Tune In: Why We All Need To Care About Skin Inflammation & Why It's Such A Problem
One area of skin health research that I find fascinating is the connection between inflammation in the skin and inflammation in the rest of the body. For example, research1 has shown that skin conditions (like eczema and psoriasis) are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues. And for the past several years, we've known that there's a deep and intricate connection between gut inflammation and skin conditions2.
Of course, it's not as simple as inflammation in X part of the body triggers Y inflammatory disease in another—however, more and more research points to a stronger connection than many realized. In fact, a 2019 study has even demonstrated a link between skin dysfunction and various health conditions caused by chronic inflammation.
"We know inflammation does bad things to our body. When our skin is in contact with substances that it does not want to be, its reaction is inflammation. And sometimes you can't see it; it's microscopic inflammation. But you can feel it: The skin is tight or we feel oily and have blemishes," says Erin Yet Tjam, Ph.D., known as The Beauty Obsessed Scientist and author of Skin Sobering: 99% of Products Are Harming Your Skin. "If we don't stop that acute inflammation, the worst thing happens and it becomes chronic. Inflammation goes around the body. When you have inflamed skin, your body doesn't feel good."
In this episode of Clean Beauty School, Tjam joins me to discuss the concept of "skin sobering," why skin inflammation shouldn't be ignored, and why skin health is a public health crisis.
Why we should all care more about skin inflammation
"Skin health is a public health issue," she says. "It's the No. 1 reason that people in America see doctors. The pure number of people who have skin concerns makes it an epidemic. The pure variety of the problems within our skin makes it an epidemic."
As an example, she points to the increasing rates of acne—as well as adult acne. It's so common at this point that it's considered a "universal" problem in Western societies, afflicting 79% to 95% of the adolescent population3. And it doesn't stop with teens. Adult acne in women has increased by 10% over the past 10 years, according to one survey.
Skin conditions in children are also on the rise. One study found that 90% of school-aged children had at least one skin disease (with a wide range of severity, I should add). Researchers—not just Tjam—connect this to the increasing rates of allergies in children: In the last 10 years, the number of children "at risk" for a severe reaction increased 104%.
Her radical solution? Go sober from skin care products. "And the solution is so simple: Stop fussing so much over our skin with all these products and allow it to heal." It's the central argument of her book: If you let it, skin can take care of itself, and modern formulations get in the way of its ability to do so. Tune in to hear more.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.