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Here's exactly how your immunity and your skin impact each other

Everything you need to know about how your immunity affects your skin, and how your skin affects your immunity – plus what to do about it

When considering immunity, often we think about organs like the lungs and liver, those we know expel and handle pathogens and toxins regularly, day after day. We then think about how we offer them support or up their function in various ways by, say, offering them more rest, or better quality nutrition, or maybe looking into quality supplements to really offer a much-needed boost.

Those measures are all valid - but rarely is skin part of the conversation, despite it being an organ, and the first line of defence for the body. This is a mistake: not only is our skin’s health and robustness an indicator of how well immunity might be functioning, and, in some cases, directly able to affect it - but the immune system feeds right back to the skin, meaning the relationship between the two is strong and if you want great skin or a great immune system, you should be looking at offering both the best care you can.

How does my skin affect my immunity?

It may surprise you to hear that the skin has quite a profound effect on the immune system but as Anna Baker, Etre Vous expert and founder of Anna Baker Aesthetics, explains, "the skin is a complex organ with many key functions, and it can deploy physical, chemical, and microbiological barriers to protect itself - and the body - from external factors."

But that’s not the whole picture: Our skin actually has a network of its own immune cells, which Baker says serve to protect and maintain cellular health, which, as we all know, isn’t only skin deep.

Dr Raquel Amado adds that,  "in the skin we can find T-cells, keratinocytes, and B cells, which are all part of the immune system in one way or another. If any of these cells or how they work is affected, our immune system is weakened and that will affect the skin and the overall immune system. This works both ways, meaning they work symbiotically."

If my immunity is weak, what would I see on my skin?

One of the key things you’d notice is that your skin is behaving differently. Perhaps it’s healing more slowly, or seems more inflamed. Baker has noticed that when the immune system is compromised, that skin "may appear fragile - there may be signs of a weak skin barrier." Conversely, "skin displaying a healthy immune function appears smooth and hydrated, with no visible signs of inflammation or dryness. It will feel firm and supple, healing adequately after trauma." Dr. Amado suggests that it's also worth looking out for "hypersensitivity and eczema."

What’s the best way to boost the immune system?

Let’s start with the obvious one which perhaps might’ve slightly fallen to the wayside: a balanced lifestyle. We all know know what this means overall, but in case you need a refresher, Baker details "regular exercise, sufficient sleep, adequate hydration, and a balanced diet." While Dr Amado lists "avoiding refined sugar, unhealthy fats, alcohol, and smoking." It is also worth eating food that has been through as few processes as possible, and buying fresh and organic vegetables as a rule.

Both Dr Amado and Baker recommend supplementation too, suggesting vitamins A and D in the winter months. Dr Amado advises taking at "magnesium, zinc, vitamin B and C, and Omega 3, as well as looking after gut health with pre and probiotics." As always, do your research prior to purchasing to make sure what you’re buying is of high quality.

What's the best way to care for your skin?

If you’re trying to make sure your skin microbiome (a community of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi) is at its healthiest and most robust, so that it can helps the skin’s protective barrier function at its best, as well as train your immune system to manage inflammation. First up, ensure your products focus on balancing and protecting your skin's bacteria. By balancing your microbiome you’re shifting the skin's ecosystem closer to its natural state, which in theory should combat the skin issues that occur when your immunity is low.

You'll also reap the benefits of a skincare regime that is packed full of anti-inflammatory actives like niacinamide, sea buckthorn oil, aloe vera, vitamin C and E, and skin barrier protectors like ceramides.  

Ultimately, if you want do help your immune system and skin in one, there’s no silver bullet - it requires a little effort, daily and, as Dr Amado, reminds us: "getting a strong immune system and a strong skin is like everything in life, and a 360 approach is needed to get the best outcome."

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