The Surprising Ways that Environmental Factors Can Affect Your Skin
BY AMY ZIFF
I recently participated in a Clubhouse conversation arranged and moderated by Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS, a clinical nutritionist and host of The Healthy Skin Show, and Rachael Pontillo, a MADE SAFE advisor and plant-based skincare expert, about hormones and how they impact the skin. Also speaking were Jill Crista, ND and Carrie Jones, MD – each an expert in this area.
The conversation was fascinating from the very start, so I thought I would recap some of what we covered because, well – all of us have skin! Sometimes it erupts, sometimes it gets rashy or otherwise “acts up” – and it’s never a welcome experience.
Our dialog focused on toxicants in the environment and how they may impact the skin. The following snippets may lead you to some interesting ideas about your own skin and hormone reactions…
THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
We can’t talk about skin and hormones without an understanding of the endocrine system, the glandular system that produces and secretes hormones in our bodies. It’s a very complex system that operates much like a symphony; it can be harmonious and beautiful, but when the orchestra (or in this case, the endocrine system) gets out of sync, it can wreak havoc on our health, not just on our ears.
Some plants, foods, and even consumer goods contain components that contribute to stimulating or obstructing specific hormonal functions. For example, substances called xenoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body with deleterious effects. Other examples of endocrine-active substances are parabens, bisphenol A (and its relatives and common replacements – refer to Bisphenols in our Hazard List), fragrance chemicals, phthalates, and pesticides. Each of these substances disrupts the symphony of the endocrine system. Even fungal toxins (mycotoxins) can be hormone-harmful and are best simply avoided.
Dr. Carrie Jones, an integrative, functional naturopath, explains that hormones help to make up who we are. But if one of our hormones (estrogen, testosterone, DHEA etc.) is out of balance, the imbalance can show up in the skin or even on the scalp.
“When our hormones are unhappy, our skin is unhappy.” -Dr. Carrie Jones
Dr. Jill Crista specializes in toxicity resulting from mold exposures. She explained that the liver clears toxins and adjusts our hormones, but that can’t happen when the liver is overly busy processing incessant toxins. Dr. Crista says molds can cause inflammation and present differently in different people. For some it can be seen as acne, psoriasis, or even another skin tendency or allergy.
Nutritionist Jen Fugo finds that when people have a histamine overload (and something is preventing the body from clearing out estrogen – a hormonal function) it impacts the skin and may show up as eczema or psoriasis.
SIGNALS, SIGNS AND PREVENTION
So it’s clear that hormonal imbalances can show up in many ways. What can you look for in your body as a sign of hormones misfiring, over-firing or generally needing better balance? The expert panelists say symptoms include female pattern hair loss, cystic acne and acne on the scalp, and acne along the jawline. The complexity of our hormones, what they control and what happens when they’re out of balance is diverse, so it’s important to consult someone knowledgeable, and research using reliable sources.
That’s a lot of things to look out for, but thankfully the group addressed some tools for dealing with hormonal imbalances too.
Prevention is always a good start. By that we mean prevent exposures where you can, where you know, when it’s possible. At MADE SAFE we focus on educating consumers so they are empowered to take steps and prevent exposures on a daily basis with products that won’t harm them or the environment.
Since you can’t always prevent exposures, there’s also a need to detox, regularly and consistently given the world we live in. “Detox starts with spit,” according to Dr. Jill. She advises that you should smell your food, salivate, and chew completely so that you can start the digestion process in your mouth. When we stimulate our spit, it gets bile production going. Beyond stimulating spit, we can incorporate bitter foods into our regular diet. Although we have come to dislike bitter foods/tastes, we NEED the bitters to stimulate our bodies’ innate detoxification processes! So put a little arugula in your eggs, or eat dark chocolate without sugar, even coffee has a bitter component. Eating bitters also gets bile production going. Bile is needed for pooping! And pooping is part of the detoxing process your body needs. If you rely on coffee to help you poop, it’s the bitters in the coffee that stimulate that action!
The panelists agreed, to help your body detox you must take care of your liver. Look out for medications and alcohol that tax liver function. According to Dr. Jones, many meds (even Tylenol) can impact the liver and be damaging. She called alcohol a “bully.” Jones says, “Even when drinking an organic, biodynamic wine it will push to the front of the liver for processing, but that means the rest of the stuff in your body that needs to get processed, won’t.”
Fugo chimed in that rosacea can be connected to the liver and also result from gut issues such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (commonly known as SIBO). Rachael Pontillo reminded us that rosacea can be an inflammatory response to harsh surfactants that over-cleanse or strip the skin. She advises being very gentle when cleansing the skin and also working on the gut biome to improve skin issues.
Dr. Jill pointed to animal studies where astaxanthin, beta-carotene, and quercetin are added to animal feed to improve hoof strength, coat, and overall health. She advocates for these in human “feed” for better hair and nails and skin as well!
That’s a wrap for our skin and hormones chat overview. If you found this conversation interesting, I hope you’ll dive in a little more and investigate where your hormones could use some fine-tuning. For ideas and products that help you avoid exposures to toxins, shop the MADE SAFE seal. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay up to date on our latest news.
Amy Ziff is the Founder and Executive Director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Nontoxic Certified. MADE SAFE® is a program of Nontoxic Certified.
A healthy living educator with a genetic predisposition to toxicity, Amy is also mom to three young kids who share the same trait. Determined to make the world less toxic, Amy reached millions of parents and caregivers with her “buy better” advocacy campaigns. She blogs about the chemical world we live in on Amy Ziff’s NoTox Life, and prior to founding MADE SAFE, taught classes on living a nontoxic life and co-founded the Veritey Shop, a site comprised of safe, nontoxic products. Amy is changing the world for the healthier one product at a time, one person at a time, one home at a time.
Amy has a Masters in Journalism and Communications and has been a successful internet entrepreneur. She was on the founding team of Site59 where she pioneered the first luxury business line for travel on the web. When Site59 was acquired by Travelocity, she ran a national sales team and then founded an award-winning media program, blog, and travel seal that garnered millions of dollars of “earned media” annually, and also founded the company’s award-winning cause marketing program. Amy went on to cofound and become creative director of Jetsetter, the first online flash-sale for high-end travel.