronic disease the public health challenge of the 21st century In: Promotion NCfCDPaH, ed. https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/5509
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- US Department of Health and Human Services, Agriculture UDo. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2015-2020. 2015. Accessed March 28, 2017.
- Cordain L, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, et al. Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol.2002;138(12):1584-1590; PMID: 12472346 Link to research.
- Kennedy C, Bastiaens MT, Bajdik CD, et al. Effect of smoking and sun on the aging skin. J Invest Dermatol.2003;120(4):548-554; PMID: 12648216 Link to research.
- Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clin Dermatol.2010;28(4):409-411; PMID: 20620757 Link to research.
- Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr.2007;86(1):107-115; PMID: 17616769 Link to research.
- Jung JY, Kwon HH, Hong JS, et al. Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. Acta Derm Venereol.2014;94(5):521-525; PMID: 24553997 Link to research.
- Hitch JM, Greenburg BG. Adolescent acne and dietary iodine. Arch Dermatol.1961;84:898-911; PMID: 13907780 Link to research.
- Black HS, Thornby JI, Gerguis J, et al. Influence of dietary omega-6, -3 fatty acid sources on the initiation and promotion stages of photocarcinogenesis. Photochem Photobiol.1992;56(2):195-199; PMID: 1502263 Link to research.
- Fortes C, Mastroeni S, Melchi F, et al. A protective effect of the Mediterranean diet for cutaneous melanoma. Int J Epidemiol.2008;37(5):1018-1029; PMID: 18621803 Link to research.
- Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvado J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med.2013;368(14):1279-1290; PMID: 23432189 Link to research.
- Worm M, Ehlers I, Sterry W, et al. Clinical relevance of food additives in adult patients with atopic dermatitis. Clin Exp Allergy.2000;30(3):407-414; PMID: 10691900 Link to research.
- Jovic A, Marinovic B, Kostovic K, et al. The Impact of Pyschological Stress on Acne. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat.2017;25(2):1133-1141; PMID: 28871928 Link to research.
- Suarez AL, Feramisco JD, Koo J, et al. Psychoneuroimmunology of psychological stress and atopic dermatitis: pathophysiologic and therapeutic updates. Acta Derm Venereol.2012;92(1):7-15; PMID: 22101513 Link to research.
- Heller MM, Lee ES, Koo JY. Stress as an influencing factor in psoriasis. Skin Therapy Lett.2011;16(5):1-4; PMID: 21611682 Link to research.
- Kabat-Zinn J, Wheeler E, Light T, et al. Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosom Med.1998;60(5):625-632; PMID: 9773769 Link to research.
- Jalalat S. Yoga for dermatologic conditions. Cutis.2015;95(4):E23-25; PMID: 25942035 Link to research.
- Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, et al. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell.2015;14(4):625-634; PMID: 25902870 Link to research.
- Marchetti F, Capizzi R, Tulli A. [Efficacy of regulators of the intestinal bacterial flora in the therapy of acne vulgaris]. Clin Ter.1987;122(5):339-343; PMID: 2972450 Link to research.
- Lee J, Seto D, Bielory L. Meta-analysis of clinical trials of probiotics for prevention and treatment of pediatric atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol.2008;121(1):116-121 e111; PMID: 18206506 Link to research.
- Ishii Y, Sugimoto S, Izawa N, et al. Oral administration of Bifidobacterium breve attenuates UV-induced barrier perturbation and oxidative stress in hairless mice skin. Arch Dermatol Res.2014;306(5):467-473; PMID: 24414333 Link to research.
- Benyacoub J, Bosco N, Blanchard C, et al. Immune modulation property of Lactobacillus paracasei NCC2461 (ST11) strain and impact on skin defences. Benef Microbes.2014;5(2):129-136; PMID: 24322880 Link to research.
- Panchatcharam M, Miriyala S, Gayathri VS, et al. Curcumin improves wound healing by modulating collagen and decreasing reactive oxygen species. Mol Cell Biochem.2006;290(1-2):87-96; PMID: 16770527 Link to research.
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- Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol.2015;31(1):69-75; PMID: 25394236 Link to research.
- Wagemaker TAL, Maia Campos P, Shimizu K, et al. Antioxidant-based topical formulations influence on the inflammatory response of Japanese skin: A clinical study using non-invasive techniques. Eur J Pharm Biopharm.2017;117:195-202; PMID: 28385617 Link to research.
- Camouse MM, Domingo DS, Swain FR, et al. Topical application of green and white tea extracts provides protection from solar-simulated ultraviolet light in human skin. Exp Dermatol.2009;18(6):522-526; PMID: 19492999 Link to research.
- Nusgens BV, Humbert P, Rougier A, et al. Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 in the human dermis. J Invest Dermatol.2001;116(6):853-859; PMID: 11407971 Link to research.