February is National Heart Health Month – So, Let’s Talk About the Skin 

Caring for your skin is not superficial. Your skin is not only a reflection of your overall health, but, indeed, the health of your skin contributes to overall health, and likely, your heart health. The popular idiom, “Beauty is more than skin deep” takes on new meaning when we consider how well cared for skin is not only beautiful, but as research studies teach us, well cared for skin can reduce inflammation throughout the body. As I described in my 2017 and 2019 PubMed listed papers, even the microbiota on the skin can influence overall health. While we all understand that the appearance of the skin can be indicative of deep-rooted health issues, we now understand that poor skin health can be a contributing factor to inflammatory diseases throughout the body. Although heart health may be foremost to our thinking this February, during what the CDC calls American Heart Month, skin health should also remain part of our thinking. Based on emerging evidence, many think the two are more intertwined than previously thought.

Chronic inflammation is a critical factor in almost all diseases, including cardiovascular disease. And given skin inflammation can induce general inflammation in the body, heart disease may be exacerbated by inflammation in the skin. Studies have found that more severe skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, likely associated with inflammation in the body. But as the 2019 study at UCSF found, skin problems don’t have to be severe to potentially lead to cardiovascular issues. Simply degrading the outer layer of the skin, the stratum corneum of the epidermis, can lead to skin inflammation and then to systemic inflammation. Stratum corneum provides a barrier to the outside world, and all the toxic insults from the world, and simple skin barrier degradation associated with age has been found to increase circulating blood markers of inflammation, so-called inflammatory cytokines that can easily be assayed from a small blood sample. Measures of these inflammatory cytokines in the blood are an important means by which scientists can measure overall inflammation in the body, and are predictive of overall health, including our health status as we age. The term inflammaging is used to describe this field of study. The common and most debilitating age-related health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia, are also associated with an increase in these markers of inflammation.

So, what do we do to restore barrier function in the skin? The aforementioned 2019 study, found that using barrier repair moisturizers, that included three types of lipids, could reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood, and the skin. I developed a topical product to restore the skin’s natural barrier without using artificial barrier products such as petrolatum. Yes, as the name implies, such products are derived from petroleum and they don’t build a normal stratum corneum replete with natural barrier formation. My product, called NeoGenesis Barrier Renewal Cream, has no petrolatum, and uses three types of skin-identical lipids, called 1. free fatty acids, 2. cholesterol, and 3. ceramide. These ingredients help to build the stratum corneum and once again provide a natural barrier to toxic insults. Inflammation is thus reduced, both in the skin and in the rest of the body.

I also recommend using a gentle cleanser so as not to strip away your skin barrier lipids, and use warm or cold, but not hot water, to further reduce stripping of the barrier. Harsh cleansers and hot water can lead to xerosis, the scientific term for dry skin. This, of course, can lead to skin inflammation, and hence, systemic inflammation. To sum up, beautiful skin is healthy skin, and beautiful skin with a healthy barrier means a more healthy body.


Published by Dr. Greg Maguire, Ph.D.

Dr. Maguire, a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, is a scientist, innovator, teacher, healthcare professional. He has over 100 publications and numerous patents. His book, "Adult Stem Cell Released Molecules: A Paradigm Shift To Systems Therapeutics" was published by Nova Science Publishers in 2018.

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