A surprise to no one, your skin is a reflection of what goes on in your body. Essentially, it’s a tattletale of sorts. Sleepless night? Hello, puffy eyes! Netflix and pizza binge? There’s a new spot. Forgot to hit your water goal? Ah, fine lines, it’s (not) so good to see you. And while all of this is pretty annoying at times, skin issues can indicate deeper problems that need to be addressed. Remember, skin is the main external organ in the body — a fact that is easy to forget as we go about our daily lives. It has a medical purpose, which is to keep things out of your body that don’t belong, and to act as an excretory system to get rid of the things your body doesn’t agree with. So it makes sense that when there are things going on in the body, the skin will alert us. How can you figure out what it’s saying? We broke it down.
Ahh, breakouts. Almost all of us have had them. But did you know breakouts around the chin and jawline are a sign that something might be up with your hormones? That’s why many women notice cystic acne in that specific area during their menstrual cycles — the change in hormone levels results in acne on the lower half of the face. Just before your period starts, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which can trigger the sebaceous glands to pump out more sebum. The result? Too much sebum, leading to clogged pores and breakouts no one asked for.
If the acne presents itself in a beard shape on the chin and mouth, it may be associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome, an endocrine system disorder. PCOS acne and irregular periods go hand-in-hand, so if you’re experiencing those, head to your doctor sooner rather than later.
Hormones can also be disrupted by things outside of the body, like eating too much dairy. Considering dairy is the gateway ingredient to all things delicious, this is tragic — but it’s important to remember that too much dairy can cause acne — particularly cystic acne — for some. This is likely because dairy cows in the U.S. are given growth hormones, which end up in the milk they produce — and this may be a way that the body is trying to get rid of those excess hormones.
So what’s the solution? Cue the tiny violins, because we’re about to say something you might not like: Try cutting dairy out for 1 month to see if there are any changes. To dig deeper, keep track of your diet, cycle, and blemishes to see when flare-ups occur. If you’re noticing blemishes appearing leading up to your menstrual cycle, try treating with over the counter products that week, like this cyst-zapping solution. If your acne flares after eating processed food containing gluten or sugar, you can try cutting down on both to reduce inflammation that affects hormones.
If your face is feeling unusually tight and dry, it might not be from non-stop smiling in all those Zoom calls. Instead, it might be a sign of a damaged skin barrier. The skin barrier is the outer layer of your skin that retains moisture and keeps bad things out, like bacteria and irritants. It’s made of oils and keeps your skin feeling and looking plump, soft, juicy — essentially, baby skin. When this gets damaged, small invisible cracks start to appear in the skin and moisture can easily escape — which means you can say goodbye to supple skin. Low-key terrifying, in our book.
So how do you know if you have a damaged barrier? In addition to tight, dry skin, other symptoms of dehydrated skin are fine lines and a crepey texture, with peeling and redness. Luckily you can reverse the damage. The first rule is this: If you want baby skin, treat your skin like you would a baby’s. Only use simple and gentle products, and the less-is-more approach. Hell, we might even start talking to our skin with gentle coos and baby talk. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we’re not above it.
Then, try these steps:
If the eyes are windows to the soul, the under eye area is a window to our habits. We’ll be honest: Dark circles are one of the hardest conditions to decode because there are a number of reasons why they show up. But some of the most common reasons are:
As with all things related to the body, you should always chat with your doctor to find out what works specifically for you. But if you’re nodding your head because something on this list seems familiar, just know that your skin is talking to you — and, like in any relationship, if you just take a second to listen, you can find out a way to make both of you much happier.