13 Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Ingredients to Rescue Problem Skin

By Dana Poblete
Herbal Skincare with Healing Ingredients
credit: marilyna/iStock/GettyImages

When acne breakouts, redness, or flakiness flare up, your skin is delivering a clear message: that irritants like UV exposure, allergens, and chemicals from skincare products are throwing things off. Acute inflammation is a good sign that your immune response has been triggered and is doing its thing. But if you don't act fast, these inflammatory responses could turn chronic and produce harmful hormones, enzymes, and free radicals that damage skin tissue.

You could go the prescription drug route and tackle conditions like rosacea and eczema with corticosteroids; that's definitely effective, but not without side effects (e.g. thinning of the skin and immunosuppression). Or, you could look to the many botanical ingredients that have been well-researched for their anti-inflammatory superpowers. Here are some of nature's most potent skin saviors.

Problem-Skin Heroes

Turmeric

This golden spice is by far one of the most well-known thanks to its dozens of anti-inflammatory compounds, including curcumin. To pacify skin that's worked up with acne, dryness, or even eczema or psoriasis, whip up your own turmeric face mask by mixing 1 teaspoon turmeric powder with 3 tablespoons plain coconut yogurt. Leave that on for 20 minutes, then rinse and moisturize. For a ready-made alternative, reach for Juara Turmeric Antioxidant Radiance Mask.

Maracuja Oil

Chronic dryness with an acne breakout to match is the worst double-whammy ever, and an obvious sign that your skin is not happy. Maracuja oil, derived from the seeds of passion fruit, rebalances skin's moisture levels and regulates excess sebum production. It provides antioxidant protection as well. Treat skin to a rich drink of Tarte Pure Maracuja Oil.

Calendula Extract

Also known as marigold, calendula is a medicinal flower that relieves eczema and treats acne with protective antioxidant carotenoids. Odacité Oleosomes Time Release Delivery Crème complements calendula with cooling aloe, revitalizing carrot seed oil, and oleosomes that time-release active ingredients and moisture throughout the day for long-lasting effects.

Senna Seed Extract

The senna plant is native to India, and the extract from its seed is known to mimic the moisture-retaining capabilities of hyaluronic acid. Josh Rosebrook Advanced Hydration Mask boasts a high concentration of senna seed extract, with polysaccharides that hydrate, plump, condition, and repair the skin while improving circulation for greater vitality.

The Acne Fighters

Blue Tansy

Blue tansy gets its signature hue from a compound called azulene, which has amazing anti-inflammatory properties for battling cystic and hormonal acne. May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon is a concentrated balm that not only calms the skin, but also the mind with the sensuous fragrances of frankincense, myrrh, lavender, and geranium rose.

White Willow Bark

Bark from the white willow tree is a source of anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids that give it inflammation- and pain-relieving abilities comparable to aspirin. Odacité Mint + Green Tea Hydra-Purifying Treatment Mist deeply purifies pores and quickly banishes inflammation-induced acne breakouts.

Redness Rescue

Chamomile

Whether in the form of chamomile flower or blue chamomile oil (also rich in azulene), this herbal ingredient is gentle enough for sensitive skin, which tends to be the most affected by inflammation. Bisabolol is an anti-irritant that naturally occurs in chamomile and gives it a healing quality. Pai Skincare Chamomile & Rosehip Calming Day Cream soothes redness and rosacea and possesses essential fatty acids to repair and regenerate damaged skin.

Damage Control

Green Tea

A cup of green tea is associated with zen vibes, and the herbal remedy can do the same for balancing the complexion. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a polyphenol in green tea with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is known to protect against UV damage. Kypris Clearing Serum strengthens skin's natural healing process while diminishing blemishes, scarring, and irritation.

Prickly Pear Seed Oil

Prickly pear seed oil (also known as prickly cactus seed oil) is super luxurious and abundant in vitamins E and K, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants to soften skin, restore elasticity, and neutralize free-radical damage. You might notice it popping up as an up-and-coming ingredient in creams, serums, and masks, but if you're in need of lots of moisture, don't be afraid to try it in its purest form. Kahina Giving Beauty Prickly Pear Seed Oil is 100-percent organic and ethically sourced.

Tamanu Oil

Extracted from the nut kernels of the tamanu nut tree, this anti-inflammatory oil promotes collagen production, which restores skin's suppleness and fades scarring and sun damage. Try Root Science Bare Facial Serum to improve skin's clarity and texture.

Irritation Soothers

Licorice

Licorice root or licorice extract have been used in ancient Chinese medicine to treat inflammation for centuries. With an arsenal of dozens of anti-inflammatory compounds and a powerful antioxidant called glabridin, licorice is a heavy-hitter when it comes to treating sensitive skin prone to itchiness, redness, eczema, and psoriasis. Regenerate and renew stressed skin with Gressa Dirty Pretty Things mask.

Aloe

It's no secret that aloe is the ultimate sunburn soother, but it's also a hero ingredient in everyday cooling toners and serums. Juice Beauty is known for skipping the fillers and sticking to straight up actives like aloe leaf juice. The brand's Antioxidant Serum is just the thing skin needs for a daily dose of nourishing hydration.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is an old standby used to tighten pores and alleviate itching, swelling, minor burns, and other irritations. While Thayer's is pretty great with its formulas ranging from astringent to alcohol-free, Captain Blankenship Aloe & Rose Toner offers the anti-inflammatory trifecta of witch hazel, aloe, and white willow.

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