Ultimately, a comprehensive skin care approach must contain products that address the outside (topical creams), the inside (ingestibles), and attention to controlling stress.

Most people would agree the first signs of aging are usually seen on the outside – the skin. However, the aging process actually begins on the inside and is reflected outwardly through our skin. So when I see patients seeking youthful and luminous skin, I start from the inside and layer on outward treatments to complement. I strongly believe that knowledge is our best protection so I have always had the goal to make skin care as simple to understand as possible and to help people make the best decisions for their personal situation.

There are four recognized causes of aging: oxidation, inflammation, glycation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. However, I recognize a fifth crucial cause of aging – barrier dysfunction. The skin barrier exists in the top layer of the skin and is quite simply a mix of cells (corneocytes) and lipids also know as fats (ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids). What is most important to understand about the skin barrier is that it is VERY delicate and when it’s homeostasis is disrupted then our skin breaks down leading to inflammation, dryness, redness, wrinkling, and more severe conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.

In order to have a healthy skin barrier, we must start from the inside by ensuring our gut lining is functioning properly as that is where vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are absorbed from the foods we eat. As these nutrients are absorbed they are fed to the dermal (deep) layer of the skin, which acts as a bridge for nutrients to move from the gut to the outer layers of skin. If the gut is not functioning properly, then the outer layers of our skin are starved of nutrients and will appear dull and dehydrated. A healthy gut is built with whole, unprocessed, and nutrient dense foods as well as probiotics, essentially fatty acids, and managing stress.

Ultimately, a comprehensive skin care approach must contain products that address the outside (topical creams), the inside (ingestibles), and attention to controlling stress. Fortunately, there are many habits we can adopt to protect our skin barrier and keep it fully nourished and strong resulting in healthy glowing skin.

Here are my top 5 recommendations:

1. Consume the right food and supplements. Foods with healthy fats such as fish, nuts, avocado, and flax will also provide your body with the fats needed to for healthy glowing skin. Supplements with flax, evening primrose, and fish oil along with antioxidants is foundational to repair the skin barrier.

2. Manage stress and sleep. If our cortisol levels are constantly elevated our skin is unable to repair itself properly. Managing stress and getting adequate sleep sets the perfect environment for skin restoration.

3. Use a properly formulated cleanser with a pH of 5.5 daily and keep exfoliation to once per week. Being gentle with your skin will prevent stripping the skin of fats and healthy bacteria while still allowing a deep cleansing to occur.

4. Wear sunscreen if you will be in the sun for more than 15 min. This will dramatically reduce inflammation caused by excess sun exposure.

5. Apply skin identical ingredients and antioxidants daily. Ingredients such as ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids will nourish the skin barrier from what is lost through aging and environmental factors. Antioxidant ingredients such as vitamin C, E and niacinamide will protect the skin barrier lipids from being oxidized.

Invest the time in these daily habits and your skin will look smoother and more luminous. By creating sustainable habits that are both affordable and easy to follow you will be modifying your gene expression by up to 80% which will be apparent in the illumination of your skin health and vitality.

Dr. Christina Plaskos is the Medical Director at Aegis MD. She is a cosmetic and wellness expert.