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Natural ways to soothe inflamed and irritated skin
There are many reasons why your skin may be stressed out this season, including stress itself.
Summer skin flare-ups may also be aggravated by pollen, air pollution or harsh UV rays, and chronic conditions like acne and rosacea may be triggered or exacerbated by hormonal imbalances, anxiety, alcohol intake, diet and inflammation, says Elina Fodotova, president of the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners and owner of Elina Organics. “From the perspective of your immune system, hives and skin inflammation are histamines, or swelling responses, that treat any given substance like an enemy, producing itchiness, irritation–and worse,” says Fodotova.
Once you have a skin diagnosis, start to rule out allergens that may prompt itchy responses, like hives or eczema, says Yumi Sasaki, lead esthetician at Larchmont Sanctuary Spa in Los Angeles. “Clients with active skin conditions often have food allergies to dairy products or gluten, wheat, nuts, seeds and eggs, which can show up on your body and on your skin.”
What to do? “Start filling up on anti-inflammatory foods that boost your immune system and promote skin health, such as dark leafy greens and foods rich in fatty acids such as sardines and fish oils, Indian ghee and flax seeds,” she says.
Keep your skin nourished with healthy fats and fatty acids—i.e., coconut, avocado and olive oils—which are vital for helping the body absorb minerals and vitamins from your food. “Essential fatty acids also help repair and renew skin cells and promote hormonal balance,” says Sasaki.
Photo: Roman Samborskyi / shutterstock.com
Here are common stress-related skin conditions, along with ways to soothe
Eczema affects over 30 million people in the U.S. From the Greek word “effervesce,” eczema is most common on the face, hairline, eyebrows, ankles, back of the knees, neck and upper chest. And it may be at least partially inherited: According to the National Eczema Society, 80 percent of children who have eczema will also eventually develop hay fever and/or asthma.
To prevent additional inflammation, try drinking an immune supportive tea made from rosehips, echinacea and/or chamomile, says product formulator Celeste Hilling, founder of Skin Authority. Hilling also suggests applying the same room-temperature tea bags directly onto irritated skin.
If you have eczema, avoid inflammatory chemicals, artificial dyes, harsh soaps and laundry detergents, cleansers and disinfectants like chlorine.
TRY: Natralia All-Natural Eczema Body Wash and Shampoo, originally made for children, products are soap-free, natralia.com; MV Organic Skincare Skin Booster Daily Skin Soother, credobeauty.com; Graham’s Eczema Gel with Manuka honey, itchy.net.au.
Acne + Breakouts
Though caused by bacteria, pregnancy, menopause and hormonal shifts play major roles in complexion changes, breakouts and clogged pores. Excessive sunlight, overactive sweat glands and anything that traps heat against the skin or causes friction will only worsen breakouts, says Larchmont Spa’s Sasaki.
“Bacteria thrive in moist conditions,” says Sasaki. “Gently wash your face after working out because makeup, sweat and oil can clog your pores.” Aim for nutrient-rich foods and beauty products that contain vitamin C; antioxidant-rich ingredients like green tea, willow-bark, tea-tree oil, juniper and rosemary extracts, say our experts.
Dead skin cells can clog pores, and exfoliating both your face and body regularly helps get rid of the top layers of dead skin, says Fodotova, “especially if you use products or try treatments that contain toning, antiseptic ingredients such as willow bark.”
TRY: Acure Clarifying Acne Glycolic + Zinc Towelettes and Acure Acne Spot treatment with willow bark extract, acureorganics.com; Osmia Organics Spot Treatment with rosemary, cypress and thyme, credobeauty.com; Truly Organic body washes with vegan exfoliators, kale and acai, trulyorganic.com
There are different versions of this chronic condition, including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and seborrhea dermatitis, and symptoms include swelling, itching, burning and blotchy redness. Severe dermatitis can also produce blisters, crusting and oozing, says Kimberly Cooke, ESPA spa therapy manager at Acqualina Spa in Florida.
Dermatitis has many causes, but the most common triggers are allergies or physical contact with something that irritates the skin, i.e., synthetic fragrances, colorings, alcohol, FD&C dyes and synthetic preservatives.
Vitamin-rich ingredients with antiseptic qualities, like antioxidant-rich elderflower, peppermint, aloe, witch hazel and calendula, can help heal dermatitis, says Cooke. Also, St. John’s Wort, best known as a stress-relieving tea, shows promise as a skin soother, she says. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist about supplements before taking them, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
TRY: ESPA Pink Hair and Scalp Mud, which soothes skin and has a cooling effect on the scalp, face and neck, us.espaskincare.com; Elina Organics Healing Sea Buckthorn Lotion, elinaorganics.com; Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel with aloe and a blend of herbs, dralkaitis.com
Redness + Rosacea
Sun exposure is a primary rosacea trigger, and those who take consistent steps to protect their skin when outdoors are most successful at reducing flare-ups, according to a recent National Rosacea Society survey. Many of the same alternative remedies that soothe outbreaks of eczema and dermatitis also help rosacea, including topical vitamins and anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, and skin-soothing ingredients like aloe, seed oil—especially, for example, carrot seed oil—and calendula.
According to Tara Grodjesk, founder and president, Tara Spa Therapy, “Calendula is a traditional herbal medicinal used in many countries. It contains bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory compound. Calendula is used to soothe skin irritations and redness,” she continues. “It is good for chapped and reddened or aggravated conditions. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it does help reduce the redness associated with rosacea by calming the skin.”
Symptoms include redness around the cheeks and nose, broken blood vessels, bumps that look like pimples, swollen or painful skin, stinging, itching and burning, and flushing easily. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown but science generally recognizes rosacea as more common in women, people between the ages of 30 and 50, and fair-skinned people who tend to blush easily.
To cover up red, irritated skin, make sure you look for natural, mineral-based makeup, as conventional cosmetics can aggravate sensitive skin. Hilling suggests, “Also use products with calming plants with antihistamine-like qualities, and healing herbs, such as sage and jasmine.”
TRY: Naturopathica Carrot Seed Soothing Facial Oil with soothing, anti-inflammatory seed oils that nourish the skin and prevent and soothe redness, naturopathica.com; Tara Spa Therapy Organic Calendula Oil to soothe and take down redness; taraspa.com.