You don't have to have hyperreactive skin to use these soothing formulas.

By Deanna deBara
April 24, 2020
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Breakouts, sun damage, redness, a reaction to an ill-advised product—we've all dealt with skin inflammation at one point or another. If you want to calm your skin and treat the problem, you know you need to look for anti-inflammatory skincare ingredients. Before we break down the additives you need to bookmark, take this tip: While these soothing ingredients work will in a pinch, they're also worth integrating into your day-to-day routine, so you can ward off redness and irritation all the time.

woman applying cream under eye and looking into mirror
Credit: Getty / JGI/Jamie Grill

How do anti-inflammatory skincare products work?

Before we jump into which anti-inflammatory skincare ingredients to look for, it's important to understand how they work. "Inflammation is the body's response to any form of disruption. It can result from things like irritants, injuries, or bacteria. Inflammatory skin conditions, like rosacea and eczema, can also lead to skin becoming inflamed," says Dr. Jeanine B. Downie, a dermatologist at Derm Collective. "Anti-inflammatory products work by inhibiting the body's response to these insults, by blocking the effects of certain enzymes that contribute to swelling and inflammation." As it turns out, calming that inflammation is a pretty big deal in terms of both skin appearance and health: "Preventing the impact of inflammation on our skin is paramount for a youthful appearance and to avoid succumbing to chronic or acute skin diseases," the expert adds.

Antioxidants

You want your anti-inflammatory skincare products to contain antioxidants. "Anti-inflammatory ingredients are all basically antioxidants, which help our bodies fight damaging free radicals," says Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, founder of Mudgil Dermatology. "For our skin, antioxidants prevent collagen damage as well as damage to our skin's DNA." But which antioxidants are particularly helpful at fighting inflammation? "Vitamin C, vitamin E, ginger, green tea, vitamin D, turmeric, and CBD are some popular [antioxidant] ingredients found in anti-inflammatory creams and serums," explains Dr. Mudgil.

Aloe

Aloe is the first ingredient you look for to calm the inflammation (and pain!) associated with a sunburn—and the same applies when you're looking for anti-inflammatory skincare products. "Aloe vera is a widely available anti-inflammatory ingredient that can be found in skincare products worldwide," adds Dr. Downie. "It has a very long track record as a skin soothing agent."

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is another skincare ingredient full of compounds that can help fight inflammation. "Witch hazel has compounds known as gallic acid and tannins, which help to reduce inflammation when applied topically," explains Dr. Downie. A tip when searching for this option? "When reading labels, be sure to look at the order in which the ingredient falls," she notes. "The later in the listing, the lower amount the product contains of that particular ingredient."

Colloidal Oatmeal

Oatmeal isn't just for breakfast—as it turns out, it can also soothe your skin. It contains sugars which help fight inflammation and soothe red, irritated skin. And because oatmeal is such a gentle ingredient, it's an ideal choice for people that struggle with skin sensitivity and want to incorporate more anti-inflammatory formulas into their skincare regimen.

SPF

SPF isn't necessarily an anti-inflammatory ingredient, but working it into your daily skincare regimen is a must if you want to keep inflammation at bay. "[Using] an SPF 30 titanium- or zinc-containing sunscreen is number one," says Dr. Mudgil. "The sun's rays can lead to free radical formation, which in turn causes inflammation and aging."

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