Inflammation is the buzz word of the moment, and we are seeing it everywhere. In this post we’re delving into a little bit of the science behind inflammation and what impact it has on skin. We promise not to geek out too much though 😊.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to foreign bodies or injury – that’s why we get swollen glands or a bruise, for example. This inflammatory response helps our bodies to heal, which we need . Inflammation happens where we can see it on the body, but also inside the body where we can’t see it. It’s only now that there is a greater understanding of the link between chronic inflammation in the body and some health and skin conditions 1.
Understanding what can cause chronic inflammation can allow us to make more informed choices about how we deal with and / or prevent it from happening. In this post, we will only tackle chronic inflammation and the impact it has on the skin.
CHRONIC INFLAMMATION IN SKIN
Inflammation in skin can present itself in a number of ways – dryness, rash, itchiness, irritated and sore, patches of eczema, or an eczema flare-up, increased sensitivity to products, breakouts, dermatitis, an allergic reaction – and it can also exacerbate skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis.
CAUSES OF CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
These can be grouped into three main areas – environmental, lifestyle, and diet – some examples of which have been listed below, although this list in not new or exhaustive:
Environmental causes would include pollution, UV radiation from the sun, blue light from devices, or an allergy which has not yet been diagnosed, i.e. perfume or pet allergy or to a product or ingredient such as SLS, which can lead to a weakening of the skin barrier, allows allergens and irritants to breach and cause inflammation.
Lifestyle covers smoking, not enough sleep, late nights, or prolonged periods of stress 2.
Diet which includes too much refined sugar, alcohol, saturated fats (trans fats), a food allergy which has not yet been diagnosed, all of which has an impact on the microbiome in the gut, which in turn has an impact on so much more, including the delicate balance of hormones.
WAYS OF PREVENTING CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for everyone, and my personal journey included consulting a functional nutritionist and tests to understand what my body was not benefiting from.
However, a common theme and advice given to everyone is to eat more anti-inflammatory foods, and surprise surprise most of the items on there are plant based and whole, i.e. unprocessed 3. Anti-oxidant rich foods and skincare products will work hard to protect against environmental causes of inflammation.
There is also some research that shows that topical application of plant oils can help with strengthening the skin barrier and have an anti-inflammatory action, which again supports the notion of plant based and whole, i.e. unprocessed 4. More research is needed, but looking out for ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties can help to strengthen the skin barrier and structure of skin.
Watch out for more posts on inflammation and how we can work to reduce its impact on skin. If you’re not already subscribed, then sign up for our monthly newsletter so you don’t miss out.
2. Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging, Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014 ↩
4. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils, Int J Mol Sci. 2018 ↩