March 29, 2022
Published: March 29, 2022
Welcome to Part 3 of The Healthy Skin Guide. In this 4-part series we’re covering everything you need for healthy, happy skin (body and mind, too). You’ll learn about the 2 underlying causes of skin conditions, how these processes impact your skin and how to repair your skin naturally and holistically.
Here’s what each of the 4 parts will cover:
Part 3: Inflammation and Your Skin: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Part 4: Natural Holistic Tips for Healthy Skin: How to Repair Your Skin Barrier and Reduce Inflammation
In Part 1, we talked about how the vicious cycle of skin barrier break down and inflammation are the underlying causes of all skin conditions. In Part 2, we learned what our skin barrier is and how it becomes impaired or compromised.
Today we’re going on a journey to understand how to calm our sensitive and reactive skin. We’ll learn about inflammation and how it affects our skin.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to protect itself from injury and foreign invaders – think cuts, bruises, infections or foreign objects like splinters.
When you get hurt your immune system sends white blood cells to the site to surround and protect it so it can heal.
Acute inflammation can also occur due to exposure to UV radiation (sunburn), allergens or chemical irritants.
Whatever the cause, acute inflammation usually involves redness, heat, swelling and pain at the sight of injury and resolves fairly quickly.
Without this acute inflammatory response, you could die from simple infections, so I’d say inflammation can be a good thing.
Inflammation that lasts months or years is referred to as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be confined to one area or it can be systemic, meaning it occurs throughout the body.
In chronic inflammation, your body continues the inflammatory response long after injury or illness, even when there is no outside danger present.
The white blood cells and chemical messengers your body sends in an inflammatory response can end up attacking and damaging nearby healthy tissues and organs. This inflammatory response can even be directed at your own cells.
Research reveals that inflammation is associated with just about any disease, condition or exposure you can think of. Here are just a handful that are associated with inflammation:
So how can you tell if you have chronic low-level inflammation? Chronic low-level inflammation is sometimes a stealthy, invisible process. There are often other physical symptoms that can key you in to chronic inflammation. These symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, sinus congestion and digestive discomfort.
You might be thinking: these are non-specific symptoms of so many conditions. You’re correct – they are! And all of these other conditions involve inflammation as well.
Many common skin conditions, like eczema (atopic dermatitis), contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, are classified by dermatologists as inflammatory skin conditions. Due to the redness and itching or irritation it may be obvious that most rashes involve inflammation. But did you know that almost all skin conditions involve some type of localized or systemic inflammation? Acne…yep. Rosacea…yep. Contact dermatitis…yep. Keratosis pilaris…yep.
As I mentioned earlier, acute inflammation is an important part of our immune response and it is essential for healing. However, too much or prolonged inflammation can cause damage to our skin barrier. Some of the ways inflammation can cause skin damage:
What this all means is that inflammation can cause damage to our skin cells, supporting tissue and lipid matrix. It causes our skin to become damaged and our barrier impaired. In case you missed it, I covered the structure and function of our skin barrier and how it becomes impaired in Part 2.
As a brief recap, our skin barrier’s major functions are to retain moisture and keep irritants out. If you picture your skin barrier as a brick wall. Your skin cells are the bricks and your lipid matrix is the mortar that holds (glues) those bricks together in a tight structure.
When our skin barrier is damaged our skin cannot perform its jobs properly. Irritants are able to enter and cause inflammation. Water from deeper skin layers evaporates in a process called transepidermal water loss or TEWL.
In Part 1, we learned how inflammation and skin barrier damage operate in a vicious cycle – inflammation causes skin barrier damage and skin barrier damage, in turn, causes even more inflammation.
It doesn’t really matter if the initial skin inflammation is a result of chronic inflammation or from the entry of toxins and irritants through a damaged barrier. Once the inflammation is present it feeds into this cycle resulting in skin barrier damage and then more inflammation and then more barrier damage and so on, which leads to escalating skin issues.
There’s even a theory called Inflammaging, which is a mash-up of the words “inflammation” and “aging.” Inflammaging refers to the chronic, low-level inflammation that causes skin damage.
In Part 4, we’ll take a deep dive into natural, holistic strategies to improve skin health. Here are some tips to get you started:
I hope you’re enjoying the series on how to heal your skin naturally by addressing an impaired skin barrier and inflammation. If you missed it, here’s what I covered in the first 2 installments.
We’ll wrap it all up in Part 4 with holistic, actionable strategies to repair your skin barrier and lower inflammation.
Did you learn anything new about inflammation today? Are you experiencing any signs of chronic inflammation? Share your favorite tips for lowering inflammation below.
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