Banish redness and irritation with these anti-inflammatory superstars.

By Melanie Rud
November 13, 2019
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We’ll get to the good stuff in a second, but before we do, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is inflammation, and how does it show up in your skin? “Simply put, inflammation is your body’s natural response to anything that’s gone off track,” explains New York City dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, M.D. “It’s a built-in defense mechanism activated within your body to fight off foreign bacteria, viruses, irritants, and injuries.” When talking about skin, things like topical triggers (allergic reactions or dryness) and big-picture internal issues (stress and a poor diet) can trigger inflammation. There are also general inflammatory skin conditions, like rosacea and eczema, says Claire Chang, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City; both of which can be exacerbated by those aforementioned lifestyle factors, she adds.

Regardless of the underlying cause, inflammation will often show up the same way, namely redness, itchiness, and swelling. Taking a holistic approach and trying to address the internal components is definitely a great idea, but you can also rely on certain topical ingredients to help immediately reduce and alleviate inflammation. Below, skin docs weigh in on seven of the best anti-inflammatory ingredients, plus the skin-care products containing them.

Courtesy of Ulta

Licorice Extract

Useful for calming redness, swelling, itching, and redness, licorice extract contains components that actively inhibit inflammation in the skin, Chang says. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also a powerful antioxidant and can help brighten skin by interfering with the production of pigment, she adds. Multitasking for the win.

Nussbaum, who is also a fan of this ingredient, likes this serum. “Enriched with licorice root, mulberry extract, and a powerful combination of hyperpigmentation-fighting ingredients, it combats uneven skin tone and dark spots,” she says. And yes, it takes down inflammation, too.

Buy It: No7 Dark Spot Correcting Booster Serum, $40, Ulta

Courtesy of Walmart

Green Tea

You may already know that green tea is a smart choice for sipping, but it’s also a smart choice for soothing stressed-out skin. “Green tea is an abundant source of plant polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and also have protective effects on the skin against sun-induced free radicals, redness, and skin aging when used topically or taken orally,” Chang says. The bottom line: Keep sipping and slathering.

Ideal for acne-prone skin types, this peel-off mask not only touts green tea to tamp down inflammation and redness—from blemishes and otherwise—but also mattifies and minimizes oil production.

Buy It: Boscia Green Tea Oil-Control Mask, $35, Walmart

Courtesy of Sephora

Turmeric

The yummy spice with the distinct yellow hue is a worthwhile addition to both your skincare products and kitchen cabinets. Another powerful antioxidant, turmeric decreases the production of molecules that trigger inflammation, explains dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, M.D., of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.

This vitamin-infused mask is particularly suited for dry and sensitive skin. It pairs turmeric with another great skin-soother: ginger. The jellylike texture is also innately cooling and refreshing, a major win when skin feels irritated.

Buy It: First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Ginger & Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask, $32, Sephora

Courtesy of Sephora

Centella Asiatica

Say that three times fast. Also commonly known as tiger grass, this plant has a history of use for its anti-inflammatory benefits. (Fun fact: It’s called tiger grass because tigers in Asia would roll in it to heal wounds.) “Centella asiatica can soothe the skin and calm down redness. It has been shown to help with revitalizing the skin’s barrier, hydrating, and mitigating the effects of sun damage,” Chang says. Talk about an ingredient giving you major bang for your buck.

Don’t be put off by the green tint of this cream; it neutralizes unwanted redness but disappears when blended in. Centella asiatica is the star of the anti-inflammatory show, helping to calm stressed skin, but this cream also contains your daily dose of SPF.

Buy It: Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30, $52, Sephora

Courtesy of Target

Colloidal Oatmeal

Yes, oatmeal as in the breakfast food. Credit its beta-glucans, sugars that reduce skin inflammation and enhance collagen production in the skin, for its usefulness. Plus, Nussbaum says, “It can be used regularly and for long periods of time safely.” In fact, the ingredient is approved by the FDA as a treatment for eczema.

Eczema sufferers will appreciate the deeply soothing qualities of this cream (which has the National Eczema Association Seal of Approval, we should add), but anyone can reap the deeply hydrating and nourishing benefits. Bonus points for the ultra-affordable price.

Buy It: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream, $8, Target

Courtesy of Ulta

Chamomile

“Chamomile contains many naturally occurring compounds known to soothe the skin when applied topically,” Nussbaum says. The other nice thing: You don’t have to buy a separate skincare product to reap the benefits. “Brew a strong tea and make warm compresses, or throw a few tea bags into your bath water, along with coconut or sweet almond oil for a soothing soak,” Nussbaum suggests.

Bae, who also recommends chamomile, likes this product. Along with calming chamomile extract, it contains retinyl palmitate, a gentle retinol alternative that still delivers similar wrinkle-fighting effects.

Buy It: Mario Badescu Chamomile Night Cream, $20, Ulta

Courtesy of Skinceuticals

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is the standout antioxidant that makes a glass of red wine nightly a good pick for your health, and the grape-derived compound is a win for your skin too. The mechanism of action is a bit complicated, but, essentially by decreasing certain proteins, it increases the production of anti-inflammatory molecules, Bae says.

An admittedly pricey pick, this product is a worthy splurge due to the high concentration of resveratrol and two other powerful antioxidants that work together while you snooze. It calms inflammation and redness and helps repair any skin damage from the day. Beauty sleep, indeed.

Buy It: Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E, $153, Skinceuticals

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