Listen to Your Skin: Learn the Signs of Inflammation and How to Treat It

In the busy craze of our day-to-day schedules, it can be hard to take a beat and listen to our bodies. What nutrients do our guts need? What movement does our joints need? What’s causing my skin to be so inflamed and irritated?

Inflammation appears on the skin in a lot of ways, with even more sources and reasons. There’s the most obvious ones, like acne or eczema, but not every flush of red or tender patch needs the same things. Here we break down the most common signs and types of inflammation, with their causes, how to treat it from the inside out, and some recommended KB products. Consider us your skin translators for now, and let us do the listening. 

1: Acne (hormonal, blackheads, whiteheads, etc)

Signs and causes: Though acne can look different, from more tame, small whiteheads to the painful cysts that can come with hormonal imbalances, it’s pretty easy to identify. Its placement and type however can point to different root causes. 

Hormonal acne is often felt building underneath the skin first, taking longer to surface. It most often appears along the chin and around the mouth and can be quite painful to the touch. For some it appears during the weeks leading up to their menstruation period, but it can be caused by other hormonal imbalances such as stress.

Blackheads are often referred to as simply clogged pores, seen most often on the nose, chin, and forehead towards the center. It may be more noticeable on those with larger pore sizes, and is simply a build up of dirt, oil, and other impurities that sometimes need physical extractions. 

Whiteheads are what we often think of when we think of acne. Though it is most common for this type to only pop up during adolescence, with the other two types more common in adult acne, they can still appear for a number of reasons. Breakouts on the cheek can be a sign that pillowcases or phones aren’t being cleaned and wiped down enough, causing build-up and bacteria to transfer to the skin. Breakouts along the hairline can signal a buildup of hair products if hair isn’t clarified or the scalp scrubbed frequently enough. 

Ingredients and treatments: 

Since we’re rooted in skin nutrition, the skin-gut connection is something we take seriously. It’s important to look at the diet for inflammatory ingredients in addition to your skincare. Though every gut biome is different, there are a few ingredients found to contribute to breakouts, including refined sugars and dairy. 

Some may find it beneficial to test a lower-glycemic regimen. In addition, foods high in Zinc are linked to improvement in acne. This includes pumpkin seeds, cashews, quinoa, and lentils. Vitamins A and E can also help keep acne at bay. Vitamin A can be found in fish oils, eggs, and tomatoes, while Vitamin E is prevalent in sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, and avocados. Leafy greens, red bell pepper, pumpkin, and mango are great sources of both.

Within skincare, a cleanser is a key step in any skincare routine, but it’s especially important for keeping oil and impurity buildup managed. Choose a calming formula that won’t strip the skin of the good, natural oils and cause new inflammation. Double cleansing is important for those dealing with acne, as the first cleanse removes excess buildup, allowing the second one to deliver more powerful deposits of active ingredients.

Exfoliation is also key to deep clean out impurities, as well as promote skin turnover to clear acne faster. It may seem counterintuitive to keep oily and acne-prone skin deeply moisturized, but when skin is too dry it makes more oil to create a balance, which could lead to more acne overall. So invest as well in a good moisturizer to keep the skin barrier healthy and intact.

Recommend products: 

-KB5 Calming Gel Cleanser: a great first step in a double cleanse routine for those with acne-prone skin

-Dual Exfoliating Clay Mask: naturally drying clay removes excess oil without over-drying the skin, and is a powerful yet safe way to help clear blackheads at home.

-Retin-C Treatment Complex: our less abrasive form of retinol, Rovisome, promotes cell overturn, a typical dermatologist treatment for acne, plus it reduces dark spots from past breakouts

View our full edit for clogged pores and acne-prone skinhere.

2: Rosacea & redness (including flushes from stress, heat, and dermatitis)

Signs and causes:Though each of these inflammation types differ in root causes, the overall reddening of the skin is the telltale sign of each. The most stereotypical sign of inflammation, all of these are caused by a reaction to something larger happening in the body. There is not one singular cause for rosacea, though it can be triggered by diet, heat, stress and other factors that cause inflammation overall in the body. However, it’s also important to note that redness in the face due to those causes do not inherently point to rosacea. 

Dermatitis is an umbrella term for a wide range of skin conditions, and generally just means skin inflammation. This can be caused therefore by an equally wide range of things, including allergic reactions and sensitivities to ingredients, chemicals or other environmental factors. The two most common forms are contact dermatitis, which is more akin to a reactive rash, as well as atopic dermatitis, or eczema, which can be recurring and more hard to pinpoint as it is also caused by less tangible influences like stress.

Ingredients and treatments:Since this category deals with more general inflammation of the body compared to acne, any ingredients in the diet that target inflammation overall will be beneficial for the skin. This includes any foods packed with antioxidants such as berries, dark chocolate, leafy greens, and fruits and veggies with carotenoids (aka red and orange varieties). Additionally, foods rich with Omega-3s help block inflammatory pathways in the body. These are found in oily fish including salmon, as well as seafood, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. There are also plenty of fish and plant-based supplements for this nutrient. 

Finally, a healthy gut will always set you up for success with inflammation, meaning a daily dose of both prebiotics and probiotics will be key. Prebiotics provide fuel for the healthy bacteria in the gut. Aim for high sources of fiber such as whole grains and cruciferous veggies. Probiotic foods contain these healthy bacterias to keep the gut balanced, sourced from cultured and fermented products such as miso, kimchi, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, tempeh, and sauerkraut. There are also supplements for both pre and probiotics.

For skincare, look for soothing, gentle ingredients and treatments to build up your routine. Keeping the skin barrier intact is important to avoid further inflammation, so look for moisturizing ingredients and avoid harsh active ingredients. For this type of inflammation, it may be beneficial to cycle test products that you suspect may be worsening any conditions. 

Choose one at a time to remove from your routine, similar to testing for food sensitivities. If your skin stays the same after two weeks, it’s safe to assume you can begin integrating it back into your routine. Additionally, when introducing any new product, do a small patch test to see how your skin reacts, and use any new active ingredients only a few days per week at first until your skin has adjusted.

Recommend products: 

-Vitamin C Nourishing Cleansing Balm: this deeply nourishing cleanser moisturizes as it removes impurities, leaving the skin soothed and softer even after washing off

-Vital Hydration Blast: perfect for skin that needs a deep dose of moisture, especially those dealing with eczema, this hydrating mask is the perfect home self-care moment

-Rose Hip Revitalizing Face Serum: since many environmental factors can contribute to redness, the antioxidants in this serum help fight off free radicals to stop inflammation before it occurs

View our full edit for rosacea and skin rednesshere.

3: Dryness

Signs and causes:extremely dry skin can be a cause of certain forms of dermatitis, but sometimes dry patches of skin are simply that. Whether it’s from the winter cold, blasting office air conditioning, or time spent in a dryer region, dry skin can get to the point of causing inflammation too, and deserves its own space to discuss. The signs here will be very clear. Skin will feel tight, as if pulled closely across the face. It can also feel itchy and prickly, then dry, flaky and even patchy to the touch. Untreated, it can eventually lead to bouts of redness and greater levels of inflammation, but it can be intercepted first. 

Ingredients and treatments:nourish the body by hydrating from the inside out. Look to foods that contain a high volume of water, in addition to ensuring you’re drinking plenty as well. This includes watermelon, celery, cucumber, romaine and iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, and summer squashes. Potassium helps the body absorb fluids and stay hydrated from the foods and drinks it ingests. Great sources include bananas, avocados, oranges, cooked spinach and broccoli, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens. 

Treatment for dry skin is all about hydration and more hydration. This means every step in your routine should be contributing something to this goal, and should avoid any harsh active ingredients and exfoliants that could further irritate the skin or strip the skin barrier of its natural moisture. Exfoliation is okay in general though, and feels especially relieving on flaking skin, but gentler chemical exfoliants like those found in BHAs and AHAs are key.

Recommend products: 

-Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream: our best-selling moisturizer has a potent dose of our signature Stay-C blend for deep hydration and and anti-inflammatory antioxidants

-Power Trio Radiance Oil: three cold-pressed oils combine for a rich, nourishing blend that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin types

-Hand Therapy: usually if you’re in an environment or season that’s drying out the face, the hands are in need of some TLC too, so that’s where this moisturizing hand cream comes in

View our full edit for dry skin and dehydrationhere.

Though inflammation can be irritating and uncomfortable, there are easy ways to adjust your skin and gut nutrition to relieve and treat symptoms. This guide is to help you feel empowered to analyze your skin, listen to its concerns, and take action accordingly. Those dealing with more clinical conditions, such as rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, and eczema may find it helpful to see a dermatologist to better understand what specifically is contributing to flare ups. 

However this guide is a great place to start and take the power of your healthy skin into your own hands (and beauty cabinet). With some small changes, skin nutrition can be a powerful tool for reducing everyday inflammation in your skin, you just have to listen to it.