Your Liver and Your Skin – What is the Connection?
Your liver and your skin are more connected than you think. Learn how to keep your liver healthy while reading the signs of liver disease in skin conditions.
Despite both organs being the biggest and heaviest in the body, there’s more of a connection between your liver and your skin than meets the eye.
You’d be forgiven for associating your skin with beauty rather than the health of your liver. But where these two organs differ on the outside, they share an inseparable connection within the body.
Read on to discover the connection between your liver and your skin and how to read signs of liver failure or disease through various skin conditions.
What does the liver do?
With over 500 functions, the liver is considered a “factory of the body” and arguably the busiest organ, alongside the heart and brain.
The main functions include detoxifying the body and transforming food into energy. Other essential liver functions include:
- Cholesterol production and clearance
- Storing iron and processing haemoglobin
- Ammonia conversion and waste elimination
- Blood clot regulation
- Resistance to infections
- Blood sugar level maintenance
- Metobolising nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins)
- Metobolising essential hormones
- Blood level regulation in amino acids
- Digestive tract blood processing
As you can see, the liver plays a vital part in the story of our health as a life-sustaining organ. So, when your liver is not functioning as it should, one of the many signs can show on your skin, such as itchiness, discolouring (jaundice) or eczema.
How do toxins enter the body?
Toxins entering the body is a natural part of life and is unavoidable. After all, the average person will encounter thousands of toxins daily, which our liver must then manage.
The four main ways that toxins enter the body include the following:
- Breathing (inhalation)
- Skin or eye contact
- Swallowing (eating or ingestion)
Inhalation remains the most common form of toxins entering the body. And while we may have more control over the other ways, they ultimately remain a part of our existence.
Some commonplace sources of how toxins enter our bodies include:
- The pollution we breathe in the atmosphere
- Dust, bacteria, and mould in home environments
- Pesticides on our food
- Microscopic plastics from food packaging and containers
- Chemicals in cleaning products
- Chemicals in water (drinking, washing, etc.)
- Chemicals in the home (Paint, fire retardants, etc.)
- Alcohol, medication, and cigarette smoke
Our liver does its best to cope with these daily toxins. But when too many toxins build up, our livers are less effective in detoxifying our bodies. At this stage, skin conditions can appear, creating a direct link between the health of your liver and your skin.
For example, liver detox for acne supplements contains multiple antioxidants like glutathione and n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). Plus, there are other supplements and medications available to support the healthy function of your liver and the condition of your skin.
What skin conditions are linked to poor liver function?
Like the liver, the skin is another detoxification organ that helps our bodies remove daily toxins. When the liver struggles to filter toxins due to a toxic overload, our bodies will find other ways to release toxins, such as through our skin.
For this reason, our skin can become inflamed with various conditions. Some of these skin conditions include the following:
- Dark spots
- Premature ageing
The connection between the health of our liver and eczema is an example of when toxins unprocessed by the liver attempt to escape through our skin, causing rashes and itchiness.
So, if you struggle with any of these skin conditions, it might surprise you to learn that it could be down to poor liver health.
For example, we can attribute your liver and itchy skin to eczema, but what about more serious liver conditions? Let’s find out how we connect these conditions to link your liver health with your skin.
How do I know if these conditions are caused by poor liver function?
Knowing if your liver and your skin health are linked depends on a few factors. The thing with our liver health is that it’s not the most obvious thing to diagnose.
Medical research published by Elsevier interprets acute and chronic liver disease to manifest on the skin. The signs can be subtle, such as slight finger clubbing to jaundice. Recognising these unfamiliar signs earlier can lead to faster diagnoses and better care.
Here are a few examples of when skin conditions are a result of liver disease:
Skin lesions for chronic liver disease
We can link some origins of chronic liver disease to various skin lesions. These common conditions include jaundice, spider nevi, leuconychia and finger clubbing.
Palmar erythema, rosacea, “paper-money” skins and rhinophyma are other noteworthy features. Sometimes these can be overlooked by your GP because the link between your skin and your liver is not always clear with these conditions.
Skin lesions for primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC)
Characterised by yellow growths on or near the eyelids, xanthelasma is a skin condition resulting from PBC when cholesterol builds up under the skin. Sometimes this is due to the liver not processing and managing cholesterol levels.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has published a journal stating the connection between PBC and hypercholesterolemia. The medical journal describes, “Hypercholesterolaemia, a major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the general population, occurs in 75%–95% of individuals with PBC.”
The result of this connection can develop skin conditions such as xanthelasmas and cutaneous xanthomas. Other conditions associated with PBC include sicca syndrome, vitiligo, melanosis and xerodermia.
Skin lesions for alcohol-related liver disease
Protein-energy malnutrition resulting from alcohol consumption is known to cause cases of facial lipodystrophy. This process occurs in extreme cases of alcoholism due to alcohol dominating the individual’s calorie intake.
Another alcohol-related liver disease condition is known as Dupuytren’s contracture. This condition sees the fingers of the individual bend towards the palm as the person loses the capability of straightening the affected fingers completely.
Skin lesions for viral hepatitis
Apparent in the latter stages of the disease, extrahepatic manifestations occur in one-third of people with hepatitis C. Cryoglobulinemia, polyarteritis nodosa, leukocytoclastic vasculitis, urticaria and porphyria cutanea tarda are other common skin conditions associated with viral hepatitis.
Skin lesions for hemochromatosis
Once termed “bronze diabetes”, the hemochromatosis condition occurs when too much iron is allowed to build in the body and is prevalent in the skin and liver. Too much iron is toxic in the body and will damage tissue and organ function.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a sign of hemochromatosis is bronze or grey skin colour.
How to look after your liver for optimal function
Now we understand the health connection between your liver and your skin, how can we ensure that both remain in top condition? Let’s explore.
- Healthy lifestyle
Healthier lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, eating a well-balanced diet and drinking less alcohol are the right place to begin. Alongside incorporating these principles into your routine, you should also consider getting enough sleep, lowering your stress levels and spending more time in nature.
- Take the right liver supplements
Alongside your healthy lifestyle to support your liver and skin, we recommend taking supplements to improve and maintain your liver health. Some scientifically proven liver supplements include milk thistle, turmeric and artichoke leaf.
However, the one nutrient you can count on for liver health is glutathione. Naturally produced by the liver, glutathione helps build and repair tissue, metabolises proteins, and supports the immune system. Increasing your glutathione levels will help the liver function while encouraging the overall beauty of your skin.
Take an all-in-one supplement to support your liver and your skin
de-liver-ance contains multiple antioxidant properties and ingredients to support liver function and skin health. For more scientific insights into our Plant-Extract Elixir product, read more here.