Wake up at six a.m., get ready to jet out the house and commute to work. Two-hour team meeting from nine to eleven, quick bathroom break and short scurry through emails. Hop on a conference call then venture out for a quick lunch break before heading to an afternoon professional development meeting and an event later in the evening. Attend professional development, then prepare to deliver a presentation at the next event. Deliver presentation, run home, squeeze in another meal, friends/family time, personal obligations, sleep and repeat. Ever had a busy day or season like this?
Whether your schedule has looked similar or varied in style and form there are a plethora of things that we are tasked with tending to each day. Although during these days or seasons the demands of our obligations tend to be high, studies have shown that greater health bears greater wealth—both physically and mentally. To explore how best to foster a healthy glow while on the go, I caught up with the renowned dermatologist and author Dr. Whitney Bowe.
Dr. Bowe is an esteemed dermatologist who specializes in laser dermatology, skin rejuvenation, and the gut-brain-skin connection. She has shared her expertise on media platforms such as Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, The Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, and more. Dr. Bowe has also written more than 40 articles and book chapters and conducted clinical trials exploring new forms of treatment for acne. Her exceptional research in microbiology has led to numerous awards from renowned organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation. She has additionally been featured on the eminent Super Doctors of New York list and holds a patent for a bacterial-derived acne treatment.
With the skin being our largest organ, let’s see what tips Dr. Bowe has for radiating from the inside out and outside in.
Brittany Chambers: For the entrepreneur or business person on the go, some seasons can be filled with numerous duties and responsibilities. If there were 5 tips you would share on radiating from the inside out and outside in, during these periods, what would they be?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: As I tell my patients, your skin is a window into your overall health and wellness. Put simply, your skin reflects your health. Many of my patients are celebrities, CEOs, celebrated musicians, lawyers, other physicians, and multi-tasking parents. When our schedules and our lives become incredibly hectic and imbalanced, this imbalance is often reflected in our daily choices, which in turn, is reflected in our skin. Your diet, your sleep routine, your exercise regimen, and your stress management techniques all impact the health and appearance of your skin!
Simply making meaningful, practical changes that will target the underlying cause of your skin irritation, breakouts, inflammation, dryness, and even premature aging can make a tremendous difference in helping your skin heal from the inside out and from the outside in.
Here are 5 quick changes you can start making today to help jumpstart your skin’s healthy glow:
- Start Eating Probiotic-Rich Foods and Take a Probiotic Supplement Daily: The word “probiotic” literally means “for life.” Probiotics support the health of our “good bugs” to keep our gut and skin healthy. I encourage my patients to incorporate skin-friendly, probiotic-rich, fermented foods and beverages such as kombucha, miso, kefir, and sauerkraut into their diets. I also encourage my patients to supplement their healthy diet with an oral probiotic, taken daily, to boost their skin’s glow.
- Exercise to Start to Reverse Your Skin’s Aging: When you exercise, you increase the blood flow to your skin, nourishing your skin with vital nutrients and oxygen. Not only does exercise improve your skin’s metabolism, it is scientifically proven that you can even begin to reverse the signs of visible aging by working out! Based on recent evidence, not only do people who exercise feel younger, they look younger as well! Incredibly, this is true even if you don’t start working out until later in life.
- Ditch Artificial Sweeteners: For a long time, we thought that sugar substitutes such as saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal) did not have a metabolic impact because they do not raise blood glucose levels. But it turns out that they can absolutely have an impact and cause the same metabolic disorders as real sugar. It’s shocking. Many well-designed studies involving tens of thousands of people have definitively proven that these fake sugars over the long term can actually increase your risk of being overweight with serious metabolic disorders. The fact that artificial sweeteners negatively affect metabolism and blood sugar balance, means those diet foods and beverages not only increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, but also skin disorders like acne and rosacea through the domino effects of increased inflammation. High insulin levels are a primary cause of hormonal imbalances and skin disorders, especially acne. Since artificial sweeteners throw your blood sugar balance off, they too are capable of triggering skin issues. Put simply, when your gut is unhappy, so is your skin.
- Dial Down Your Sugar Intake: Sugar is not sweet for your skin! In fact, it causes a process called “glycation” which directly impacts the elasticity, firmness, and overall health of your skin! Sugar hides in plain sight, so check your labels!
- Exfoliate No More than Two Times Per Week: Set an alarm on your phone so you know which days are your exfoliating days! Over-cleansing and over-exfoliating not only strip away your skin’s natural oils but also upset your skin’s healthy barrier and natural balance of “good bugs” (microbes). When your skin is balanced, it is pumping out collagen to stay smooth and plump, sealing in the moisture it needs, and dialing down inflammation. When you over-scrub, in contrast, you are hurting your skin, which leads to issues like eczema, acne, dry skin and premature aging.
Brittany Chambers: You recently published a book titled the Beauty of Dirty Skin, what can readers learn about healthy skin care by reading it?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: Skin conditions might appear to be superficial, surface problems, but the reality is that the root of the majority of these conditions is much more than skin deep. The Beauty of Dirty Skin, which is the culmination of ten years of my life’s work and research, centers on the science that healing and nourishing our skin’s “microbiome” is critical to sustaining healthy, glowing skin. Incredibly, there are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from approximately one thousand different species. When our skin’s healthy microbiome is disrupted by harsh cleansers and other abrasive skin care products, this discontent results in breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, and even sensitive skin. In sharp contrast, when our “good bugs” are healthy, they are empowered to fight infections, combat against environmental damage, boost our immune system, and keep our skin hydrated and radiant!
Many people don’t realize that your gut, brain, and skin can communicate. Through my work, I share that the alliance between your gut, brain, and skin – called the gut-brain-skin axis – is the soul of healthy skin. For this reason, I designed a 21 Day Plan which focuses on each of these areas – gut, brain, and skin – to heal your skin from the inside out AND from the outside in. Specifically, in Week 1, we focus on healing the gut through meaningful dietary changes that are easy to follow and delicious recipes (like rich avocado truffles and a savory probiotic-rich yogurt dip) you can readily make at home. In Week 2, we focus on your mind and its relationship to the health of your skin and your entire body. This week focuses on incorporating readily accessible methods of meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise into your daily routine – and you will be inspired by the science shared in the book which directly links these activities to healthy, youthful skin.
Here’s an example: We tend to think about the benefits of exercise in terms of fitness and weight control, but we don’t usually think of its profound role in keeping skin looking young and firm. Surprising new research shows that exercise not only does keep your skin healthier, but it can actually reverse skin aging in people who begin an exercise regimen even later in life! Really a game changer. Here’s the basic concept – as we age, we want certain layers of our skin to stay thin and we want other layers of our skin to stay thick.
The natural aging process of skin entails a gradual thickening of the outermost layer of our skin, the stratum corneum. It is made up of mostly dead skin cells and some protein. But around the age of forty, it begins to change, getting denser, drier, and flakier. Meanwhile, the dermal layer, which is a deeper layer of the skin that sits beneath both the stratum corneum and the epidermis, begins to thin and lose elasticity; as a result, skin becomes more translucent and looks saggy. When your dermal layer thins with age, it starts to ripple and those ripples are seen on the surface as wrinkles.
These changes happen naturally as we age, but they happen even faster if you’re also exposed to environmental damage like sunlight and pollution. So, to think that we can slow down or even reverse some of these age-related changes through something as simple (and free) as exercise is truly astonishing. I share some of the really incredible studies and facts surrounding the type of exercise and how much exercise in The Beauty of Dirty Skin and in my blog post: Exercising Your Way To Healthy Younger Skin.
And finally, in Week 3, we focus on the most cutting edge skincare and ingredients available today to achieve skin that is glowing with health, including my favorite DIY recipes.
I specifically designed my 3-week plan to be accessible, attainable, and very realistic for today’s multi-tasking superwoman. My goal is to empower people through education, information, and the most effective tools available, to face the world—quite literally—feeling their absolute best and ready to take on new challenges. I live by the plan I share in my book and it has changed my life in every possible way. When I saw the incredible transformations in my patients as well, I wanted to reach as many people as possible with this book!
Brittany Chambers: Research on the gut-brain-skin connection has started to bud over the last few years. What do you believe has led to the greater discovery of this connection? And why is it important?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: Throughout medical school and residency, I was consistently taught that diet had no impact on the skin. My textbooks told me to disregard diet as a factor in skin ailments. This was the scientific dogma of the time. But, this didn’t resonate with me – given what I was experiencing with my own skin and observing with patients, so I not only challenged this theory, but I helped to disprove it. I was a skincare rebel, as I share in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, and of course, now, it is well established and recognized that diet plays a key role in determining the quality and appearance of your skin.
In my research on the connection between our gut, brain, and skin, I discovered that scientists had suspected that the gut, brain, and skin were connected for years. Incredibly, over 70 years ago, dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury first proposed a gastrointestinal mechanism for the overlap between depression, anxiety and skin conditions including acne. They suspected a gut-brain-skin connection, but they didn’t have the scientific tools they needed to prove that theory! Now that we have the scientific capability to explore this connection, the floodgates have opened with respect to the gut-brain-skin axis and what it means for our health!
Brittany Chambers: In your book, some tips you provide include feeding your face, taking time to recover, and handling your body with care. What do you recommend when one of these areas is imbalanced or further health complications create difficulty in balancing that holistic glow, especially while on the go?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: Even when we are busy, we can begin to heal our skin and dial down chronic skin conditions by making subtle dietary changes with a real impact. It is scientifically established that our diet has a direct impact on the health of our skin. This is what I call beauty from the inside out. The first matter of business is that we have healthy gut bugs (bacteria) that live inside our digestive tract. Probiotics help to nourish our healthy gut bugs so that we have a healthy intestinal lining (no leaky gut where toxins get out into our bloodstream) and so that bad bacteria, which can be dangerous to our health, don’t proliferate. Specifically, these probiotics serve as natural antibiotics, help maintain your body’s healthy pH, and control inflammation.
Taking good care of our gut bugs is the first step not only to overall health, but to keeping our skin healthy and glowing. To accomplish this, in addition to taking a probiotic supplement, I also suggest that my patients incorporate probiotic-rich foods into their diet including kombucha, kimchi, miso soup and sauerkraut. Another great food swap for healthy skin is to replace your whey protein supplements with plant-based protein. Whey protein has been strongly linked to acne. These are just a few examples – I share an incredible amount of information on this topic in The Beauty of Dirty Skin and include my favorite skin-healthy recipes (which, I promise, are really easy to make!)
Brittany Chambers: You have been guest featured by numerous media outlets including Good Morning America, have presented at a plethora of conferences, guest lectured, own a patent, and received countless accolades for your work. In your travels and dialogues with everyone from thought leaders to business enthusiasts, what has been a reoccurring question we’re all asking related to health and skin care? And what is one answer to this question you often recommend?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: In the world of cosmetics and skincare, we are witnessing a major shift towards more natural ingredients and “clean” beauty, and avoidance of certain ingredients perceived as “unclean” such as parabens, silicones, phthalates, and mineral oil. People perceive natural products as safer, but they often doubt they are as potent as their synthetic competitors. I’m often asked if natural products are as effective as synthetic ones. It’s a complicated question because “natural” can mean so many things right now. A brand can use the words “natural” or “organic” on the label, even if the product contains only a small percentage of organic ingredients!
So, first of all, if you really do want to transition your skincare to more natural, clean products, the first step is to learn how to read labels. Look for actual percentage claims and reputable certifications when it comes to what percentage of the ingredients are natural, raw and organic. Up until now, many natural products weren’t able to achieve the same efficacy of some synthetic products. But that’s all changing. New, sophisticated extraction techniques and advances in product formulation are resulting in natural and organic products that can truly deliver. This is truly an exciting time, and I anticipate both the trend towards “clean beauty” and the standards by which these products are held, to continue to evolve over the next few years.
Brittany Chambers: Where can we learn more tips about glowing while on the go? Additionally, are there any new developments we can expect in the months to come related to your research and work?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: Part of my job as a dermatologist and media expert is to know which of the trending products really work and deliver the results they promise. As a research scientist, I look at the science and the studies behind product claims. I insist upon proof that the products that I am recommending do what they say they will do for your skin! I insist upon proof that the products are safe. I share my favorite products – and the science behind them – on my Dr. Whitney’s Picks page. On my website home page, I also share many posts about specific skin conditions including melasma, psoriasis, and acne. I also provide my opinion on trending skincare ingredients and procedures. My social media channels are another way that I share my opinions and work with my audience and I love to answer the questions raised on my channels to empower more people to achieve their healthiest, radiant glow! On IG, FB, and TW, my handle is @drwhitneybowe.
Brittany Chambers: Any additional words of wisdom you would share with entrepreneurs and business enthusiasts striving to reach their ideal glow?
Dr. Whitney Bowe: My patients often use words like “vanity” or “selfishness” to describe the way that they feel in focusing on the health and appearance of their skin. I encourage my patients, my friends, and fellow business enthusiasts to liberate themselves from this outdated mindset and to embrace the concept that healing your skin is akin to healing your overall health. When you take care of your body, your skin benefits. This is neither vain nor selfish. If you are highly motivated, highly productive, up before the sun and delivering your best every single day, your health cannot be an afterthought. There is nothing selfish about empowering your body to be able to meet the demands of your day ! This will require you to take breaks and to be mindful of your stress levels – all of which will benefit your skin and your sanity! Owning your glow – to me – means embracing your purpose, working relentlessly on your goals, and understanding that your body is one of your most valued assets throughout your journey.