If you’re suffering from red, itchy, dry, or inflamed skin, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, around 14 million people have rosacea (a condition that causes red, dry and irritated skin on the face) and the National Eczema Association reveals that 31.6 million people in the US have some form of eczema – an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness, rashes and dry skin.
With the skin being our largest organ, it’s no surprise that it’s constantly exposed to a variety of factors that may cause it to become inflamed or irritated, even if you’re not suffering from skin conditions like rosacea or eczema. This is thanks to:
- Harsh chemicals and pollutants in the environment
- Exposure to the sun, wind, and cold weather
- Certain soaps, cosmetics, and skincare products
- Hot water and long showers or baths
- Underlying food allergies
- Stress and poor sleep habits
How hormones affect your skin
Hormonal imbalances are one of the main culprits behind inflammation. If you’re sensitive to hormonal peaks and dips, you may notice a few skin changes like:
Changes in hormones around menstruation, pregnancy, and/or menopause can increase oil production in the skin and trigger acne breakouts – even well into your 40s.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy can cause a surge in skin pigmentation, resulting in patches of discoloration on the face, known as melasma.
Hormones can trigger flare-ups of rosacea (as described above)
While hormones aren’t the main cause of eczema, they can make it worse.
To side-step hormonal triggers that may worsen inflammation, it’s important to keep your stress levels in check, limit the amount of alcohol you drink and steer clear of too much sugar and spicy foods.
When your skin is infected, irritated or out of sync due to hormonal changes, your body's immune system may respond by causing inflammation. This can make your skin look red, swollen, warm, and sometimes even painful or itchy. It's a natural part of the healing process, but if it lasts a long time, it can cause more skin problems and chronic conditions.
Signs of inflammation
Underlying inflammation in the body can rear its ugly head and cause a few issues with your skin. Some of the main signs of inflammation are:
- Redness: Your skin may appear redder and flushed.
- Swelling: The area may become puffy or raised.
- Itching: Your skin may feel itchy, dry or uncomfortable.
How to treat inflammation
While it’s always a good idea to seek professional help from a dermatologist if your skin conditions worsen over time, there’s a lot you can do to calm things down and it starts with treating your skin from within. Sure, there are loads of topical solutions on the market which claim to treat a variety of skin conditions, but inflammation runs deep – and so should your treatment approach.
Here are a few ways to ward off inflammation:
1 Fix any gut imbalances
Did you know that taking care of your gut can actually have a big impact on the health of your skin? Studies have found that probiotics can be really helpful in keeping your gut microbiome in check.
And when your gut is healthy, it can help reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and even improve skin conditions like acne. So, it's worth paying some extra attention to your gut.
2 Reduce your toxic load
Toxins can contribute to skin inflammation by irritating or damaging the skin and triggering an immune response, which is your body's way of trying to protect itself from harmful substances.
Examples of toxins that can contribute to skin inflammation include chemicals in skincare products, pollutants in the air, and substances in certain foods. Try to reduce your sugar intake too, as it damages the amino acids in collagen and elastin, creating Advanced Glycation End products, also known as AGEs. As the acronym implies, sugar literally causes aging in not just your skin, but other organs as well.
3 Manage stress
Studies have shown a connection between emotional stress and skin issues, including psoriasis. To prevent stress from showing up on your skin, try to include calming activities that you enjoy into your daily routine like yoga and ensure you get enough beauty sleep. Your skin will thank you for it!
4 Nourish your skin + body with the right nutrients
Many different nutrients play a part in keeping your skin looking and feeling healthy! For example, zinc is like a knight in shining armour when it comes to fighting inflammation as it works hard to prevent skin problems like eczema, acne, and rashes from taking over. Here are a few more key vitamins and nutrients you should be taking to keep inflammation at bay:
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps to neutralise free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which can contribute to inflammation.
- Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of inflammation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These healthy fats have strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- Probiotics: Some studies have suggested that probiotics, the "good" bacteria found in fermented foods and supplements, can help to reduce inflammation and improve gut health.
- Co-enzyme Q10: This antioxidant is important for maintaining optimal skin health as it supports the production of collagen and elastin, while improving overall hydration levels in the body – thus calming inflammation.
- Collagen: This vital protein helps to strengthen the skin's barrier function, which prevents the entry of harmful substances that can cause inflammation.
Collagen also has antioxidant properties that help to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Additionally, collagen speeds up wound healing and tissue repair. In fact, by supporting the healing process, collagen reduces skin inflammation linked to acne and/or eczema.
What about amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and some have anti-inflammatory properties:
Lysine: This amino acid has antiviral properties and may help to reduce inflammation associated with viral infections.
Proline: An amino acid that helps to maintain a healthy gut lining. This keeps harmful substances from entering your bloodstream and causing inflammation. Proline also promotes the production of antioxidants, which can fight off harmful free radicals and minimize oxidative stress, another factor in inflammation.
Proline also helps to regulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines - molecules that can trigger inflammation. By controlling the production of these cytokines, proline can help lower inflammation levels throughout the body.
Glycine: This amino acid also plays a role in maintaining a healthy gut lining, plus it helps to regulate the immune system, which is in charge of the body's response to inflammation. By keeping your immune response in check, glycine may help lower inflammation levels.
After all, a key trick to keeping the skin healthy and younger for longer is to calm and treat inflammation in the body. By reducing inflammation, you naturally allow your natural glow and radiance to shine through, which is what we all want, isn’t it?