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Functional Medicine Dermatologist

Functional Medicine Dermatologist

By Dr. Patrick Lovegrove Medically Reviewed by Lindsay Langley, BSN, RN, CHT
Posted Thursday, August 24th, 2023
Functional Medicine Dermatologist

Functional medicine is a method of health care that puts the patient first and looks for the root causes of diseases and imbalances instead of just treating the symptoms. It aims to understand the unique factors contributing to a patient’s health issues by considering their genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Functional medicine is a form of complementary and alternative medicine that has become more popular recently. It focuses on a more complete and individualized approach to patient care.

A Functional Medicine Dermatologist is a medical professional specializing in diagnosing, treating, and preventing skin conditions while also applying the principles of functional medicine. Unlike traditional dermatologists who primarily focus on symptom management through topical creams or medications, functional medicine dermatologists delve deeper into understanding the root causes of skin issues and aim to improve overall health and well-being.

Importance of Integrating Functional Medicine and Dermatology

Integrating functional medicine and dermatology is crucial because factors beyond the skin’s surface can influence many skin conditions. Skin health is often linked to various internal imbalances, such as inflammation, hormonal disruptions, gut health issues, nutritional deficiencies, and stress. By combining the principles of functional medicine with dermatology, practitioners can provide more comprehensive and effective care, addressing the underlying factors contributing to skin problems.

Principles of Functional Medicine

Holistic Approach to Patient Care

One of the fundamental principles of functional medicine is taking a holistic approach to patient care. Instead of viewing the skin as an isolated organ, functional medicine dermatologists consider the interconnectedness of all body systems. They assess how different factors, such as nutrition, lifestyle, genetics, and mental well-being, can influence skin health and overall wellness. This comprehensive approach helps to identify and address the root causes of skin conditions, leading to more sustainable and long-lasting results.

Focus on Root Cause Analysis

Functional medicine dermatologists prioritize identifying the root causes of skin issues rather than merely treating surface-level symptoms. They invest time in thoroughly reviewing a patient’s medical history, conducting in-depth consultations, and running specialized tests when necessary to understand the individual’s health comprehensively. By addressing the underlying causes, they aim to prevent recurring skin problems and improve the patient’s overall quality of life.

Emphasis on Personalized Treatment Plans

Functional medicine recognizes that each person is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. Functional medicine dermatologists create personalized treatment plans tailored to the specific needs of the individual. These plans may include dietary recommendations, lifestyle modifications, stress management techniques, and evidence-based alternative therapies that align with the patient’s goals and values. Personalized care allows for a more efficient and effective healing process.

Utilization of Evidence-Based Alternative Therapies

While functional medicine dermatologists embrace conventional medical practices when necessary, they also utilize evidence-based alternative therapies to complement treatment. These therapies may include nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, acupuncture, mind-body techniques, and other integrative modalities that have shown promising results in managing skin conditions and improving overall health. By combining conventional and alternative approaches, functional medicine dermatologists offer a well-rounded treatment approach that addresses the whole person.

The Role of Functional Medicine in Dermatology

Understanding the Connection between Skin Health and Overall Well-being

Functional medicine in dermatology recognizes that the skin is not an isolated organ but a reflection of a person’s overall health. It goes beyond treating skin conditions superficially and acknowledges the intricate relationship between skin health and various internal and external factors. The skin can be influenced by hormonal imbalances, immune system dysregulation, gut health, stress, diet, and environmental exposures.

Functional medicine dermatologists take a holistic approach, understanding that a skin issue may manifest as an underlying health problem. For example, chronic inflammation can manifest as skin redness and irritation. By addressing the root cause of such issues, functional medicine aims to improve skin health and overall well-being.

Identifying and Addressing Underlying Factors Contributing to Skin Conditions

Conventional dermatology often focuses on treating the symptoms of skin conditions without delving into the potential underlying causes. In contrast, functional medicine dermatologists are trained to look deeper into a patient’s health history and lifestyle to identify factors contributing to their skin issues.

Through detailed patient interviews and assessments, functional medicine dermatologists seek to uncover triggers such as food sensitivities, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, stress levels, hormonal imbalances, and environmental exposures. They aim to alleviate skin symptoms and prevent recurrences by addressing these underlying factors.

Collaboration with Other Medical Specialties for Comprehensive Care

Functional medicine in dermatology recognizes that skin health is influenced by various systems within the body. Functional medicine dermatologists often collaborate with other medical specialties, including endocrinology, gastroenterology, immunology, and more, to provide comprehensive care.

For instance, if a patient with skin issues is found to have underlying gastrointestinal problems, the functional medicine dermatologist may work closely with a gastroenterologist to address digestive issues that could be affecting the skin. This integrative approach ensures that all aspects of the patient’s health are considered, leading to more effective and lasting treatment outcomes.

Key Components of Functional Medicine Dermatology

Detailed Patient History and Lifestyle Assessment

Functional medicine dermatologists spend significant time getting to know their patients beyond their skin concerns. They take a thorough medical history and inquire about lifestyle habits, stress levels, sleep patterns, diet, exercise, and environmental exposures. This comprehensive understanding allows them to identify potential triggers and connections between the patient’s overall health and skin condition.

Advanced Diagnostic Testing for a Deeper Understanding of the Patient’s Health

Functional medicine dermatologists may employ advanced diagnostic tests to gain deeper insights into the patient’s health. These tests include assessing hormone levels, gut microbiome analysis, food sensitivity testing, and inflammation markers. The results of these tests provide valuable information about the underlying factors contributing to the skin condition.

Customized Treatment Plans Targeting Specific Patient Needs

Functional medicine dermatologists create personalized treatment plans based on the patient’s unique health profile. These plans may involve a combination of conventional dermatology treatments and evidence-based alternative therapies. The attention is on getting to the root of the skin problem and making the treatment fit the needs of each person.

Use of Nutrition, Supplements, and Lifestyle Modifications to Support Skin Health

Functional medicine dermatologists often emphasize the role of nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes in promoting skin health. They may recommend specific dietary modifications, supplementation with vitamins and minerals, stress management techniques, and other lifestyle adjustments to support the body’s natural healing processes and optimize skin health.

By embracing the principles of functional medicine, dermatologists can provide more comprehensive and personalized care to their patients, leading to improved skin health and overall well-being. This integrative approach has the potential to revolutionize how we understand and treat skin conditions, paving the way for a more holistic and patient-centric approach to dermatology.

Common Skin Conditions Treated by Functional Medicine Dermatologists

Functional medicine dermatologists approach skin conditions with a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness between skin health and overall well-being. They aim to identify and address the underlying factors contributing to various skin issues. Here are some common skin conditions that functional medicine dermatologists often treat:

Acne and Rosacea

Acne and rosacea are both inflammatory skin conditions that can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem and quality of life. Functional medicine dermatologists investigate potential triggers such as hormonal imbalances, gut health, diet, and stress levels. Addressing these underlying factors reduces inflammation and improves the skin’s overall health.

Eczema and Psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis are chronic skin conditions characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin. Functional medicine dermatologists take a holistic approach, considering factors like immune system dysregulation, gut health, food sensitivities, and stress. They strive to reduce flare-ups and promote skin healing by uncovering and addressing these contributing factors.

Dermatitis and Rashes

Contact dermatitis and other rashes can result from skin exposure to irritants or allergens. Functional medicine dermatologists not only treat the symptoms but also work to identify and eliminate the triggers causing the skin reaction. This approach may involve patch testing, lifestyle modifications, and personalized treatment plans.

Premature Aging and Skin Elasticity Issues

Functional medicine dermatologists also address premature aging and skin elasticity problems. They know that things like sun exposure, pollution, and living choices can interact with things like nutritional deficiencies and oxidative stress inside the body. They want to improve the texture, elasticity, and look of the skin by focusing on improving general health and helping the skin’s natural repair systems.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Examples of Patients Benefited from Functional Medicine Dermatology

Functional medicine dermatologists have numerous success stories where patients experience significant skin and overall health improvements. These may include individuals who had struggled with chronic acne and saw remarkable results after addressing underlying gut health issues. Others may have dealt with persistent eczema, which improved substantially following the identification of food sensitivities and personalized dietary changes.

Testimonials and Outcomes of Treatment

Many patients who have received treatment from functional medicine dermatologists share their experiences through testimonials. These testimonials highlight functional medicine practitioners’ thorough and caring approach, their focus on uncovering root causes, and the success of customized treatment plans. Testimonials may also emphasize the positive impact on overall well-being, not just skin health.

It’s important to remember that even though functional medicine dermatology has helped many people, each case is different, and the treatment’s effects may differ. Success stories and testimonials are great examples of how this integrative method to skin health could be helpful.

Challenges and Limitations

Integrating Functional Medicine into Traditional Dermatology Practices

One of the primary challenges for functional medicine dermatologists is integrating their approach into traditional dermatology practices. Functional medicine involves a more comprehensive and holistic assessment of patients, which can require longer consultation times and a different treatment paradigm. Incorporating functional medicine principles into a busy dermatology practice may require adjustments to workflows and staff training. Overcoming these barriers may require increased awareness and education within the dermatology community.

Limited Insurance Coverage for Alternative Therapies

Functional medicine often involves alternative therapies, such as nutritional counseling, supplements, and mind-body interventions. Unfortunately, many insurance providers do not cover these treatments, leaving patients to bear the financial burden. This limitation can make functional medicine dermatology inaccessible to individuals who may benefit from this approach. Advocacy for broader insurance coverage and research demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of functional medicine may help address this issue.

Patient Compliance and Lifestyle Changes

Functional medicine dermatologists emphasize the importance of lifestyle modifications and patient participation in their healing journey. However, motivating patients to adopt and sustain lifestyle changes can be challenging. Patients may need help adhering to dietary restrictions, implementing stress management techniques, or making other necessary changes. Overcoming this limitation involves effective patient education, continuous support, and the development of realistic and achievable treatment plans.

The Future of Functional Medicine Dermatology

Growing Acceptance and Adoption in the Medical Community

As more evidence accumulates and success stories emerge, functional medicine will likely gain broader acceptance within the medical community, including dermatology. Integrating functional medicine principles into dermatology practices could provide more comprehensive and effective patient care.

Potential Advancements in Diagnostic Tools and Treatments

Advancements in diagnostic tools, such as advanced genetic testing and microbiome analysis, may offer deeper insights into the factors influencing skin health. Additionally, research on the efficacy of alternative therapies may lead to the development of new treatment options and protocols for various skin conditions.

Importance of Continued Research and Evidence-Based Practices

For functional medicine dermatology to gain further recognition, continued research is crucial. Robust clinical studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses are needed to establish the efficacy and safety of functional medicine interventions. Evidence-based practices will help build credibility and encourage broader adoption of this approach.


Functional medicine offers a unique and promising approach to dermatology by considering the interplay between skin health and overall well-being. By addressing the root causes of skin conditions and focusing on personalized care, functional medicine dermatologists aim to provide more effective and long-lasting solutions.

Patients with chronic or complex skin conditions or those seeking a more holistic approach to skin health are encouraged to consult a functional medicine dermatologist. Working with a practitioner who understands the interconnected nature of health may lead to a deeper understanding of underlying factors and more comprehensive treatment plans.

The future of functional medicine dermatology holds great promise. As acceptance grows and research expands, more individuals may have access to a personalized and integrative approach to skincare. In the end, the development of functional medicine in dermatology gives patients hope for a future in which skin health is seen in the context of total health, leading to better results and a higher quality of life.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove