What is skin inflammation?

Inflammation is a term that gets bandied about in skincare a lot. But what is skin inflammation, and why does it happen? What are some of the most common types of inflammation? And, most importantly, how can it be treated?

What is the definition of skin inflammation?

Skin inflammation happens when the skin is irritated due to internal or external factors. It presents as red or pink patches of skin, and can be accompanied by swelling, itching, hives, or a rash. Sometimes, the skin feels hot to the touch.

What are the different types of inflammation?

Although the term inflammation is used to describe any number of skin problems, there are two distinctive types.

Acute inflammation is the most common and manifests as a result of exposure to various allergens and irritants. It can also be a result of sun exposure. While it might sound scary, in most instances, acute inflammation goes away within a few weeks. Likewise, it causes very little skin damage.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the type that lasts longer than six weeks and can cause damage to the skin. It happens when the body’s immune system has an abnormal reaction. It includes skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. In some people, chronic inflammation is a life-long condition. It comes and goes, and any number of factors can trigger it. For example, psoriasis is often attributed to genetics (as it runs in families) and both internal and external factors can trigger it.

What to do if you suspect you have chronic inflammation?

It is essential to seek medical advice since the causes of chronic inflammation vary from individual to individual. Likewise, the process itself and why it happens is not easily understood. The good news is both topical and oral treatments are available and can help you manage your condition. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to skincare conditions.
Some conditions respond well to topical treatments. Others require oral medication. The best course of action is to work with your doctor to see what treatment options are available. Furthermore, you might need to implement some lifestyle changes to see improved results.

What to do if you suspect you have acute inflammation?

If you rarely suffer from inflammation, it pays to examine your routines and any environmental triggers that might have caused it. Are you trialling a new skincare product? Have you changed your shampoo/foundation/laundry detergent? All of these can cause a reaction. Examine your routine, use the process of elimination, and try to find the culprit. Let’s not forget overexfoliation, because that happens too.

Change in the seasons can also make our skin react. In the summer, skin can react with a heat rash or sunburn (if we aren’t diligent with our sunscreen). In the winter, cold weather and central heating can dry out the skin and cause redness.

Lifestyle factors also play a part. Are you stressed? Has your diet changed? Have you started taking new supplements or medication?

Whether acute or chronic, skin inflammation is a tricky beast since it depends on so many factors. If you are dealing with chronic inflammation, consult a doctor. If it is acute, try to find the cause and soothe and pamper your skin back to health. Opt for a gentle cleanser, hydrating serums, and moisturisers that help repair the moisture barrier.

Roberta Striga