Our skin is the most exposed organ in our bodies. It literally comes into contact with an infinite number of potential irritants each and every day. Even covering our skin to protect it from the irritating elements introduces the possibility of a skin reaction. It’s something we’ve all probably experienced at one point or another.
Some irritations are minor or easy to handle by simply removing whatever’s irritating us and letting time be our healer. And other times, we feel like we need to throw in the towel and find an effective remedy to calm down our irritated skin.
Plants to the rescue! Luckily, there are a variety of herbs that are perfectly suited for the job of calming irritated skin. And we’re here to help you determine the best options.
What are the most common skin irritations?
Skin irritations come in many forms. They can be as simple as an allergic reaction to something we touched or as complex as a chronic condition that results from a variety of factors. Some irritations may even have no known cause.
It’s important to note that any skin irritation could be caused by an underlying medical problem. So if you believe that could be the case, you should consult a dermatologist before trying to resolve the issue on your own.
Without including major skin diseases, the most common skin irritations are rosacea, eczema, contact dermatitis, rash, sunburn, and acne breakouts.
What are the common causes of skin irritations?
Contact with an allergen
Allergens and potential irritants are everywhere. This can make it difficult to know whether it’s your soap, laundry detergent, household cleaners, fabric softener, or certain fabrics causing your skin irritation. Try eliminating them one at a time to solve the puzzle. If you suddenly notice a rash, a new product is often the culprit.
If we could just banish stress from our lives forever, everything would be wonderful, right? I suppose that’s not likely to happen but finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety will definitely help alleviate or prevent pesky stress-related skin irritations.
Harsh skincare products
Skincare products often contain harmful synthetic ingredients that are not friendly to your skin (or your health!). Always look out for sulfates, parabens, phthalates, fragrances, alcohols, and many others. And be sure to check out our full line of all-natural organic skincare products that are always free of these toxins.
Keep in mind that some people are allergic to certain plants, too, so watch for skin reactions to any new product you use.
Not letting skin breathe
Sometimes our skin can feel smothered if we use fabrics that don’t allow good airflow. When sweat sits on our skin, it can cause irritation. Many synthetic materials are not breathable, so sticking to natural ones is best. Try organic cotton, linen, silk or hemp to minimize skin problems.
Sun and environmental elements
The heat of the sun, cold dry air, and wind can all be drying and irritating to our skin. The less we expose it to these elements, the less chance our skin will react. Hats, scarves and gloves can protect us in winter, as well as using a mild mineral-based sunscreen. And hats with a wide brim are great sun protection in summer.
Certain drugs can dry out your skin or cause allergic reactions and rashes. Check with your doctor if you believe your medication might be causing problems.
Sometimes, it’s not known
Unfortunately, we don’t always know what causes skin irritation. So we just have to roll with it and do our best to soothe our skin.
What herbs are best for soothing irritated skin?
Historically, the brightly colored petals of calendula, also known as pot marigold, were used as a dye for food and fabrics and as internal medicine. But the plant also has astringent, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it excellent for soothing skin irritations and burns and helping wounds heal faster. It’s also full of antioxidants which help protect the skin from oxidative damage.
2. Oats (Avena sativa)
Oats make a delicious and hearty breakfast, but they also offer powerful benefits for irritated skin. They’re probably most known for their ability to calm itchy skin, but they’re also great for dry, sensitive skin. Oats are also full of protein, vitamin E, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and are extremely mild. Ground oats also make a gentle but effective exfoliator.
Enjoyed as a tea for calming stress and anxiety for ages, chamomile is also soothing to the skin when applied topically. Rich in anti-inflammatory plant compounds, this herb can help with many common skin conditions like eczema and rosacea. It’s also high in antioxidants and is great for repairing and restoring skin barrier function to help skin retain moisture.
4. Marshmallow root
Marshmallow root contains compounds that have “mucilage,” which is a slippery substance that helps soothe skin and seal the skin barrier. Studies show that marshmallow is an effective treatment for eczema and dermatitis. In Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, marshmallow root is also used as an adaptogen, which means it helps control your body’s stress response. Lower stress levels help prevent irritation in your skin.
5. Aloe Vera
A popular go-to remedy for sunburn, aloe vera is a top choice to cool and calm dry, irritated skin. The jelly-like insides of this desert plant have amazing anti-inflammatory and healing properties and also act as a humectant and emollient to hydrate your skin. It also boosts collagen production to help reduce signs of aging.
Roses might have thorns, but they also have numerous benefits for red, irritated skin. Rose is known to be ultra-hydrating and is excellent for reducing redness in irritated skin. It has potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is chock full of nutrients that help boost collagen for younger-looking skin.
7. Slippery Elm
Traditionally, indigenous people used slippery elm to treat wounds and soothe burns. The potent substance comes from the inner bark of the elm tree. The "slippery" part is the mucilage that helps skin hold in moisture. But it’s also rich in vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds that fight inflammation and strengthen the skin. It’s great for treating skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Borage seed oil is exceptionally soothing and hydrating due to its high content of the essential fatty acid, gamma linoleic acid. The flowers also have emollient, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Borage is also incredibly soothing for itchy, irritated skin associated with eczema, dermatitis and rashes.
9. Blue Tansy
Blue Tansy is a close relative of chamomile but is prized for its beautiful blue hue. It contains many active plant compounds, like the chamazulene that give it its dreamy color, that help reduce inflammation and irritation and hydrate dry skin. Camphor in blue tansy is also effective for healing wounds and reducing wrinkles.
10. Evening Primrose
Dry, irritated skin will love evening primrose for its ability to fight inflammation and infuse skin with a healthy dose of rich omega-6 fatty acids. It’s excellent for soothing skin affected by eczema, rosacea and dermatitis. Plus, it improves skin renewal for a rejuvenated complexion.
Last but not least, lavender is well-known for its calming qualities. Besides its relaxing aroma, lavender heals and soothes all types of irritating skin conditions. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and also helps bring balance and tone back to stressed skin.
Most people will deal with some type of skin irritation at one time or another. But we don’t have to suffer for long. This list of natural herbal ingredients can help return our irritated skin to a happy, peaceful state. Look for products made with these amazing herbs (like ours!), or you can try making your own remedies with them at home. Either way, staying calm, cool and collected is best for you and your skin!