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Better-Looking Skin with Hypothyroidism

By

Susan Fishman

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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Maggie describes what it's like to have hypothyroidism, how it's affected her athleticism, and how she handles living with the condition.

5 Easy Lifestyle Changes For Living Better With Hypothyroidism

A handful of simple lifestyle changes can help you feel better with hypothyroidism.
Young girl with red hair and freckles

Hypothyroidism can wreak havoc on the skin. From swelling to hair loss, it can be hard to cope with some of the changes in your appearance. But there are some small steps you can take that can make a big difference in how you look and feel.

Healthy skin is influenced by hormones, and specifically depends on the thyroid hormone for things like hair growth and thickness. When thyroid function is altered, the skin can't do its job. It can become dry, cold and pale. Sometimes you don't sweat at all, and your palms and soles can become thick and dry. Wounds often heal slowly. The most common skin change is puffiness or swelling due to a build-up of fluid in deep layer of the skin (dermis), which can lead to swollen lips, hands, legs, face and eyelids.

Missy opens up about the challenges of planning for a family while having hypothyroidism.

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Everyone's skin reacts differently to low thyroid function—you may have noticed some or all of these changes. You may also experience:

  • Coarse, dry scalp and hair

  • Hair loss (body and scalp)

  • Ivory or yellow-colored skin

  • Brittle, thick nails

  • Bruising

If you notice any of these changes in your skin, talk to your doctor about the possibility of hypothyroidism. Testing is simple and you'll have your answer in days. Effective treatment options are available. Often over many weeks or months of treatment, you will see steady improvement in the appearance of your skin, hair and nails.
While waiting for your thyroid hormone levels to normalize, there are also things you can do to help combat some of the more common—and annoying—symptoms on your own:

Dry Skin and Scalp

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is the best way to keep your skin from drying out.

  • If you have very dry skin, wash your face only once, at night, and use cool water to rinse.

  • Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers and shampoos that moisturize, and avoid products that contain alcohol, such as hand sanitizer.

  • Moisturize directly after showering or bathing, and apply the moisturizer while your skin is still damp.

  • Don't use hot water in the shower or bath—this removes your natural skin oils. Use warm water instead.

  • Use a humidifier in your home to keep the air moist.

  • Keep the heat low in your home.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which tend to dehydrate the skin.

Edema (Swelling or Puffy Hands, Face, Eyes)

Hypothyroidism slows the body's ability to drain lymphatic fluid and other body substances, which can lead to water retention. Try these tips to help minimize the swelling:

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can contribute to swelling.

  • Cut back on salt. Try to minimize processed foods, canned foods and frozen foods, which contain a lot of sodium.

  • Drink more water. It may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to reduce the amount of water in your body, but when you are well hydrated, your body will attempt to balance the sodium by getting rid of excess fluid.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.

  • Reduce eye swelling with a cold compress or cool cucumber slices. Soak a cucumber in cold water for 10 minutes, then hold slices on the eyes with a tissue for 10 minutes.

  • Splash your face with cool water in the morning at the sink (not in the shower) to help quell the swell.

Brittle, Thick Nails

  • Moisturize your feet and nails regularly, especially on damp skin after bathing. Petroleum jelly, lanolin moisturizers, coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil and almond oil are also good options.

  • Keep your fingernails and toenails clean and trimmed to avoid fungal infection, which can make nails brittle.

  • Use non-acetone polish remover, and avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which are very drying. Wash with a moisturizing soap instead.

  • Trim your nails to prevent snagging or breakage.

  • Ask your doctor about a chemical hardener than can help prevent breakage.

  • Take a break from nail polish and regular manicures and pedicures where your hands and feet are soaking in water and more prone to brittleness.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd, III, MD FACS Last Review Date: May 26, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Hair Loss and Thyroid Disorders. British Thyroid Foundation. http://www.btf-thyroid.org/index.php/thyroid/articles/hair-loss-thyroid-disorders
  2. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/basics/definition/con-20021179
  3. Brittle Toenails. Med-Health.net. http://www.med-health.net/Brittle-Toenails.html
  4. Hypothyroidism. National Institute of Health. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000353.htm
  5. New ways to moisturize those brittle nails. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/fashion/thursdaystyles/06skin2.html?_r=0
  6. Hypothyroidism. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/ata-hypothyroidism-brochure.pdf
  7. Dry Skin: Tips for Relieving. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/dry-skin/tips

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