If you read my blog and social media posts, you already know that I often describe the skin’s microbiome as a rainforest of diverse organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) which live on your skin’s various layers, from the deep-down fat cushion all the way up to your epidermal cells. Incredibly, there are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from approximately one thousand different species! When your skin’s healthy microbiome is disrupted by harsh cleansers and other abrasive skincare products or by your diet and lifestyle choices, this discontent can manifest as breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, and even skin sensitivity. Healthy biome, healthy skin.

Stressing 24/7 is a habit you want to kick for healthy skin. Here’s why —

Something triggers stress in your body. Let’s start here. Your brain perceives something as stressful and your fight or flight response is activated. Once that happens, the digestion in your belly slows as your blood is shunted away from your intestines toward your extremities (just in case you need to fight or flee). Given that you most likely don’t need to do either, this is just disruptive to your body’s healthy functioning. There’s more.

Stress hormones also restrict the contractions of your digestive muscles, and diminish your digestive juices—all of which forces food to sit idly in the GI tract, inviting an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. These unsavory characters cause your intestinal lining to grow weak and leaky, allowing toxins to spill into the bloodstream, and triggering body-wide inflammation and a host of potential diseases. You’ve heard me talk about Leaky Gut and Leaky Skin, so this is what we are talking about.

The best medicine? Decompression. As I note in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, meditation is a shortcut to calm. It sparks what’s known as the relaxation response, during which the body slows down muscles and organs while boosting blood flow to the brain, thereby easing anxiety—and the skin conditions that come along with it. Meditation can even turn on genes that are anti-inflammatory in nature. If traditional Om-style meditation isn’t your thing, try yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, repetitive prayer—whatever you find most grounding. Dedicate a few moments twice a day to your practice. You can try an app like headspace or breathe. Just a few minutes a day is a great start.

You’ve got this. This is a small change which will have a big impact not only on the health of your skin, but on your overall health! So, take a deep breath, and give it a try.

As soon as New York City dermatologist, Whitney Bowe, MD walks into a room, she can tell if someone is under stress and what their eating habits are like. “The skin is a window to your overall health,” she explains. It may come as a surprise to some of her patients when she asks about their eating and lifestyle habits, but this skin pro knows that the complexion truly reflects what’s going on inside.

In her new book, The Beauty of Dirty Skin, Dr. Bowe discusses the gut, brain, skin connection—but don’t let the name mislead you to skipping out on your cleanser. By “dirty” she’s referring to the plethora of wonderful bacteria that live on your skin, which are actually critical for keeping you beautiful, healthy, and glowing.

So, if your skin isn’t at it’s best, try taking a page (literally) out of her book. Keep reading on for some of her faves.

Dr. Whitney Bowe shares her expertise on acne – how to treat it, how to prevent it, and whether popular social media posts offer a one size fits all solution.

Stress is a good thing, at least from an evolutionary and survivalist perspective. It serves an important function: to protect us from real danger by equipping us with the means to either escape a life-threatening situation or face it head-on. But our physical response doesn’t change according to the type or magnitude of a perceived threat. The body’s stress response is the same whether you’re facing a life-or-death emergency, a packed to-do list, or an argument with a friend or family member. Acute stress comes on suddenly and doesn’t last long. When you’re under the gun of taking a test, having to give a public speech, or about to get into a car accident, that’s acute stress. You’ll feel it physically with that adrenaline rush and may even have some gastrointestinal issues as digestion slows and diverts blood away from your stomach. But acute stress isn’t the kind that will have a long-term negative impact on your skin. It’s the prolonged stress, especially the kind rooted in our psyche, that’s the most damaging to our skin. Acute stress goes away relatively quickly. The slow boil of ongoing, unremitting stress from life in general, however, is a whole other ball of wax. It’s the big time skin villain.

At the heart of chronic stress’s impact on skin is its relationship with your endocrine-hormonal-system. Prolonged stress of any kind, be it from chronic sleep deprivation or the pain of going through a divorce, can do a number on your endocrine system. And if, as a result, your hormones are not optimally balanced, or they are not working effectively, you will eventually begin to notice it. Your skin will not escape these challenges. Any of the Big Four skin conditions – acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis – can be part of this picture.

The body’s counterattack on stress does not just involve surges in stress hormones such as cortisol and the subsequent breakdown of tissues such as collagen. In addition, two other players are often involved in direct skin damage: inflammation and oxidation.

Inflammation is the body’s protective mechanism against harmful stimuli. It’s the process by which our bodies can effectively kill an invader or deal with an illness. But, like cortisol, it has a downside-over time, it can cause everything from skin problems such as acne and rosacea to autoimmune disorders.

Oxidation results from the action of free radicals-a term you’re probably already familiar with. Free radicals are the biological equivalent of wayward bullets. They are indeed radical and free-highly reactive forms of oxygen that can damage cell membranes and other structures in the body. But their wrath is especially brutal on the skin. Free radicals can come from anywhere-from inside our bodies, where they are produced as part of our normal physiological processes, to pollution and UV rays, just two of the external sources of stress on the skin.

So, to achieve your healthiest, most radiant skin, you’ve got to dial down the long-term, nagging stress that so many of us deal with on a daily basis. How can we tame that inner psychological beast that keeps us agitated, anxious, worrisome, and feeling overwhelmed?

Before I focus on the single tool I have found to be most impactful, here is a list of 5 of my favorite ways to dial down persistent stress, which you can start acting on immediately:

  • One of the things I love to do to calm my very active mind is to wake up 20 minutes early and set my intentions for the day. I make a list of my priorities for that particular day and then, I feel more at peace and focused as I move forward.
  • I have started to keep a gratitude journal and to share it with my daughter. I think it’s a good practice for both of us to maintain a healthy perspective.
  • I believe that mindfulness about the influx of information from social media and the constant pull of it can be very helpful in stress management. We have a barrage of constant information coming our way. At night and in the morning, I think it’s important to turn these things off and to focus on the moment. I think taking time to simplify our environment, even for a short period, and to breathe can be very restorative.
  • I have started to incorporate essential oils into my bedtime ritual. I think the fragrances can be transporting and soothing and can assist with dialing down that sense of urgency that can lead to generalized stress.
  • This is one that I am working on, but I think it’s healthy to consider indulging in a relaxing and restorative spa treatment every few months to allow yourself to have time to focus on you. It will help you take better care of others in the long run.

Now, I will turn to the one simple lifestyle intervention can do more good than any cream, lotion, or dermatological procedure: meditation. A few short years ago, if someone started talking to me about the benefits of yoga or meditation, I would immediately stop listening. I was a multitasker, a type A powerhouse. I was a sweater, a runner, a trampoline jumper, not a deep breather. Relax? That was just not in my vocabulary. But people who are crazy-efficient multitaskers actually need to read this section more than anybody else. In fact, meditation is a shortcut to a calm mind-and, in turn, to calm skin. I try to meditate once daily.

What makes meditation so powerful? It has the goal of triggering what’s called the relaxation response, a term popularized by Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School. During the relaxation response, the body releases chemicals and brain signals that relieve tension in your muscles, slow down your organs, and increase blood flow to your brain. This response can reduce the pain, discomfort, and anxiety that often manifest themselves in skin conditions (among other things). Scientists now theorize that the biological events taking place during the relaxation response essentially prevent the body from translating psychological worry into physical inflammation. The experience of the relaxation response appears to change cellular connections in areas of the brain associated with reactions to stress. And the good news is that nurturing a daily practice that turns on your relaxation response can help you more easily cope with stressors in your life that persist or even worsen.

You can engage in an activity that triggers the relaxation response simply by stopping for a moment to be fully present (mindful) with your breathing and controlling your inhalations and exhalations. Deep breathing can be done anywhere, anytime. If you’ve never meditated before, a deep-breathing practice twice daily will get you started and give you a foundation for working up to more advanced techniques. There are apps on your phone like Headspace or Breethe that many of my patients use and love. Restoring your skin’s balance, and your overall wellness, doesn’t have to be overly complicated. This is one simple change that can make a world of difference for your health, which will be reflected in your healthy glow from the inside out and the outside in.

Hair loss has been a hot topic in the media lately (especially with all the recent speculation regarding Kris Jenner’s new wig and the thinning of her signature lusciously thick locks).
(Kris Jenner recently wearing a wig on vacation in St. Bart’s, courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk)
As a result, it has become a hot topic with my patients. I wanted to share my insights into this key area with you as well!
To see my full video blog, please click on the link below:

@DrWhitneyBowe

RT @GenuineHealth: Join @DrWhitneyBowe, renowned dermatologist & author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin for an exclusive Q&A! She’ll be taking…

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