Mind health and how our skin responds, otherwise known as psycho-dermatology, is an emerging field that studies the effects of stress both on the brain and on the skin. In this episode with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R. Ph., we discuss the two-way communication between the brain and the skin and the conditions that can show up on the skin and how to deal with them.
Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) presents The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph. This podcast takes an enlightening approach to supporting licensed estheticians in their pursuit to achieve results-driven skin care treatments for their clients. You can always count on us to share professional skin care education, innovative techniques, and the latest in skin science.
Interested in more great content from Benjamin Knight Fuchs? ASCP members can watch his video, Psycho-Dermatology
About Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph:
Benjamin Knight Fuchs is a registered pharmacist, nutritionist, and skin care chemist with 35 years of experience developing pharmacy-potent skin health products for estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons. Ben’s expert advice gives licensed estheticians the education and skin science to better support the skin care services performed in the treatment room while sharing insights to enhance clients’ at-home skin care routines.
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0:00:03.9 Tracy Donley: Welcome everybody to ASCP and Rogue Pharmacist, Benjamin Knight Fuchs. I'm Tracy Donley, Executive Director of Associated Skin Care Professionals, and today I am so excited. You guys are gonna love this topic because a lot of people talk about it, a lot of people say they're gonna do it, like myself, and we just don't. But what is the connection between meditation, our mind health, and our skin? Maggie, do you meditate?
0:00:35.1 Maggie Staszcuk: I do not meditate. Well, I don't wanna say I don't meditate because I do things that reduce my stress, but in the traditional sense, I do not meditate.
0:00:42.5 TD: Well, Ben is here today to tell us, and get us on track, and help us educate our clients on why this is so important. Hi, Ben.
0:00:53.2 Benjamin Knight Fuchs: Hi, there. Nice to see you Tracy and Maggie. So it's interesting you say stress and meditation, right? So is it stress or is it meditation? What's the subject? Is it stress or meditation or do they just go together?
0:01:04.7 TD: Well, I've heard that if you meditate, it helps you better manage your stress.
0:01:10.7 BF: So, What exactly do you mean when you say meditation?
0:01:14.5 TD: I think I mean meditation like taking a moment to clear your mind, clear your thoughts and be blank.
0:01:22.5 BF: So ____ aside from taking a moment, you said meditation is clearing your mind and being blank.
0:01:26.8 TD: Mm-hmm.
0:01:29.7 BF: Okay, is that how you... And I'm not trying to catch you.
0:01:30.2 TD: I'm in the hot seat.
0:01:31.3 BF: I'm not trying to catch you. I just wanna know what you think 'cause you said the word. What do you mean by that? You mean clearing your head.
0:01:36.9 TD: Yeah, clearing my head.
0:01:37.1 BF: Clearing your mind. What would you say Maggie?
0:01:39.4 MS: I think of what Tracy thinks.
0:01:40.9 BF: Clearing your head?
0:01:41.8 MS: Yeah.
0:01:43.3 BF: Okay, so that's not what meditation is.
0:01:44.7 TD: Woah.
0:01:44.9 BF: I know, that's interesting, right? Meditation is actually a heightened sense of awareness. So, take that bottle right there, Okay. Now, you look at the bottle, you've looked at it 100 times in the last hour, a dozen times or however many times, but now really look at that bottle. Really, really be aware of the bottle, the texture of the bottle, the color of the bottle. Do you notice as how you're aware of it, it becomes brighter, the color becomes more pronounced? You notice how there's things you start to notice, the world becomes alive when you have this heightened sense of awareness. And meditation is the heightened sense of awareness, and you can meditate on a candle, people do that, meditate on a spot or mandala, some people meditate on a sound, all of these are having a heightened sense of awareness for the sound. In fact, one of the best ways to meditate is just to listen to ambient sounds. We have headphones on now, but if you didn't have your headphones on, you would hear sounds everywhere. There would be the air conditioner sound, there would be the chair sound, there would be sound from things moving around. There's so many different sounds, there's a symphony of sounds it's so fascinating because when you start to pay attention to ambient sounds, this is what happens.
0:02:53.0 BF: You hear a sound, sorry, you hear a sound, and then you'll hear another sound, and then another sound, and then another sound, as you're listening, you'll hear almost like a musical symphony of different sounds that you never noticed before. And as you're paying attention to them, you'll hear dozens of different sounds that are coming out in the ambient and the atmosphere. It's because you have this heightened sense of awareness on the sound, and when that occurs, something very interesting happens to the brain. The brain calms down. Under a heightened sense of awareness, when we start to pay attention to things, the brain goes from being chaotic into harmony and to coherence and it starts to produce brain waves that are associated with happiness, with relaxation, with calmness, and that's why meditation has gotten a reputation, and that's why when you say, "Meditation is clearing the mind." No, it's not clearing the mind, it's a heightened sense of awareness, and that heightened sense of awareness gives your brain the ability to relax. And that's why meditation has this wonderful anti-stress property, but that's not its main goal.
0:03:58.7 BF: You can meditate on sounds, you can meditate on the bottle, and you can meditate on a candle, and you can meditate on a mandala, but the coolest thing to meditate on, the absolute coolest thing to meditate on is life, is reality, is existence, is yourself.
0:04:14.6 TD: Okay, that's heavy. That is heavy.
0:04:15.7 BF: Is what you are. That's the coolest thing to meditate on, because then your mind goes into ecstasy, if you do it long enough, this is what yogis do. They meditate on reality. They call it God, but really what they're meditating on is reality. In fact, one of the coolest things to meditate on is your body, and this is where the skin comes in. When you meditate on something, you're giving it a heightened sense of awareness. Now, think about when you're in a relationship with somebody, or even if you're not in a relationship, you're just talking to them and they're on their phone like this, or your husband, or your boyfriend, or your wife, or whatever, and they're on their phone while you're talking to them. You don't like that, but if they were aware, and they were listening to you, and paying attention to you, it would be almost like you would thrive, it'd be almost like you would grow. When you're aware of something, you form a connection with that thing, you form a unification with that thing.
0:05:03.2 BF: Well, when you're aware of your body, the same thing happens. You become aware of that thing, you become connected to that thing, you become one with that thing, and what does the word 'health' come from? The word 'health' comes from the word 'whole,' integration, connection. When we're healthy, everything is integrated, everything is connected, we're integrated with our body. So meditation is about integration because meditation is about a heightened sense of awareness and a heightened sense of awareness connects you with things. Meditation is about integrating yourself with that which you're meditating on, and while you can integrate yourself with a bottle, or a candle, or a mandala, or a sound, the coolest thing to integrate yourself with is yourself. And the coolest thing to integrate yourself with is your body, and the coolest thing to integrate yourself with is reality itself. These are all wonderful things that we can integrate ourselves in the meditative process and they'll stabilize our brain, they'll put us into a sense of ease as opposed to dis-ease because now we're integrated, we're not fragmented.
0:06:04.8 BF: And as far as the skin goes, it's a way of loving your skin, meditating even on your skin. What does your skin do? As a healthcare professional, as a skin care professional, I often wonder, what do people think of when they see the skin? You guys are in the business and you've seen it layered in the cells, but what do you think the average person thinks of when they see the skin?
0:06:24.4 TD: I think they just think that it covers their flesh.
0:06:26.6 BF: Basically.
0:06:28.0 TD: Their bones, it covers their organs.
0:06:29.8 BF: It's covering their supply. Poor, our poor skin, it doesn't get love, it doesn't get attention, it doesn't get awareness. So when you meditate and first of all, if you just meditate on anything, you're gonna improve perfusion, you've opened up blood vessels and start to get blood flow to all of your extremities as well as the rest of your body, but your skin will come alive, your skin will be thankful for being made or that is now aware of or you're making it a subject of your awareness. So as far as the skin goes, most of us, the only time you think of our skin is when we say, "Oh my God, I can't believe that, Where did I get that from? I didn't have that yesterday, what was that? I gotta go get rid of it", we don't ever thank our skin, we don't ever love our skin, we don't give our skin attention. So meditation covers a whole bunch of things. Number one, meditation relaxes you, like you say, it's not clearing your thoughts, as a matter of fact, one of the best things to do when you're meditating is Watch your thoughts, be aware of your thoughts, think about all the ways our thoughts mess us up, right? Our thoughts, they're behind all psychological problems, is our thoughts, and what is our thoughts? Our thoughts is talking in our head, meditation is listening rather than talking.
0:07:46.6 BF: Did you ever hear anybody say, You know you got two ears and you got one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk? Meditation is when you activate the listening process as opposed to the talking process, there's people who can't sleep at night, insomnia, right? Insomnia is a huge thing, you ever see how many mattress commercials there are and pillow commercials there are, different supplements you could take to go to sleep. The reason people can't go to sleep is because they're talking so much, is that they're not talking to others, they're talking in their heads, one of the fastest ways to fall asleep and activate the relaxation response is to instead of talk, listen. And as you go into listening mode, whether you're listening to your thoughts, which are incredibly fascinating, there's a difference between listening your thoughts and thinking your thoughts, listening to your thoughts or listening to sounds, or one of the best things to listen to is your body sounds, your breath, in fact, yogis will tell beginner meditators, if you wanna go into a meditative state or trance, listen to your breath, and that will put you right into it. In fact, listening to any sound coming out of your body is a really quick way to go into this alpha brain wave state, and I talked about this meditative brain wave state.
0:08:56.4 BF: In fact, if you would just do it now or you do it while you're driving, or you do it while you're waiting in line at the bank, you'll find yourself, just listen to your breath or any bodily sound or any sound really, you'll find yourself just going into this alpha state of relaxation, and the cool thing about it is you can do it whenever you want. We call it a meditation practice, so you sit on the couch or you sit on the cushion and you meditate practice, but what's missed is that's your meditative practice, which you're practicing for is life, and what you wanna do is you wanna have a Meditative Life, and the meditative practice is practice, so that when you're in life, you can be this meditative state, and the ideal life, if you can do it, I mean, our culture is designed to pull us this way and that way, but when you're really good at it, you can go into this meditative state, this alpha brain wave state, this relaxed state of heightened awareness whenever you want to.
0:09:52.2 TD: So when you're saying about meditate on your skin, is that where the phrase you look radiant or your skin looks radiant?
0:10:01.8 BF: Absolutely, that's why, People sometimes ask me about Botox, say, What do you think of Botox? Or they'll be embarrass and say, "Oh I got Botox don't think badly of me" and I don't care if people get Juvederm or Botox or all these things, but these procedures are not going to help the health of the skin, the health of the skin is dependent on, as we said earlier, oxygen, nourishment and detoxification, in fact, the health of the whole entire body is dependent on all of that. But the only thing go wrong with the body or with the cells or with the organs are starvation, suffocation and toxification, the only three things that go wrong, and at least inflammation and more starvation, suffocation, intoxication, etcetera. But it's basically food, oxygen and a clean place to do its work. What meditation does is it opens up blood vessels, Blood vessels are how the oxygen gets transported to the cells, it's how the food, the nourishment, the nutrients get transported and it's how the body cleans itself out, the cells clean itself out. So through this perfusion, vasodilation that occurs, the skin gets healthier, that's why people, they'll have this radiance, this glow, what other people are seeing is, is vasodilation, this beautiful glow and healthy look to the skin.
0:11:16.5 BF: Juvederm can't do that, Botox can't do that. There's no medical procedures that can do that. The only thing that can do that is the blood, and the only thing that can activate the blood in a healthy way, you can have immune system activated vasodilation and that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about a more uniform coloration to the skin, that is the look of health, the look of radiance, it's a glow, and it literally is radiance in the sense that there's energy that comes out of the blood through the skin, and you can actually see it in somebody else, and you could feel it in somebody else, and that's what we're looking for when we wanna take care of our skin, we're looking for the look of Health, we're looking for the radiance. We say radiance to mean things are coming out. You're radiating, right? And you're radiating heat, but you're also radiating electromagnetic energy, you're radiating love energy, you're radiating connection energy, and that's what people respond to, and there's no medical procedures that can do that, in fact, I shouldn't say there's vitamins and nutrients that can do that, but most skincare products can't do that.
0:12:17.4 BF: Really, that's how I got into the skincare business, is I noticed that when I created formulations that had these nutrients in them, that there'd be this radiance and this glow to the skin, that was really what people were looking for, that they were wearing makeup to try to imitate, and when the skin was actually healthy you didn't need makeup. And to me, as a formulator, that's the best compliment somebody can give me is when they say I don't need my makeup anymore, I don't use my makeup anymore because it says that my formulations are actually changing the constituency of the skin, so it's real, it's authentic. What makeup is pretending to provide, you're getting authentically. And to me, that's the greatest compliment I can ever get as a formulator.
0:12:55.3 TD: How can estheticians incorporate meditation or stress reduction practices?
0:13:00.9 BF: Before your procedure, just like I said, listen to your breath, have the client listen to the breath. First of all, let them know about the relationship between the skin and stress, the skin is a stress response working. What is the skin really? What is its main role? Is to be a barrier, is to protect us. So the skin has evolved to be a stress organ, and so skin cells make stress hormones, skin cells respond to stress hormones. So if you get something stressful in your life, a credit card bill, your relationship, job, kids, whatever it is, you're gonna start secreting stress hormones, those stress hormones are going to go to the skin, and all of the things that are associated with the stress response are gonna show up in the skin. Vasodilation will show up on the skin, changes in how the skin cells divide, differentiation problems, the overall health of the tissue will suffer all from the stress from your credit card bills or your stress from whatever your external environment is, because the skin cells are themselves responsive, there's receptors on the skin cells for cortisol.
0:14:05.9 BF: So by lowering your stress hormone, your cortisol, you will improve the condition of the skin by calming the skin down every bit as much as you're calming the rest of the body down. Then there are skin health issues that are immediately associated with the stress response, most especially hyperpigmentation. So hyperpigmentation needs to be regarded as the manifestation of a response to stress hormones, especially cortisol and insulin, I'm sorry, estrogen, cortisol and estrogen. And in fact, melanin itself, this is really cool, melanin itself, the hormone is part of what's called the melanocortin system. The melanocortin system is your stress management system, so melanin pigmentation itself is designed by nature to be linked to the stress system, the stress management system, and pigmentation is a classic sign of the stress response, and this is why people are so dissatisfied. If there's one skin condition that people are most dissatisfied with, its hyperpigmentation because there's very little you can do topically, even though you can remove it, it's gonna come back because we don't have a connect me this link between the stress response and pigmentation. And when you think about it, what is one of the major stressors from an evolutionary perspective that human beings had?
0:15:21.4 BF: The sun, and so pigmentation is keyed in to be part of the stress response. And by the way, pigmentation is also part of the sex response. So animals when they wanna mate, they'll change pigmentation, they'll get different plumages, if they're a bird, lizards will have different colors, there'll be pigmentation changes in response to the desire to mate or the need to mate. So there's actually, I don't know if you heard this, but there's actually a female Viagra that they're looking at. Well, this female Viagra is part of this melanocortin system that will activate the stress response in order to increase libido, to support female libido. So this whole stress response is associated with sexuality, it's associated with the digestive system, digestive health, it's associated with the skin and cutaneous health, there's many manifestations to the stress response by calming things down, by activating the relaxation response as Dr. Herbert Benson, I don't know if you ever heard him, he was a Harvard physician and he said, "We gotta activate the relaxation response if you wanna live a long life. And he called his book The Relaxation Response, and he was the first guy to really start talking about it, activating this relaxation response is one of the most important things you could do for the beauty of the skin and ultimately for the health of the skin.
0:16:39.1 MS: So it says stress is an oxidizing agent in theory.
0:16:42.6 BF: Not in theory, in exact.
0:16:44.3 MS: In exact.
0:16:45.0 BF: Yes.
0:16:45.3 MS: Okay.
0:16:46.7 BF: In practical. Stress is an oxidizing agent, oxidation is rust, oxidation is aging, oxidation is breakdown. So relaxation is the most important thing that we can learn to do is how to activate the relaxation response in real time at will. And a simplest way to do it, the easiest way to do it is to pay attention to something, whether it's the bottle, and as you're paying attention to the bottle, you're activating your relaxation response, or whether it's your breathing or an ambient sound, but like I say, my favorite thing to do is to contemplate my existence or God, or something that's divine or something that's spiritual, something that's other worldly, that's not part of the natural human world, that's the coolest thing to meditate on.
0:17:28.3 MS: So my question then is, walk us through a practice that an esthetician could incorporate into the treatment room.
0:17:36.1 BF: First of all, is the understanding part, then second of all, breathing, the breathing does a couple of things. First of all, when you watch your breathing, you naturally go into this alpha brain wave state, you naturally relax, but when you watch your breathing, you'll have more access to controlling your breathing, and controlling the breathing is itself an important part of the stress response. When we breathe shallow or short, our body thinks we're running from something, it thinks there's danger, and so shallow short breathing or shallow quick breathing activates the stress response. On the other hand, long relaxed breathing, by the way, the exhale is where you relax, not the inhale, a long relaxed breathing, you always wanna exhale more than you inhale, will activate the relaxation response so quickly, you could do it right now in one second.
0:18:22.2 MS: I just did it.
0:18:23.1 BF: And you relax right away. But most of the time we go through our lives in the stress response, so we don't realize the relationship between our breathing and the stress response, and so we go through this vicious cycle where our breathing causes stress, which causes more shallow breathing which causes more stress, and this keeps happening, and sometimes it happens for people who aren't aware of this mechanism for their whole life until they have heart attack or until some horrible thing happens to them. So what you can do with your client when you're an esthetician, is just have them understand the relationship between how their body feels and the breathing, and that involves this awareness, hyper-awareness of the breathing process. Yawning, it's just yawning by the way, is a great way to activate the relaxation response, just forcing yourself to yawn, not yawn, I'm sorry, sigh. Just go ahead...
0:19:07.9 BF: You just go like that, you'll find that you relax. It's kind of like when you're scared, you go, Oh! That's the cortisol, right? That's what happens when you're scared, and then...
0:19:19.2 BF: It's kind of like a yin-yang kind of thing, but most of us are going through life like this, in this activated stress response.
0:19:23.9 TD: And it's a quick breath. To your point, you were saying like...
0:19:26.6 TD: It's a quick breath.
0:19:28.2 BF: Like that, you hold. Yeah.
0:19:28.3 TD: Do you think guiding them with your own breath, like breathing, like starting out with breathing together?
0:19:33.6 BF: Absolutely, entrainment. In fact, if you do it with a friend or lover, you won't believe the unification that can happen as you're doing it. Or with your child, with your kid, if you just work with the breath and have an, it's called entrainment, where their breathing matches your breathing. There's a bonding that will take place that transcends any other psychological bonding that you could have. It's a physical kind of bonding that you have with somebody who you're really close to. Practice entraining the breath, it's a really powerful technique. Anything you could do to place a tension on something with a heightened sense of awareness, will not only relax you, but it will bring you a more Joie de vivre, more joy for life. There's so much stuff going on in our world, and most of the time we're in our heads, we're thinking, we're not paying attention to what's happening in the world. There's so much magic everywhere, even in something like a bottle, there's like a meme of somebody who's doing drugs and they're looking at an ant or something, and they're going, "Oh my God, wow," like that, when they're stoned or they're doing acid or something like that, and what they're really doing is they're becoming hyper-aware of that ant, and they're seeing that ant like it really is. Like, "Oh my God, it's an ant." or, "Oh my God, it's a glass." Or, "Oh my God, it's a pen."
0:20:45.7 BF: So all of this Oh my God's stuff that's going on in our life, and we don't access it when we are in survival mode, because when we're survival mode, we just gotta survive, we don't have time to worry about the ant and how magical, and how beautiful the ant is. But when we're in our relaxing mode, our relaxation's way of being, we're perceiving the world in a safe way, the world becomes this beautiful, amazing, spectacular psychedelic, wax museum come to life. That's how I think of it sometimes. Like this museum that's just alive with everything. And that's what meditation does and that can do for you, and that's what the relaxation, activating the relaxation response can do for you. So aside from physical health and well-being and beauty, it just gives you a sense of just joy for being alive.
0:21:32.7 TD: Well, if that right there hasn't sold you on why it is so important for yourself and for your clients to have a practice of meditation, I don't know what is. And all I know is, I'm looking around the table right now, and I'm seeing some radiant faces.
0:21:50.1 BF: Nice.
0:21:50.5 TD: So even just talking about it brings us to the next level. So, with that said, that does wrap up our show today. And, as always, if you're not an ASCP member, join today at ascpskincare.com/join. If you like this episode, make sure you subscribe today, so you never miss a single one. And Ben, tell everybody where they can find you.
0:22:15.4 BF: Well, you get my radio show at brightsideben.com. I have a blog at pharmacistben.com, truthtreatments.com for my formulations. And if you just Google Pharmacist Ben and anything, you'll probably get a YouTube video or a blog post or an interview, or something I did.
0:22:29.4 TD: That's our program. Please make sure that you comment. Go to our Instagram, you can find us @ascpskincare on Instagram. We wanna hear from you. You can also reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks guys. Have a beautiful day.