Inflammation and the Skin - Q & A

Inflammation and the Skin - Q & A

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a very important response of our body’s immune system to fight a perceived threat. The purpose of this response is to protect the body from further injury and then start the healing process.


What are the different types of inflammation?

Acute inflammation is your body’s immediate response to an injury. It is has a rapid onset and typically lasts a few days.

Acute Inflammation involves:

Redness because there is increased blood flow to the area involved

Warmth caused by the increased in blood flow

Swelling, again, from the increased blood flow

Tenderness from the release of inflammatory cytokines by immune cells that stimulate nerve endings in the area of inflammation


Chronic inflammation develops when what the body perceives as an attack continues to be present (chronic viral infections, autoimmune disease, a foreign body, gluten in someone who is celiac.) In this situation the inflammation lasts for months to years.


What causes inflammation?

Anything your body does not like can cause inflammation. An infection, like a having a cold, causes inflammation. A physical injury like twisting your ankle causes inflammation. Using a face cream with ingredients that irritate your skin causes inflammation.


What does inflammation do to our skin?

When the skin is inflamed, the same steps are followed as outlined above. There is an increase in blood flow to the skin, making your face red. This blood brings immune cells which are part that activate pathways that cause swelling, pain and itchiness. The dilated blood vessels also make it easier for your body to absorb the chemicals you are putting on your face increasing the risk of further irritation. This is why it is so important to be incredibly selective about what you are putting on inflamed skin. Products you think your skin may love when healthy could be making things worse when you are inflamed because of increased absorption. This is why I made Doctor Rogers RESTORE products. They are specially formulated to help heal inflamed skin with only plant-based, hypoallergenic ingredients.


What is an anti-inflammation diet? How does it impact our skin?

Your gut and your skin are two of the largest organs in the body and have exposure to possible irritants that could lead to inflammation.  Once the inflammatory pathway is activated, our immune system is turned on everywhere! What this means is, if your gut is inflamed, your immune system is revved up, making skin more sensitive, more likely to become inflamed. The opposite is also true, if your gut is calm and your immune system is quiet, your skin will be less sensitive. An anti-inflammatory diet avoids foods that commonly irritate the gut to prevent activation of the immune system and inflammatory pathways. There are some standard foods to avoid but also, everyone is different and what is inflames one person may not do the same for another.


Please recommend 2-3 foods that fight inflammation? Explain.

In general, diets that are less processed foods and more whole foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils helps fight inflammation simply by NOT activating it.


How do anti-inflammatory supplements and topicals work to treat inflammation? 


Topical steroids fight inflammation through multiple mechanisms. They block the chemical reactions (cytokine pathway) activated by the immune system and constrict blood vessels to limit the blood flow bringing immune cells to the already inflamed skin.


Ginger contains gingerol oil which is bioactive, meaning this chemical can stimulate changes in the body including settling the inflammation by inhibiting the synthesis of pro-inflammation chemicals in the body like prostaglandin and leukotriene.


Turmeric contains Curcumin which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties but the data remains unclear.


Cannabis contains canninoids that activated the cannabinoid receptors found on immune cells. These receptor when activated down regulate the immune response.


Arnica montana has been shown to inhibit some inflammatory pathways, including vasodilation from the release of histamines.


Vitamin K  suppresses the production of inflammatory cytokines by immune cells.

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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.

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