Skin, maybe you think you of the counter full of lotions, serums, creams, and cleansers, but what we call skin care products aren’t caring for your skin so much as masking it. My next guest is disrupting how we think about these products altogether.

Welcome to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty, and my next guest is Dr. Erin Tjam, and she’s here to talk with us about her new book titled, Skin Sobering. Let’s get into it.

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the show. I’m super excited to have Dr. Tjam on the show today with a unique – you guys, this book right here is so powerful, something that we don’t regularly talk about, and the book title is called Skin Sobering, and I’m super excited for Dr. Tjam to join me today because this is something I was interested in sort of years ago, but I didn’t understand why.

And there are so many amazing stories and things that we’re going to take away from this conversation, but I just want to say, thank you for joining me today, Dr. Tjam. I’m super excited to get into this conversation.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Hi Hussein, just call me Erin. Nice to meet you over the wave.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s such a pleasure because, you know, I was swimming through your book in the last like 24 hours or so, I just wanted to like look over at my wife and be like, “Read this real quick, read this real quick” and it was just so powerful because not only is it like data backed-up information and stories.

But you really have a unique way of weaving those stories and compelling me to keep reading it and found that really powerful, but before we get into the book, I really like to give our audience a little bit of a picture, background, personal background story of who you are, where you grew up, perhaps the people that inspired you and how you got into the line of work that you’re into now.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Okay. Well, I am a 57-year-old woman, I was born in a rural, very rural village in China during the Cultural Revolution. So if anyone has gone through kind of a communist country, they’ll know there is no beauty. Everything is brown, black and grey but my title is, the Beauty Obsessed Scientist, which is kind of in contradiction of how I was brought up.

You would think that. You know, people who grew up with Barbie dolls, of pink ballet dresses will be the kind that will be vain. No, I think I was vain in the bone, even without the environment to give me that. So my actual training is in health science. So I’m a health scientist. but most of my friends know me as kind of a girly girl.

Someone who really likes to look after herself, both in fashion, in style, and definitely about my skin. So for the longest time, I have been diligent in listening to what marketing has told me. To take care, “take care” of my skin with products, until something really drastic happened to me. One, my age. When I hit 50 something, suddenly, all the products are showing its ugly end. It never worked, it was always a temporary fix.

Two, I ran into an author and a book just by chance, going to Hong Kong, meeting my friends for a dinner. One of the friends brought a book that said, the title is, Skin Fasting, and said, we’ve done things all wrong, our skin by physiology, our skin by its anatomy cannot absorb, cannot allow things to come through without hurting it. So if we put any product and products are all chemicals.

Let’s just face it, even if you think you bought the most natural skin care products, that’s in a bottle, that’s in a jar, don’t fool yourself, it’s been processed. It may have a drop of avocado oil or a hint of some kind of botanicals, but no, it is a processed product. So we are putting chemicals on our skin, and that’s how we’ve been taught to look after our skin.

So that book was what changed me. Like what you did, you read my book and say to your wife and said, “Look, read this.” I brought that book, and I say to my husband, “Are you kidding me? Look at this, I have done the opposite all my life, and damn it, and I am smart, and I am a health scientist.” So I started practicing skin sobering. In 30 days, I could not believe, most of my problems start diminishing.

So, it made me so thankful to the original author, Dr. Yutuki. I don’t know him, he’s Japanese. I read a translatable. So I wrote him a letter, a heartfelt letter of gratitude to say, “You know, you saved my skin.” And I asked him, “Why is your book…” His book is actually a bestseller in seven cities in countries in Asia. So Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and I said, “Why is your book not in the western countries?”

And he said, “I haven’t found the right partnership.” So I raised my hand so high through email and said, “I am the right person. For two reasons. One, I’m a girly girl, your book is full of science, your book is full of clinical data, thousands of clinical data. I, as a health scientist, of course, agree with it.”

I am convinced from the first chapter but most women have listened to the media, have listened to influencers, have listened to Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer… all the Jennifers who have a commercial that they paid for, Ellen DeGeneres, they have always listened to these beautiful people, and their only information is from marketing, and they believe the only way to look after your skin is to provide the best products to the skin.

So I said, “You’re not going to get the buy-ins from the girly girls, from the truly beauty-conscious people because they don’t have the very fundamental of the knowledge yet and you need more voices in your book, voices from people like me who are doubtful, who are suspicious, who’s been brainwashed, who’s always believed one way, and you’re telling them, the 180 degrees, the opposite way.”

So you need to hear these, “I don’t believe you” voices, and I said, “I am that person, I am a true girly girl, I know the process of looking, searching, trying, failing, hoping more, wanting more, buying more, getting more and more expensive stuff and only through time, it’s proven to me, it doesn’t work.“

So I said, I am that person, but also you need more scientists to help you because in the eastern world, it is okay for doctors to say something, and people will say, “Yes sir, yes doctor. I listen to you,” because we Asians, do kind of respect authority. I said, in the western world, it’s a little bit opposite. I’m using my children as examples, I have six of them, and they do not listen to authority.

They rebel against authority, they challenge authority. So I say, just you, one doctor’s voice is not going to be enough. I’m a health researcher, so I know how to get every other scientist to help us. You need more voices from scientists as well because what we’re talking about is not new. We just don’t have the voice to go over the noises from the marketing gurus. Our voices are not heard.

So I need to gather all the other scientists who have been saying this for decades that don’t put chemicals on your skin. Your skin needs to be clear, and we need to add them on to our book, and he was convinced. He told me, “Yes, let’s write a book with three voices.” The original clinical trial, clinical studies that he did, other scientists’, contribution and most importantly, a beauty concern woman’s voice. So a product of the book arrived. Now, it’s a new book called Skin Sobering.

The Beginning of the Skincare Industry

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Wow, that’s so powerful. This idea of coming together with the person that quite literally changed, not only your life but the paradigm in your mindset and how you approach these products, the author. When we write a book, and we get out there in the world and we hope to change others and hope to change, at least, their perspective, right? But then, when they reach out and to the degree that you did, not only reach out but help take this and amplify it even a hundred times, right? And especially bring it to the west, where it’s an epidemic, right?

These issues are an epidemic, right? And so, you know, that’s really powerful. But can you take us a little bit back in time to when this healthcare industry, when it came to our skin and putting products on the skin and, you know, when did this kind of evolution begin? And obviously, we know it’s a huge one today, but the beginning of it was it, you know, a positive perspective or was it something like a marketing tool that, you know, another person that came up with a different product to sell? Can you share a little bit about the beginnings of what these products were meant to do?

Dr. Erin Tjam: Absolutely. This is how you and I, our parents, our grandparents learned about skin. It is through a right and a good intention in the beginning. Skin really needs to be cleaned, we shall clean our skin with a simple soap when our skin is in contact with other stuff. So the very beginning of this whole cleaning and cleansing movement started when we understood hygiene theory but, to the mass media, it was the soap opera genre.

We all have heard of it because soap opera is still going on, The Guiding Light, The Young and the Beautiful, what else? I don’t watch them anymore, Days of Our Lives. So these are called soap operas. I don’t know if anyone would really question, “Why soap opera? Not drama opera?” Like the reason is, this whole class of entertainment was created by a soap company, P&G, Proctor and Gamble.

They bought all of the air time, it was a radio channel as well, a radio channel, then TV channel, to advertise their soaps and cleansers during the middle of the day when husbands are at work, children are in school, that the housewives are taking care of the home and they turn the radio on or the TV on and it’s the best time to get the housewives to buy soap and cleansers.

So the soap opera genre started this whole idea of, “You need to use stuff on your skin to make it healthy and make it beautiful.” In the 40s, it was right because, you know, just about a hundred year before then, we didn’t really know how to clean. Like people don’t clean, they don’t wash and diseases were rampant, but we since learned to wash, to clean, and we became much healthier.

Infectious disease kind of, you know, gone down, but this kind of marketing caught on so well that skincare companies and cosmetic companies understand how they can increase their market place and it’s gone viral. Most skin products have been told to us that we have to use skin products all the time and any time, day and night. So the history of let’s clean properly has become a clean obsessed and also has become a product obsessed through just rampant marketing.

There are some basic scientific reasons that I can tell you which you would kind of question yourself, “Oh, wait a minute, you’re right. Why is it that we believe that our skin needs products to be healthy?” and those were the main points that kind of changed my mind.

How We Should Really Treat Our Skin

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, it’s a really powerful segue into your book and sort of how you break down the damages and, of course, the negative impact. However also, how it plays a role long-term on your skin. You know, these are all things that are very well hidden I would say in our culture, they’re deeper than what meets the eye, of course, and I mean, again, just the psychology of watching a soap opera.

I don’t even know why they called it that but now it makes perfect sense. It’s so orchestrated to obviously sell products and, you know, perhaps, one of those millions of products was actually good for you in some way, shape, or form. I mean, again, I’m not a hundred percent sure about these things, but when it makes it sound like every product, every cream, every X, Y, or Z does something to your skin temporarily, you may do something.

But the long-term effect is actually not worth the short-term joy of what it would do and after the product wears off. So what do scientist and doctors say about long-term effects of using skin care products today?

Dr. Erin Tjam: Long-term effects, it exacerbates the problems that you intended to correct and to change. So your skin will get drier, more fine lines. Your pigment will get duller, whatever that’s underneath your skin, the coloring, the hyperpigmentation will come through even more. You feel oilier if you are oily skin, you’ll feel drier if you’re dry skin. So you know, it sounds like I’m just telling you what the result is.

But if you don’t understand the very fundamentals of what the skin is, you’re going to question, “No way, I don’t believe you. My skin actually feels better and looks better when I have products on.” So I want to give you three tidbits, maybe four tidbits in a very quick and succinct way. We should note, our skin is an organ. It’s the largest organ of our body, most will know, once you kind of remind them.

If I remind them further, our skin is an excretory organ or excretory organ. It’s an organ that’s meant to pass waste, to push on waste through sweating. So its main function is to get rid of waste, it’s a waste-eliminating organ. At the same time, our skin is a protective organ. It has another major important work, which is preventing things from getting through. It is a barrier, an impermeable barrier.

If things are getting through our skin, we have a leaky skin. When you know the very basic anatomy and physiology of the skin, then ask yourself, an excretory organ, which is similar to our anus and our urethra that needs to pass waste, can and excretory organ or should an excretory organ absorb; eat something? It is not a digestive organ, this particular organ is not designed to eat anything to absorb anything.

It can absorb if you force it to but its function is not, and second, when a skincare company says, “Our product, our active ingredient penetrates and strengthens your dermis, makes your skin more supple” penetrates, think about that. When your skin is supposed to be, it is impermeable, a baby’s skin is the best example. Nothing should go through, it’s a wall, it’s bricks and mortars. When you penetrate it, you are breaking down something in order to get through it.

How is this a good thing for the skin when nature designed, when God created the skin to be an excretory organ, a protective organ? So those two things, when I read that, I said, “Oh my goodness, everything I’ve been hearing from the marketing and promotional aspects makes no sense. It is not logical anymore.” That’s the first thing. There are three more, I hope you will read my book and find out, and one, is the most important thing of how we protect our skin.

What we have naturally on our skin, that is there to protect us, and skincare products kill them all. Skincare products wipe out all the goodies on our skin that is there to protect us. I said I would tell you three tidbits, I’ll give you the third one, and the third one is, our skin must renew, must regenerate in order to keep growing and keep removing the harm, damage, or scarring that’s happening if your skin renews properly and regenerates properly.

How does our skin know when to regenerate? There’s a very, very simple thing the skin does, which is called natural exfoliation. Our skin, the surface of our skin actually falls off. The dead cells, they fall off every three days through a clear and unobstructed environment. It just falls off, and when the skin falls off on its own naturally, it sends down a signal to the base layer, to say, “Now, one layer is gone, make a new layer.”

That new layer will then be produced. That’s the renewal, that’s the regenerating, and new skin comes on. So your skin looks fresh and new ongoing because we have a good metabolism. What happens when you put on skincare products? The gooey goop and goo on your skin? It cannot fall off, it’s been gooed on. So long-term, this cannot fall off, becomes, cannot send a signal, becomes cannot generate new cells.

So, you now have a lot of dead skin on the surface that can come off on its own. It’s now looking dull and thick, and no new cells are being produced, your epidermis is looking thin, not full. Again, that’s all cost made by skincare products rather than helped by skincare products. So when your skin is being penetrated and it’s leaky now, when your skin can regenerate and renew on its own and one of your most important protective substances, I will call it symbiotic bacteria.

When they’re killed by the preservatives in your products, you are now left with skin that’s going to get weaker and weaker, and in time, your regenerative power will just get so attacked that you’re starting to see aged skin because there’s no more time to fight, you can’t fight anymore. You’ve been fighting and telling your skin is sensitive, itchy, and dry, those are all signs, not of your skin misbehaving, it’s your skin responding to the products by telling you, “I don’t like this.”

“I am feeling things that I don’t like. I’m telling you I’m itchy, I’m dry, I am irritated.” And we don’t listen to that, we find another product to put on to shut it down.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So, those clear signs of, you know, obviously, every single human being has felt itchy, dry, sweaty, oily, you know, all of these things that I feel like, our skin is programmed to do when it’s trying to do its process, whatever that may be and whatever scenario. Those signals, those signs that it sends out to you, what is it actually trying to say?

It’s not — obviously, it’s not saying, “Put more cream on me,” right? It’s obviously not saying, “Go get the most expensive serum and pump it into the area in which I’m itchy,” right? Like, where does the rubber meet the road, right? Like, where do these signals, obviously, we feel them, we sense them, we scratch and whatever, and of course, we understand to a degree, like what sweat is doing and how that’s helping our bodies.

But where are we supposed to actually take the information and apply it? Is it so when it’s saying to me, “Hey, I’m itchy today” or “You know, this week, I felt a little itchy” or “I feel a little oily or maybe my skin feels a little dry” what is it actually trying to say to me? Does it tell me that I need to correct my food? Does it correct… do I need to drink more water? What is it actually trying to tell me to help it in response?

Dr. Erin Tjam: Okay, you asked a great question, and you provided a wrong answer. I’m sorry to say that.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: No, that’s great. I’m glad you’re correcting me because I want to know.

Dr. Erin Tjam: For someone who actually is reading the book and have some idea, you said feeling dry and itchy and oily is normal, it’s part of what our skin is trying to do. No, it is part of what we have done to our skin. So let’s think about the healthiest skin, baby skin. If we haven’t done anything wrong to it, it does not feel dry, it does not feel itchy, it does not look red. Healthy skin doesn’t have those problems.

When you feel dry, there is a gateway drug. I am going to put that term because I think it is. There are two problems that happen when we turn to the age of not innocent anymore, when we hit like 12, 13, when we start wanting to do stuff, two things happen to our skin, which lead us to doing something to our skin and therefore, planted the seed for our skin to be problematic. The two things are our hormones started to go rampant.

So if we have slightly oily skin, it gets even oilier. It’s just a hormone, and acne starts happening. So when we start having acne, we want to do something about it. The other thing is that we started wanting to clean and do stuff to our skin, so we begin to use products usually, a liquid cleanser to wash our skin. So the cleansing washing part of the skin care process is the beginning, the gateway drug to our skin feeling dry, feeling oilier and feeling itchy, and feeling sensitive.

So from day one when we begin to wash our skin twice with some kind of product, our skin now has been stripped of its natural oil production to begin to feel dry, when your skin feels dry from a stripping of its oil – by the way the chemical compounds that are in cleansers and facial wash are not different than what’s in detergents. It’s surfactants, it’s a very powerful oil stripping, so your greasy dishes get stripped off of the oil, great, but your skin doesn’t want to be stripped of its oil.

So when you stripped the oil off your skin, two things happen, you feel dry right away. So then your own natural defense mechanism is your body say, “Hey, oil glands produce more because we’re dry. We need to, you know, replenish.” So the oil glands will start overproducing. So the stripping it dry and overproducing often leads to use of the next product. “Oh, I feel dry, so I’ll put moisturizer on.”

“I have moisturizer on, I need to take it off, I will use more cleansing products.” That makes more of the oil production, so acne-prone people now have excessive oil besides just their kind of normal growing up hormonal stage oil production. So why do we feel dry and oily, and then it leads to feeling irritated and then more so, sensitivity and inflammation, it’s because we start washing our skin with products.

We don’t need to wash our face with products. Our hands, yes, our bum, our holes in our body, under armpits, they’re really full of kind of large oil glands, yes, they need to be washed with soap. Our hands touch toilets seats, our hands touch handrails, buttons, and elevator buttons, our hands touch a lot of dirty stuff. We do need to use soap to wash it twice a day, especially before you eat.

Our face does not touch the toilet seat. Our face really doesn’t need that excessive washing with chemicals. We’ve learned through studies that washing with lukewarm water of your face does not strip oil off your face, it cleans all the things that goes in your face. Lukewarm water is very powerful. When you don’t strip oil off of your face, you do not feel dry after you wash. You do not need to replenish chemical oils onto your face and nor with your own pores and glands overproduce to compensate for what you have done to it.

So the short answer to your question of what then should we do when we see these signs, when you see these signs, stop the chemical use. First, begin to wash your face with just water. You will surprisingly find out how after a few days your skin is no longer feeling dry. Your face is clean, and when you stop the initial stage of setting your skin into a state of dryness, dehydration, you will not need the products to make it moist and make it hydrated, and that stops the pathway to its long road of destruction.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: What a powerful, powerful lesson in skincare today. Here’s what I’m learning, you don’t need to do anything. You just need to wash yourself well like with lukewarm water. I love that so much because obviously, it’s almost too simple, right?

Dr. Erin Tjam: It is too simple.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right, this is your thing. It’s like, look, as human beings, once we’ve understood the power of soap and what it does to bacteria that was really the biggest revolution. I know that comes from our heritage, from the Middle East, like I used to know the exact name of the scholar who invented this compound that, you know, reduces germs, and it was put into the culture and revolutionized over time of course, right?

However, beyond that it’s that your skin, your body, your health, all of these things actually play well together, right? Of course, if you have an imbalance in diet and what you’re eating and all of those kinds of things, what it does to your body, and of course, your biggest organ is connected to that. So it may do one thing or another, which puts it off balance, right? But you can’t correct that off balance by adding more chemicals to our body.

We need to reduce that and bring it back to balance by not applying more but actually doing way less, which I love, and I am assuming, I don’t use hair products like as often as I used to when I was younger, of course, just because I feel like the water does plenty, you know what I mean? I actually don’t like when my hair is dry and it seems like it’s lifeless after I put shampoo on it and conditioner and all these things.

Again, I don’t know what the research on that is, but I understand that by just using water, my hair has been better than ever, right? Obviously, all of these things apply to your skin because your skin is acting in these ways. This is so powerful.

Dr. Erin Tjam: You are so right, Hussein. I just want to compliment you. It is hard to get people to think about scalp is skin also. I mean, it’s hard enough to convince people don’t use products on your face, don’t wash it with products daily and nightly. Can you imagine now telling people, “Don’t do that to your hair” either they say, “Oh, my hair is going to be so brittle, and my hair is going to be so dry.” Scalp is skin.

My next book will focus on that area to explain to people why our hair thins out. So you are ahead of the wave already.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that so much because I feel like it is interconnected and the power in your stories right now and how you came to this story, right? So I want to talk a little bit about, you know, obviously you’re a person that tried all of these products and did all these things, and then now you sort of saw the revolution. You committed to not only changing how you perceive this sort of paradigm shift but also how you get other people to come to your base camp and start believing in this as well because there is truth in simplicity.

So when we actually, I mean, I know this is, of course, throughout your book, and it is embedded in there, but how does our lifestyle contribute to the problem of overusing skincare products?

Dr. Erin Tjam: I think we want instant gratification, our lifestyle of wanting to see something instant. Let me be the first one to admit and to confess, putting skincare product on make you instantly look better because skincare products, even by the FDA definition, is a cosmetic. Skincare products, including cleansers, have the exact very similar composition as makeup. So when you use skincare products, your skin is moisturized.

It’s soaked on, it glows a bit better. It’s more supple, it’s more plump, just like when you put makeup on, it’s just makeup without color. So this kind of instant beauty, instant gratification, is so alluring and tempting, and that’s today’s world. We want things that are right away. Nobody, even the beauty-obsessed ones that I know will keep their makeup on day and night to sleep with their makeup because they know it’s doing some harm.

We know we actually have a healthier relationship with makeup but we have no clue that the skincare products are functioning just like makeup. When you think that your fine line looks less apparent and your dry skin looks more hydrated, that’s just the makeup effect. You want to know if it actually makes your skin hydrated and makes your fine line less prominent, take the products off. See what it does to your skin.

I’ll bet you, your fine lines is way worse. Your hydrated feeling is now so dry. So you only get that feeling, that good look when the product is on, so it doesn’t really nourish you because if it is truly a nutrient, it makes you stronger. So when it is off, you should feel that same benefit effect, but no, it’s not. So these products, they’re natures more like drugs, especially with the active ingredients in them.

They really function more like drugs, without them, you withdraw, get a lot worse. You look a lot worse and you’re absolutely right, the whole premise of skin sobering is trust water. Just use water, it’s as simple as that, and some of my friends said, “Well, if it’s that simple, why do you need a whole book? Just say use water.” I said, “To have good health is very simple. Just exercise, move more.”

Why do you think there are like millions of programs about how to exercise? Most helpful and good things are very simple. Move more, stop eating junk food, sleep early, get up early, stop tobacco, don’t drink any alcohol, those are as simple as of an idea but how many books are out there about that? Because to change people’s belief, to convince people, and then to help them with this new habit and behavior is very difficult.

So it is a simple message but difficult to sustain and to practice because we all want that instant effect.

Living the Skin Sober Lifestyle

Hussein Al-Baiaty: What’s one thing I can practice starting today? I’m assuming it is a very simple and straightforward answer, but the idea of sort of fasting from all of these chemicals and things and kind of seeing for yourself what happens to your body and your skin by just reducing the amount of chemicals you put on there, the lotions, the cosmetics, and all these things, which I’m sure is very difficult for many people.

But what’s one thing we can try and maybe start working on for the next week or two that we can apply?

Dr. Erin Tjam: First of all, those who use products because they’ve already dependent of products, so it is an addiction to a mild form. You use moisturizer because you feel dry, you use cover-up because you have spots on your face that you don’t want people to see. You use skincare products and makeup to cover up something that you don’t want people to see. So that is the most difficult part.

You already have something you don’t like, so to correct that means you’re going to have to live with that something you don’t like for a while until your skin heals itself, until your skin functions normally. So I did it cold turkey, just dropped everything, but I also did it during COVID, I didn’t have to see anyone. So it was perfect for me to go through the stages of quitting because when you stop using products, whatever you were trying to use the products to help will show up even worse.

So you will feel dry, you will feel flaky. I don’t think everyone needs to do cold turkey, I think reducing is very important. You and I both know if we think exercise is good and we must exercise every day, two hours a day, it’s a failure because the next day you can’t do it. You say, “Oh, I failed. Forget it. You know, I am off the wagon now.” Do reduction. I hope after my readers read the whole book, they are convinced that chemicals, skincare products, cleansers, they’re not necessary for our skin.

Once they’re convinced of that, like they’re convinced that plants are good, vegetables are good, natural stuff is good, once they’re convinced, even if they can’t do it religiously every day every meal, use reduction. So you don’t need to see anyone today, don’t use any products, just use water. Hopefully you have a week vacation where you don’t have to see people, just completely get away from products and see your skin changing and improving and do it every other day if you can stand it.

Then hopefully, you can do it once a week. Only use product once a week and maybe you can sustain it long enough to use products only once a month. If you can start using products once a month, you have allowed your skin to regenerate. You have begun the journey of skin sobering. So begin with reduction, understand your skin doesn’t need it. Understand your skin needs water to clean and air and just good healthy lifestyle.

I’m such an opponent to skincare products, but I must say it is only the third worse thing to our skin. There are two things way worse than skincare products and you’ve mentioned, one is UV rays directly on your face. Second is your lifestyle, your lifestyle of not eating well, eating junk food, eating a lot of sugar, not exercising, not able to deal with your rest, your sleep well, those – smoking, oh, a big thing, smoking and drinking.

Those will do a lot worse to your skin, but those things are hard to change, isn’t it? To actually quit all those things is hard.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I can’t agree with you more because I’ll be honest with you, I have drank before, and I have smoked before, not cigarettes but more like hookah and those kinds of things, you know, when I was younger, and I still do on occasion, on very, very limited occasion, but I grew up a Muslim. So we couldn’t drink, we couldn’t do all those kinds of things.

We actually even the type of meat we eat, it’s got to be halal and prepped a certain way. So like I grew up sort of cautious about those things, not to say that everyone I grew up with is super healthy and all those kinds of things, right? I’m not saying that at all but this idea that kept me away, I believe in something greater than myself, and I knew for example, alcohol is more averse spiritual and wanting to stay focused in the moment.

I knew that drinking alcohol would, like, deviate me from that, right? So but now, you know, I’m 37, when I tell people that they’re like, “No way” right? You just don’t look that, and I tell them it’s like, “Oh it’s because I didn’t drink” and that impacts the skin. I’ve read plenty of articles about how alcohol really impacts not just your skin but just your overall health, right? I was so grateful that my father had taught me that at such a young age.

You know, in his eyes it was like forbidden. For me, it was health conscious, and no matter how you get to that choice, it is totally fine. I am not here to put my way of thinking on anyone, but I just appreciate that you also talk about skin and this idea of layers, right? Like what really impacts it, and I grew up like I’m fairly light brown skin. So I grew up in the Middle East, I mean, that’s where I’m from.

So we deal with the sun in Iraq, you know, right? So we deal with the sun, our skin over time has developed in a way to be resilient to that, right? But also putting on longer garments, garments that cover yourself up, right? So it’s like being protective and understanding but like letting the skin do what it needs to do, just like you wouldn’t go and tamper what your liver does. You don’t want to put an oil into your liver, right?

That is unnecessary, you know? It makes perfect sense when you laid out the data, the science behind it but not only that, I think what’s most important is really how you came to all of these work, right? You are already a scientist because you are a person that’s brilliant, studying all of these things but also you realized, “Wow.” Like the marketing of these products has been so convincing at selling their products.

But really, sadly lying to us in so many different ways and actually doing more harm than good. You know, I always reflect back on this idea that we are what we consume, and it sounds like you know, that layer of what we are is what we consume, it keeps expanding. The more people I meet like yourself that really help me understand that everything in our 3D world is impacting us in some way, shape or form but don’t be afraid of it.

Really go and understand it and question authority, question people that are trying to sell you some things and really try to get to the root like, “Is this thing that my body automatically does for me and I don’t really need to interfere? I just need to be able to eat right, sleep well, get some exercise right and feed it the things that it does need,” which is a healthy lifestyle, and so I think I just love how you brought that full circle.

I can’t wait for people to really get a hold of your book. I think it’s immaculate, so kudos to you and the team that got behind writing all this wisdom and knowledge. I certainly appreciate it. I learned so much today. Congratulations, again. The book is available, the book is called, Skin Sobering: 99% of Products Age and Harm Your Skin, Learn What You Truly Need to be Beautiful and Makeup Ready. So besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Dr. Erin Tjam: I have a website,, that gives more tidbits. So people can go on to the website and you’re right, we are what we consume. If we want to change our liver status, our lung status, it’s not to directly put stuff on it. Just because our skin is on the outside that we can put stuff on it, doesn’t mean we should. If you want your liver, your kidney, your spleen to be stronger and healthier, you consume the right things and you do the right exercise to help it, you breathe in fresh air.

If we want our skin to be better, same thing, we eat better food, we do the right exercise, we do not layer it with stuff. That is simply a lesson that we’re taught wrong.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Well, thank you again so much, Erin. I genuinely appreciate your time, your energy, your passion that you’ve brought to this very important topic for all of us today. I pray that your book begins to spread like a great idea because it is. It helps to shift and also, you know, just the consumption of all the plastics that all of these things go into, you know just to reduce that because we need that.

Dr. Erin Tjam: The beads that you use to exfoliate on the bottle, just imagining traveling, traveling without all the bottles to pack. My traveling is so simple now.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So much lighter now.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Oh, I have just my toothbrush and then my toothpaste and a small bar of soap when I need it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, that’s so beautiful.

Dr. Erin Tjam: My skin is more beautiful than it’s ever been, and when I do put makeup on, on special occasions because of the good canvass now, oh god, I glam up. I look so much better. When my skin condition is great, then makeup and cosmetics can do its job so much better.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Exactly, because I feel like now you’re not covering things up, you’re basically highlighting all of that.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Enhancing, that’s right.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, enhancing, yeah.

Dr. Erin Tjam: That’s right.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: And enjoying it as opposed to hiding and making sure people don’t see a certain part of you, and yeah, that’s so beautiful.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Because you already have good beautiful skin as your base, occasional makeup does not harm just like occasional hookah, it does not harm you. It’s daily and nightly you do that, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s when the stuff becomes a problem, for sure. Well again, Erin, thank you so much for joining me today. I highly appreciate our conversation. It was, I think, worth every moment. So again, thanks for the knowledge and the wisdom, and the stories. You’ve been an absolute pleasure to have on the show today, thank you.

Dr. Erin Tjam: Thank you, Hussein.