Why should we concern ourselves with skin inflammation?
Skin inflammation is incredibly common, and it's something that we don't want to have happen. Inflamed skin doesn’t look as good and it can accelerate the aging process. When your skin is inflamed it is more sensitive and it is more likely to get irritated by the things you put on it.
What are common causes of skin inflammation?
Historically, it was more caused by internal stress, autoimmune disease, and even things like food allergies. Nowadays, the big topic is more about what we are actively doing to our skin. Our skin can easily be overwhelmed by forcing it to process all these chemicals we put on it such as during a 12-step skin care routine. Alternatively, we cause significant damage in other ways such as with exfoliation. These chemical irritants rev up our immune system and inflammation ensues. When we try new products our skin often gets irritated, and even as we age our skin becomes more sensitive and also becomes more easily irritated.
What are some practical tips for reducing inflammation and redness on the face?
What you can do is very straightforward. When your skin gets inflamed you have to pull back. Stop all exfoliation, stop vitamin C serums, eye cream, toners, and chemical sunscreens. Support your skin by asking it to process less, and instead apply just a few safe ingredients proven to soothe and support healthy skin. That might include the RESTORE Face Wash to wash off the grime of the day, the Face Lotion or Face Cream to hydrate for your face, eyes, neck, and chest, the Healing Balm for areas of severe dryness, or irritation, and a zinc-based sunscreen. I made Restore products for people to nurture their skin after laser procedures in the dermatology office, but they are just as effective for helping sensitized skin calm down.
Depending on your age, it will take 28+ days for your skin to turn over, but you will notice improvement every week. It will be less red, reactive, and less easy to irritate. Once your skin is resilient again, then you can slowly add in skin treatments and see the benefits from them because your skin is now strong enough to respond.
What can I do once the inflammation has calmed down?
Depending on your age, it will take 28+ days for your skin to turn over, but you will notice improvement every week. It will be less red, reactive, and less easy to irritate. Once your skin is resilient again, then you can slowly add in skin treatments and see the benefits from them because your skin is now strong enough to respond. But start gentle! Active products like vitamin c serums, exfoliants and retinols are really hard on your skin. Don’t do them all at once. And don’t do them every day. You can't just ask your skin to be able to respond to all of those right away. The skin has to be in good shape and that takes time. Remember, inflammation is something that happens to all of us. You cannot control it but you can control how you take care of it. You just need to remember that less is more, give it some time and don’t pick at your skin!
What can we do to prevent inflammation/redness?
I always remind my patients that fewer, quality products, used appropriately are your best weapon. And when you do experience inflammation, give your skin time to heal and don't pick! Don’t run out and buy another product full of chemicals to try to soothe the skin. It will backfire and you are just chasing your tail.
Any specific ingredients that we should try to stay away from in skincare products to avoid inflammation/redness?
In general, when your skin is inflamed, it needs to be babied. Don't add stress to your skin by asking it to do more, such as with products that stimulate skin cell turnover. This includes retinol-based products and even AHAs. This is like going for a run when you have the flu. Give your skin some time to recover, and then start these products back slowly as your skin gets into better shape. Focus on products for sensitive skin or specially formulated to calm skin and strengthen the skin barrier. Much like you need TLC to heal, your skin needs TLC as well. Look for ingredients like squalane and glycerin to hydrate and niacinamide and centella asiatica to calm.
If you have sensitive skin that is easily inflamed, ALWAYS avoid fragrance, essential oils, lanolin, and other common causes of irritation or allergic reaction. This is particularly the case when your skin is flaring. When your skin is flaring, there is an increase in blood flow to the skin, making your face red. This blood brings immune cells, which 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 essential to be incredibly selective about what you are putting on inflamed skin. Products you think your skin may love when healthy could make things worse when inflamed because of increased absorption. This is exactly why I made Doctor Rogers RESTORE products. They are specially formulated to help heal inflamed skin with only plant-based, hypoallergenic ingredients.
Can you recommend a step by step regimen to combat inflammation and get back to a routine?
This is the regimen I recommend for anyone who is experiencing inflammation:
Splash your face with lukewarm water. Apply our Face Lotion (normal to oily skin) or our Face Cream (normal to dry skin) to your face, neck, chest, and eye area. Follow with a zinc-based sunscreen containing at least 10% zinc. I love Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint, Mineral Sheer by SuperGoop or On-The-Defense Sunscreen by Eleven VENUS Williams. Apply makeup if you desire. Some of my favorite clean options from Credo include RMS Eye Polish, Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara, Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer, Kosas Color + Light: Crème, and Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick. Apply the Doctor Rogers RESTORE® Lip Balm, as needed, throughout the day.
Wash your face with our Face Wash using warm but not hot water. Moisturize with our Face Lotion or Face Cream according to your skin type. Apply our Healing Balm to any dry, irritated, sensitive areas. After 14 to 28 days, if your skin looks and feels healthy, the first product to add back is your evening treatment. By this I mean a product that stimulates skin cell turnover, like a retinol or AHA. Do this after you have washed and dried your face but before you apply your moisturizer. Start out every other night and pay attention to your skin, and if it seems to become irritated, skip the treatment and moisturize for a few days before trying again. Don't push it.
Then, after a week of using the evening treatment without irritation, add in your morning antioxidant to help protect the skin's surface from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and environmental aggressors like UV and pollution. This step takes place after your morning water splash and drying your face with a gentle towel. Apply an antioxidant serum to your face, neck, and chest and follow that with moisturizer and zinc based sunscreen. You always want to treat your face, neck, and chest as one unit.
What dermatological or aesthetic treatments do you recommend?
For fighting redness from inflammation, lasers and intense pulsed light can be very helpful. They will not take away your propensity to make red, just clear up about 50% of the red that is there. Then you will make more, and then you will need/want to be lasered again. Most of my rosacea patients have their face, neck, and chest lasered once a year.
There are also many prescriptions available to fight inflammation in the skin. Some treat the underlying cause, others inhibit the inflammatory process. You need to meet with a dermatologist to see which could be the most helpful to you based on your causes of inflammation.
Please contact us if you have any questions by filling out this form or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.