At cocokind, our goal is to provide you with the information and tools YOU need to love your skin! We recently interviewed Katie Strobe, ND, a naturopathic dermatologist located in San Francisco. She told us about her approaches to treating skin from the inside out, so that we can have dermatologist-worthy skin!
How is naturopathic dermatology different from the dermatology practices most people are used to?
An example of a conventional dermatology approach to treating acne is a prescription of antibiotics and/or oral contraceptive pills. In many cases this helps patients, but there are often side effects and long-term consequences. My approach is to take a closer look at the imbalances in the body which may include hormones, nutrition, liver function, genetics, inflammation, environmental exposure and lifestyle factors.
In many of my patients it is a combination of factors that are leading to the skin condition. Each of my patients are unique and receive individualized treatment plan that are unique to them. Treatments may include dietary & lifestyle recommendations, nutritional support, herbal tinctures & topical recommendations.
How do you work with your patients to offer them a more holistic approach to improving their skin?
I aim to understand who my patient is, what their goals are, their relevant health history, and what aggravates or improves their symptoms. I address foundations of health to assess where they are at in making changes. Foundations of health include food, air (quality), water, sleep, exercise, stress, community, and genetics.
How is diet related to your skin?
(As Hippocrates said): “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” An ideal diet for treating acne:
- Avoids triggers (food sensitivities)
- Enhances gut microbiome
- Reduces inflammation
- Balances hormones
- Addresses nutritional deficiencies
- Improves detoxification
What are the most common roots of your patients’ skincare problems?
- Hormonal imbalances
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Oxidative damage
- Gut microbiome dysbiosis
- Using harmful skincare products
Can you talk about the skin’s PH balance and why it is important?
Just like our gut, our skin has its own microbiome which helps it to be clear of blemishes, breakouts and premature aging. Some lotions and treatments disrupt the skin’s delicate pH balance and this in turn can alter the skin microbiome.
One of the key principles of naturopathic medicine is to “first do no harm”. In regards to skin health, it is important to first do no harm by applying topical lotions and creams that can disrupt the pH balance and then ultimately the skin microbiome.
What advice would you give to somebody dealing with regular cystic acne?
Try your best to be patient when trying new treatments. When eliminating foods such as dairy and gluten (or trying other treatments or new products), you will need to do so for at least 4 weeks before knowing if it’s helping. In most cases, cystic acne takes 2 months minimum to heal.
Applying an ice cube directly to a breakout for several seconds can constrict small blood vessels feeding the painful cyst. The ice helps immediately decrease the size and redness of the offending acne. Increase your Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, and Zinc intakes, and be gentle with the cysts. For example, do not rub the skin to dry it. Instead, dab gently with a (soft) towel.
Can you talk about how hormonal imbalances affect acne?
Excess sebum production (can be) caused by excess androgens (testosterone) stimulating the sebaceous glands. Healthy sebum production is important for moisturizing, lubricating and protecting the skin – but sebum overproduction can cause clogged pores, stimulate inflammation and feed bacteria on the skin.
Natural treatments for hormonal acne are aimed at decreasing androgens (male sex hormones) in the body, often by decreasing the intake of testosterone-rich or boosting foods. Stress management, a low glycemic diet, and nutrient support (specifically, zinc and vitamin A) to decrease sebum production can also be beneficial.
What are some clues that somebody is dealing with hormonal acne?
You may be dealing with hormonal acne if:
- Acne is occuring at adult age
- Acne is located around chin and jawline
- Acne recurs once a month / is cyclical in pattern
- Acne is deep and painful
- High stress levels
Infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are other conditions that can be relaterd to hormonal causes of acne in females.
Lastly, we feel that the skincare industry categorizes people too generally regarding what products they should and shouldn’t use – what is your opinion on that?
Each of us have a unique story of what we’ve experienced and how we have dealt with things. This uniqueness is also reflected in our health. Some people may be more prone to inflammatory conditions while others may be more prone to hormonal imbalances. Our bodies are constantly responding to new triggers in the internal and external environment.
It is important to recognize our bodies as dynamic and ever-changing. One skin care product or therapy may work great for a period of time but, then suddenly stop working. Likewise, one skincare therapy may be great for one person, but not so for another.