First impressions don’t start with words, they start with your appearance.
Among the first observable features, is skin. Every day, whenever and wherever you go, improving your appearance provides automatic advantages.
It’s not just vanity.
Your skin also reflects your vitality, overall well-being, and likely personality traits.
Focusing on biohacking your appearance, skin health, and beauty works twofold:
- Others immediately begin treating you better
- You get healthier and feel better
In today’s post, we’ll discuss the health benefits of improving skin, and the five-step process to biohacking your beauty and aesthetics.
Why Skin Health Matters (Appearance & Beyond)
Want to live longer, look younger, and feel your best? Skin is among the body’s largest organs and it protects from environmental toxins, pathogens, and chemicals.
It’s a window into the inner workings of your body and can display issues before they worsen. Almost like a visual report card into various health biomarkers:
- Immune system
- Gut health
- Liver and detox
The “halo effect” describes the phenomenon of additional unique opportunities, life experiences, and perks afforded to attractive folks.
Improving your attractiveness is the ultimate life hack. Attractiveness benefits your perception (self and to others):
Career-wise, research suggests even greater importance.
David Hamermesh in his book, Beauty Pays, highlights that attractive people are hired faster, receive promotions sooner, get more favorable loan terms, are paid 3-4 percent more, and have spouses with greater social status. In fact, even criminals rated as attractive receive lighter sentences for offenses.
Skin is one of the first and dominant markers of your physical appearance and attractiveness.
How to Improve Skin Health
Mention skincare and skin health, and people generally think of lotions, oils, masks, and supplements.
Each has its place, but won’t do enough alone.
Just as important are the things that you don’t do. The wrong products can cause toxicity, dry the skin, promote the growth of pathogens, weaken the skin’s barriers, and decrease immunity.
This is your holistic skincare plan for life-long radiant, glowing skin (and at the same time, improving your overall health).
Even if you’re like me and don’t like to lather a slew of products onto every inch of skin.
I know this can seem overwhelming. Take a deep breath, and just implement what works for you. No rush.
Step 1: Identify
First up is understanding your own skin and lifestyle.
Take inventory of your current skincare routine, habits, and health biomarkers.
I like to run all current my products through EWG’s Think Dirty app. This service analyzes the ingredients within products to determine their safety. Helping you spot things doing more harm than good.
Similarly, some medications and supplements impact the skin. The master antioxidant supplement glutathione, for example, naturally whitens skin. Others increase photosensitivity. A simple web search of the ingredient plus skin (i.e. “glutathione skin”) should turn up any effects.
If you have the budget, I recommend several forms of testing to get a current skin health snapshot (ordered by importance):
- Blood panel
- DNA analysis
Getting a blood panel (your annual doctor’s check-up should suffice) will uncover vitamin, mineral, and hormonal deficiencies impacting your skin. You’ll also learn about your overall health and your most impactful potential tweaks. You can get more comprehensive labs through a company like InsideTracker (see my review), SelfDecode (review here), or WellnessFx.
Your genetics determine many of your skin’s characteristics and susceptibilities. Knowing your genetics can also help you determine your unique optimal routines and products. Unlike blood and other forms of testing, your genes shouldn’t change. I use SelfDecode’s Skin Reports to understand my tendencies. I, for example, am less likely to develop acne or eczema but am prone to heavy sweating. If that’s out of your budget, you could just check your Fitzpatrick Skin Type for free.
The clarity and quality of your skin directly reflect your digestive health and the state of your microbiome. This is quantifiable via testing with a service like Viome (read my review). Viome helped me pinpoint the “healthy” foods that damaged my gut and thus skin. These foods included broccoli, cabbage, green beans, and nightshades. I feel better since removing them.
Finally, completely optional but empowering, take a “before” photo so that you can tell how well your protocol worked.
Step 2: Reduce injury
After knowing more about your current state, the next step is to avoid doing more damage.
I lump these damages into three categories:
Your environments (home and office) influence you immediately and over the long term. Whether chemicals in new furniture, toxic cleaning products, or high-powered wireless signals. These invisible factors can tax your liver, alter hormone levels, impair detoxification, and worsen digestion. Ultimately manifesting as dull, dry, cracked, or outbreak-prone skin.
For similar reasons, carefully choose what you consume. Internally via food and drink. You’ll want to reduce refined sugars, inflammatory foods, and anything laden with the antibiotic pesticide glyphosate. Go for clean water (I used and reviewed the AquaTru system). What you ingest goes beyond diet.
Up to 60% of things contacting the skin will penetrate and enter the bloodstream.
Products you apply topically penetrate the skin and enter circulation. In large quantities. So scrutinize beauty products, sunscreens, and any other ointments. Use the same Think Dirty app to eliminate products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Lifestyle also plays a major role. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and sleep deprivation all wreck the skin. Stress, however, tends to fly under the radar. Ever get acne when under lots of pressure? Physical, mental, or emotional stress all contribute to hormone and skin problems. Stress in all its forms reduces the synthesis of one of the famous molecules of beauty, hyaluronic acid, by a staggering 40 percent.
With a few lifestyle tweaks, your skin and hormones have the opportunity to flourish.
Step 3: Optimize nutrition
Most modern skin protocols begin here, with foods, drinks, and products to consume.
As the old cliche goes, you “protect your skin from the inside out”.
Radiant skin requires a robust supply of raw nutrients.
I begin with water. Your body prioritizes hydrating internal organs and the systems required for your immediate survival. Without adequate water, your skin suffers. Looking dry, flaky, cracky, and dull. To facilitate hydration, I keep a large glass of water next to my bed.
Things that improve gut health and digestion should also improve skin complexion. Bone broth is one great collagen-rich drink. Salmon provides essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and the powerful skin-protecting antioxidant, Astaxanthin. Pair that with some vibrant produce and you have a skin-healthy meal.
Consider Hyaluronic acid supplements, which naturally hydrate your skin, diminish fine lines, and promote a smoother complexion
To summarize, my favorite foods, drinks, and supplements to improve the skin include:
- Hydration — lots of quality water with added electrolytes, you can learn more about hydration on Nick’s Healthy Morning Hydration Drink and unlock the healthy you!
- Fatty acids — coconut and fish
- Amino acids —meat, spirulina, EAA supplements
- Polyphenols — berries, brightly colored produce, coffee
- Collagen — bone broth, gelatin, supplements
- HLA — supplement increases skin elasticity and firmness
- Micro-algae — chlorella and spirulina are nature’s multivitamin
- Astaxanthin — an antioxidant that protects the skin from damage (nature’s edible sunscreen)
After consuming skin-supporting nutrients, you’re ready to try some lifestyle practices.
Step 4: Re-integrate with nature
A bioharmonic lifestyle can quickly transform skin.
These habits also provide wide-ranging feel (and look) good benefits.
Core skin health practices include:
- Extreme temperatures
- Light exposure
- Dry brushing
Thermoregulation — extreme heat in the form of sauna, and cold showers/ice baths greatly improves skin. I personally noticed changes from nothing but these temperature practices along with diet tweaks. Several studies have shown that sauna usage leads to increased collagen synthesis and slower breakdown. Cryotherapy has a similar effect. Both also improve immune system function which helps with acne and other common skin problems.
Light, both natural and targeted, has profound whole-body balancing effects. Sunlight during the early morning and evening hours naturally has higher concentrations of skin-boosting infrared light and lower levels of the damaging UV spectrum. Wear a hat to keep your more delicate facial skin protected.
Different spectrums of LED light can exert different effects on the skin. Blue light helps with acne/blemishes, green with pigmentation, yellow for inflammation, and most famously, red light therapy for rejuvenation and overall skin health.
Dry skin brushing biohacks the skin by using soft bristles to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and their toxins. Leaving room for new cells. Then take a shower afterward. I like to dry brush in the sauna.
Four common knowledge health practices also can improve skin health. Mostly via improved detoxification and hormone optimization. These practices include getting higher quality sleep, moving more, deliberate breathwork, and “Earthing”.
The last step is everyone’s favorite… fancy, powerful, and healthy skincare products.
Step 5: Nourish, protect, & fortify
The realm of skincare contains thousands of products.
Varying dramatically in quality (toxicity), effectiveness, and price.
I don’t use many products, so to make things easy, I recommend doing the bulk of your skincare shopping at:
- Young Goose (save 5% with code NICKURBAN)
- Renue by Science (save 10% by clicking the link)
- Living Libations
These shops are biohacker and anti-aging enthusiast staples.
Your routine and arsenal of products can get complicated fast. I prefer doing and using things that have the broadest range of health benefits. I don’t use many lotions, balms, creams, or rinses.
One such case is ION* Skin Support. People often see a difference in their skin after a single use. This spray reduces skin redness and damage while simultaneously encouraging skin growth and improving complexion. Additionally, it protects the delicate microbe ecosystem and defends against toxins.
Some specific types of personal care products to consider include:
For sunscreens, be sure to check product toxicity using the EWG database. A skincare aficionado I met, Amy, helped me understand how to pick the most effective sunscreens. You’ll want a mineral-based, “non-nano” product that contains 15 to 25 percent zinc. Tinted versions also protect against blue light.
Though I rarely do them, masks are a potent astringent, cleansing, soothing, and benefitting pores. Depending on the material (I like clay), these can even absorb toxins like pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, heavy metals, and mycotoxins. Masks work for all skin types. The best I’ve come across is the Alitura Naturals Mask which contains an advanced formula. Including four synergistic clays along with vitamin C, colostrum, American Ginseng, freshwater pearl powder, and organic kelp.
Cleansers help remove the old, dead skin cells to allow room for the new. They generally contain exfoliants, and often harsh chemicals (be sure to choose something clean). Then, applying moisturizer keeps the skin barrier safe and intact. Internally, it protects elastin and collagen.
Retinol is in the vitamin A family and is used to slow skin aging, reduce acne, increase “plumpness”, and rejuvenate the skin by neutralizing free radicals. It’s available both over the counter and via prescription though all the research has studied the prescription versions. Retinol can be hard on sensitive skin.
Specific ingredients I like are:
- Hyaluronic acid
Antioxidants are in just about every beauty product.
Of the thousands, we will investigate three:
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is among the most studied, common, and effective. It’s cheap, and often the core ingredient of formulas.
Another more powerful antioxidant showing great promise in the beauty market is a long chain of carbons called C60. Topical C60 promotes clear, young skin and can protect against sunburns. The other antioxidant I find most interesting is called MitoQ, and it directly protects mitochondria.
Sometimes called “facelift in a jar”, the antioxidant DMAE improves skin tightness, firmness, elasticity, lines and wrinkles, and brightness while also reducing skin sagging. Plus, it augments the effects of other antioxidants.
Peptides, short chains of amino acids, have become a huge biohacking trend because they produce fantastic results with unbelievable safety profiles. Copper peptides for the skin, like GHK-Cu, in particular. The copper peptide, GHK-Cu, not only reduces oxidative stress and inflammation but even boosts brain function. Skincare experts suggest it stimulates collagen production, tightens, and thickens skin. Effectively alleviating wrinkles, dark spots, and signs of skin aging. Topically, you’ll want a cream that contains at least 2 percent GHK-Cu. For the full systemic longevity, tissue, and brain-enhancing benefits, however, I inject this peptide.
Other peptides like SKQ1 improve mitochondrial health, indirectly improving skin.
Hyaluronic acid (HLA) is a substance your body naturally produces to keep tissues lubricated. You can buy it as a supplement (I use Renue By Science’s LIPO HLA), or find it within many skincare formulas. HLA promotes healthy, supple skin and also reduces wrinkles, redness, and dermatitis. It’s sometimes even injected to keep skin looking youthful and firm.
Beautiful Skin Questions & Answers
Does skin appearance and health matter?
Skin is both our protective barrier from the harsh and toxic modern environment and also one of the first things that others judge us on. Your skin directly influences your overall health and quality of life.
Is micro-needling safe and effective?
Microneedling is a skincare practice that stimulates healthy skin growth. My issues with it are the common risk of infection (and on your face of all places), and the narrow window of therapeutic benefit. A little too much pressure, and you cause long-term damage. Too light and it has little effect.
How to Biohack Your Way to Perfect & Healthy Skin
Fairness aside, people judge based on appearance.
Attractive people receive better treatment, as observed in the “halo effect”. Better treatment leads to more opportunities and higher quality of life.
One of the first, most noticeable facets of appearance is skin.
Our skin both reflects our true health and can also provide tremendous protection from the modern chemical-laden toxic environment.
Biohacking skincare can actually be quite simple and does not require any designed products.
As the old adage goes…
Skin starts from within
Dial your lifestyle and nutrition, and your skin will glow and radiate vitality.
Skip straight to the creams, balms, serums, ointments, and special products. You might notice changes, but they’ll be short-lived and fade should you discontinue use.
I use very few skin products and lean more towards natural lifestyle optimizations. I’m a male, and without putting in dedicated effort, I still get compliments on my skin.
I’m sure that I’d get even better results if I combined the two and consistently used skincare products.
Over to you.
What do you do to biohack your beauty and maintain vibrant, healthy skin? Let me know your top tips in the comments below!