Environmental assaults, extreme weather, UV exposure or harsh skin care ingredients can all irritate your complexion. Certain skin conditions – like eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis – may also be to blame. Dermatologists and other experts recommend these five popular skin-soothers to treat irritation. Find out how they can help your skin.
Whether you’re battling psoriasis, eczema or another skin condition, it helps to know your options for natural, skin-calming treatment. And even if you don’t suffer from chronically sensitive skin, most people experience various degrees of irritation from environmental factors. The following ingredients can improve inflammation, hydrate dry skin and help ease irritation.
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a gel-like sap that exists in the aloe plant’s spiky green leaves and has been embraced for its skin-soothing properties for centuries. While hundreds of aloe plant species exist, only some possess the aloe vera extract that is used in skin care products. According to The Active Naturals Institute, pure aloe vera extract contains the following skin-boosting ingredients:
- Uric acid
- Salicylic acid
However, in order to be effective, a formula must contain a concentration of aloe vera ranging from 0.5 to 70 percent, notes WebMD. Conditions like dry skin or psoriasis require higher concentrations.
- Calms. Aloe vera is perhaps best known for reducing inflammation and minimizing redness when skin is irritated, such as after a wax. Plus, it “seems to boost the activity of other skin soothers” for even greater anti-inflammatory effects, dermatologist Howard Murad, M.D., explains in The Murad Method: Wrinkle-Proof, Repair and Renew Your Skin with the Proven 5-Week Program.
- Protects. Aloe vera arms skin against damaging free radicals that are responsible for aging.
- Clears. In the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, dermatologist Jessica Wu, M.D., reports that 83 percent of psoriasis patients treated with 0.5 percent aloe vera cream experienced clearing of psoriasis symptoms.
- Heals. When it comes to minor burns, sunburns, scrapes, cuts and wounds, aloe vera binds moisture to deep skin layers, encouraging the healing process, explains David J. Leffell, M.D., in Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life. But for severe burns and deep cuts, seek medical attention.
Product picks. While many keep an aloe plant close at hand, there are plenty of options for those with a not-so-green thumb. Keep in mind that even though aloe vera is not considered an irritant, individuals allergic to garlic, onions and tulips may be allergic to aloe. If you’re not sure, do a patch test on a small area of skin before using it extensively.
- Moisturizing topical treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Aloe-Cort Cream blends whole leaf aloe vera with hydrocortisone for moisturizing anti-itch relief from minor irritations including eczema, insect bites, poison ivy, detergents, extractions and skin peels.
- Calming acne cleanser: Ole Henriksen Aloe Vera Deep Cleanser banishes excess acne-causing oil while aloe vera, chamomile and vitamins work together to balance, calm and soothe skin. This cleanser also boasts anti-inflammatory and antiseptic ingredients to help prevent future breakouts.
This daisy-like flower contains unique chemicals – including chamazulene α –bisabolol, flavanoids, luteolin, apigenin and quercetin – that soothe skin by stopping the release of inflammatory histamines.
- Soothes. Chamomile eases irritation and inflammation associated with atopic dermatitis. Leffell explains, “In a study of patients with atopic dermatitis, it was found to be about as effective as hydrocortisone.”
- Heals. In Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use AZ Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies, Phyllis Balch explains that chamomile has antibacterial properties and can both reduce the amount of fluid lost in wounds and the total size of the wound.
- Calms. For some, skin care is also a chance to soothe the spirit. That’s why we reach for products with ingredients that boast pleasant aromas – like chamomile – which is proven to reduce stress.
Product picks. Unfortunately, the skin-soothing benefits of chamomile can’t be found in a cup of tea. Instead, add the following formulas to your skin care arsenal:
Feverfew has earned high praise from dermatologists because it treats multiple types of skin irritations. Feverfew stops the formation of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and some studies suggest that it may be more effective than other botanical compounds including green, black and white teas, Echinacea, licorice extract, chamomile and aloe vera.
- Soothes. Feverfew prevents and reduces skin irritations when applied before some laser procedures and after topical retinoid products. Research also shows that it lessens skin irritation from shaving.
- Heals. Feverfew can help heal inflammation from acne, atopic dermatitis and Rosacea. Susan C. Taylor, M.D., dermatology professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, claims that feverfew “may be as effective as antibiotics at treating outbreaks.” In fact, feverfew PFE application may prevent the need for corticosteroids or other prescription drugs in young children, notes Lawrence F. Eichenfield, M.D., chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at University of California, San Diego. Remember, when using feverfew as a healing treatment, be sure to consult your doctor.
- Evens. Feverfew reduces redness, blotchy tone and rough texture in people with sensitive skin.
Product picks. Keep in mind that pure feverfew also contains a substance – parthenolide – that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. When you add feverfew to your skin care routine, only use the processed form of feverfew (called PFE, or parthenolide-free feverfew) as found in these products:
Derived from oat kernels, oatmeal has been used in skin care since ancient Egyptian times as a multi-tasking skin soother. When ground up into a fine powder teeming with skin-boosting compounds including proteins, lipids, vitamins and antioxidants, oatmeal offers cleansing, soothing, protective and anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Relieves. According to Dr. Wu, oatmeal is an effective ingredient for relieving itching and irritation and can stop the release of inflammatory substances. Oatmeal also soothes dermatitis, eczema and other skin irritations.
- Heals. When applied topically, oatmeal promotes faster healing of burns, cuts, poison ivy and diaper rash.
- Hydrates. Oatmeal contains a chemical called beta glucan that helps improve skin’s barrier function to prevent water loss and soften dry skin.
Product picks. Oatmeal has earned rare approval by the Food and Drug Administration as a natural ingredient for cleansing and moisturizing. Oatmeal is ideal for sensitive skin and safe for people of all ages.
While soy has been used for millennia in Chinese medicine, it has only recently gone mainstream in skin care after scientists observed that Asian workers in soybean factories had hands that were especially smooth and even-toned. Soy is rich in beneficial proteins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.
- Conditions. In addition to cleansing, soy also helps to lock in hydration by improving skin’s barrier function to prevent moisture loss and evaporation.
- Evens. Soy reduces the look of hyperpigmentation and dark spots, especially those caused from UV exposure. In addition, studies have shown soy to cause a “40 percent improvement in facial roughness, blotchiness and skin clarity,” notes The Active Naturals Institute.
Product picks. Soy is well tolerated by people of different ages and skin types. It typically doesn’t cause allergic reactions, irritation or other side effects.
- Hydrating cream: Archipelago Botanicals Milk Soy Lotion is a luxurious hydrating balm that blends creamy milk and soy proteins to create soft, silky skin from head to toe.
- Conditioning cleanser: Embrace the purifying power of soy with Archipelago Botanicals Soy Milk Soap. This mild, milky cleansing bar includes soy and other gentle extracts to lift away dirt and other impurities without stripping skin of essential moisture.
The next time you experience skin irritation or inflammation, consider trying these time-tested skin-soothers to help your skin feel and look better!
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