Inflammation and The Skin

WHAT IS INFLAMMATION? - It is a process by which the body's white blood cells and substances they produce protect us from infection with foreign organisms, like bacteria and viruses. Its role is to remove harmful invaders and to heal itself. White blood cells go out of the bloodstream and into the skin, they create swelling [inflammation] in the skin, blood vessels dilate, causing redness. Inflammation can happen anywhere – the brain and joints are two examples. When inflammation is high skin can become dry, irritated, red, or simply dull.

Mast cells (pictured) are a type of white blood cell - together, our white blood cells play a major role in our immune system, helping us fight off infection and other invaders. Mast cells are packed with histamine, a chemical released when you have an allergic reaction. They also contain heparin, a chemical that stops the blood from clotting. Mast cells are hard-working cells that have many functions, including helping to fight infection and healing wounds.

When the skin is subjected to trauma from injuries or UV radiation, the inflammatory cascade can result in redness, pigmentation, scar formation and dysregulation of collagen and elastin fibers.

Inflammation from your diet is also a primary cause of eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and acne, the main problem the body is struggling with is inflammation; acne has the combination of inflammation and bacteria.

Lastly, let us not forget the skin inflammation caused by cosmetic overuse or indeed the incorrect use of cosmetic products. 


Rosacea - This is an oxidative stress condition - this is due to an imbalance between antioxidants and reactive oxidizing species within the skin. The phenomenon is identical to what is known as free radical damage and underlies the worsening of rosacea through inflammatory pathways. 
Psoriasis - This is characterized by skin cells that multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. As underlying cells reach the skin's surface and die, their sheer volume causes raised, red plaques covered with white scales.
Eczema - Atopic dermatitis is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition, the skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly, and in severe cases, may weep, bleed and crust over, causing the sufferer much discomfort. Sometimes the skin may become infected.
Acne - This is a common skin condition with sebum overproduction, hyperkeratosis, Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) and Staphylococcus aureus, and inflammation.


Ginger Root - Bioactive compound stimulates changes in the body including settling the inflammation by inhibiting the synthesis of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body like prostaglandin and leukotriene.

Aloe - One of the most widely used anti-inflammatory plants dating as far back more than 2000 years. The active component is a polysaccharide that builds a protective film when applied to the skin. Aloe has been found to be effective in psoriasis treatment.

Yarrow - Offers anti-inflammatory and anti-pruritic properties thanks to its chamazulene content. Centaureidin, a flavonoid glucoside derived from yarrow has proved to have a positive effect on skin complexion and regulation of skin pigmentation.

Calendula - Offers skin protection against UV-B oxidative stress along with anti-tumor-promoting and cytotoxic properties.

Borage Seed Oil Contains the highest known concentration of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) this offers anti-inflammatory action known to ease eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.

Rosmarinic Acid - People with psoriasis have been showing elevated sensitivity to gluten. It is known that chronic skin inflammatory disease such as psoriasis can be provoked by viral pathogens. In a recent study, it was demonstrated that rosmarinic acid has an inhibitory potential on inflammatory reaction induced by viral pathogens. Rosmarinic acid is found in Rosemary Essential Oil and Rosemary Extract.

Vitamins and Minerals - Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A may have a therapeutic role in diseases such as rosacea and psoriasis. Found in: Carrot, Nettle, Hemp and Kale.

Pomegranate - Shows the tannins found in pomegranate display multiple anti-acne capacities [anti-bacterial, anti-lipase, anti-keratinocyte proliferation, and anti-inflammatory actions] The antibacterial properties of Pomegranate and Green Tea on the most common bacteria associated with the development and progression of acne suggest that these extracts may offer a better preventative/therapeutic regimen with fewer side effects than conventional pharmaceuticals. 

Hemp Seed Oil - According to a study conducted in Finland, hemp seed oil helps alleviate dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) this is thanks to omega-6 and omega- 3 fatty acids. Omegas 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids, which not only help restore moisture to dry skin but also reduce inflammation and redness. The study found that symptoms of skin dryness and itching significantly improved in dermatitis sufferers after using hemp seed oil for 20 weeks.

Horse chestnut - The compound aesculus is mainly praised for its anti-aging, blood vessels-protection and peripheral vasoconstriction. Horse chestnut contains triterpene saponins, proanthocyanins, flavonoids (mainly quercetin and kaempferol) and coumarins (Esculin and fraxin). The powerful anti-oxidant proanthocyanins found in Aescin play a role in the stabilization of collagen and elastin in the skin. They also act to reduce water retention and help protect the capillaries.

Comfrey - Contains allantoin which is a cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical ingredient to treat wounds, burns, eczema, psoriasis, ulcers, sunburn along with other skin disorders. One study noted the anti-inflammatory properties of a comfrey extract were greater than that of diclofenac a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Witch hazel - Contains astringent tannins that promote wound healing and contribute to anti-inflammatory and anti-acne properties. it is effective in reducing sunburn and UV-B induced erythema. Studies have noted it to be effective against atopic eczema in children and other types of eczema.

Botanical Plants with skin calming properties 

This is not an exhaustive list but covers botanicals we have worked closely with while formulating Tanu - Cell Affinity Coactive Serum a multi-tasking Hero. These botanicals can help prevent and reduce skin inflammation and Tanu is absolutely loaded with them for very good reason: 

Turmeric - Has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-neoplastic properties. Growing evidence shows that an active component of turmeric, curcumin, may be used medically to treat a variety of dermatologic diseases. Skin conditions examined include acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, facial photoaging, psoriasis, and vitiligo.

Prickly Pear - Polyphenols are abundant in the cactus pear with antioxidant potential which helps the prevention of skin inflammation. Vitamin K oxide is an iron-chelating agent which makes it useful in regulating bleeding and bruising. 

Red Raspberry - Ellagic acid and anti-inflammatory compounds help to soothe and calm irritated skin Eczema and Psoriasis. 

Calendula - This is probably the queen of anti-inflammatory plants. It is applied in skin and hair care products as well as in baby care products. Its anti-inflammatory properties are related to triterpene flavonoids and saponins2

Carrot Root - Has a reputation for helping to heal eczema + psoriasis, because of its ability to stimulate cell growth and repair damaged skin. It balances the skin's sebum levels to prevent blackheads and pimples.

Avocado - Vitamin D helps prevent and heal irritation, acne + eczema. Highly anti-inflammatory, this oil-soluble vitamin penetrates dermal layers to strengthen, soothe and calm the skin’s barrier.

Rosehip - The Trans-retinoic acid (which the body turns into Vitamin A) makes this a great oil for treating Acne and Rosacea. Antioxidant Compounds from Lutein that not only shields skin from your phone and laptop's blue light, but also from atmospheric pollutants like particulate matter's (PM) heavy metals and chemicals.

Tamanu - Most of the bioactive properties of tamanu oil are attributed to oil composition including the presence of resinous compounds constituted by neoflavonoids including pyranocoumarin derivatives.

Sunflower - The carotenoids namely Beta-carotene can help lighten the appearance of red inflamed blemishes and even out skin tone. High linoleic acid helps reduce skin inflammatory conditions - Acne + Eczema.

Chamomile - Soothes sensitive skin with its anti-inflammatory properties helps relieve itchy and inflamed skin conditions such as Eczema. The active compounds are terpenoids (bisabolol, matricin, chamazulene) and flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin). Chamomile extracts are effective in the reduction of UV-induced edema and other inflammatory skin problems. One study noted apigenin and luteolin were more effective than indomethacin and phenylbutazone. 

Green Tea - Has one of the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidants along with anti-inflammatory properties soothes irritated skin such as Eczema. Rich in bioavailable polyphenols that are antioxidants with the capability to absorb UV rays, protecting your skin against the penetration of UV radiation. Esters from Green Tea suppress acne triggering hormones helping to reduce breakouts.

Blue TansyThe compound chamazulene in free radical scavenging is what is thought to be responsible for its effectiveness in treating inflamed skin conditions. Helps decrease inflammation - Mildly inhibiting the enzyme that is involved in the inflammation response.

Additional Considerations

Protect - Sun exposure really increases inflammation in the skin, (remember sitting by a window you are still exposed to UV light). Wear sunscreens - zinc-based is best as it has good anti-inflammatory properties.

Exfoliation/scrubs – if they’re not gentle enough, they can bring up a lot of inflammation on sensitive skin.

Acids - AHAs, BHAs, or retinoids can be too harsh for the sensitive types or if you have rosacea + acne + psoriasis.


The food we choose to consume does make a huge difference in the health of your skin and inflammation. For healthy glowing skin remove sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and processed or junk foods from your diet, gluten and dairy are also offenders causing inflammation, they are harmful to your gut health and can lead to autoimmunity and thyroid dysfunction. Eliminate all sources of inflammation from your diet to help reduce inflammation of your skin. Studies have shown that acne is absent in populations consuming Palaeolithic diets with low glycaemic load and no consumption of milk or dairy products.

Pro and Pre-Biotics The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications in acne

What are some common causes of inflammation?
Causes of low-grade, non-self-healing inflammation affecting the skin can include:

  • Candida & digestive impairment
  • Sugar & processed foods
  • Exposure to toxins, chemicals, cigarette smoke & pollutants
  • Environmental stress & free radicals (oxidative stress)
  • Vitamin deficiencies, particularly D and B
  • Anxiety & stress
  • Lack of sleep

What else can exacerbate inflammation?

  • High temperatures  - Saunas, steam baths, sun lamps.
  • Weather – Sun, heat, strong wind, cold.
  • Emotions – Anger, rage, embarrassment, anxiety.
  • Activity – Intensive exercise, chronic cough, straining.
  • Drugs – Niacin, nitroglycerin, topicals - corticosteroids, retinoids, alcohol, acetones.
  • Menopause.
  • Skincare products - comedogenic ingredients that are known to clog the skin, synthetic fragrances (Parfum), Aluminum Compounds, Acids, Metals + Sulfates.
  • Ultraviolet light.

Foods that promote inflammation:

  • Sugar is the number one source of inflammation in the body.
  • Simple, refined carbohydrates + wheat.
  • Processed foods - saturated and trans fatty acids cause inflammation.
  • Corn & soybean oils.
  • Dairy.
Foods are known to have anti-inflammatory properties: Foods high in antioxidants help to reduce damage caused by inflammation
  • Bok Cho
  • Green Leafy Vegetables 
  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Salmon
  • Pecans
  • Bone Broth
  • Walnuts
  • Cacao
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Coconut Oil
  • Red grapes
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Tea

In Summary: understanding the synergy between what you consume and apply topically to your skin, equally contribute to the health of your skin. You have a 'superpower' known as a choice, use it wisely. 

Until next time..

Be human | be kind | be you





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