Episode 049: Skincare Myths - Why the Conventional Approach Doesn't Work
At some point in your life, whether during puberty, adolescence, or even well into adulthood, that acne, or other skin issues became a big concern for you. It’s frustrating, depressing, confusing, and leaves you feeling soooo self-conscious.
You may have even taken medications to treat it, but they never entirely worked, and you still had to supplement with other over-the-counter products. Have you ever wondered why this is?
In this episode, we’ll take a look at why the conventional approach to treating skin problems isn’t effective, common myths about them, and I share my story on how I struggled with acne for over thirty years and what finally resolved it!
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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast.
This week marks the one year anniversary of the podcast! You guys, I can’t believe it! It seems like yesterday that I was working around the clock, trying to get the first three episodes ready to launch! It was crazy stressful but oh so exciting!
The idea for a podcast had been two years in the making. I had no idea how to even begin to create a podcast but thanks to Google, I studied how the pros did it, taught myself and finally took action.
And it's been my favorite project for the past year!
I’ve been able to connect with so many incredible people who have been guests on the show and perhaps the most fulfilling and satisfying thing ever has been hearing how the past 48 episodes have been enjoyed by so many of you listeners.
So THANK YOU for listening and sharing it with your friends, family, communities and social circles!
After a year of producing episodes, hearing from you, studying what works, and what doesn’t, what topics resonate, I gained a ton of clarity on how I can best serve you.
So today’s episode not only celebrates the first year of the existence of this podcast, it also kicks off another mini-series, and begins a slight shift in how we approach some of the topics we talk about regularly here on the show.
I’ve always taken a functional nutrition approach to the core topics of the show:
- Diet and nutrition
- Gut health
And at the root of all these things, stress, in all of the many forms that we experience it.
These topics will continue to be the core of the show. But we’re going to look at them and talk about them through a more defined lense. Through the lense of the skin-gut connection.
Did you know the two were intricately connected?
Well they are, and that’s going to be the overarching theme of the show as we continue to dive into the four core topics of:
- Diet and nutrition
- Gut health
So I’m kicking this off by sharing my skin story, and how the conventional approach to treating skin problems just didn’t work for me. And I know that it hasn’t worked for so many of you either.
So, at some point in your life, whether it be during puberty, or during adolescence, or even well into adulthood, acne, or other skin issues like eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, or even less the less painful but equally embarrassing skin conditions keratosis pilaris, you know the chicken skin that’s on the backs of your arms?, became a big concern for you.
Those of us who have battled these things know how stubborn, resistant, painful and embarrassing they can be.
I mean, have you ever had your face explode during a particularly stressful but important time? Like right before a job interview or even a wedding?
It always happened to me and I remember so many days when I just couldn’t bear to look at my “pizza-faced self” in the mirror! That’s what I used to call it.
Have you felt so tired of people asking, “Don't you wash your face?" Or telling you "It's all that chocolate” or makeup on your face?
Maybe you went on Accutane, even though you knew the health risks, but you did it anyway because you just couldn't take it anymore. You were so desperate and willing to try anything.
And while, at times, you were able to get your skin issues under control, they never completely or permanently went away.
It’s depressing. It’s confusing, and it’s hella expensive to keep buying products that don’t work! And it leaves you feeling soooo self-conscious. Not just because of the breakouts, but also because you’re wondering, “Why me?” Why do all of the popular treatments work for everyone else, but they don’t work for me?!” And you keep wondering, “What’s wrong with me?!”
Well, my friend, there is nothing wrong with you.
What’s wrong is the conventional approach to treating these problems. In short, we’ve been treating them the wrong way.
Instead of treating what’s actually causing our skin problems symptoms, conventional approaches really only treat the symptoms themselves. In other words, conventional approaches mask the symptoms without ever truly resolving the root causes.
Our skin is a barrier system. When acne, eczema, or even hives and rashes manifest on our skin, it’s a sign that the barrier system isn’t working and things can’t seem to move out. In other words, our body’s natural detoxification system isn’t working.
So today, we’re going to take a look at three common myths about treating skin problems that we’ve been fed and why they just don’t work.
Myth #1 - Food Has Nothing to Do with Skin Health
My lifelong battle with acne began when I was in the fifth grade. You guys, I was only ten years old! And I was already getting zits on my forehead and my cheeks and I was the only kid in my class who was already having zit problems. It was so embarrassing, but since I was only ten and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it.
But, over the next few years my complexion got progressively worse. By the time I was 14, I think in the eight grade, my mom took me to see a dermatologist.
Now I grew up on a small island in Hawai’i and we didn’t have all of these specialty doctors. So doctors like a dermatologist would fly over from Honolulu for the day and see as many patients as they could.
I distinctly remember that visit. I remember the doctor standing there in his white coat, and me being only 14 didn’t say much at the time. I know, you can’t shut me up now, but back then, I was too shy to ask questions or speak up for myself.
I remember my mom asking him if we needed to make dietary changes. And I’ll never forget his response.
He said and I quote, “No, diet has nothing to do with the complexion.” Well, we know - we all know this right? - that that’s simply not true! I’ll never forget hearing him say those words.
He then wrote me a prescription for Erythromycin, an antibiotic, and Retin-A, a topical medication. And I remember that the Retin-A was in a green tube and I remember my Dad being so annoyed that it was so expensive!
So I grew up believing that the food that I ate had nothing to do with my acne. And I remember telling all of my friends, because by now, being in the 8th grade, more of my friends had zit problems too, I remember telling them that my doctor said that food had nothing to do with breakouts so we continued to eat all of our junk food.
And you guys, I believed this - all through my teenage years and well into adulthood!
You guys, this is perhaps the biggest misconception that there is about treating skin problems - that food has nothing to do with it! Its flabbergasting, isn’t it?
We have all heard the phrase “food is medicine.” In fact, I talked about this a few episodes back in Episode 045.
Food is what fuels us. Eating the healthy, foods that have a ton of nutrients - vitamins and minerals - helps our bodies to thrive and function the way it’s supposed to.
Now, just as much as food is medicine, food can also be poison. Eating unhealthy is poisonous, is harmful to our bodies!
Eating unhealthy foods creates inflammation.
Inflammation creates heat internally which is typically expressed through our skin. Rashes, hives, skin irritations, and acne are all responses by our immune system manifested through our skin. Cystic acne, for example, is a bacterial overload that the immune system cannot remedy quickly enough — it’s inflammation!
And the most inflammatory foods are processed sugar, dairy, gluten, corn, and soy, as well as other foods that your bodies may be uniquely sensitive to.
Did you know that upwards of 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive system? And where does the food get processed? Yes, in the same place! So what you eat is intricately tied to the health of your skin!
You’ve probably heard other people, myself included, say that when they eliminated sugar, dairy, gluten, or all three, their skin problems cleared up!
Well, this is how your diet is connected to the health of your skin. This is how gut health and your immune system is connected to the health of your skin! And these things trigger a hormonal response, so this is how hormones are connected to the health of your skin!
Myth #2 - Pharmaceuticals is the only way to treat skin problems
Since my dermatologist told me that food had nothing to do with my complexion, I didn’t make any dietary changes for years. And I mean years!
I took Erythromycin and topical medications daily for 20 years. I also used products like Neutrogena, Noxema, Oxy-5, Clinique, Stridex - do these things sound familiar? It’s like a trip back to the 80’s and 90’s! - toners and even rubbing alcohol, along with heavy makeup that I caked on my face, to cover up the zits, blemishes, and scars.
Now back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But now that I know better, I looked up these products in the Environmenal Working Group’s Skin Deep database. If you aren’t familiar with this, the EWG is a third party organization that has created a database ranking the safety of food, water, cleaning and beauty products! The Skin Deep database rates the safety of beauty products.
When I looked up these products that I used to use on a daily basis, for years, I was dumbfounded to see the health concerns that they posed. In particular, a concern for allergies.
We know that allergies are commonly manifested through the skin. So then, why do skinCARE products have allergy concerns? Why do these skincare products contain ingredients that are known to be harmful and linked to allergies? I don’t get it...
And let’s not forget that none of these things, not the medications, ointments or over the counter products, none of these things completely or permanently resolved my acne problems.
Myth #3 - You’ll outgrow skin problems...eventually
So I was STILL struggling with acne well into my thirties. By then it turned cystic and it wasn’t just breaking out on my face. The breakouts had expanded to my neck, back and shoulders.
I tried to cover it up with makeup, my hair, and clothing. It was soooo embarrassing, and I was so frustrated. I just didn’t know what to do anymore. I mean, being in my thirties, wasn’t I passed the age of having to deal with this by now?
So, after 20 years of mediocre results, the antibiotics stopped working. So my then-doctor switched me to birth control pills to fix my acne problems, which I then took for another ten years.
That’s THIRTY years of being on prescriptions for acne! It’s embarrassing to even admit this - what was I thinking?!
The problem with this conventional approach is that they never addressed the real issue. The root causes. What’s actually going on that was causing my body to respond in this way.
Contrary to what my first dermatologist said, food DOES play a role in the health of your skin, and telling people that dietary changes aren’t necessary not only doesn’t address the root cause, it’s a disservice to them.
Treating skin problems two-dimensionally, with only pills and topical treatments, merely masks the symptoms - not what’s causing them.
And eating foods that cause inflammation and taking pharmaceuticals for a prolonged period of time eventually leads to more significant problems. And eventually, symptoms start to show up in other places.
So have you noticed that there are more and more pharmaceutical ads on tv these days?
You know the ones I’m talking about, right?
And when you watch these ads, they always whisper the side effects. And the side effects of antibiotics are that they can cause digestive upset, so always to take with food. And birth control pills also have their own warnings of side effects.
I’m so embarrassed to admit this, but I foolishly thought that I didn’t need to pay attention to those side effects because they wouldn’t affect me. I honestly believed that those things wouldn’t happen to me. How naive and egotistical!
But guess what, they did in slow, subtle and not-so-subtle ways. But because I was so disconnected from my own body that I didn’t recognize that those side effects were happening to me until they were full-blown issues.
So if you’re wondering, “Well, what does happen to your body after 30 years on medications?”, well my friend, let me tell you…
My digestive problems started slowly, then grew into raging, severe and chronic IBS aka Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.
I also suffered from debilitating insomnia. I could not get a decent night’s sleep. This went on for years, and we know how painful it is to deal with. The inability to get a good night’s sleep is a huge stressor on our bodies.
Combine that with the stress of overtraining from marathons, work-related stress and the stress of a poor diet full of inflammatory foods (remember stress comes in many different forms but our body cannot differentiate between them - the hormonal responses are the same), I soon found myself also suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome, and SIBO, which is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in my small intestines, where our food, especially fats, gets digested and where our bodies absorbs the nutrients from food. And when these functions are compromised, those things can’t happen.
All of these issues also contributed to poor liver function, adrenal dysfunction, and a low-functioning thyroid, aka hypothyroidism.
So not only were my digestive and immune systems affected, but my endocrine system was pulled into the mix as my hormones were unbalanced, and my body’s natural detoxification system was compromised.
So you can see how the conventional two-dimensional way of treating skin problems is incomplete? If you don’t address the root cause the problems can’t be resolved, and in the long run, worsens our health.
It’s like when you’re pulling weeds. If you’re only pulling the weed and not getting the root, that weed is going to grow back.
I really want you to understand how important this is; it’s not a fringe topic. This is not a “chicken little the sky is falling topic.” This is really, really important for us to address.
Now I know my story is not unique. I know that many of you, probably thousands of you’ve had a similar experience struggling with skin problems, or any other chronic health problems! And if you have, come on over to the show notes at www.livefablife.com/049 and leave a comment, sharing your story.
Next week I’ll be back sharing what the root causes of common skin issues are and a better way that you can address them! And if you can’t wait, and you’re curious as to what the root causes of your skin issues might be, I’ve created a quiz for you!
Yes, I have! This is exciting to finally be able to share because I’ve worked on creating this quiz for a long time! You can find the quiz at www.livefablife.com/skinquiz or head on over to the show notes for this episode, once again at www.livefablife.com/049 and find a link to it there!
So this was the first part of this mini-series on skincare myths and what to do instead. Like I said, next week’s episode will be all about what the root causes of common skin issues are and how to address them.
As always, thanks for listening for the past year and I’m looking forward to sharing with you all the things I have planned for Year 2 of the show!
See you next week!
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest