I’m not afraid to admit… I’m obsessed with good skin. After my work is done for the day and my daughter is asleep, going through my skin care ritual is how I wind down and relax.
And I know I’m not the only one… Skin care sales have skyrocketed in the last year.
But the truth is that there is a lot more to beautiful skin than expensive creams (or even an acupuncture facial… which I love).
Good skin starts inside… and if you’re having skin issues like dryness, sagging and premature aging… as a practitioner, that puts up major red flags. Today, I want to explore the internal causes of common skin issues.
Good Skin Starts Within
You’ve heard this before I’m sure, but in our current skin-care obsessed world, it bears repeating: the foundation of beautiful, radiant skin is your internal health and well-being.
Your skin care regimen can help, but if something is amiss internally, you’re going to see it on your skin and no amount of products can fix it.
There’s actually a lot of good info on the internal link to acne. It seems like there is finally (!) some acceptance and understanding that acne is an internal issue, and usually related to hormones. (More on that here.)
But what most people don’t know is that issues like premature aging, wrinkles, sagging skin, dryness, fine lines, discoloration etc… They all have an internal cause, too.
You’re not just getting old or overdue for a facial… there are real issues that could be causing these symptoms, and one of them is thyroid issues.
The Thyroid-Skin Connection
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck that produces key hormones for the healthy functioning of the body: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Women are 8x more likely than men to develop a thyroid issue… and a key symptom of thyroid issues is changes in skin.
Thyroid dysfunction may present on the skin as:
- Dryness and dullness
- Premature aging (sagging, wrinkles, fine lines, loss of elasticity)
- Cyclical acne
- Facial puffiness
- Slow healing
That’s because the hormones produced by the thyroid are responsible for growth, energy, and repair of cells of the body.
On top of these skin issues, thyroid dysfunction has tons of other subtle symptoms that you may have no idea are connected, like:
- Feeling cold, or having cold hands/feet
- Hair loss
- Sudden weight loss OR weight loss resistance
- Trouble sleeping
- And more
How Your Thyroid Messes With Your Skin
Thyroid dysfunction can either present as an overproduction of thyroid hormones or an underproduction.
Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of thyroid hormones and is less common. It is caused by the autoimmune condition Graves’ disease, in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. Symptoms include weight loss, sensitivity to heat, and higher heart rate. In the skin, hyperthyroidism can cause:
- Hyperpigmentation, like melasma, which is darkened patches of skin. This is caused by increased pituitary ACTH in compensation for cortisol being degraded and processed at an upregulated rate.
Hypothyroidism is the underproduction of thyroid hormones, and it is more common than hyperthyroidism. It can have many causes, including autoimmunity, which causes Hashimoto’s. Symptoms include weight gain, cold sensitivity, constipation, hair loss, fatigue, and these skin symptoms:
- Slow cell turnover: if your thyroid hormone levels are low, you will have a lower rate of repair of cells all over your body – but it is especially noticeable in the skin cells, which should have a fast turnover rate. This might present as skin taking longer to heal, dullness (as the old layer of skin hangs out too long), or dry and flaky skin
- Increased wrinkles and sagging: In those with hypothyroidism, a decrease was observed in type-IV collagen and hydroxyproline during the proliferative phase of wound healing. But collagen isn’t just for wound healing – it’s also what stops aging and sagging skin.
- Puffiness: less thyroid hormones cause increased polysaccharides, which causes more water to be held in the skin, and also lowers mitochondrial respiration efficiency, causing poor blood circulation. All this = puffiness.
- Hyperpigmentation: the exact mechanism isn’t well understood, but hyperpigmentation (dark marks and melasma) is also associated with hypothyroidism, probably due to reduced blood flow and slower cell turnover.
In addition to these, conditions like vitiligo and alopecia are also warning signs that the thyroid may be struggling.
Save Your Skin!
If any of what I just described sounds like it could be affecting you… here’s what to do next:
Step 1: Get Your Thyroid Tested
A specialized practitioner like myself or your general doc can order blood work to check for thyroid issues. But be sure to get a FULL thyroid panel: many docs only test T3 or T4, and exclude TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
I also recommend cortisol testing. Cortisol is the “stress hormone”and it is closely linked to thyroid function.
If you have mild thyroid dysfunction, just making some key lifestyle changes may be all you need.
For more severe thyroid issues, I highly recommend working with a trained practitioner (book a free consult with my team here.) Treating thyroid issues is multifaceted, and you likely don’t need to be on thyroid meds the rest of your life.
At-Home Ways To Support a Healthy Thyroid
- Switch to natural products, many of the chemicals – PCBs, Phthalates, BPA, flame retardants and more – used in conventional beauty and home products can actually harm thyroid health. Switch them out for natural alternatives. (There are so many great, clean skin care brands now!)
- Remove processed foods both to lower your toxin exposure and to give your body the nutrients it needs for healing
- Prioritize good sleep
- Detox if needed – especially consider your exposure to heavy metals, mold, parasites, and chemicals. Some of my favorite detox-supporters are saunas!
- Exercise to promote healthy cortisol levels
- Find healthy stress outlets
- Try ashwagandha – this herb can help manage cortisol levels
And if you have any signs of autoimmune-related thyroid issues, like Graves’s disease, or a coexisting condition like rosacea, alopecia, vitiligo, or eczema – you might need more specialized support and guidance. Consider booking a free consult with my team here.
Thyroid Tests Normal?
Thyroid issues are one potential cause of premature aging and other skin issues, but they aren’t the only potential underlying cause. If your thyroid function is normal, here are some other potential causes I would want to investigate:
- Leaky gut
- Oxidative stress
- Genetic (but don’t worry -this doesn’t mean you’re doomed, just what you need to work with your genetic predispositions)
- Poor nutrition and lifestyle habits
And you might have several of these factors happening at the same time – that’s when working with an experienced practitioner who can tease it all apart and help you manage each piece becomes so valuable.
Get Help With Your Skin Health
If you’ve tried all the serums and moisturizers… and you’re still not happy with the way your skin looks, it might be time to dig a little deeper.
My practice specializes in working with women with gut, hormone, and fertility issues, and we’d love to support you, too!