Breaking Out? What Your Skin Says About Your Health

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Breaking Out? What Your Skin Says About Your Health

“Your skin is a reflection of your general health,” says Dr. Valerie Goldburt, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and a dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology’s Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. Breakouts in particular can be caused by a number of factors, including a reaction to your skin care products or makeup, she explains.

However, sudden spots are often due to … you guessed it, stress! That stress can be chronic (like ongoing job-related angst), or it can be situational, acute stress, like a break-up or the passing of a loved one. “Positive things (like getting engaged or married) can also be stressful,” Goldburt adds.
In addition to alerting you that you should pay closer attention to your stress levels, a breakout can also indicate that your immune system is compromised. “When you experience stress, your immune system doesn’t function the same way,” says Goldburt, noting that hormones also play into this, because hormonal changes can also cause both stress and breakouts.

Your breakouts might also be telling you that something in your diet needs to change. “Breakouts can be caused by milk products and products with a high glycemic index, like white breads and processed foods,” says Goldburt.

What else can your skin tell you? For starters, that you’re not getting enough sleep. Take a look in the mirror — is the skin around your eyes a little puffy? Is your skin dry and irritated? You probably need to devote a little more time to your beauty zzz’s — not just for your skin, but for your general health and well-being.

Dry, puffy skin and a slight discoloration can be a sign that you’ve been drinking too much alcohol. The older you get, says Goldburt, the longer it takes your pretty face to recuperate from a cocktail hour that lasted into the wee hours.

“As people get older, you start to see more long-term changes, like wrinkling,” says Goldburt. Yikes!

So next time you wake up with a nasty zit, use it as an opportunity to take a good look in the mirror, literally and figuratively speaking. “Ninety-five percent of the time,” Goldburt says, “skin conditions on the face have to do with lifestyle, food, stress and drinking.”

What to eat for great skin and hair

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What to eat for great skin and hair

Pricey products that promise clear, radiant skin and strong, shiny hair fill store shelves, but a better path to those results might be right on your plate.

“There are many nutrients that are vital to keeping your hair and skin healthy, and your diet is the main way to get them,” said Dr. Valerie Goldburt, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and a dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology’s Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery in East Setauket.

Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals — all are important in keeping your hair and skin looking great, she said.

“Eating poorly, like processed food, not only doesn’t do anything for your body, it can actually cause harm,” Goldburt said. “Processed foods don’t get digested as easily and can cause inflammation that can literally break down your skin.”

Also, she said, when the body doesn’t get what it needs, it starts to divert nutrients away from less important organs so, for instance, it will focus on preserving the heart, and your hair and skin will suffer.

And don’t forget the water, which keeps skin hydrated and rids the body of toxins. “You should drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day,” Goldburt said. “Not juice, not coffee, just plain old water.” That’s 80 ounces a day for someone weighing 160 pounds.

What’s Best for Your Skin

Stay away from fad diets that nix the fat. “Fats are really important for your body and your skin, and you can only get them in your diet — meaning, your body can’t make them,” Goldburt said. Fatty, ocean-sourced fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, anchovies and sardines, as well as walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil, are good sources of omega-3s, which Goldburt says may reduce inflammation in the body that could be exacerbating skin conditions. “These essential fatty acids also help to keep your skin healthy, maintain its natural oil barrier and make it look younger — less wrinkly — and clearer,” Goldburt added. Other sources of “good fats” are olive oil and avocados.

Wrinkles, skin thickening, discoloration and decreased elasticity are caused by oxidation of cells by molecules called free radicals, said Lisa Licari, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant at Long Island Mind and Body in Garden City.

“Eating foods rich in antioxidants — which include vitamins A, C, E and selenium — can slow oxidation and those undesirable skin changes,” Licari said. Good choices, she said, are tomatoes, whole-wheat pasta and olive oil.

What’s Worst for Your Skin

A high-glycemic diet, meaning lots of carbohydrates and processed foods, “can lead to insulin resistance, where the body needs to produce more of the hormone insulin in order to clear sugar from the blood,” Goldburt said. Known for its link to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, insulin resistance “also leads to acne and skin inflammation,” she said.

If you have acne, Goldburt said, limit your dairy intake. “Dairy can prompt the body to produce insulinlike growth hormone, which can cause an increase in clogged pores and acne,” she said. “Patients with serious acne should avoid all dairy for a six-month trial.”

Try to eliminate fried foods, white bread and candy, which is loaded in sugar, advises Dr. Adam Schaffner, a plastic surgeon and skin care expert from Port Washington. He said these culprits contribute to multiple conditions that cause red, dry, flaky skin. Candy, for instance, damages collagen and elastin, the fibers that keep skin firm, he said, leading to wrinkles and dull skin. Also on Schaffner’s taboo list: soda, coffee and alcohol, which can dehydrate the body and take a toll on your skin.

What’s Best for Your Hair

For super hair, Schaffner said, don’t skip the salad: “Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which are required for the body to produce sebum, the oily substance secreted by hair follicles that naturally conditions hair.” Legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils, are good sources of protein to promote hair growth, he added, and they also contain zinc and biotin, needed to maintain healthy hair.

Goldburt pointed out that “most of us don’t get enough biotin in our diet to make a difference for hair growth. If you’re experiencing hair loss, often the first thing the dermatologist will do is put you on biotin supplements. You need at least 2,000 micrograms a day for active hair loss.”

Licari’s suggested food choices include salmon, for omega-3s, iron and B12 to promote scalp health and protein to promote growth; spinach and Swiss chard, for vitamins A and C, which help hair produce sebum, a natural conditioner; and cashews, for omega-3s and zinc. A zinc deficiency, she said, can cause hair loss.

What’s Worst for Your Hair

“Avoid diets that over-restrict calories or specific foods,” Licari said. “This can lead to vitamin and protein deficiencies and affect hair health,” causing slow growth, dull and brittle hair and hair loss.

And if you don’t want your hair to fall flat, drive past the fast-food outlets. Fried and greasy foods contain trans fats, which Schaffner said cause excessive oiliness.

New Research Says People With Psoriasis at Greater Risk of Heart Disease

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New Research Says People With Psoriasis at Greater Risk of Heart Disease

NY Dermatologist Joshua Fox, MD; Best Treatments for Psoriasis

Roslyn, NY, January 2012 – Some skin diseases are more than skin deep. Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. This noncontagious condition often appears on the skin as red, scaly patches that itch and bleed. Psoriasis frequently starts between the ages of 15 and 35, but can appear at any time. New research indicates that chronic inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis may actually cause HDL cholesterol to change its molecular composition and increase the risk of severe heart disease. “So the reasons to treat Psoriasis are more important now than ever. And because there are so many different medications for the condition, it takes experience and patience for the right treatment or combination of treatments to be successful,” says Dr. Joshua Fox, founder and director of New York & New Jersey based Advanced Dermatology P.C.

As of now, Psoriasis is incurable; however, treatments ranging from topical to systemic can treat it and often clear the symptoms. Psoriasis is marked by an overactive immune system that speeds up the growth cycle of the skin. In normal skin, new cells surface about once a month, but with psoriasis, new cells full with inflammatory cells surface in just three to seven days. Due to this rapid turnover, these cells build up into thick patches that have a silvery, flaking crust. Stress is a common trigger of psoriasis, along with diet, medications, cuts, scrapes, infections and allergies. According to findings presented at the summer 2011 meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, when psoriasis patients feel stressed about their condition, it can aggravate their symptoms and impact their emotional state, which becomes a vicious cycle adding to their stress. Doctors previously thought that chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings only stayed in the skin when they were released. But doctors know understand that those chemicals travel to the brain and deplete the chemicals that regulate our emotions, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Treating Psoriasis

Topical Treatments are usually the first kind of medicine dermatologists use to treat psoriasis. These creams can slow the growth of skin cells and decrease the inflammation of skin lesions.

Phototherapy or light therapy usually involves consistent exposure to ultraviolet light at a doctor’s office or with the sun. It is often used on patients with extensive psoriasis, moderate to severe psoriasis and combined with topical treatments. There are two different kinds of light therapy that utilize either UVA or UVB light.

Ultraviolet light B (UVB)/Ultraviolet light A (UVA) Treatments Present in sunlight, UVB is an effective treatment for psoriasis because it penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected skin cells. Treatment involves exposing the skin to an artificial UVB light source for a set length of time on a regular schedule at a doctor’s office. There are two types of UVB treatment, broad band and narrow band. The narrow band UVB releases a smaller range of ultraviolet light. “Many studies indicate that narrow-band UVB clears psoriasis faster and produces longer remissions than broad-band UVB,” says Dr. Fox. “It is also more effective with fewer treatments per week than broad-band.” UVA light treatments are combined with a light-sensitizing medication psoralen, which is administered topically or orally. This process, called PUVA, slows excessive skin cell growth and can clear psoriasis symptoms for various amounts of time. However there are more side effects with this treatment, including special precautions for the eyes and greater risk of burning.

Laser Treatments Laser treatment delivers a single high intensity narrow beam of ultraviolet light of 308 nanometer to target specific smaller areas of skin lesions. It works faster than either the UVB or UVA. It also only treats the affected skin sparing normal skin from side effects. There is no pain or bruising. Patients usually receive two treatments per week until clear.

Pulsed dye laser Using a dye and different wavelength of light than other UVB-based treatments, pulsed dye lasers destroy the tiny blood vessels that contribute to the formation of psoriasis lesions. Treatment consists of 15- to 30-minute sessions every three to four weeks and it usually takes two to six sessions to clear the target lesion. It unfortunately has bruising and there is some discomfort.

Systemic Treatments are prescription drugs given in the form of a pill or an injection. Because of their potential risks, systemic treatments are mostly used to treat more severe cases of psoriasis which have failed the moderate treatments listed above. These systemic treatments include methotrexate, Acitretin, Cyclosporin, Hydroxyurea and Biologics.

Biologics Biologics are systemic treatments made from proteins produced by living cells. They block parts of the immune-system process that drives psoriasis. Scientists are excited about a new biologic that may even keep psoriasis at bay: The October 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine chronicles a study wherein German researchers administered an experimental treatment of briakinumab, or a commonly used drug, methotrexate. Briakinumab stems an overactive immune system by blocking two proteins that drive inflammation. This experimental drug reduced psoriasis symptoms by 75 percent in more than 80 percent of the study participants, compared with only 40 percent of people who took methotrexate a long time accepted treatment for psoriasis. After a year follow-up, nearly 60 percent of participants taking briakinumab had no skin lesions, compared with fewer than 20 percent of participants taking methotrexate.

“Patients today have many options for treating psoriasis. We encourage people to talk with their dermatologist to determine the best course of action for their specific case,” adds Dr. Fox.