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The Secrets of Internal Skincare

An Interview with Renowned Skin and Health Care Expert Dr. Howard Murad

 By Zoë Kors

Beauty is only skin deep. Or is it? Visionary dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad has gone way below the surface to establish that truly beautiful skin is connected to the health of the whole body. Through pioneering research and clinical studies into what he calls the “science of cellular water,” he has changed the way we look at skincare and aging.

A board-certified dermatologist, trained pharmacist, and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine ar UCLA, Dr. Murad’s extensive line of skincare products includes some of the first uses of cutting-edge ingredients such as pomegranate, goji berries, and durian extract. He holds 18 patents, has written four books, including The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger (which became a #1 bestseller on Amazon and Barnes & Noble), and devises individualized programs for optimal health at the Murad Inclusive Health Center and Medical Spa.

We spent some time with Dr. Murad in a discussion about his progressive ideas on skincare and aging, leaky cells(!), and embracing our inner two-year-old. 

Zoë Kors: What do you want us to know about our skin?

Howard Murad: We have a philosophy called Inclusive Health, in which we recognize that the final pathways of disease, aging and obesity are related to the same thing: dehydration. We become drier over time, and it’s not just your skin. Every cell in your body is drier. If we can resolve that, we can maintain youthful skin, or restore it back to the way it was when we were younger.

ZK: Hydration is the key to anti-aging?

HM: We say youth-building because typical anti-aging techniques, like facials and botox, still leave you dry on the cellular level. There is a natural aging process, which is complicated, but at the end of the day, it is about getting drier. What causes us to dry out? Sun, pollution, smog…

ZK: The urban environment can be hard on the skin.

HM: The issue with skin is that most people think skincare is on the surface. When you go out in the sun, free radicals damage the blood vessels that lead to your heart, liver and everywhere else. In order to make your skin as healthy as possible, every system has to work together. Your skin protects your entire body, and on the other hand, when other organ systems in your body are not functioning properly, it will be reflected in your skin.

ZK: So you treat the skin from the inside and the outside?

HM: Well, it’s more than that. Next, we look at every cell in your body. Your body is made of trillions of cells. When you were young, your cells had a very thick, strong membrane and were full of water. Just like your skin, your cell membranes become thinner over time, and as they become thinner they are more likely to leak water.

ZK: There is an obvious dilemma: How do you hydrate leaky cells?

HM: There are all kinds of cells in your body, and they are all different; the thing they have in common is the cell membrane. To keep all cells hydrated, we need to strengthen the cell membranes and get as much water into them as possible. The way we eat can make a difference in our skin and everything else, so I developed a system of eating in which 80% of the diet is made up of a broad range of healthy foods, and 20% is comprised of comfort foods to minimize stress. Of that 80%, the largest portion should be raw fruits and vegetables because they are mostly water. A cucumber or a watermelon is almost 97% water. Raw fruits and vegetables have vital nutrients, antioxidants and minerals that are gradually released— you get more out of eating your water than just drinking it. I never tell you not to drink water, but I would rather have you “eat” your water.

ZK: What foods strengthen cell membranes?

HM: Embryonic foods like eggs, beans, and seeds contain amino acids, which build the cell membranes.

ZK: You mentioned stress. Can you talk about the effects of stress on the skin?

HM: I define stress in two ways: “cultural stress”— too much to do, too many rules — and “real stress”— a flat tire, an illness. Either way, stress causes us to lose water through perspiration. And when we are stressed, we tend not to take as good care of ourselves. We don’t eat as well, and we tend not to be as diligent about our skincare routine.

I have realized that there was a time in our lives when we handled stress better and I came up with this concept of youth-building as opposed to anti-aging. So, imagine a two-year-old girl. Tell me about her.

ZK: She is present, impulsive, living in the moment. She smiles and laughs freely.

HM: She is smiling because she doesn’t have to be perfect. She’s not afraid to fail. How many times did she get back up when she was learning to walk? When you were young, you tended to have really good days. You surrounded yourself with happiness. You were curious. You created your magic and told stories and found beauty every day. You gave yourself permission to say no. I have written a book of insights based on getting back to this way of being: “Creating a Healthy Life: The Art and Wisdom of Howard Murad, M.D.” I encourage my patients to return to the youthful person they once were.

ZK: Do you put your patients on a prescribed program at Murad Inclusive Health System?

HM: We do. We give a lecture when you come in. Then we measure your cellular hydration and put you on a program—a combination of skin care, stress reduction, facials, massage, yoga classes. We’d like you to do things with other people so you are not so isolated. We recommend an exercise program. We have cooking classes. We have art therapy classes. Everyone gets a canvas to throw paint on. I throw paint and scribble—you have seen the pictures displayed around the office. Everyone is free to be like a child.

ZK: When did you start painting?

HM: Life throws you curve balls—I got retinal detachment and it was severe. I had to have major surgery and put my chin on my chest for a month. A year before, I had taken an art class—the only one I ever took. When I was recovering from the surgery and had nothing to do, my wife said, “Why don’t you at least do the art?” I got started and really enjoyed it. I did it like a child. Now I say, “Make a mark on the canvas of life and let it direct you.” I make some marks—I don’t know why I make them, it just happens—and then I’ll just squirt paint all over. It is a way of saying, “Hey, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Just be happy and it will come out alright.” 

Youth-Building Essentials By Age


Use products that incorporate AHAs, Vitamins A and C, as well as Glycolic Acid to keep your skin smooth and radiant. Your twenties are often a time filled with uncertainty and stress is one of the most prominent causes of premature aging. Make sure to find time to relax and do things that make you happy. Make it a lifestyle choice.


The skin around your eyes will likely be the first place that fine lines will appear and begin to “age” your skin. Use an eye cream day and night to hydrate the skin around the eyes. Choose one with a broad-based SPF during the day and a hydrating/moisturizing eye cream in the evening.


By now, you likely have your skincare routine down, but don’t forget to take daily supplements. Internal skincare is just as important as topical skincare products. Your supplement regimen should include a complex of amino acids, Glucosamine, Vitamin B6, Antioxidants including grape seed extract, and Vitamins A, C, D and E. 


You are likely experiencing hormonal aging brought on by menopause, causing the skin to sag, dull, dehydrate, and develop medium-to-deep wrinkles. These symptoms can be prevented and reversed by using topical products that contain phytoestrogens to restore estrogen receptors, as well as by “eating” water. Replace one glass of water daily with a raw fruit or vegetable.  


A healthy complexion is a reflection of total wellness. Adopting an Inclusive Health lifestyle will help the body build vitality at the cellular level. Eat foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and soy to promote collagen production. Use exercise and meditation to quiet the mind and connect to your inner voice.


Zoë Kors is a writer, yogi, mom, certified life coach, and Managing Editor of LA Yoga Magazine.

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