Skeptical about alternative dermatology? Read this…

Depositphotos_25722971_xsQ: Dear Dr. Dattner, I'd like to see you for an appointment, but I’m a bit reserved (not about your fees by the way… I am HAPPY to pay them), but after  25 years of  seeing Harvard, Dartmouth, and Georgetown-educated Dermatologists, I am just kind of curious as to why no one else utilizes this holistic approach, at least where I live, which is only 90 miles above the medical  centers of  Boston… please understand my concerns.

Respectfully, and best regards,



A: Dear Sam, I must say that your reply set off quite a spark in my head, and got me really thinking about the answer.

It's a great question. Why would I have a more effective method for helping certain people with skin disorders than other dermatologists from some of the most prestigious academic centers in the country, if not the world? And if I did, why wouldn’t they be doing what I am doing? For a variety of reasons well beyond trying to engage you as a client, I feel compelled to answer this question. And since you asked it, I think you deserve to hear the answer. It's an answer that will also help you understand my mission in life and how it relates to your skin condition.

The first reasonable question, which you may not have wanted to state outright might be whether I am delusional about my professional abilities. Can I really help some people who my well-trained colleagues cannot? Could my methods really be so different?  I know that many dermatologists are brilliant, well educated, and help a lot of people. I also know that I have helped people who have not been helped by a string of dermatologists and other practitioners. 

Recently, I saw several patients with challenging and potentially dangerous skin conditions. They had been prescribed toxic drugs to take for several years, as this was the best available treatment from highly-respected, well-intentioned dermatologists. Using only diet changes and supplements, I helped them clear their complex skin conditions. They were elated to have clear skin and also to be able to stop using the drugs they were prescribed. I cannot deny the feedback that I get about their dramatic improvement; in fact it's what gets me up in the morning. My methods are vastly different from those of my dermatologic colleagues who follow an allopathic model, and I will describe them below.

I abhor the use of medications that suppress inflammatory responses because, it is dangerous. As the medicines get stronger, the collateral damage caused by weakening the body’s defense system can be very costly or even fatal. What do I know about the immune system? I started getting involved in tumor immunology 51 years ago at Sloane Kettering in Rye with Dr. Lloyd Old, who is often called the "father of tumor immunology." I took off time to do research in medical school and chose the most vibrant researcher I could find, Dr. Barry R Bloom, turning down an offer I had from Harvard. Barry later became the head of the Harvard School of Public Health for ten years. My sixth immunology lab was at the Dermatology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, where we discovered aspects of the nature of how the immune system recognizes foreign presence in the body. The insights I gained from what we learned form our incredibly productive nearly three years of research confirmed what I had heard from the “alternative” medicine world about the ability of foreign substances such as food, chemicals or microorganisms to set off a very specific response by the immune cells against particular targets in the skin, manifesting as skin disease.

I look to find and remove the cause of skin problems rather than stop the outward manifestation of the problem by suppressing them. It takes a lot of time to probe and find out the network of causes underlying a rash, choose what tools to use (supplements, diet, lifestyle changes, etc.), explain it to the patient, and them motivate them to make difficult lifestyle changes that will benefit them beyond improving their skin. This way of working is resource-intensive; it takes a lot of time and energy, which I am happy to spend, in order to solve and clear mysterious conditions. However, if I were to accept health insurance, I could not afford to practice this way unless I had a huge trust fund to support my practice.

Most dermatologists use a generally effective allopathic approach to help a large number of patients, and could not do that if they spent the amount of time I do, either with patients, or studying the various alternative methods I have pursued. They are likely not versed in botanical medicine, nutritional medicine, Functional Medicine, and numerous other alternative modalities that I integrate into the way I hear a history and create solutions. Even if they educated in this way, and they spent the time I do, under insurance payments, they would quickly have to close their offices due to negative bank accounts. Unfortunately, as you shared with me, the allopathic approach was not effective for you, and likely also not effective for a percentage of the population at large.

Living my approach as part of the integrative medicine world, along with dermatology and the scientific world of immunology for 35 years has given me a rich background of diagnostic and therapeutic tools that are not part of forefront allopathic dermatology. I have also developed some proprietary treatments in the course of all of this that would not be known by other dermatologists, which I am not positioned to reveal. So I guess that is why I can fix problems like yours.

I am about to write the 4th revision of my chapter on Seborrheic Dermatitis on in Rakel’s Integrative Medicine, and I have written the review on the same topic for the American Academy of Dermatology’s Integrative medicine task force. So I guess I am somewhat of a national expert on the subject of integrative treatment–combining conventional, alternative, and scientific methods to treat this condition. If you saw anyone else from Harvard with this perspective and these qualifications, I would very much like to interview them for my latest revision.

Look at the “About” section on my website,, or look up the scientific articles I have written on PubMed, to verify what I have stated.

I hope that I have answered your question, and am happy to hear your comments.


Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD
Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

Natural home acne treatment that works, part three

Depositphotos_31778959_xsFace washing is an important home treatment for acne. Especially if your face is oily, A mild soap can be very helpful used once or twice a day. If your work or other activities cause your face to get sprayed with chemicals dirt or dust, face washing is also very important.

It is also very helpful to wash after workouts and sweating. If your face tends to be very dry and gets worse with washing, there are non-soap cleansers on the market which will not dry out your face. Also, if blackheads are a major problem, gritty soaps may help.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD

Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

– See more at:

Natural home acne treatments that work, part two

Depositphotos_4683136_xsWhen bacteria are a big part of the cause of new acne pustules, application of essential oils such as tea tree oil or oregano oil can be very helpful for temporary relief. Dabbing a tiny bit of the oil onto just the area of the pustule, or pimple as it is commonly known, can be very helpful in calming down the lesion.

Unfortunately, these oils cannot be used for long periods of time because repeated use may cause an allergy to them. In addition, almost any antimicrobial product used on the skin whether natural or medication, is likely to result in resistant bacteria that will no longer respond. For that reason this kind of treatment should only be used for a short period of time.  

Be sure to stop if either the oil is not working, or if you develop any itching or information or other signs of allergy.

A warning: If the lesions are hot and tender, painful, or if there is any sign of fever, see a physician to make sure you do not have a dangerous infection on the face. Infections on the central part of the face, in rare instances, can migrate to the vessels in the brain, and cause those vessels to thrombosis.

Aside from that, these oils can be a good short-term option.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD

Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

A natural home acne treatment that works

Depositphotos_30471299_xsOne of the simplest treatments for new acne lesions is to apply a thick paste of clay to each of the lesions. The Clay will help dry out the fluid and inflammation.

Do this only on new pimples that have not been squeezed or open or have open skin nearby. If you apply it to open skin, there's a possibility that you will create irritation if the clay gets into the skin.

A secondary benefit of this treatment is that it gives you something to do to reduce the lesions instead of squeezing them, which can force the contents to break out underneath the skin and cause the formation of large cyst. Some clays are more effective than others, And some custom combination clays may be far more effective. Be sure to stop using clay if you get too much dryness or irritation or itching.

To your health, 

Dr. Alan M. Dattner

Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine


Natural Medicine for Atopic Dermatitis

Depositphotos_15414903_xsA recent article appeared in the October issue of Contemporary Pediatrics, systematically questioning the efficacy of various alternative treatments used for atopic dermatitis. It's unfortunate that this kind of mis-information is so rampant.

It is of note that the author is a pediatrician–but not either a dermatologist or holistic/integrative practitioner. He is still stuck in the "disease model" and seems to have no idea about the conceptual basis for the application of alternative medicine to atopic dermatitis.

Use of alternative therapies and diets must vary according to each person, using an understanding of the specific patient, our culture, and the pathophysiologic syndromes understood in alternative and functional medicine. Treatments that work with some people may not work with others. For example, giving probiotics without understanding and addressing the factors in yeast overgrowth will lead to less than desirable results.

As a practitioner of Holistic and Integrative Dermatology, I can attest to the number of variables involved in controlling atopy, and the difficulty in getting patients to co-operate with their protocol and success with patients in a manner that meets their time expectations.  It takes time and more exchange of information than conventional care.

Speaking as a health professional, I'll share that from behind-the-scenes, it requires a good understanding of dermatology, immunology, and alternative medicine, in order to avoid one or two omissions or errors that negate the benefits of the rest of the protocol, and to understand the meaning of various responses to exposures and treatments.

For example, it has taken me years to be able to use natural methods to successfully clear patients with severe acne who have seen multiple dermatologists and alternative practitioners. I can't imagine how the author of this article could have the perspective to make any meaningful pronouncement on the effectiveness of alternative medicine in Atopic Dermatitis. I do agree that more studies are necessary. However, they need to be designed with an understanding of the healing systems being applied, beyond the disease model.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M Dattner, MD

Integrative Medicine and Dermatology


As always, the content of this blog is for information and education purposes only, and should not be used to prevent, diagnose or treat illness; please see your physician for care.

Going Paleo? Consider this instead… [part 2]

Depositphotos_14134412_xsMy concerns with the paleo diet include the possibility of eating too much meat in order to have to burn protein for energy, eating too much saturated fats. Charred meat may be tasty for some, but a steady diet of charred altered animal proteins may be a lead in to cancer or autoimmune disease in the unlucky few. And too much fruit can lead to sugar, insulin, and yeast overgrowth issues.

Elaine Gottschauk was a pioneer in writing about the benefits of grain free diets. Before her, there was book on the mucus-less diet by Arnold Ehert. There have always been individuals who, at least under certain conditions, such as allergy and cold season, seemed to benefit from cutting out grains and milk and eggs.

The bigger issue is understanding your specificity and conditions, and knowing what part of the Paleo diet to adhere to. Raw vegetables may not work well if you do not have sufficient digestive fire.  

For some people, grains like brown rice in moderate quantities may be helpful for energy, to spare your burning your muscle protein as a very inefficient source of energy. In short, the Paleo diet has benefits and avoids many allergens and toxins of today. But the strictness of adherence to the definition of this diet really depends on a number of specific individual characteristics of the individual.

Have more questions about how your diet relates to your skin? Have a persistent skin condition? As a natural skin doctor and board-certified dermatologist, I have treated hundreds and hundreds of people with chronic skin conditions using natural methods. Learn about booking a visit with me, here.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M. Dattner
Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

Going Paleo? Consider this instead… [part 1]

Depositphotos_11071988_xsOne of the hottest trends today is the Paleo diet.  My first thought is a vision of so many bearded young men and their women, with wild veggies in one hand, crowded around to get a charred piece of meat from the latest Mastodon kill.

More to the point, the Paleo diet represents a 180 degree shift from the food world of junk foods, pesticides, colorings, and additives that complicates knowing which of these things is accumulating to the point of messing up your health and the way that you feel. It is also a dramatic shift from the high grain vege diets that a few people seem to be able to thrive on. Most of all, it eliminates sugar of various sorts that is consumed in epidemic excess in our society.

As a holistic doctor, I have some strong opinions about this diet and what effects it might have on the skin. What I like about the Paleo diet is that it gets away from many of the foods that aggravate environmental illness and overgrowth of yeast in the body. Eliminating sugar, refined carbs, bread, wine and beer and processed foods is the core of the diet I recommend for my patients. A

diet high in vegetables, with meat or fish for protein works well for those who have sensitivity to lectins in grains and beans, and reactions dairy products that they have eaten nearly every day of their life.  

In my next post, I'll share where I think Paleo misses the mark.

Have more questions about how your diet relates to your skin? Have a persistent skin condition? Book a visit with me here.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M. Dattner
Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine
New York

Got Dandruff?

Depositphotos_15595421_xsDo you have dandruff? One of the central factors in causing dandruff, or Seborrheic dermatitis, is an organism that lives in the skin of most people. That organism is a yeast that changes back and forth into a fungus. Interesting, huh? It used to be called Pityrosporum, but it is now is known as Malassezia species.

Here's my summation of the medical literature: it is your immune system’s reaction to Malassezia, which causes the inflammation, redness, and scaling that is characteristic of dandruff. Inflammation seems to depend on the presence, quantity, and type of exposure to other similar yeast and fungi entering the body, and other factors that affect the immune system.

The presence of related yeast and fungi is important because they may play some role in changing the body’s immune response to Malassezia in our skin, thus causing dandruff or other inflammatory skin conditions.

So it is very interesting to see a recent article that shows that other fungi of the same genus, Malassezia, are present in a variety of organisms as different as corals, deep sea hydrothermal vents, lobsters, eels, and Antarctic soils.  

So the exposures that increase our allergic reactivity to the Malsasezia in our skin may, and thus our dandruff, may be quite varied and completely unexpected. Diet, seafood, travel, and underwater adventures, may someday be linked to worsening or improvement of dandruff. Future holistic skincare treatments could include monitoring and changing these factors.

To your health,

Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD

Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

Skin Cancer: getting drunk and falling asleep in the sun?


Scientists set about to do a meta-analysis of 16 different studies, covering 6251 cases of skin cancer.

They found a 20% increase in the incidence of melanoma in patients who drank alcohol on more than an occasional basis.

Unfortunately, the studies do not eliminate the possible relationship of sun exposure time. So it is possible that those with increased melanoma related to alcohol either hung out outside too long, or… fell asleep out in the sun.

Here is a link to the study.

To your health, 

Dr. Alan M Dattner, MD

Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine

Gray Hair and Stress

6a00e55255b4628834017eea94cb01970d-200wi“You’re giving me gray hair!” a cry that I’m sure I was not the only one who heard this from their mother when their difficult behavior caused her stress. True or not, it all sounded a little like a folk tale, until now. New studies from the laboratory of Dr. Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University show that chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone adrenaline damage the DNA in specific ways that could lead to a spectrum of conditions from gray hair to tumor formation.

The damage was shown to break down p53 protein, the protein that protects the genome against cancer by helping potential cancer cells either repair their cancerous nature, or self-destruct.

In this report in the August 21 issue of the journal Nature, they also showed more detail of the pathway by which adrenaline cause this damage. This included the role of a molecule called beta–arrestin-1 in the process of causing the damage.Two major conferences were held at the New York Academy of Science in the late 1960’s on the effects of psychological factors in causing cancer. An impression of this effect was present for a long time, and supported by numerous studies.

This recent paper by Lefkowitz brings a new level of proof and understanding to the relationship between chronic, excessive stress and the onset of gray hair and cancer. While other factors certainly contribute to onset of these conditions, we can now pinpoint one factor over which we may have some control.
Exercise, meditation, breathing exercises and other stress-management techniques may contribute to longer, healthier, and less gray lives.
To your health,Dr. Alan M. Dattner
Holistic Dermatology
New York, New York


As always, the content of this blog is for information and education purposes only, and should not be used to prevent, diagnose or treat illness; please see your physician for care.