When you think of healthy skin, do you think of microscopic bugs, virus’s, fungi, and bacteria? You should.
Our microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms that live both inside of us, in our digestive tract, our lungs, our reproductive system, and our bio-fluids, and outside on our skin and in our pores and follicles.
When in balance, we have a healthy diversity of microbes that work harmoniously to keep our skin, and body, healthy. These “bugs” communicate with each other, protecting us from harmful pathogens. If you’ve heard of the Gut-Skin connection, this connection is because of the communication of microbes between the skin, and the gut.
When our skins barrier function is compromised, it leaves us in a state of dysbiosis, or imbalance, leading to certain skin conditions, for example acne. The health of our gut microbiome will play an important role in re-balancing our skin. If our gut microbiome is also in a state of dysbiosis, our body is not able to heal and repair, leading to inflammation. The imbalance in our skin only worsens, and we end up with chronic inflammatory conditions within the skin and body.
When a client comes in with certain conditions like acne, rosacea, or dermatitis, one can assume they are in a state of dysbiosis. Treating these conditions topically will improve the appearance short term, but will not resolve the issue. We must reduce the inflammation, repair the barrier, and repopulate the microbiome in order to see lasting improvement to the skin. This takes time and consistency, and its important to explain this to the client, there is no quick fix.
So how can we help our clients?
Reduce inflammation and discomfort.
We are supporting the body’s natural healing processes in this phase. This can be done easily with topical treatments and products, and is where as Estheticians we will be able to make the client look and feel more comfortable. This approach is “putting a bandaid over it to stop the bleeding”, but will not resolve the issue. Some treatments I like to do include LED light therapy, anti-inflammatory treatment masks, Kansa wand massage or very gentle cooling techniques including Gua Sha and Jade rolling, and lymphatic drainage massage underneath the effected area. We do NOT want to add more insult to injury by doing aggressive exfoliation or using certain ingredients that will cause more aggravation.
Repair the barrier.
Repairing the barrier is really an inside out approach. We need to heal the gut first, in order to heal the skin. As we already mentioned, there is a huge connection between gut and skin health, and you cant heal one without the other. Some things that can damage our gut lining include
- Over the counter medications like NSAIDS
- Chronic Stress
- Overuse of antibiotics
- -Consuming excess amounts of sugar
Remember to remind your client this didn’t happen overnight. If the skin is showing signs of imbalance its usually a result of long term imbalance in the gut. This can go as far back as childhood taking antibiotics over and over for ear infections. It is going to take time to heal and repair before they start seeing results in the skin.
This may be where you need to refer out to a holistic nutritionist or function medicine Dr, depending on how severe the issue is. But there are some things we can recommend to our clients to get them on the right track…
- Elimination diet – try this for at least 6 weeks. You can eliminate the most common culprits, dairy, wheat, soy, eggs and nuts, either one at a time or all at once. Then slowly reintroduce them (one at a time if you did it all at once) and see how you feel. There are also blood tests that can be done (with a functional medicine Dr.) to know for sure what foods are creating immune responses (this is usually what I recommend.)
- Add more Omega-3 fatty acids into the diet. In the standard American diet we eat a large amount of Omega-6 foods, which throws the balance of fatty acids off in our body. Omega 3 is important to form the building blocks for healthy cells, and they play a roll in reducing inflammation.
- Manage Stress – stress creates a cascade of events within the body. It can mess with our hormones, our blood sugar, and will eventually manifest itself as disease. As Estheticians, this is one major way we help or clients, allowing them to decompress and de stress while in the treatment room. Other options are mediating, dancing, journaling, getting out in the fresh air, whatever allows the client to fully relax and enter into the parasympathetic nervous system, where the body can heal and repair.
Repopulate the “good guys”.
We can replenish our good bacteria in our gut by eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. We can also help feed the bacteria we already have with prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus. Supplementing with pro and prebiotics has also shown to repair the skins barrier, prevent trans-epidermal water loss, and repopulate the skins microbiome. Using topical probiotic skincare can also help diversify the microorganisms on the surface of the skin. Lactobacillus strains have been shown to reduce inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Make sure to use a reputable brand, as there is a science to how to preserve the microorganisms in the product in order for it to be effective.
As always when giving advice outside of skincare please tell your client to consult their Doctor before starting any new supplement protocol or diet.
Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin, Paula Simpson
The Mind-Gut Connection – Emeran Mayer, MD
Clean – James Hamblin