The 5 things your SKIN can tell you about your health – and when to see a doctor

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul – but it's the skin that may also hold clues to your health.

While all of us suffer from breakouts and blemishes from time to time, your skin may actually be a warning sign that something is wrong.

Two leading UK aesthetic professionals reveal what your skin is telling you, and how you can fix it…

1. Dry skin

If your skin is dry, patchy, or appears uneven, it could be a sign of dehydration. 

It’s also a common skin complaint associated with menopause in women.

Dehydration can cause havoc on the body; it makes us feel sluggish, lethargic and affects our ability to focus. 

Aside from skin, it can even be the reason you reach for sugary snacks that in turn make the skin more susceptible to issues like dryness.

Lou Sommereux, Clinical Director at Cosmex Clinic, a leading skin rejuvenation clinic in Cambridge, said: “Dehydration can make fine lines and wrinkles more pronounced which in turn, makes us look older. 

Keeping hydrated with water keeps us healthy from the inside and makes our skin glow on the outside.

On top of this, hydrating skin treatments can help to boost skin health and improve skin texture and appearance.

Lou claimed: “We can’t just rely on water to hydrate our skin, and some patients benefit from injectable skin boosters such as Profhilo; an excellent hydrating treatment that hyaluronic acid moisturising treatment that can give the skin a natural radiance.”

Dr Martin Kinsella, a cosmetic doctor from Re-enhance Clinic in Cheshire, said said: “A good moisturising routine can keep your skin in tip-top shape. 

“You should be applying a light moisturiser and SPF in the morning to protect your skin against environmental damage, and a slightly heavier moisturiser before bed to care for the skin whilst you sleep.”

He advised hyaluronic acid that helps to lock in moistures, making it appear plumper and more youthful.

2. Breakouts and acne

Breakouts are something we typically associate with puberty.

But if you’re suffering with random spurts of spots on the skin as an adult, there is usually a reason.

Particularly in women, whose hormones ride up and down throughout the cycle, pregnancy and the menopause.

Polycystic ovary syndrome – a common condition that can cause formation of small cysts inside the ovary – is behind spots and weight gain.

Your diet may also be to blame, but this area of science is weak. Studies indicate that carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, bagels and chips, may worsen acne.

Dr Martin said: “It’s surprisingly common for women come to the clinic looking for help with regards to breakouts, some of them well into their 30s and even 40s.”

He said that while sometimes there may be a hormonal issue, “for many it can be as simple as blocked pores or excess oil production” – which affects both men and women. 

Dr Martin urged people to take a look at their skincare and make sure they are using the right skincare products to avoid worsening their acne.

His clinic uses an intelligent skincare system called Universkin that uses artificial intelligence to match patients to their perfect products. 

“These may include active ingredients such as salicylic acid that tackles spots, for example, in no time,” he said.

“The key is a thorough skin assessment to ascertain the best products or treatment.”

Sometimes acne runs in families – so don’t beat yourself up if it’s difficult to shift. 

When should you see your doctor about a skin complaint?

Some skin problems are the sign of something that needs checking out by a GP. This includes:

  • Mole changes – colour, shape, if its itching, crusting, flaking or becoming raised. This could be skin cancer.
  • Itchy skin – unexplained itchiness all over the body is the sign of various health problems, including lymphoma and pancreatic cancer.
  • Yellow skin – jaundice is when your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow. It could be a sign of something very serious including pacreatitis and liver disease.
  • Dark patches – a dark patch or band of velvety skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or elsewhere could mean that you have diabetes.
  • Sores – sores are a cause for concern if they take a long time to heal. It could be a sign of diabetes, poor blood circulation or an immune system problem.
  • New rash – a new rash could be the sign of shingles, an allergic reaction, scabies, a drug allergy, measles, scarlet fever, chickenpox or Kawasaki disease – many of which are mostly seen in children.
  • Eczema or psoriasis- these very common skin conditions, which cause itchiness, irritation, inflammation and flaky patches on the skin, can be treated.

3. Dark circles under the eyes

Dark circles are a giveaway that you are lacking in sleep.

That’s because sleep deprivation can cause your skin to become dull and pale, allowing for dark tissues and blood vessels beneath your skin to show, Healthline reports.

Dark circles could also indicate that you have an iron deficiency, anaemia or even poor circulation – all of which can be treated.

Allergies could also be behind dark circles, because histamines – produced by the body in response to an allergy – cause the blood vessels to dilate and become more visible beneath your skin.

Dr Martin said: “Dark circles under the eyes can also signify sun damage.

“First you should make sure you are getting enough water, sleep and taking care of your internal health. 

“Remember though, dark circles are also a sign of ageing. As we age, the skin stops producing collagen, and the skin around the eyes becomes even thinner which in turn makes the dark circles appear more noticeable.”

Nurse prescriber Lou Sommereux said: “The skin around our eyes is very thin and often one of the first areas to show signs of ageing. 

“Sometimes dark circles can be improved with injectable fillers that when used as part of a global approach to facial rejuvenation with other treatments can offer a marked improvement. 

“A full assessment is required initially to understand the anatomy of the individual.”

4. Dull, lacklustre complexion

We all want to look glowing and healthy.

A dull complexion could be your skin’s way of showing stress, as hormones related to stress can cause paler skin.

It may also be a side effect of dehydration, discussed above, or failure to exfoliate dry skin cells or moisturise.

Another reason for dull skin can be a lack of vitamins or oxygenation.

Dr Martin said: “We all suffer from a dull complexion from time to time, but you’ll be surprised how much difference a good skincare routine or facial treatment can make. 

“Don’t skip out on your active ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C and Lactic Acid can really help brighten the skin. 

“If you’re newly menopausal it’s also probably a good time to reassess your skincare as hormonal changes can mean dryer, dull skin.”

Lou Sommereux adds: “The Stratum Synergy is an excellent place to start if you’re happy to invest in your skin, as it can effectively offer patients deep cleansing, exfoliation and hydration which promote a tighter and brighter complexion. 

“It also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, promotes oxygen enrichment and skin cell nutrition. My patients love how refreshed it makes them look.”

5. Hyperpigmentation 

If you suffer with sunspots, hyperpigmentation, or dry/sensitive skin, it could be a sign of sun damage. 

The sun is the best source of Vitamin D – important for bone health – but it also exposes our skin to harmful UV rays that cause skin damage, premature ageing and even melanoma.

Even if it’s raining we should still be wearing a good SPF to provide that first level of protection. The sun can dry out the skin, trigger acne, cause severe irritation and lead to patchy uneven skin.

Dr Martin said to combat sun damage, you should consider using vitamin C treatments within your skincare routine. 

“This is a natural antioxidant that protects the skin, promotes collagen production and has even been found help improve the appearance of brown spots,” he said.

“First and foremost, though, use a daily sun screen on your face even in the winter months.”

Lou, who said laser treatments can reduce the appearance of sun spots, added: “We should all be protecting our skin from the sun each day.”

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