Sensitive, inflammation-prone skin is characterized by a delicate moisture barrier, leaving it susceptible to dryness, flaking, and irritation. When conventional dermatology proves too aggressive for these skin types, holistic skin care, which emphasizes barrier resiliency and anti-inflammatory treatment from the inside out, often holds the key to managing symptoms. This falls under the category of sensitive skin, easily inflamed skin like rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema.
Here are 8 ways you can help keep your skin calm and happy:
- Build up the skin barrier.
The skin barrier is responsible for both protection and moisture-retention; skin with poor barrier function is extra vulnerable to irritation and inflammatory reactions. Similar to the concept of 'leaky gut,' we can also develop 'leaky skin'. Chronic dryness via trans-epidermal moisture loss can then lead to inflammation—exacerbating unhappy skin. A damaged skin barrier also allows microbes, allergens, irritants, and pollutants to penetrate the dermis more easily, causing inflammation and redness.
Thus, protecting and enhancing the moisture barrier of your skin is vital. Use barrier-strengthening ingredients. Here, a list of the best skin-barrier-strengthening actives to look for:
Ceramides: Ceramides are lipids that regulate our skin cell function. Without the proper ratio of ceramides, the skin's barrier can become compromised, leading to dryness, itching, and irritation.
Manuka honey: This natural ingredient is famous for its natural healing powers. Research shows it's effective at promoting tissue repair, balancing your skin microflora, and managing moisture content. Plus, its anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and extremely hydrating.
Niacinamide: Vitamin B3 has been shown to improve epidermal barrier function when applied topically.
Squalane: Squalane is a naturally occurring part of our sebum (the oil on your skin), so by replenishing it, you can help repair skin previously irritated by oil-stripping products. There are squalene oils you can purchase in skin care lines that are derived from olives (which is the only similar alternative than our own skin creating version).
- Seek out anti-inflammatory active ingredients.
Along with building up your skin barrier strength, you should also look at anti-inflammatory actives (they often go hand-in-hand). Start with antioxidants as they neutralize oxidative stress, the main cause of inflammation. A few other holistic skin care favorites are turmeric (i.e., curcumin), plant oils (i.e., olive, argan, safflower, sunflower oils), comfrey, and hemp. The skin's immune cells have CB2 receptors that bind to hemp or CBD, cueing the skin's return to homeostasis via our body's own endocannabinoid system.
- Avoid ingredients that strip and irritate your barrier.
Top ingredients to avoid are the common contact allergens like fragrances, artificial dyes, and preservatives like methylparaben. You will also want to steer clear of other additives, like plasticizing phthalates and overly harsh sulfate cleansers that can harm the skin barrier. A leaky barrier's high permeability also means that harsh actives—including the ever-popular retinol and exfoliating acids—can cause or exacerbate irritation.
Some dermatologists recommend avoiding all chemical exfoliants (i.e., glycolic, lactic, salicylic, citric) if the skin is irritated or highly sensitive. Glycolic acid, with its small molecular size, can be especially aggravating for the skin. Remember: Your skin's sebum is your best protection. Harsh ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oils are not the answer for your skin type.
- Take supplements.
Supplements that can help manage overall body inflammation should have a positive effect on your skin. (We recommend that you'll be best served with a tailored supplement regimen, so consult with your health care practitioner.) A few good places to start:
Vitamin D: It works by managing the release and proliferation of cytokines―chemical messengers that initiate inflammation.
Probiotics: This could help manage problems like eczema, acne, allergic inflammation, and hypersensitivity by supporting your gut and skin microflora.
Chlorella: This nutrient-dense ingredient has been shown to reduce overall inflammation and promote wound healing.
Turmeric: Turmeric inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory genes, blocking the inflammatory response pathway.
Omega-3s: This fatty acid manages inflammation and provides your skin with essential building blocks for healthy skin cells.
Collagen: Collagen and elastin are the main structural components of your skin—without them, your skin cannot function properly. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements have been shown to promote your body's natural production of these proteins.
- Eliminate inflammation-causing foods.
Skin is a manifestation of the internal state, so spend time on diet and supplements rather than simply topicals. Without going through food sensitivity testing, there are general food guidelines to follow. Acne sufferers will want to avoid dairy, whey, and processed sugar (including foods with a high glycemic index). For people with eczema, try eliminating dairy and sometimes gluten. As for rosacea-sufferers, a top offender is alcohol.
- Eat a balanced diet.
We know that making dietary eliminations is extremely difficult—so much so that it helps when you can shift your focus to what you are incorporating into your diet rather than on what it now lacks. Eating multiple servings of vegetables and fruits with every meal can be very beneficial, while there is strong evidence to suggest that the Mediterranean diet can help with that, as the diet prioritizes plant-based eating, with daily consumption of veggies, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.
A diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods, and healthy fats are essentially the food for probiotics, the "healthy" bacteria that makes up a balanced skin and gut microbiome. Think garlic, onions, chickpeas, fermented foods like kimchi, as well as various veggies, fruits, and legumes. As for healthy fats, you can turn to salmon, coconut oil, avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, and more.
- Try red light therapy.
Light therapy has become extremely popular in the wellness space, with benefits ranging from hair growth to immune support. In skin care, red light is used to stimulate collagen, promote wound healing, and to temper inflammation. The various phototherapies—including UVB light—have been found to be especially therapeutic for psoriasis-sufferers, while the low-level laser therapies have been found to be beneficial in skin healing and the management of inflammatory diseases.
- Tend to your emotional health, too.
Inflammation is often triggered by your mental health, which is most commonly derived from stress and anxiety both physical and emotional. Intense, stressful emotions cause the body to secrete cortisol and other hormones that trigger inflammation. The skin's response is our body's way of letting us know that it needs our attention.
Chronic stress, in particular, keeps the body's production of cortisol in overdrive, which will appear on the skin. For example, there is a strong connection between cortisol and developing hormonal acne, which is well researched and vetted by skin care experts. As with so many other health woes, inflammatory skin conditions can be ameliorated with some good, old-fashioned stress-reduction and self-care.
The Bottom Line
By treating inflamed, reactive skin internally and externally, you can ease redness, dryness, and irritation. Whether your sensitive skin is a result of overly harsh skin care products, a chronic condition, or it's just your skin type, there are ways to manage your symptoms—and target the root cause.
The best part of all is that for almost every option stated above, you can get each benefit from just once source: manuka honey! Venture over to Wild Natural’s online store and read up on our extensive blogs outlining the many benefits that manuka honey can offer to sensitive skin!