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What Is Skinflammation?

In a landscape awash with buzzwords, “anti-inflammatory” has to be one of beauty’s buzziest. And with a rise in cases of rosacea, eczema, breakouts, and skin sensitivity in general, it’s no wonder anti-inflammatory skincare is generating so much of said buzz. But what is inflammation and how does it affect our skin? “Inflammation is how the body signals the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue and fight off pathogens,” explains Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder of the Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics line. “Ironically, inflammation is designed to protect us, but sometimes the immune system does not work properly and may direct an immune response to attack healthy, normal tissue, resulting in acne, redness, enlarged pores, and skin diseases and dysfunctions, including psoriasis, rosacea, and perioral dermatitis.” Understanding and mitigating inflammation, especially as you age, is therefore key to maintaining healthy skin. “The degree to which inflammation causes premature aging cannot be overstated, ” she warns. “That’s why the focus of my entire skincare philosophy is on fighting inflammation and its consequences.”

Read on for everything you need to know about inflammation and the best anti-inflammatory skincare ingredients.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's natural reaction against injury and infection. When your body encounters viruses, bacteria, or toxic chemicals or suffers an injury, it activates your immune system, which then sends out inflammatory cells to attack the infection or heal the injury. There are two types of inflammation: Acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation is triggered by internal and external exposure to irritants, including UV radiation, pollution, allergens, smoking, alcohol, and pro-inflammatory foods, along with skincare ingredients such as fragrances and acids and aggressive treatments like peels and lasers.

Chronic inflammation is a sustained inflammatory response in which the immune system continues to send out inflammatory cells even when there is no injury or infection. Chronic inflammation is a symptom of many chronic diseases, such as arthritis and asthma.

What is Skinflammation?

Skin inflammation, aka skinflammation, also occurs as a result of an immune response in the body. “We are bombarded every day with inflammatory influences, from harsh skincare ingredients to UVA and UVB rays, stress, tailpipe emissions, HEV rays, smoking, drinking, and sugar,” says Dr. Sturm, whose medical career has focused on combating inflammation in the skin and the body.  “Inflammation is the primary cause of skin disease and dysfunction, including hyperpigmentation, suppression of collagen production, premature aging, redness, itching, psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis.” Preventing inflammation is therefore key to overall skin health.

Dr. Sturm’s Top Tips for Preventing Inflammation

Lifestyle: Get an adequate amount of sleep, which stimulates human growth and other hormones. Deploy stress reduction techniques such as breathwork, mediation, and yoga.

Skincare: Use a broad spectrum SPF daily along with products that offer antioxidant benefits and strengthen skin barrier function. Avoid the use of aggressive acid peels and harsh lasers. “Every anti-inflammatory skincare routine should contain products that deeply hydrate and nurture the skin—packed with highly active anti-aging ingredients that support the skin’s barrier function, rather than attack it.”

Diet: Moderate drinking and eliminate smoking. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fatty fish, avocados, cherries, broccoli, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, almonds, turmeric, and green tea. Avoid soda, refined carbohydrates, trans-fats, fried food, and sugars. Supplement your intake of Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium, and Selenium. Avoid antibiotics, NSAID’s and antacids, which harm the microbiome and cause leaky gut, triggering body-wide inflammation.

What Are The Best Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Ingredients?

Bisabolol: Derived from German Chamomile or synthetically produced, Bisabolol is a sesquiterpene that has been shown in studies* to prevent skin inflammation, have calming properties, and support the immune system from harmful microbes, acting as an antioxidant and assisting in cellular repair.


Purslane: The hero ingredient in the Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics line, Purslane serves as a telomerase activator and a wound healer, and possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown in dozens of clinical studies to be one of the richest sources on earth of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, and antioxidants, including tocopherol, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, and glutathione.


Niacinamide: Also known as Vitamin B3 or Nicotinamide, Niacinamide is an essential nutrient that helps build proteins in the skin, offers protection against environmental damage, and has anti-inflammatory properties and a stabilizing effect on epidermal barrier function, reducing transepidermal water loss and boosting moisture levels in the skin. 


Aloe Vera: Rich in active, anti-inflammatory compounds, Aloe has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and stimulate skin growth and repair*. Aloe is also antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and contains polysaccharides that help to bind moisture into the skin.


Azulene Oil: Derived from the steam distillation of chamomile, yarrow, or blue tansy flowers, Azulene Oil is rich in phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids, giving it powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It also acts as an anti-microbial and enhances skin barrier function.


*Maurya AK, Singh M, Dubey V, Srivastava S, Luqman S, Bawankule DU. α-(-)-bisabolol reduces pro-inflammatory cytokine production and ameliorates skin inflammation. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2014;15(2):173-81. doi: 10.2174/1389201015666140528152946. PMID: 24894548.

*Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163-6. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.44785. PMID: 19882025; PMCID: PMC2763764.

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