Treating Problems and Sensitivities From the Inside Out
By Suki Kramer
Your skin is not only the largest organ of your body, but also the most dynamic in regulating overall balance. Skin regulates your hydration levels and temperature, eliminates toxins, and responds to hormonal shifts; it’s your primary defense from the world. At any given time, the skin retains up to 80 percent of your body’s water. Your skin is an incredible regulatory system that continually regenerates itself, and it constantly strives for equilibrium.
For millions of people, chronic skin problems and sensitivities are a daily and ongoing crisis. These conditions are not remotely an issue of vanity, but a miserable life experience that is painful internally and externally—with no apparent lasting cure. I understand this personally: Half of my life was filled with skin problems, and all of my life has been wrought with extreme sensitivities, allergies, and breaking out from nearly anything and everything. I was deeply frustrated, searching for anything that would work—but nothing would. I tried pharmaceuticals that temporarily blocked symptoms; synthetics with volatile synthetic actives (VSAs), but those caused caustic inflammatory reactions and irritating side effects on my ultra-sensitive skin; and “gentle naturals” that did nothing proactive and, at best, moisturized with a (sometimes) nice aroma.
Science has come a long way in just the short 20 years I’ve been formulating skincare products and, fortunately, for those caught in the toxic cycle of flare-ups, long-term problems, and short-term relief, there is a way out: The key to understanding skin issues and skin in crisis is to address problems and sensitivities from underneath, looking at the underlying causes vs. surface symptoms themselves. It sounds so simple that it seems ridiculous we haven’t been talking about this all along instead of just trying to mask symptoms on the surface.
Main Sources of Skin Problems and Sensitivities
The majority of skin conditions actually trace back to a few key underlying issues, including hormonal imbalances, allergies, immune system weaknesses, inflammation, and oil and bacteria imbalances. These are common to most (if not all) skin problems, and actually common to most people with combination skin. Perhaps this will come as a surprise (although I doubt it), but today’s mainstream skincare products largely promote a regimen of symptom-only relief.
When I was looking to produce my own formulation technologies, I began where all medicine and drugs begin: in the traditional herbal therapeutic world. I began to think about how the skin is an organ of elimination. Would it not follow, then, that the skin would be a direct reflection of what’s going on internally and be the pathway to the problem—not the source of it?
As such, real change could never happen long term, without side effects, unless we directed our treatment efforts toward the person as a whole. People are mostly worried about what is directly in the mirror and don’t even consider their bodies when thinking of skincare regimens. But focusing more on the health and strength of their skin means they’ll have a lot less to be concerned with in general.
This does not stick to the age-old, “What you see is what you treat” skincare philosophy—treating skin problems from the inside out really gets skin back into a state of balance and visible radiance. I discovered long ago, with all we go through in the name of looking and feeling better—gluten-free, allergen-free, anti-inflammatory, or paleo diets, detox fasts, etc.—it makes sense to use skincare products formulated with the same idea in mind: reduce inflammation, avoid sensitivities and allergens, and, most importantly, focus on solutions to our problems at the core.
Food allergies are a direct result of our immune systems creating specific disease-fighting antibodies. When you eat an offending food, your antibodies release large amounts of histamine, a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, and the skin. In an effort to expel the “foreign invader” from the body, your skin brings that toxic invader to the surface—such as in the case of acne.
In the case of dryness, it is a direct result of the lack of oil balance and hydration internally. When we eat greasy foods, our body might respond by cranking out more insulin, which increases the production of oils, which then clogs follicles. Another potential offender is dairy, which can produce an allergenic response in some people who are sensitive to dairy or the growth hormones added.
You can see that skin issues are a direct result of what’s happening to the body internally. So, the next question is, can these issues be treated in any way besides lifestyle changes?
Topical Treatments That Deliver Without Side Effects
It is easy to understand your own skin type by feeling your skin and looking in the mirror. Many people slay me when I say this; they look to others to tell them their skin type. But it’s your skin—you do know. Skincare product manufacturers, store associates, and others looking to sell a product or regimen aren’t always the best judge of your skin, no matter how well-trained, and sometimes they do get it wrong. Although it requires doing a bit of homework, you can learn how to choose your own regimen, and you can be guaranteed what the underlying cause of your condition is. If you are the source of your own education, you can be assured you are right.
But how in the world is it even possible for topical skincare ingredients to affect internal, systemic skin conditions when they are applied on top of the skin?
You may think skincare ingredients are incapable of getting through the top layer of skin—and some are—but if you use a liposome as a vehicle for delivery, you can release active molecules through several layers of epidermis, without diffusing too deeply or causing any irritation.
I call this “TLC technology.” Liposomes attach and fuse to cellular membranes, releasing their contents into the target cells. When ingredients and actives that act with “tender loving care” (meaning they do not harm the skin topically or the body long term) are encapsulated within liposomes, they are specifically compatible with the skin and do not disrupt the consistency of the skin’s lipid bilayers. They are not even removed while cleansing the skin. Liposomes can deliver many different cosmetic ingredients, vitamins, and minerals throughout the body and provide many benefits, such as antioxidant action, a remarkable increase in skin elasticity, wrinkle reduction and collagen synthesis, skin regeneration, skin and hair conditioning, and anti-aging and antimicrobial purposes.
How? The epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) has five layers, but underneath that is the dermis, which provides the oxygen and nutrients necessary for maintaining the epidermis. These two layers meet at the dermal-epidermal junction. It’s 100 millimeters thick and basically a combination of collagens and proteins, and its integrity is vital for the communication that occurs between the dermis and the epidermis. It plays a role in numerous processes, including cellular differentiation, rejuvenation, and repair, and is involved in immune system responses such as the inflammatory response, which is triggered via chemical signals relayed across it.
We also know that 60 percent of what we put on our skin goes directly into our bloodstream and organs, directly affecting the way our bodies behave, the storage of toxins, and whether we have allergenic responses. If we feed our skin the ingredients it needs—not just in terms of the potent actives to achieve clarity and balance, but the overall package of a skincare blend that uses pure ingredients—we can jumpstart our body’s natural mechanisms, incorporating a long-term regimen for well-being that will make us not only look more fabulous than we thought possible, but also feel more energized, vital, and strong, bringing a new cycle into our lives.
Some ingredients that can treat from the inside out include:
Natural Salicylic Acid, obtained from White Willow Bark: Proven far more powerful than its synthetic counterpart in clinical studies, and without the caustic side effects, it’s one of my go-to ingredients because it is such a high-powered anti-inflammatory. It treats a host of skin issues from cystic acne to whiteheads and blackheads to redness to scars to dark circles.
Caffeine: Naturally occurring and found in many plants, caffeine has been used for thousands of years for its stimulating effects, resulting in tightening, an increase in metabolic processes, and reduced inflammation, puffiness, and redness.
Natural Collagen: Naturally used in the form of yeast, collagen has shown a direct effect in the appearance of the epidermis; it can help reduce wrinkle formation while increasing elasticity and tone.
Colloidal Oat: This is an over-the-counter ingredient that comes simply from oat flour. It’s incredibly soothing, reduces redness, and calms sore, chafed, and irritated skin. It’s ideal for rashes and problematic skin.
Resveratrol: This potent antioxidant is found in the skins of grapes and berries and in red wine. It treats a huge list of problems, such as preventing premature aging, reducing wrinkles, fighting free radical oxidation, and brightening the skin.
In today’s world, where many brands claim purity and the effective blending of “science and nature,” it’s especially important to understand the difference between advanced science and plain old naturals (or pseudo-naturals). Look for 100-percent pure ingredients, which range from essential oils to basic oils like jojoba and coconut oil, and real emulsifiers such as beeswax and cocoa butter. Add in extracts from botanicals—herbs, flowers, barks, etc.—that don’t contain hidden toxins like phenoxyethanol, synthetic fragrances, dyes, or parabens, and you have the good guys.
Like a well-balanced diet, internally effective skincare consists of a few ingredient groups that are necessary for a well-balanced formula.
Botanicals: Non-allergenic, used in safe doses, and formulated for specific skin issues, these are necessary for healing and balancing the skin.
Non-volatile, Clinically Proven Actives: Safe and stabilized, these actives (discussed previously) target the underlying systemic and environmental causes of skin problems and skin maturation head-on, without the side effects of VSAs, which actually promote a toxic cycle of bad skin and premature aging. Remember, powerful ingredients can and must come from 100-percent pure botanicals.
A Pure Base: Water, although a somewhat necessary vehicle for skincare ingredients, needn’t be the only one for sending ingredients deep into the derma. All skincare bases must be completely free from synthetics. Why? Because synthetics greatly interfere with the good work of pure, botanical actives.
A Formula Free from Synthetic Fragrances, Dyes, and Preservatives: These are the top three allergens and, most importantly, cancer-causing ingredients in many conventional skincare products. How can you detox your skin or get anything into a state of balance when it’s fighting for its life trying to eliminate these toxins?
There is an easy way to tell the difference between natural and synthetic when shopping. Manufacturers have to list the source of the chemical or Latin (INCI) ingredient on the label, so label reading is a must. For example, salicylic acid, natural salicylic acid from white willow bark, and plain white willow bark are three different things. The first is a synthetic that will likely cause unwanted side effects; the second is a clinically proven, 100-percent pure scientific active; and the last is a botanical that is somewhat helpful, but certainly not a hardcore cure for treating skin issues from the inside out.
The answer isn’t as simple as taking a manufacturer’s word for it. Take the power into your own hands and know what’s best for yourself. You will know you’ve got the right formula when the proof is in the mirror!
In addition to incorporating key ingredients and topical regimens into your daily life, there are some important internal actions that will vastly improve your visible skin.
Detoxing can help jumpstart our skin health, as well as get us thinking about how we treat our bodies. There are various methods of detoxing that can help to heal skin problems, but be aware that any detoxification, such as a switch from synthetics to a completely pure skincare regimen, will likely include a period of time where the skin will break out—to what degree depends on how much you need to detox. This is the phase the skin needs to go through to get to a state of balance and clarity.
Juice fasts are also often effective for this, but it is certainly allowable to include salads, clear soups, or even organic vegetable soups, fruits, and clean foods. Anything that doesn’t make the body work hard and allows it to go through the process of cleansing itself is useful. These simple tips can also help tremendously to clear and maintain healthy skin:
>> Water, water, water
>> Extra sleep when you need it, and enough sleep daily
>> Daily exercise to increase circulation, boost your mood, relieve stress, and move toxins out of the body
>> Eat clean
>> Basic supplements from whole foods (probiotics, fish oils, vitamin C, DHEA, and CoQ10 are great options)
>> Get 10 minutes of sunshine per day, for vitamin D
>> Practice some form of meditation or stress management
Chronic and even occasional skin issues are often the result of ongoing, underlying systemic challenges like inflammation, oil and bacteria imbalances, immune system imbalances, and allergies. It’s important to remember that in order to work effectively, skincare regimens should include clinically proven ingredients formulated to go deeper than the surface, and that a detox regimen for the skin is a key factor in getting to a state of balance and clarity. The skin and body work together, and there are specific skincare ingredients in 100-percent pure bases that studies have shown help get the skin to a clear, radiant state and have a real long-term effect without any damaging, volatile side effects.
We so often put up with “as good as it gets” results in how we look over the long haul, but we do not have to. Specific lifestyle and diet changes can make a difference in our bodies long term, and the right skincare regimen can improve and cure our skin for life.
About the Author:
Suki Kramer is the founder, formulator, and president of suki skincare. She is committed to challenging beauty industry assumptions, advocating for women’s health, and delivering strong, safe solutions for all peoples’ skin problems and sensitivities. Learn more and shop products at sukiskincare.com.