Hi everybody! It’s Dr. Eric Balcavage here. Back for another edition of Thyroid Thursday. Today we want to talk about hypothyroidism and dry skin. Is there a link? There absolutely is. Thyroid hormone pays a role in almost every aspect of skin physiology. You have to have appropriate thyroid hormone physiology at the cells of the skin to have healthy skin. Let’s back up. Let’s just talk about hypothyroidism. Remember there’s two types of hypothyroidism. There’s glandular hypothyroidism, which means the thyroid gland is not making sufficient thyroid hormone. The primary cause of that is Hashimoto’s in the US, but there’s a number of other issues that can cause the gland to not produce enough thyroid hormone.
Then there’s cellular hypothyroidism. Which means the thyroid gland is healthy. It’s fine. It’s making enough T4 and T3, but once that T4 and T3 gets to the cellular level, it’s either not getting to the cell or it’s being deactivated at the cell, and that’s driving hypothyroid symptoms. Anybody that’s got glandular hypothyroidism is probably going to have cellular hypothyroidism, but you can have cellular hypothyroidism and have a normally functioning gland. That’s important. I already said that thyroid hormone plays a role in almost every aspect of skin physiology. When you have hypothyroidism that’s causing skin issues, we’re typically going to see rough, dry, itchy skin. We’re going to see the skin turn, actually, more of a pale color. It can also get yellow hue to it. Those are some of the key symptoms to look for in hypothyroidism based skin disorders.
Why do we get dry skin? If you think about what’s at the root of most cellular hypothyroidism and even glandular issues, there’s some type of cell stress. When a cell is stressed, what happens is the normal metabolism of the cell, to grow new cells and new tissues and all about the growth and regeneration of cellular health, that stuff kind of gets shutdown. Energy production gets shutdown. And, really thyroid hormone gets shifted within the cell, within the tissue, and within the organ itself to focus on cell defense. Make more inflammatory chemicals. Make more inflammatory proteins. To upregulate the immune system. To try and kill the threat. Under times of cell danger, or cell stress, things like hair physiology and skin physiology and hormones, are not nearly as important as cell protection. If you’re struggling with some type of chronic hypothyroid condition, whether it’s glandular or cellular, you’ve got to get to the root of whatever is causing your cell stress.
We often see people who have hypothyroidism and have dry skin, have other autoimmune disorders. Some of those other autoimmune disorders are autoimmune disorders that affect the skin. We can see things like vitiligo, alopecia, dermatitis herpetiformis, eczema, psoriasis, lupus, scleroderma, and urticaria. Why would somebody who has Hashimoto’s develop these other autoimmune skin conditions? Remember if you don’t get to the root cause of your first autoimmune condition, you could develop other autoimmune conditions. The skin is a big organ. We typically see people who have, GI issues, start to develop skin issues. Either autoimmune or non-autoimmune types of skin conditions.
What should you do if you have chronically dry skin? One of the things that you can easily do, you don’t need anybody to do it, is just get some good products to put on the skin to protect it, to take the itch away. A lot of people buy expensive creams and lotions. You really don’t need that stuff. Probably, the easiest thing to do is use something like olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, even coconut oil. Just rub it onto the skin. Onto those dry areas of the skin and that will help lubricate and protect that area. It’s not a long term solution, but it can definitely make you a little bit more comfortable. Once that oil has been on the skin for a while, make sure you wipe it off. Also, try not to use alcohol-based oils because they can actually burn and dry the skin out, so you don’t want to use those.
You can use things like parent essential oils. The skin has a high level of omega-6. Unadulterated omega-6 is in the skin. I think it’s 20 to one of omega-6 to omega-3 in the skin. So parent essential oils, whether from plants or animal products, can be helpful and beneficial. The last thing to do is get a good, comprehensive metabolic panel and a good, comprehensive thyroid panel. Have your functional medicine doctor interpret it. What do I mean by interpret it? We don’t want them to just look for highs and lows, but actually look at the lab work and interpret whether a normal value is appropriate or if you have abnormal values, what those abnormal values tell us about you, so we can get some clues as to whether you have primary hypothyroidism, do you cellular hypothyroidism, and what might be causing it.
Hopefully that helps. If you’re struggling with chronic dry skin, use some of the oil to try and lubricate it and then work with your functional medicine doctor to get to the root cause of your cellular hypothyroidism and your dry skin. Have questions about your thyroid physiology? Schedule your free 15-minute health evaluation, by clicking here!