Mark J. Tager, MD, is one of the country’s leading health educators helping to train clinicians and consumers in personalized nutrition and aesthetics. He routinely consults with nutraceutical, cosmeceutical and medical device companies. His latest book is Feed Your Skin Right: Your Personalized Nutrition Plan for Radiant Beauty. He received his medical training at Duke University and practiced family medicine at the University of Oregon Health Sciences.
Question: What are the main goals you wanted to achieve when you wrote Feed Your Skin Right?
Answer: Today’s beauty conscious consumer wants the answers to four questions: What should I eat? What supplements should I take? What topicals should I apply? And what procedures should I have? When I am asked these questions, I respond with one simple phrase: “It depends.” The book describes exactly what radiant skin depends upon for each of us. There are no two people on the planet with the same skin, so each of us needs a personalized approach.
Question: What are some of the most important facts regarding diet that affect skin health?
• The Average American takes in 100 grams of added sugar each day. Glycation (the binding of sugar to collagen) contributes to fine lines and wrinkles.
• Foods and nutraceuticals with ceramides and omega-3 fatty acids contribute to skin barrier protection. We hear a lot about “leaky gut.” As part of the innate immune system, we also have “leaky skin.”
• Teenage acne is the perfect storm: they indulge in three known offenders: sugar, dairy and saturated fats. Throw in hormones and zinc deficiency and the pimples start popping.
Question: Americans have only recently realized the benefits of “beauty-from-within” nutraceuticals. How important is the role of dietary supplements in skin health? What should natural product retailers consider when recommending these products to their customers?
Answer: This is still a relatively small, but emerging category. Even though 60-80 percent of consumers say they take a daily vitamin/mineral supplement, most could still benefit from specifically formulated products aimed to provide skin radiance, hydration and firmness. Retailers have filled their shelves with collagen products, but a “beauty-from-within” program should also address decreased inflammation, antioxidant protection, microbiome improvement, optimal mineral intake, hydration and skin barrier protection.
From an ethical standpoint and to the extent that there is openness, I’d encourage retailers working with customers to gently inquire as to diet. As a clinician recommending supplements, I have a credo I follow: “I can’t out-supplement your crappy diet.” I believe the best guidance we can provide is “both/and.” Work on your diet and add what I call “intelligent supplementation.” We are becoming smarter these days given our ability to assess food sensitivities, nutrigenomics, the microbiome and overall gut/skin health.
Question: In your book, you discuss the microbiome regarding skin health. What is the relationship between the two and how can it be improved?
Answer: All roads lead back to the microbiome and the gut-brain-skin access. The good microbes in the gut create short chain fatty acids. The butyrate works on the gut cells, but acetate and proprionate go into the circulation where they get to the skin to provide barrier protection. The microbiome communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve and the brain also receives input from the skin. So many of the dermatological disruptions can be tied to the microbiome and chemical/nervous imbalances.
Question: As a leader in developing cosmetic procedures, for the consumer who wants to go beyond lifestyle and supplements for youthful skin appearance, what are your recommendations for finding safe, effective treatments?
Answer: Beyond cleansing the skin, there are four major categories for cosmeceuticals. 1. Sunblock should be mineral based and a formulation that will not leave a chalky residue. 2. Many people will benefit from a retinol, to be worked in gradually at night. 3. Moisturization and hydration are critical to keep water in the skin. There are some good over-the-counter products, and some specially crafted hyaluronic acid preparations. Finally, 4. Most science-based cosmeceutical products are built around a hero molecule, such as vitamins (most notably vitamin C), NAD+, exosomes, growth factors, peptides or CBD. The natural products are often herbal based. Every aesthetic professional has their favorites, but I’ve found that most consumers go through a trial process to find out what works best for their skin, and even then, most people will shake up their routine several times a year.
Question: Other comments?
Answer: I strongly believe that one of the biggest barriers for retailers is training. There is no substitute for a knowledgeable salesforce who can gently help consumers address their motivations for change, support the practices of a healthy diet, educate responsibly about supplements, and overall, become a trusted guide. I am just completing creating a nine-hour online course entitled Inside Skin Beauty to address this critical need.