Wait, what’s the connection between skin and gut health again?
Over the years, Busy Philipps has been open about her struggle with stress-induced skin-picking, sharing both her frustrations and triumphs in dealing with the habit. In a recent video update on her Instagram Story, she said she’s been picking her skin more lately—which got her wondering about what might be causing her to fall into the habit more easily these days, she said.
Though Philipps said her skin-picking feels “out of control” at times, a friend helped change her perspective. “[My friend] was like, ‘You wouldn’t feel bad if you fell and broke your arm. You can’t feel shame about a thing that you don’t have that much control over.'” That same friend also sent Philipps an article that suggested a possible link between skin-picking and an “imbalance” in gut health, piquing Philipps’ interest, shared the actress.
Confused? Don’t worry: Philipps admitted she doesn’t quite understand how the two might be related either. “But maybe if I could get a probiotic… you know what I mean?” said Philipps.
It might seem like a weird connection, but research does suggest a link between gut and skin health in general. Namely, an imbalance in the gut might cause skin inflammation in some people. Leaky gut syndrome, a condition that has gained attention in recent years but isn’t recognized by some medical professionals, describes when the intestinal lining becomes increasingly porous. A “leaky” intestinal barrier could mean toxins are leaking into the bloodstream, potentially triggering inflammation in the skin and elsewhere in the body.
When it comes to skin-picking specifically, studies have yet to show that the habit is related to a gut health issue. But considering the aforementioned gut-skin connection, a gut imbalance could affect the state of your skin, which could, in turn, lead you to pick more (theoretically), says Howard Sobel, dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin Rx. “While skin-picking isn’t a direct result of an imbalance in gut bacteria, your gut health can affect your skin, which can lead many people to begin picking at it,” he explains. “Your skin is reflective of your gut health, and many people find that an imbalance can cause irritation, flare-ups, dryness, and rosacea to occur. Some find the urge to pick at these imperfections and blemishes, causing much more irritation in the skin.”
(Also read: Is the Redness on Your Skin Eczema or Rosacea?)
View this post on Instagram
Skin-picking can range from an occasional habit to a disorder, adds Dr. Sobel. (FTR, Philipps hasn’t specified where she lands.) “There are many factors that cause people to pick at their skin, including stress, boredom, anxiety, or wanting to remove imperfections,” explains Dr. Sobel. “Some people may want to get rid of a blemish, while some do it out of habit, similar to nail-biting.”
In other words, for some people, skin-picking can be a rare occurrence, but for others, it can be difficult to control. Excoriation, an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder, is a term for repetitively picking your skin to the point of causing damage. “If you find yourself obsessing over this, like picking at your skin for prolonged periods of time, it can be a sign of it becoming a disorder,” says Dr. Sobel. “Prolonged periods of skin-picking can cause severe damage to the skin, such as bleeding and painful lesions. It is important to go to a medical professional who can assess the underlying reason for the skin-picking, as well as provide solutions for better mental and physical health.”
If you’re dealing with a less-serious problem, you can simply consider this another reason to eat kimchi and sauerkraut (and other probiotic foods with good bacteria for your gut). “Many foods, such as those filled with processed ingredients, can produce bad bacteria in our gut, while foods high in fibre and probiotics can have a positive impact on our gut health,” explains Dr. Sobel. “A healthier gut can mean healthier skin, which gives less of a reason to pick at the face.”
SHAPE and the SHAPE logo are registered trademarks of TI Gotham Inc., used under license. © 2019 TI Gotham Inc., a subsidiary of Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited.