Why your skin and inflammation aren’t friends

Monday, 25 June 2018

What is inflammation?


Oh, inflammation. Like the frenemy who will give you dating advice before flirting with your crush, inflammation can be a little two-faced. To understand why, you first need to know what inflammation actually is.

Broadly speaking, inflammation is part of your body’s immune response to damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens. It allows your body to identify these and make them stop.

But there are two problems. While completely natural, inflammation carries some undesired knock-on effects, which can be frustrating to treat. And sometimes, repeated exposure to inflammation triggers can cause chronic inflammation. This makes your body less-equipped to look after itself, and can lead to autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia (the pain condition that had Lady Gaga in tears in her 2017 Netflix documentary).

So, inflammation is important and good, but can turn on us in a bunch of ways. We look at three common inflammation issues relating to skincare, and what do about them. 


Rosacea | A number of sources list inflammation as a trigger for Rosacea – a  condition that causes the face to redden almost permanently, possibly caused by genetic factors that cause a sensitivity to things like weather, exercise, and alcohol. Things that would not normally cause the face to flush. Less commonly it can also affect the neck, chest, ears, and scalp. In some cases, additional symptoms such as semi-permanent redness, dilation of superficial blood vessels on the face, small red bumps and burning and stinging sensations may develop. Gentle at-home approaches are good as a start – mild cleansers, soothing moisturisers – but there are also clinical solutions.

Acne | When it comes to breakouts, inflammation can be very taxing. Essentially, once your immune system spots some bacteria that shouldn’t be  on your skin, it does its best to get rid of it. This means red, swollen zits in all shapes and sizes. Yay! Luckily, where acne is caused by bacteria, there are quite a few solutions available. Go topical first, if this doesn’t work, it might be best to see a professional. And take it easy on yourself. Having acne doesn’t mean you’re dirty or weird or anything like that. It’s totally normal, and if you decide to do something about it – that’s great, if not, just as good.

Sensitivities | If you’re flaring up with redness, tightness, or itchiness after your nightly routine, you may have skin sensitivities. Although these are fare less common that many people believe, some people do have hypersensitive skins that make using popular brands almost impossible. Look for products that don’t contain fragrances or parabens – both known skin irritants.


If you still have questions about inflammation, why not ask our skincare gurus through the ‘Ask the Experts’ tab? Our Skin Renewal doctor’s are on call and ready to help you with individualised advice.

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  1. WAFIQA ABBAS

    I have rosacea, but it seems to be under control.

    2 months ago •

  1. Annastacia Thema

    Suffer from hormonol acne and I can tell you this, its a NIGHTMARE!!! Face is always painful and swollen really need to do something about this.

    3 months ago •

  1. ZELD10

    Informative, thank you. I have a question though. In general I don’t get breakouts but 2 weeks prior to my period I get breakouts worse than a teenager on steroids. Why is that? If acne forms part of inflammation why during the period where you experience hormone imbalance?

    3 months ago •

    1. Alez Odendaal

      Hey Zelda! Great question. That sounds like hormonal acne. This is a little different to inflammation because it’s your body’s natural hormonal cycle, rather than it being a reaction to something that happens to you from an external source (inflammatory acne). There are loads you can do for hormonal acne.

      This section on acne from Skin Renewal is really helpful: https://www.skinrenewal.co.za/acne
      Here are some other sources:
      https://goop.com/beauty/skin/how-to-clear-hormonal-acne/ (this one chats about inflammation, too)
      https://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/entry/hormonal-acne-treatment_us_5a9eac60e4b0a0ba4ad7e1da

      Hope that’s helpful! I also suffer from hormonal acne – it sucks.
      – Aléz

      3 months ago •

  1. Fouzia Damon

    Sensitivities |
    Great read , I can relate to this however this is my basic problem even if i purchase skin care product for sensitive skin it still has a fragrance and i often have to wash my face with clear water after.

    3 months ago •

    1. Alez Odendaal

      Yeah, it is really strange that brands implement a fragrance in products for sensitive skin. Have you tried washing and moisturising with just pure Vitamin E cream? – Aléz

      3 months ago •

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