Why the approach to skin inflammation needs careful thought

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

© gonin / Getty Images
© gonin / Getty Images

Related tags Inflammation Skin Skin care

In the first of a two part-series, we take a look at skin inflammation, an area of skincare that is gaining in popularity, but one that can also be confusing to consumers.

CosmeticsDesign-USA (CDU) speaks to Ebru Karpuzoglu, who is an expert in the area of immunology and founder of the skincare line AveSeena to find out the best approach to tackling this area and to provide that all-important clarity for consumers.

Skin inflammation is responsible for a spectrum of conditions, including contact dermatitis eczema, psoriasis and acne and is even attributable to visible signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles.

While all of these conditions make tackling the causes of inflammation an imperative, it is also a complex area that requires clarity and a clear strategy to ensure that product development is targeted in the right direction.

CDU: Can you clear up what is the best approach and terminology to use for skincare products that treat symptoms of inflammation?

Ebru Karpuzoglu: The term “anti-inflammatory skincare” is not entirely accurate because it can be misleading and oversimplified. The term “anti-inflammatory skincare” requires a comprehensive explanation as it relates to the broader goal of promoting skin wellness and a balanced immune system.

To explain this in more detail, we should consider several factors related to inflammation, the immune system, and skincare: Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to injury, infection, or irritation. It’s a complex and highly regulated process that involves the release of various signaling molecules and immune cells to protect the body from harm. Inflammation is a vital part of the body’s

defense mechanisms and is generally a sign of a well-functioning immune system. However, chronic or excessive inflammation can be problematic and lead to various health issues.

Instead of targeting inflammation outright, effective skincare products often aim to support a balanced and healthy immune response. A well-balanced immune system will respond appropriately to pathogens while not overreacting to non-threatening substances. Therefore, skincare should not necessarily be “anti-inflammatory” but rather “pro-balanced immune response” and work to defend against inflammaging (inflammation induced aging).

CDU: What is the right approach to tackle specific skin inflammation conditions?

EK: Aging often comes with a phenomenon called “inflammaging”. which is characterized by a chronic, low-grade inflammation. Skincare products are designed to counteract the signs of inflammaging, and they do so by promoting a healthy and balanced immune response.

Sensitive skin, likewise, can be linked to an overreactive immune system, and skincare products are formulated to reduce skin sensitivity by helping maintain this balance. The goal of skincare is to visibly promote overall skin health, which, in turn, contributes to one’s sense of well-being.

Healthy skin looks and feels better, which is often perceived as “happy wellness” Achieving this involves maintaining a harmonious relationship between the skin barriers, microbiome and the immune system.

CDU: Your brand AveSeena was one of the first to start making anti-inflammatory claims, what part do you feel you’ve played in the popularity of this claim?

EK: AveSeena has indeed been at the forefront of advocating for a more comprehensive approach to skincare that extends beyond the concept of mere ‘anti-inflammatory skincare”. Here’s how we view our role in shaping the popularity of this claim: AveSeena’s philosophy has always revolved around the belief that skincare should be synonymous with promoting overall skin health and balance. We recognize that the skin is a complex organ with its own immune system, and that the key to healthy, beautiful skin lies in nurturing this inherent immune response.

I believe as an Immunologist, the terminology “anti-inflammatory skincare” oversimplifies the complex relationship between skincare, inflammation, and the immune system. Skincare products are primarily designed to support a balanced and healthy immune response, which goes beyond just reducing inflammation. They aim to address inflammaging, skin sensitivity, and overall skin wellness, all of which depend on the proper functioning of the immune system.

CDU: What has been your specific approach to tackling the area of inflammaging?

EK: At Aveseena, we focus on a bigger picture- signs of inflammaging. Our brand has played a significant role in popularizing this more holistic approach to skincare. We’ve invested in research, product development, and education to convey the idea that skincare should focus on nurturing the skin’s innate ability to maintain a balanced immune response. This message resonates with our customers, as they seek products that not only improve the appearance of their skin but also contribute to their overall well-being.

CDU: Can you tell me a little more about how this rising popularity is manifesting itself? What types of brands are latching on to it?

EK: The rising popularity of the anti-inflammatory skincare trend is making a significant impact on the beauty industry. Brands across various niches have embraced this trend in different ways.

Many are formulating their products with ingredients known for their anti-inflammatory properties, emphasizing ingredients like chamomile, aloe vera, and green tea extract. Clean and natural beauty brands have thrived within this trend, prioritizing gentle, plant-based formulations to reduce skin irritation.

Brands focusing on sensitive skin solutions offer fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products to cater to individuals with delicate skin. Holistic and wellness-centric brands are emphasizing the connection between overall well-being and skin health, encouraging a balanced lifestyle. Transparency, education, and dermatologist-backed brands are contributing to the trend’s popularity by educating consumers and providing medically endorsed solutions. The rise of social media and influencer marketing has allowed these brands to reach a broader audience, creating a community around anti-inflammatory skincare products.

Through research and innovation, brands are continually developing new formulations to address inflammation-related skin issues. In summary, the anti-inflammatory skincare trend – though simplified- has become a central theme in the beauty industry, with brands from different segments embracing it to meet consumer demands for healthier, balanced skin.

CDU: Is there any new research in this area? If so, what has it proven?

EK: Research in the field of anti-inflammatory skincare has been ongoing, exploring various aspects of this approach to skin health. One area has focused on the effectiveness of natural ingredients with anti inflammatory properties. Research in the field of anti-inflammatory skincare is ongoing and continues to provide valuable insights into the benefits of various ingredients and formulations. Recent studies have focused on the following areas:

Microbiome and Inflammation: Research has explored the role of the skin microbiome in inflammation and how probiotics and prebiotics can modulate skin inflammation. Studies suggest that maintaining a healthy microbiome may be crucial for skin health (Dréno et al., 2016) (9).

Antioxidants and Inflammation: Antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as vitamin C and E, have been investigated for their ability to combat inflammation by neutralizing free radicals (Rhie et al., 2001) (10).

Natural Ingredients: The efficacy of natural anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea extract, licorice root extract, and chamomile has been supported by scientific research. These ingredients have demonstrated the ability to soothe and calm inflamed skin (Graf, 2007) (11).

Barrier Function: Studies have highlighted the importance of a healthy skin barrier in preventing inflammation and sensitivity. Ingredients that support the skin barrier, like ceramides and fatty acids, have gained attention (Rawlings, 2014) (12).

These research findings underscore the significance of addressing inflammation in skincare and suggest that various ingredients and approaches can effectively manage inflammation, leading to healthier and happier skin.

To see part two of this article, please click HERE​.

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