How To Get Clear Skin Naturally with Dr. Trevor Cates (The Spa Doctor)

Content By: Ari Whitten

In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Trevor Cates — a naturopathic physician, bestselling author, and founder of The Spa Doctor — about how to slow down skin aging, have amazing skin health and get clear skin naturally.

In this podcast, Dr. Cates will cover

  • How to get clear skin naturally
  • Why aren’t the creams from my dermatologist working for my skin issues?
  • How to prevent wrinkles
  • The main cause of most skin conditions
  • Is there any science to support Dr. Cates’ claims?
  • How the skin can help you identify the state of your health
  • Why do we get acne or pimples? (The main cause will shock you)
  • The link between gut and skin health
  • How to get clear skin naturally – Dr. Trevor Cates’ 2-week approach to healthy clear skin

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How To Get Clear Skin Naturally with Dr. Trevor Cates (The Spa Doctor) – Transcript

Ari Whitten:  Hi everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Dr. Trevor Cates, who is a naturopathic physician and author of the bestselling book “Clean Skin From Within,” and she’s the founder of The Spa Dr. She’s also, as a nice little distinction, she’s the first woman licensed in the state of California as a naturopathic doctor. She has also been featured on The Doctors, Extra TV show, First for Women and Mind Body Green. She also has her own PBS special Younger Skin From Within and is the host of The Spa Dr. Podcast. So welcome Trevor. Dr. Cates, such a pleasure to have you.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, it’s great to be here, Ari.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, first of all, your nickname or your tagline and the name of your business is The Spa Dr. How did you become known as The Spa Dr.?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, well it’s, there is a simple story, a simple answer and then there’s a little bit longer answer. So, the really simple one is that I was working out of the Waldorf Astoria Spa in Park City as the doctor in the spa.

So that’s kind of how it started as The Spa Dr. But the Spa Dr. has become… I’m not working in spas anymore, but it goes well beyond that. What happened is when I was in the spa and I was running a two-week weight loss program. And at the end of the two weeks people would say to me, “Dr. Cates, I’ve lost all this weight, I feel great. But what really surprised me is my skin and how much it’s changed. I don’t have the skin issues I used to have. My skin is more vibrant, glowing than it’s ever been or than it used to be.”

And so, it really surprised people to experience that. And what I realized is that not many people look at skin the same way that I was. And that, and this goes back to when I was a kid, I struggled with my health a lot. And I had a lot of allergies. And so, it showed up on my skin as eczema and hives, a lot of skin issues, mysterious little bumps that would appear. And I went to see a lot of different practitioners, a lot of different specialists to get medications and various things to help me with my skin and health issues. And I would have allergic reactions or adverse reactions to all the different medications. And I just kept feeling worse until my parents finally found a holistic practitioner that they took me to. And that is the one thing that finally turned my health around. And it set me on this path to realizing that there was a different way of looking at our health. And, so going back to when I was at the spa, fast forwarding and hearing all these people saying, “Oh, I’m surprised that my skin improved.”

I realized that it was important to get this message out there about how our skin is actually this magic mirror that gives us important information about our overall health. And the typical approach to skin in conventional dermatology is to cover up and suppress it rather than really looking for the root cause and helping support the body’s own healing capabilities and this more holistic approach. So that’s, you know, the whole, The Spa Dr., that’s kind of what led me to write my book, led me to create a skincare line, supplements to help people address their skin in a different way.


How The Spa Doctor’s approach differs from conventional dermatology

Ari Whitten:  I want to dig into something you just said a little bit more, which is this contrast of what you are doing with conventional dermatology. So, what, like on a practical level lets like… Maybe it might help to look at a specific example like something like acne or rosacea. How does your approach differ? And you can treat this maybe on a more, on a big picture level before you get into specific strategies. But how does your approach differ from what a conventional dermatologist would do for somebody with those conditions?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Right. Okay. And I want to first day that I think there’s a place for all of it. That I was just recently at in integrative dermatology conference. I have lots of friends that are dermatologists. I think that there is a way that we can combine all this and work together. So, it’s not like there’s only one way. But I do think that a lot of times with the conventional dermatology approach, it’s a quick, it’s tried, the approach is just to really cover up, to suppress symptoms. So, for example with eczema. One of the things that people often times do is use topical steroids. And topical steroids can be very powerful at reducing the external inflammation. But you’re not really, when you do that, you’re not actually addressing what’s behind that inflammation. There’s usually something that’s triggering the inflammation. And if that is not addressed, then it’ll just show up in the health, in people’s health in some other way.

So, what I’ve seen in my practice as a naturopathic physician, what I’ve seen is that a lot of times I would have patients that had a history of eczema as a child. And that they used this typical approach of suppressing with topical steroids, antihistamines, those sorts of things. And then later on then they would develop asthma. So, then they would be put on inhalers to address the, you know, the asthma attacks that they would have. And then if that, if those root causes still are not addressed, then they would oftentimes come in to see me with immune system problems or autoimmune disease. And so, what, you know, what my approach is to really look at what is behind the symptom that is showing up on the skin? What are the root causes? Was it nutritional deficiencies? Is it microbiome, is it gut related, is it hormonal imbalances?

What are the root causes behind that? Because when you address those, the sooner you can find those and address those, then you can not only help skin, but you can help the health of the person overall in many other ways. And so that’s why I think it’s important to look at skin because oftentimes it’s one of those early warning signs. And then it shows up early. A lot of times, even in kids, you see skin issues show up, eczema, acne, or at different times in people’s lives. And if you can then really dig in and look deeper, then you’re going to, like I said, help not only skin but the health overall.


The science on skin health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Excellent. What would you say to someone who is like, you know, within more of the conventional medical mindset who is operating under the assumption that anything out of sort of conventional medicine and what a dermatologist might do for them is immediately quackery, it’s pseudoscience, doesn’t have any science to support it? Like what would you say to somebody like that? Is there any science, and obviously I know the answer to this already, but is there any science that like, let’s say nutritional factors relate to acne in any way?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, absolutely. So, when it comes to medicine, they’re really two different ways of looking at it. You can look at the research and what the research shows. There’s also what has been shown over time, what we’ve seen in practice for years that shows up again and again as solutions for patients. And I think the best medicine combines both of those. And that we can look at what’s been used throughout history and certainly naturopathic medicine, eastern medicine, all of…

There’s a lot of history in medicine that sometimes is pushed aside. But I think it’s important to embrace that. If we have this history of what works, we can’t deny that. And at the same time research can be very powerful when it supports what we’ve seen in history. So, for example, one of the really great things that’s happening right now is a lot of research coming out about the gut/skin connection. And that the gut microbiome, the microorganisms in our gut, impact the microorganisms on our skin, our skin microbiome. And we’ve been talking about this for years in naturopathic medicine and, you know, more of this holistic approach. We’ve been talking about how important the gut health is in the health of the skin and now research is lining up with this.

So now we have both. We have years of experience seeing what we eat and how well our digestive system is working, and it is showing up on the skin. And we have the research showing specific microorganisms, when they’re out of balance, dysbiosis issues, and then also being connected to things like acne, eczema and various, a variety of things and how it disrupts the skin microbiome. So, it’s great when we have both of those. It’s ideal. Sometimes though the research hasn’t quite caught up with what we’ve seen in, what we’re seeing in practice. And so, I think I personally like to use both when we have it. But at the same time when we look at good science and what makes and what we know of anatomy and physiology and the healing powers of nature and the plant medicine that we’ve been using for years, there’s a lot that we don’t want to ignore. And why not use this and embrace it.


How the skin is a mirror of your health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, absolutely. Well said. I want to come back to the microbiome issues later. I’m glad you brought that up. But what are some examples of things going on with a person’s skin that are sort of warning signs of deeper issues, warning signs that maybe the body’s overall health is not adequate?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Well, I think it’s… There are certainly people that have chronic skin issues ongoing. And so, looking for changes in your skin are important. And, so that’s certainly important if you have a chronic skin issue, noticing your change, the changes in your skin. And if you typically have pretty good skin or maybe even really good skin, but all of a sudden start to notice changes in your skin such as dryness, itchiness, inflammation, puffiness, breaking out in acne or any kind of skin eruptions, it’s important to realize your body is giving you a sign that something’s out of balance and this is showing up on your skin. And you can start by looking at your lifestyle. What have you changed recently? Are there changes in your diet? Are there things that you’ve been eating or not eating? Are, have you not been sleeping as well?

Have you been more stressed? And for women, where are you maybe in your menstrual cycle? Or, you know, there are a lot of different things like that. Then you can start connecting the dots between the root causes and what’s going on in your lifestyle and how it’s impacting your skin. So that’s how I like people to really look at their skin. So, taking each morning when you get up and maybe you’re brushing your teeth, you’re washing your face, you’re getting ready in the morning, just taking a moment to examine your skin. Or maybe you’re getting ready to get in the shower, taking a look at your skin and looking for changes. Because really anything less than vibrant, healthy, glowing skin is a sign that something could be out of balance. And again, it could be an early warning sign. And if you catch them early, it’s so much easier to address the root causes.


Why we get acne or pimples

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I have kind of a weird question for you. This is maybe just my own personal curiosity more than anything. And I don’t know that I’ve ever heard somebody really address this. But I had acne growing up as a teenager. I had, I’d say moderately severe acne. My older brother had really severe acne. And I’m just curious. It’s like, it’s kind of a weird phenomenon that we get pimples, right? We get either blackheads or whiteheads and we kind of, our body seems designed in such a way that it’s creating these little things of pus in our skin in a very noticeable place oftentimes on our face. I’m just curious like, is there some sort of deeper underlying intelligence for why the body is doing that? Of like why is our body designed to expel, and first of all, is it correct to conceptualize it as expelling toxins? Or, and why is it designed to show up as pimples on our face?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Right. And I certainly think that because our body, our skin is one of our body’s detoxification pathways. I think a lot of times people don’t think of it as that. You know, our skin is really powerful. It’s got a lot of important tools. It is our largest organ and one of its roles is a detoxification pathway. So, we have sweat glands that allow us to release toxins through our sweat and through our skin and through our sebum and our skin. And so, we can release things through our pores. And that’s one of the reasons why we, I think we get acne is we’ve got this dispelling that’s going on. Now when it comes to root causes behind acne, there are some big ones that I see. There are actually a lot of reasons behind acne. There’s not one reason why everybody gets acne. There are multiple reasons. And it is the most common skin condition in the United States. It’s the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide, so it impacts people around the world. And so, there are a lot of root causes behind it and it impacts people at different ages in their life. So, when you were younger, you probably were going through a lot of hormonal changes, right? You were going through puberty and the changes during that time. So, hormones being one of the big root causes at that time.

Ari Whitten:  It may, for me it probably also had something to do with the fact that half my diet was Cap’n Crunch cereal.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yes. So that was going to be my other thing. And now, and that’s normal for us to go through these hormonal changes as a teenager or when we’re younger. But what typically happens is a combination of things. So, you’ve got these changes going on. And then you’re eating a lot of sugar, maybe a lot of dairy products. What we know about sugar is then, and this is definitely shown in the research now, this connection between high glycemic index or high high sugar foods that cause the blood sugar to spike. Is what happens is when our blood sugar increases, it also, it causes insulin to increase in our bodies. And that hormonal increase triggers excess sebum production in the skin and also excess androgen activity. So that hormonal change that was already occurring in you was exacerbated by you eating all the Cap’n Crunch cereal. The high sugar foods were increasing your blood sugar, so then that causes people to break out.


The five types of skin

Ari Whitten:  Interesting. In your book, “Clean Skin From Within” you talk about five different types of skin. What’s, so first of all, what are those five types and then what’s the relevance for people? How does knowing a person’s skin type help them on a practical level kind of know what’s best for them?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, so when I was writing my book, I was trying to think of how it’s going to help people address, find, discover, first discover the root causes behind their skin issues so that they could individualize and sort of customize my two-week program. And because I can’t, you know, I can’t see everybody one on one, so I wanted to be able to figure out a way to help people do that. So, I created a skin quiz. And people can actually go and take this online at It’s a free online quiz. And what I did is I categorized five different skin types based upon the six root causes behind skin issues. I just figured out that there are six root causes, but not everybody has got all six root causes. But everybody has got a combination. And most people fall into one of these five buckets of these five different skin types.

And so, I, with categorizing these and naming them, I didn’t want to give them the typical dry, oily, mature, because that doesn’t really… It’s a good descriptor of what’s going on physically on the skin, but it doesn’t help people address the root causes. So, I redefined skin types and gave them all human names because I see my patients as people, of course. So, they are Amber, Olivia, Sage, Emmett and Heath. Those are the names of the skin types. And again, they have to do with the root causes behind them. So, you go, people go on and just answer a few questions. What helps, what I did is I designed it so that it hones in on your root causes. You find out your skin type and then I give recommendations based upon that. And then in my book, in “Clean Skin From Within,” I have a section of the book that helps people to customize the two-week plan. So, then I’ll say these particular foods are particularly important to avoid or to eat. These supplements are going to be particular at helping address your root causes. These topical things that you’re doing are going to be helpful to address your root causes.

Ari Whitten:  Excellent. So, what, I guess let’s go practical. So how does, can you give maybe one or two examples of how a particular skin type corresponds to practical recommendations of like what types of things, like maybe what types of botanicals or topical things you can put on your skin and that will be helpful for that particular skin type?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah. So, I imagine… Like for somebody who has more acne prone skin, they’re typically more of what I call the Olivia skin type. And so, as I mentioned already, talking about the importance of glycemic index foods and blood sugar balance, blood sugar being one of the big root causes behind the Olivia skin type. So, it’s important to really watch your sugar intake and to be aware of your blood glucose. So, for those people, it’s particularly important to go and get your fasting blood sugar checked. Or maybe even hemoglobin A1C, which is a type of blood test that looks at blood sugar over a period of time, not just right when you have your blood sugar taken, when you have your blood drawn but over a period of time. The truth here is this one of the big things that you want to address.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  And I think a lot of times people find that they tend to be more susceptible to this and they may, their fasting blood glucose may not be in that ideal zone. And so, it’s going to be particularly important for them to be looking at what they’re eating as far as sugar in their diet. And again, high glycemic index foods, which basically, and your audience probably already knows this, but are the foods that trigger your blood sugar to increase. Not just sugar but foods that turn to sugar rapidly. So, things like high carb meals. Things like potatoes, your typical russet potatoes, they tend to cause a high blood sugar spike and so it’s not just sugar. But, so that’s an example of one thing that would be customized for those people. That’s something that they’re going to want to pay particular attention to. Also, in that section I’m going to give recommendations to help them use topical ingredients that help with their sebum balance, with the oils on their skin and also with their microbiome and addressing those because that’s one of the big root causes for the Olivia skin type, also.


How your gut affects your skin health

Ari Whitten:  Got you. So, you mentioned blood sugar issues. You’ve also in passing mentioned the microbiome issues as well as hormonal issues. What are some of the other big root causes of skin issues? And we can, you know, I definitely want to cover some of the other sort of… Not just acne but things like just wrinkles and the aging process of the skin and cellulite as well. But what are some of the other big root causes of poor skin health?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, oxidative damage, because you just mentioned aging. So that oxidative damage is one of the big accelerators of aging of the skin. And so, with aging comes oxidative damage, so more free radical damage. So that is one of the big root causes with skin issues, particularly with what I call the Sage skin types that tend to be aging more prematurely. Also, nutritional deficiencies are another big root cause. And, for example, we see those in conditions like keratosis pilaris, which is a very common skin condition where people get these little bumps on the backs of their arms. A lot of people have these, and they’ll think that they’re just dry skin or they’ve got maybe a little pimples on the backs of their arm. But it’s actually oftentimes due to a nutritional deficiency, like a zinc or essential fatty acid deficiency. And if people aren’t getting enough of those in their diet, then it can lead them develop nutritional deficiencies. And then, another one is inflammation. Inflammation is, I call it “skin-flammation,” when that internal inflammation shows up on the skin. So that can be another big root cause that we want to address by doing things like focusing on eating anti-inflammatory foods, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and avoiding the big trigger foods that are more pro inflammatory.

Ari Whitten:  So, what, let’s dig into that a bit more. So, what are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to inflammatory foods?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah. So, sugar is another, just like, it’s a big trigger for acne, it’s a big trigger for skin-flammation overall. For, when we eat sugar, for as far as the aging process is concerned, when we eat sugar it increases our blood sugar, or really any of the high glycemic index food. It leads to glycation issues in the body and glycation issues speed up the aging process. And what happens is glucose binds to proteins in the body. In the case of skin, that means collagen. Collagen gives our skin that nice texture and firmness. And when glucose binds to collagen it makes it more rigid and less elastic. So, then that leads to premature wrinkles and sagging skin. And so that’s one of the reasons why sugar can be a big pro-aging trigger. And as far as other inflammatory foods, another big one is dairy products. Dairy is not a problem for everybody, but I do find that people that have chronic skin issues, it is one of the top trigger foods because of the pro-inflammatory response that it creates.

Ari Whitten:  Interesting. Do you, have you found any link with meat consumption and advanced glycation end products and you know, high heat cooking of meats and that sort of thing?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Absolutely. Certainly, eating charbroiled grilled meat, high temperature, heating up animal protein at high temperatures definitely is one of the big glycation contributors and oxidative damage contributors. So, it’s much better if you’re going to be using the barbecue to be doing, eating vegetables. At least including them or limiting your intake of those because it definitely is a big glycation contributor.


How sun affects your skin health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I want to talk to you a bit about light in particular. Light is obviously a tricky issue when it comes to light and skin health. Obviously, a lot of dermatologists are very anti-sun and, you know, there’s kind of been an anti-sun movement in this country, in the US for a few decades now. Everybody’s slathering on sunscreen, afraid of the sun. The sun is going to cause skin cancer, it’s going to increase skin aging and that sort of thing. And the story, as I’m sure you know, is obviously quite complex with the sun actually providing a number of health benefits at the same time as potentially increasing skin aging and essentially, if you get burned and cause too much damage, increasing rates of skin cancer. What are your, what’s your take on light? And I guess we can address this as sunlight. And then there’s other potential therapies here like red and near infrared light therapy as well. But what’s your general recommendations around sunlight exposure?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, so definitely there’s some benefits to getting out in the sunshine. And we know that, of course, being out in nature is a wonderful thing for our health and getting sun exposure onto our skin helps with vitamin D. So that sun exposure onto our skin is what causes our bodies to make vitamin D, which vitamin D is so crucial for our immune system, for our skin health, for a number of different reasons, for preventing a lot of different chronic diseases. And so, there is this interesting balance of how much sun can we get, what’s healthy, how much do we really need to protect our skin. And also, is sunscreen really healthy for us? And this is definitely a big topic of, you know, of interest. And my feeling is I live in Park City, Utah. I’m definitely an outdoorsy person.

I love to enjoy skiing and trail running and wake surfing and mountain biking, all of that stuff. So, I’m not one to hide in the shade. I like to get out in the sun, but I think that there are certain things that we still can do to protect our skin. And so, it’s really about a balance because it is true that getting a lot of UV sunlight exposure does accelerate oxidative damage. It does predispose us to skin cancer. And so, what we can do, and one of the things that’s helpful is looking at when we go into the sun and realizing that we don’t need a ton of sun light exposure on our skin to get vitamin D. It varies from person to person and where, because it’s where you live, how close you are to the sun impacts that. And your skin tone.

If you are darker skin, you’re going to need more sun exposure to get vitamin D than if you are paler, lighter skinned. Then you’re going to need a little bit more sun exposure to get vitamin D. But overall what I’ve seen in the research is that we only need a few days a week of unexposed skin and maybe 10 minutes a day during those few days a week to get vitamin D. And it does vary depending upon the time of year. Winter time it’s a little bit harder to do that. Especially if you live somewhere like Park City where I do where it’s cold. And so, what I think is important, too, is that we get the most sun exposure on certain areas, too. So that’s where we’re more predisposed to sun damage. On our face, our neck and the tops of our hands is where we get the most exposure.

So those are the areas to really focus on getting that protection, wearing hats, wearing sunglasses, wearing clothing that protects our skin and avoiding the sun in the peak hours. Some of the most important things that we can do. And when it comes to sunscreen, I still think it’s good to use sunblock, but I think it’s important to use very specific kinds. The chemical sunscreens are definitely some concerns with those ingredients like oxybenzone are known to be hormone disrupting, endocrine disrupting chemicals and so they can actually be harmful to our health.

And then some of the spray sunscreens that people use, they are breathing them in. So, there’s some toxic concerns with that. But zinc oxide-based sunblock’s are some of the best options for a safe sunblock. And so that’s what I recommend. I have one, I don’t make one at The Spa Dr. We don’t make a sunblock, but we have one that we recommend that we sell on And it’s a zinc oxide-based sunblock. And especially for women, the ones that are tinted version of that provide even more protection. So that’s another great option for people.

Ari Whitten:  Okay. And to be clear, you recommend maybe using that if you’re getting lots of sun exposure or using it on some of the most, areas of like, for example, the face that are more prone to sun damage. But you also recommend sun exposure at least sometimes with no sunblock on. Is that correct?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, I think it’s good to always protect the face, neck and tops of the hands because that’s where we get the most. And even if you’re slathering on sunblock it’s not 100 percent. Sunblock is not 100 percent. The only thing that’s going to be, you know, having a hat is actually going to provide more protection. So still, it doesn’t provide all… So yes, I think that when you go out in the sun, this is my feeling, that it’s good to use all that. Getting some unexposed skin on your arms and legs to get that vitamin D. Because if you’re using sunblock, you’re not getting the vitamin D, but you can get that on your arms and legs. You can also go and get your, when you get your basic blood work done when you see your doctor, get your vitamin D levels tested. Ask for 25 hydroxy vitamin D and then you’ll know if you’re getting enough vitamin D. And if you’re not, then you can supplement with a vitamin D supplement.

Ari Whitten:  Okay. What do you think of tanning beds?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Oh my God. Stay away from those 100 percent. Never ever. I don’t care, just stay away. Stay away. Really a lot of strong research showing that incredibly harmful for our skin and predisposing, you know, free radical damage, accelerated aging, skin cancer. Definitely 100 percent stay away from those.

Ari Whitten:  Why do you think that tanning beds are more of a problem than just sun exposure? What’s the, what are the key differentiating factors?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  It’s the type of UV light and the intensity of it that is more of a problem than just going out into natural sunlight.

Ari Whitten:  Okay, Got you. Have you looked into red and near infrared light therapy at all?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, and I think that there can be some benefit with that. I’m not, I don’t have, I have to say I don’t have a ton of experience in looking at the research on light therapy. I do know that some people incorporate that in treatments. Here’s the thing with these light treatments, it’s really important to see someone, if you’re choosing to do these types of treatments, to see a very skilled practitioner that is using the latest technology because there are things that can go wrong with these types of treatments. And I think it’s better to go in to see someone that is well trained then trying to use home devices at least when you’re getting started and you’re starting to learn about it. And, you know, I think that there are some home devices that can be safe, but I don’t know that they’re going to be as therapeutic as when you go in to see someone that specializes in this and is well trained. There are things that can go wrong with it. So, it is important to look at that.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, well I think there’s definitely some nuances there with, like some people are using high powered laser devices for treatment of very specific things like sunspot damage and things like that. For that I totally agree with you. A lot of the home devices are meant for like general sort of skin anti-aging, supporting collagen production. And I don’t know if you saw but I actually wrote a book on this subject recently and they’re extremely safe really for this purpose, for skin anti-aging as long as, and there’s a pretty wide dose range of appropriate doses. It’s really pretty safe for skin anti-aging. The only real potential for doing any harm if somebody is basically, if somebody just completely disregards the doses and thinks more is better and then just completely over does the dose. Then it can actually be counterproductive and accelerate skin aging. But certainly, for some of the specific procedures and sunspot treatments and things like that. I definitely agree with you.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, it’s good to, because I think sometimes people think more is better and so they’ll kind of overdo it. And that’s why a lot of times I’ll say, you know, talk to somebody, be educated on this, don’t just start using this on your own without really understanding it. But if you’re educating people on how to do it properly, that’s great. One thing I would add with that is you want to be really careful of not getting UV light exposure at the same time as you’re getting some of these other. And people typically don’t. People typically are doing these indoors. You wouldn’t want to do this outside because there is some research on them, some pretty negative effects of combining UV light with some of these others. So, looking at that as I think is an important thing.


How to get clear skin naturally – Dr. Trevor Cates’ 2-week approach to healthy clear skin

Ari Whitten:  Interesting. I’m curious what you’re referring to at that, but maybe you can share some of the links with me after the Podcast and we’ll post them on the page. So, you also, in your, book you have a two-week plan to help people rejuvenate their skin health. What are the sort of four prongs of that system?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, so when it comes to addressing the root causes it’s really important to find them. Right? And then we went to interrupt them. And there, what I found is there are four different angles we can come about addressing the root causes. And I’ve put, so I put them into four different categories – clean plate, clean slate, clean body, and clean mind. So clean plate are the foods that you’re eating. And so, we can eat foods that help address the root causes, like eating anti-inflammatory foods. Or we can eat pro-inflammatory foods, you know, the big trigger foods. So, what we want to do is create, you know, help address those root causes by using food as medicine, right? So that’s what clean plate is about. Clean slate is looking at the personal care products that you’re using. What are you putting on your skin? And there are two things to be looking at what you’re putting on your skin.

There are two things to look at. One is that realizing that what you’re putting on your skin doesn’t just sit on the surface. It can actually, much of this can get absorbed. And I think many people are putting products mindlessly on their skin without realizing that it can be getting into your bloodstream and can be getting into circulation and can be stored up into your tissues. And we definitely see this in the research. And it’s not the same kind of absorption as if you put something in your mouth. But really if you can’t put something in your mouth then you might want to start, you know, pause before you put it on your skin. So, something to think about before you put it on your skin, “Would I put this in my mouth?” And it can be a good moment to pause and think, “You know, let me look at these ingredients and see what’s in there.” Because there are so many toxic ingredients in personal care products. In other places in the world like in Europe they’ve banned over a thousand ingredients in personal care products. In the United States the FDA has only banned 11 ingredients in personal care products.


The main problem with skincare products

Ari Whitten:  Would you conceptualize this as one of the major root causes of skin problems, also, is just that so many people are using personal care products and skincare products that are, that have toxic ingredients?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  So, what I look at it as one of the contributing factors that plays into the root causes. It can aggravate, or what we put on our skin can either aggravate or it can help support the root causes. So that’s the way I look at the clean slate part of it. And so, looking at ways to reduce toxins in your skincare products is key and then also realizing that it can be a therapeutic tool, too. I think so many of the root causes can be addressed from the inside out. That’s why I call it “Clean Skin From Within” is the name of my book. But what we put on our skin, it can also be very healing and soothing to our skin and it can help with things like addressing the skin microbiome imbalances and helping address and helping reduce inflammation externally on the skin.

There are some very powerful natural ingredients that can help support the body externally. So that’s what clean slate is about. And then there’s clean body and clean mind. So clean body is about the other ways that we’re exposed to toxins in the environment and our homes and our water.

And what we can do to reduce our exposures, help improve our body’s detoxification pathways, so when we are exposed to toxins that are some of the big like inflammatory triggers or hormonal imbalance triggers, that our body does a better job with with removing those. And then the clean mind is about stress management because stress is one of the big, it can also be a big toxin in the body. It can create a toxic effect. So, having daily stress management practices helps address some of the root causes, also.


How to prevent wrinkles and get healthy youthful skin

Ari Whitten:  Okay. I have one issue that I want to make sure we cover before we end, which is general skin anti-aging and sort of sort of wrinkle prevention. What are your biggest tips for that, for natural therapies that will help prevent wrinkles? And are you aware of any sort of botox alternative or something that, you know, obviously it may not function quite in the same way, but something that may provide similar maybe slightly less powerful benefits as far as wrinkle prevention?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, of course. Big question. Anti-aging is certainly a big question I get asked about a lot. So, we want to approach anti-aging with the skin from a two-part approach. From internally as well as externally. So, when we look at it from the inside out, we want to make sure that we’re nourishing the skin from the inside out and addressing the root causes like oxidative damage. So, eating a high antioxidant rich diet, colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, anti-inflammatory foods. Foods like omega three rich fatty acids, wild Alaskan salmon, things like that are going to help nourish the skin from the inside out. As well, addressing nutritional deficiencies, avoiding high sugar foods, high glycemic index foods, balancing the blood sugar, doing all of those things from the inside out are going to be really key.

Making sure that we’re balancing our hormones because our hormones certainly change as we age and that can contribute to accelerated aging. So, making sure that we’re eating things like from the cruciferous vegetable family that are helping with estrogen metabolism, hormone metabolism, all those great kinds of foods and addressing those root causes.

And then when we look at externally on the skin, what we’re doing, again, I think that what we do internally is very key and very important. But we also, there are some things that we can do externally. One of the big things that I’ve learned about in the research is looking at our skin and how it functions. And one of the things that’s really key is the pH of the skin and that our skin has this natural mild acidity to it that creates a natural barrier. And when that pH gets too high, it’s one of the contributors for accelerated aging. And so, a lot of people are using products that aren’t helping support that natural mild acidity or may even be raising the pH of the skin too high. So even water has a pH, a neutral pH of seven. And, you know, for some people that have alkalinizing units in their homes, their pH may even be higher like an eight and so that is actually not very helpful for the skin.

And so, we want to do things that help support our skin in maintaining that and getting more of, using skincare products that have a pH ideally in the 4.5 to 5.0 pH range. Definitely below 5.5 or between 4.5 and 5.5. Ideally in that more narrow range is going to support that natural mild acidity of the skin, which also helps support the environment for healthy skin microbiome, for the microorganisms that protect the skin from premature aging. So, this is something I think a lot of people aren’t aware of. And so, something like a bar of soap or typical cleansers that foam up are going to be too high of a pH and disrupt all that natural mild acidity and that skin microbiome. So, it’s one of the big things that people… So, I’ll pause for a moment in case you have any questions about that because I know that…


Why you need to check your skincare products

Ari Whitten:  That was actually going to be my next question is if surfactants and soap disrupt that, the pH, but also maybe disrupt… The way I’m conceptualizing this is almost like there’s a layer of oils, natural oils that are present that probably play a role in not only maintaining proper skin microbiome, but also proper pH of that environment. And if you’re using surfactant-based soaps very frequently that are foaming up and you’re sort of washing off that layer very frequently, you’re, I’m kind of imagining that to make it almost impossible for your skin to regulate pH in the proper way.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah. So, we have these natural oils on our skin to help with the mild acidity. They also help with the hydration of the skin and the protection of our skin. And so, when you’re using soaps like that, it also really strips the skin. And so, with my cleanser, what I, with The Spa Dr. Cleanser, it’s an oil-based cleanser so it doesn’t actually strip the skin. Sometimes it takes people a little while to get used to it because they’re so used to that squeaky-clean feel that most soaps provide. But that squeaky-clean feel is actually not good for our skin because you’re just stripping it. And so, we need to go back to nature and what are we doing to support our natural skin? It doesn’t, it’s not natural for it to have that stripped feeling.

We want to actually use oil-based cleansers and that mild acidity to support the skin and still clean the skin because we want to remove debris and sweat and for women make up. But we want to do it in a way that supports the skin, so that’s really important. Also, there are certain natural actives that we can look for in skin that also help address root causes. Going back to oxidative damage, antioxidants in skincare products can also provide protection. Anti-inflammatory ingredients can help reduce inflammation and there are certain protective things that we can use on our skin. Certain oils that can help provide protection. And so, there are a lot of these natural actives that can be beneficial in the anti-aging skincare routine.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I know that you have your own line of skincare products. It’s excellent. I know that we were at a summit together a couple of years ago, the Consumer Health Summit and you were handing out samples. So, I took them home. I started using them myself. I gave them to my wife and excellent, absolutely excellent effects and excellent ingredients. What are some of the most powerful topical ingredients that you found can benefit people’s skin health and create sort of anti-aging effects and really youthful, glowing skin?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  You know, actually there are so many, but I will, I’ll certainly share a few of them with you. And one of the, like I said, one of the key things is the pH of the formulations. And I do find that that’s really key. And also, when something… The formulations are so important. So, I can talk about some key ingredients. But when, one of the things that happens in skincare products is there’ll be some great research on, for example, CoQ10 can be a very potent antioxidant, very powerful in topical skincare products. But if it just contains CoQ10 but then has a bunch of other crap in it, maybe it still has parabens or synthetic fragrance and actually doesn’t have a high amount of CoQ10 or not the right form of CoQ10, it’s not going to be as beneficial.

Right? So, I’m certainly happy to share some ingredients, but keep that in mind the formulation is key. CoQ10 is a really potent antioxidant in skincare products. There is some great research behind that. There are also some really basic ingredients that you’ve probably heard a lot about. Things like aloe. Aloe is very soothing to the skin, very hydrating for the skin. There are also certain plant-based oils that can be extremely nourishing to the skin. One of my favorites is sea buckthorn fruit oil because it’s very, it’s got a nice balance of Omegas and it also has a very high vitamin C content. And we know that vitamin C on the skin is a very powerful ingredient. Also, there are certain things like arnica because arnica is known for things like trauma and for injuries. And people oftentimes take it homeopathically or as an herbal supplement to help with trauma internally. But it’s also great externally on the skin because we’re constantly, our skin is getting, you know, environmentally it’s getting attacked in trauma to it every day. So, having ingredients that help soothe the skin like arnica can also be fantastic. And as I’m talking about ingredients like this, you might be thinking, “Gosh, I take CoQ10 as an internal supplement. I’ve taken aloe maybe for digestive support. I’ve taken arnica to help with trauma recovery.” Yes, and that’s because these are great ingredients that are safe to take internally. They’re also great for your skin, so we can address the root causes externally in skincare products. It’s a great way to look at skin.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Are there any essential oils that you’ve found to be particularly useful for skin health?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah, there are a lot of essential oils beneficial for skin health and I think that they are an excellent alternative to fragrance. Definitely one of the top ingredients you want to avoid in skincare products is synthetic fragrance, perfume. And they are in most personal care products. And so essential oils are a really nice substitute to that. One of my favorites are, oh there are so many. Ylang-ylang is one of my favorites, partly because of the smell of it is, it’s one that across the board both men and women typically like and most people like. There are some, you know, also lavender can be great in being very soothing. Tea tree oil is one that can be great for acne. Want to make sure that you’re diluting it. You don’t want to use tea tree oil directly on the skin in general. Essential oils are better diluted when used on the skin in my experience. So, yeah, but there are so many but those are a few of them.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Excellent. Well I’ve really enjoyed this Dr. Cates. It’s been an absolute pleasure and we covered a lot. This was almost like rapid fire interview. You had real short, quick answers for every question. So, I got a lot of questions in. I have like 10 more that I wish we had time to cover, but maybe we’ll do another podcast. This has been super fun. I know you have obviously a line of skincare products that are really excellent. You also have a skin quiz available for people. And why should people do this? What are they going to learn from this?

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Yeah. So, people can go to and find out their skin type that I talked about, Amber Olivia, Sage, Emmett. Heath. Find out the root causes, what to do about it. People can also find out a lot more about that in my book, “Clean Skin From Within,” which is available in bookstores. Amazon, on my website And is So, doctor is abbreviated. And people can also find podcasts, skincare products, all that information there.

Ari Whitten:  Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. Dr. Cates. Such a pleasure as always and look forward to talking to you again soon.

Dr. Trevor Cates:  Absolutely. Thanks, Ari.


How To Get Clear Skin Naturally with Dr. Trevor Cates (The Spa Doctor) – Show Notes

How The Spa Doctor’s approach differs from conventional dermatology (3:57)
The science on skin health (7:11)
How the skin is a mirror of your health (10:20)
Why we get acne or pimples (12:34)
The five types of skin (16:20)
How your gut affects your skin health (21:16)
How sun affects your skin health (25:23)
How to get clear skin naturally – Dr. Trevor Cates’ 2-week approach to healthy clear skin (35:31)
The main problem with skincare products (37:42)
How to prevent wrinkles and get healthy youthful skin (39:42)
Why you need to check your skincare products (43:33)


Learn more about Dr. Trevor Cates’ work here


Learn more about the benefits of natural skin care in the podcast I made with Nadine Artemis

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