Your skin has a lot to say about your health.

By Lauren Wellbank
February 24, 2020

Beauty really can be more than skin deep. As a matter of fact, there are many different conditions that can be contributing to your (poor) skin health. That's why we asked Dr. Michelle Henry, a New York City based board-certified dermatologist, and Dr. Julie Russak, of the Russak Dermatology Clinic, to weigh in on what may be causing your skin issues—the causes of which may run deeper than straightforward, run-of-the-mill breakouts.

Getty / Emma Kim

As it turns out, there are many things that can cause skin irritation (poor diet and environmental conditions among them), but if you suffer from specific health problems, you may be more prone to skin issues. If you're currently battling Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), for example, and find that your skin is increasingly, red, bumpy, and itchy, the digestive disorder may be to blame. As for the other ailments that can impact your complexion? Crohn's Disease can cause acne, while Celiac sufferers often experience dermatitis herpetiformis (a recurring itchy rash). Adrenal gland disturbances may lead to seborrheic dermatitis (an oily, scaly rash that typically presents on the scalp); general internal inflammation is often affiliated with rosacea, a flushing disorder with acne-like lesions.

Related: This Two-Pronged Approach to Fighting Inflammation Can Drastically Change Your Skin

Hormonal disorders or disturbances, including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), may be the culprit behind your jawline and chin acne—especially if you're also experiencing hair loss or hirsutism (dark, thick hairs sprout along the jawline). Melasma, patches of darkened skin along the face, can also be attributed to unbalanced hormone levels. If you've noticed any of the above, says Dr. Henry, and if you have a skin irritation that's not getting better—or worsens over a one to two-week period—it's time to check in with a dermatologist to rule out a larger issue. Dr. Russak adds, "If it persists for more than seven to 10 days, if it is causing pain, feels warm, or oozing (which are signs of infection)," see a doctor immediately.

Of course, even if it's not a symptom of a larger issue, ongoing skin irritation can be cause for concern—namely because of the problems it can cause down the line. "The biggest concern is infection," Dr. Henry says. "When the skin is inflamed, it is not intact, so it can be compromised by external elements." When when you're experiencing inflammation, she says, your skin barrier—which protects the skin from harmful bacteria and germs—is compromised. Those micro-tears may let in bacteria and viruses which can spread throughout the body. You can experience ongoing cosmetic repercussions, as well. "When the skin is irritated, there is inflammation present which can cause pigmentary changes, leaving behind discoloration and scarring," Dr. Russak adds.

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