20 Things Your Skin Says About Your Health
Is your body trying to tell you something? Find out what your skin could reveal about your overall well-being
Your Skin Might be Trying to Tell You Something
The skin is your body’s largest organ so changes in your hair, skin or nails can be a sign that something is going on beneath the surface. While problematic skin could simply mean that you need to alter your beauty routine, your skin’s condition could also be the tell-tale sign of an underlying medical condition, says Dr. Jillian Macdonald, a dermatologist with The Ottawa Clinic and an associate professor in dermatology at the University of Ottawa.
Read on to find out what your skin says about your health.
1. Dry, Itchy Skin
If your moisturizer just isn’t cutting it, it’s time to look deeper. “Chronically dry skin is commonly caused by two things-eczema and general dryness or climate,” says Dr. Macdonald. Eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can cause dry, itchy, inflamed and cracked skin. It has immunological, genetic and environmental components and is also related to asthma and hayfever.
2. Chin and Jawline Breakouts
Pimples popping up along your jawline and chin again? Breakouts in these areas could signal a possible hormone imbalance. This kind of adult acne is very common in women who may not have had acne as teenagers, explains Dr. Macdonald. But don’t worry or you could exacerbate the problem-hormonal acne in women can get worse in times of stress, during your period or during menopause.
3. Unusual Hair Growth
Unwanted hair that’s sprouting up in classically male areas, such as around the chin or just below your bellybutton, could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), says Dr. Macdonald. But, genetics and hormones also play a role in hair growth. If you’re concerned, or exhibiting other symptoms of PCOS such as an inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise or irregular periods, consult a doctor to rule out PCOS.
4. Dark Circles
Before you slap on concealer, consider all the factors that could be causing your circles. Dark undereyes can be a combination of genetics, age or lifestyle factors. Anatomically as you age, the fat pads and structural support around your eyes changes so you can see more of the hollows, says Dr. Macdonald. Dark skin under your eyes can also be caused by a nutrient deficiency, a lack of hydration or not getting enough sleep.
5. Sun Spots
Freckles and dark spots are “a measure of your lifelong sun damage,” says Dr. Macdonald. Most sun damage occurs during childhood and teen years and can increase your risk for skin cancer. Keep an eye on any changes in your skin from moles to raised lesions or sores that won’t heal.
6. Sallow Complexion
Dehydration can cause your skin to lack lustre and your face can become sallow looking, explains Dr. Macdonald. Dry winter weather can also play a role in a sallow complexion. Drinking enough water and getting ample sleep can improve the look of your skin.
7. Red Bumps
Don’t assume all red bumps are pimples-acne-like lesions, a ruddy complexion, redness and dry skin can all be symptoms of rosacea. This chronic skin condition is caused by both environmental and genetic factors, affects more than two million Canadians and is often triggered by the weather, spicy foods, exercise and stress.
8. Puffy, Irritated Eyelids
Allergies could be the culprit for swollen eyes. If the irritation is accompanied by a rash, you could be suffering from eczema (a common symptom in adults is dryness and rashes on the eyelids) or contact dermatitis caused by an irritating product. “I see a lot of eyelid dermatitis,” says Dr. McDonald. “People have to look at all the products they are using from sponge applicators to makeup.”
9. Constant Flushing
Feeling embarrassed about your flushing? A chronically red forehead and cheeks could be caused by dilated blood vessels due to the chronic skin condition rosacea, says Dr. Macdonald. Extreme flushing can also be caused by hormonal changes in women such as menopause. If your skin suddenly becomes very flushed and it won’t go away and it is accompanied by any other swelling, you could also be having an allergic reaction so seek medical attention.
10. Visible Veins
Unsightly veins aren’t merely cosmetic. “Your veins are an important indicator of your circulatory health,” says Dr. Macdonald. Spider veins or varicose veins on your legs can be a signal of deeper issues with your blood flow caused by age, weight and genetics and could indicate future health concerns. Spider veins on your face can be caused by excessive straining or rosacea.
12. Red, Itchy Rash
Rashes are commonly caused by contact dermatitis, meaning the skin comes into contact with something irritating and the skin has an immune response. But rashes in warm, moist areas of the skin can also be caused by a fungal infection, common in individuals whose diabetes is not being properly managed.
13. Thinning Hair
“The number one cause of hair loss is female and male pattern baldness,” says Dr. Macdonald. This hair loss is generally both hormonal and genetic. In men, thinning typical begins at the hairline, while in women it can start as thinning that begins on the top of the head or centre of the scalp.
14. Hair Loss
If you’re suffering from distinct, round patches of hair loss both on your head and body this can signal something called alopecia areata. This autoimmune disease often has a genetic component and can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Dramatic and sudden hair loss, called telogen effluvium, is commonly caused by things like childbirth, severe psychological stress, high fever, infection or a major illness, but will generally grow back in three months time.
15. Flaky Scalp
An itchy, flaky scalp can be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a common scalp condition that results in stubborn dandruff, scaly patches and red skin. If your scalp is extremely flaky and irritated, you could be suffering from psoriasis. Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can have internal associations such as psoriatic arthritis or an increased risk of heart disease so it’s important to consult a doctor about this condition, says Dr. Macdonald.
16. Dry, Cracked Lips
While the most common cause of dry lips is the weather and frequent lip-licking, you could also be developing an allergy to a product such as a lipstick or toothpaste, says Dr. Macdonald. If you have specific redness, scaling or fissuring at the corners of your mouth, you could have perlèche, an easily treated fungal infection that is sometimes associated with a vitamin deficiency or a chronic illness.
17. Nail Changes
“Nails are a gateway to your health,” says Dr. Macdonald. If you develop discolouration, dark spots, changes in your nail shape or clubbing, these can be signs of internal issues below the surface from vitamin deficiencies to lupus to liver disease.
Frequent unexplained bruising or bruises that don’t heal could signal a bleeding disorder. But, your body also bruises more easily with age because the capillaries are closer to the surface as your skin thins. Medications like blood thinners can also contribute to bruises, but if you have large, unexplained bruising or new bruises after starting a medication, speak to a doctor.
19. Cuts that Won’t Heal
If a cut or wound is slow to heal, it could signal a possible skin infection. Other causes of slow wound healing include skin cancer (basal or squamous cell carcinoma), a blood clotting disorder or diabetes.
20. Dark, Scaly Patches
Don’t assume all dark spots are sun-related, says Dr. Macdonald. Often, blood flow issues in people with undiagnosed diabetes can show up as dark patches on the front of the legs. Known as diabetic dermopathy, this can be a signal to see your doctor for more tests.