Things Your Skin Can Tell You About Your Health

by Erica Florentine
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Our bodies have many ways of tipping us off to what’s going on inside. Some are obvious — like a fever when we’re sick — but other connections might be a little more complex to make. For instance, did you know there are things your skin can tell you about your health? The good part about the signs our skin gives us is that they are often very visible to the eye. It’s what these signs actually mean that might be the confusing part. To set things straight, this article gets into some skin signals your body is giving you, and what they could mean in terms of your overall health. We’ll also talk a little about what you should do if you notice any of these signs — most often being that you should visit your doctor for a full assessment of the issue. No matter what, you should not let this signs slide by without taking some sort of action.

It’s important for all of us to pay attention to our skin and what it’s saying. You wouldn’t ignore a consistent migraine issue, for example, would you? That said, you shouldn’t ignore skin issues, like recurring rashes and flaky skin. Of course, if you have marks or moles that you believe to be suspicious, you should head to your dermatologist ASAP. Separately, this piece will highlight some skin behaviors that could mean issues outside of those related to the traditional skin problems. Here are seven things your skin can tell you about your health.

1. If You’re Dehydrated

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Very dry, flaky skin can be a warning sign to you that you aren’t drinking enough water, and are dehydrated. If your skin is naturally dry (as in it doesn’t get enough oil), then that's different, of course. In this case, I'm referring to those dry patches that are rid of moisture, not oil. That abnormally dry flakiness could be telling you that something is up. According to the University of Wisconsin’s health site, if your skin isn’t getting the right amount of water it will become dry, tight and flaky, telling you that it’s lacking hydration. What’s more, the site also noted this dry skin is more prone to wrinkles. It’s recommended that the average adult consume about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, according to the Mayo Clinic, so try to hit that mark whenever possible.

2. If You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

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Your eyes are the windows into your soul... and also great indicators into how much sleep you’ve been getting. If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep each night, your eyelids will be telling you the story by becoming especially puffy. According to WebMD, chronic sleep loss will also be apparent when the skin on your face becomes lackluster, and fine lines and dark circles become more prevalent. To avoid these skin signs, as with water there is an amount of sleep we should be striving to get — aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

3. If You Have A Gluten Intolerance

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Noticing a skin rash that seems to appear most often after meals? It could very well be your body’s way of telling you have you a gluten intolerance. For those who aren’t aware, gluten is a protein found in foods like wheat, barley and rye, and many people experience negative side effects from eating it. According to U.S. News & World Report, the side effects of eating gluten for someone with an intolerance could include skin conditions like keratosis pilaris and dermatitis herpetiformis. Both come in the form of very itchy rashes on your arms, torso, face, butt, elbows and hairline, the outlet noted. If you’re noticing these types of rashes, it might be time to visit your doctor and see what’s going on.

4. If You’re Very Stressed

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You’ve probably heard this notion before, but if your skin is breaking out badly it might very well have to do with the amount of stress you’re under. According to Prevention, when our bodies are experiencing a lot of anxiety, they release the hormone cortisol, which can lead to those nasty breakouts. If you’ve seen a flair up of acne on your skin lately, consider the amount of stress you’re under. If it’s a lot and you think it could be connected, try de-stressing with activities like yoga or long walks (and do so free of technology!). Prevention also suggested exploring the option of hormonal birth control, which have been known to prevent breakouts.

5. If You Have A Thyroid Problem

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This is something that happened to me, and trust me when I say the appearance is a bit alarming. A yellowish tint to your skin can mean something is up in your body — and it might just be a problem with your thyroid. According to, an underactive thyroid — a condition known as hypothyroidism — causes increased levels of beta-carotene in the blood. This, in turn, leaves the skin with that strange skin hue. Keep in mind that the yellowish skin tone can also be caused by a diet very heavy on carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes. If you don’t regularly consume those items, though, visit your doctor to discuss your thyroid and what might be happening.

6. If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

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Changes in your skin, and especially the inability of cuts to heal as quickly as usual, could be a sign you’re suffering from Type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, skin problems are often one of the first signs of diabetes. Why the slowness of wounds to heals? According to WebMD this is because high blood sugar can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage. This makes it difficult for your body to heal the wounds. Another skin sign of Type 2 diabetes is velvety plaques on the neck or armpit (a condition known as acanthosis nigricans), according to WebMD. If you notice any of these strange skin happenings, you should get it checked out right away.

7. If You’re Dealing With A Psychiatric Condition

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Ronald Sulewski, MD, a Chicago dermatologist at Pinski Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, told Prevention, “Many times skin conditions are the outward appearance of psychiatric conditions.” The outlet noted some of the primary skin signs for those with such conditions are red marks and bumps. This might be because certain individuals suffering from anxiety and depression will pick at their skin as a coping mechanism, Prevention added. Before you fret, just because you have red bumps on your skin does not mean you’re depressed. However, if you feel there could be some sort of relevant connection, you should visit your doctor to get to the bottom of the problem.

Listening to our bodies as a whole is very important, and as we can see from this article, there are so many things our skin alone can tell us about what’s happening inside. By keeping a close watch on these signs, it can help us become more proactive in curing and treating these issues if or when they arise.

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