Summer is here, and that means shorts, T-shirts, and swimsuits, so everyone wants their skin to look its best. Feeling comfortable and confident starts with healthy skin! 

As a primary care doctor, I assure you that your skin is important for more reasons than just how it looks. It’s your body’s first line of protection from germs and injury, and skin problems can also signal underlying health issues – so talk to your doctor about any skin concerns. 

You may need to improve your diet. 

Some skin woes are tied to nutrition. 

For example, dehydration can result in dull, flaky, itchy skin and make wrinkles more noticeable. Dehydrated skin is weaker skin, making you more prone to sores and infections and making it harder for skin conditions to heal. 

As a general guideline, divide your weight in pounds in half, and drink that many ounces of water per day. With exercise and sun exposure, you likely need even more water than that. However, some people with certain medical conditions cannot drink that much water, so talk to your doctor first. 

If your body does not have enough iron, you may have pale, itchy skin from a lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Iron is found in foods like dark leafy green vegetables, meats, beans, and nuts. Your doctor can test your blood count and iron level if necessary. 

Too much sugar and salt can damage collagen and elastin, which give skin its firmness and structure. They also can worsen inflammation and trigger breakouts like acne, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis. 

You could need treatment for a medical condition. 

Your doctor may need to check you for certain illnesses, especially if you have other symptoms. 

Infections and allergic reactions can cause skin changes and rashes. Your doctor can determine if antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, or antihistamines may help. 

Sometimes skin lesions are cancerous or precancerous and need to be removed. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer! 

Celiac disease is a condition in which eating gluten causes the immune system to attack the intestines. In addition to gastrointestinal problems, this can cause a skin rash. People with celiac disease need a gluten-free diet. 

Autoimmune diseases can also present with rashes. A facial rash on the cheeks and nose could be a sign of lupus. A deep purple rash on the legs could signal vasculitis. Joint/ muscle pain and dark urine can also be symptoms of autoimmune diseases. 

Low thyroid can cause dry skin, brittle fingernails, and hair loss. Other potential symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and slow heart rate. 

These are just a few of the many medical conditions that can cause skin symptoms, so be sure to talk to your doctor! 

You may need to work on stress and sleep habits. 

Stress triggers inflammation and can cause your skin to make too much oil, which can aggravate rashes and other skin conditions. Stress can also cause collagen breakdown. 

Sleep is when your skin generates new collagen and repairs itself. Sleepless nights can lead to skin sagging, wrinkles, poor skin healing, and the release of even more stress hormones. 

Many people struggle with sleep and stress management problems. Simple changes to your daily habits are usually enough, but sometimes these problems require the ongoing guidance of a team of doctors, including mental health professionals and sleep specialists. 

Anna Yang, MD, sees patients at Primary Care Specialists, 3109 Walnut Grove Road. For an appointment, call 901.515.4800.