We look at how stress and the environment can impact our skin.

inflammatory skin conditions

Skin conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis— known as inflammatory skin diseases—seem to be on the rise. Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Alberta, attributes this to our “increased knowledge, surveillance and access to medical support that allows people to report skin anomalies.” For example, we now know that, although winter dryness and cold weather can exacerbate these conditions hot temperatures and UV light can also dry the skin. “If a person receives too much heat or sun exposure to the point of burning, these conditions may be exacerbated by increased inflammation,” says Dr. Rao. “Many of us forget that warmth and UV effects alter the pre-existing topical and oral medications we use on our skin,” he adds. “So be mindful of what you are using and change it if your skin has a reaction in the presence of heat and sun exposure.”

What causes Inflammatory Skin Conditions? 

Overall, inherent genetic factors and environmental triggers are the two general causes. “With atopic dermatitis and eczema, an inherent inability to retain adequate moisture in the skin is usually combined with triggers such as a dry environment, infections and allergens or irritants,” says Dr. Rao. In contrast with psoriasis, there is a “genetic hyperimmunity of the skin to various stimuli, while triggers like some medications, group A streptococcus bacteria and other irritants” lead to symptoms.

Treating Your Symptoms

Traditional treatment methods seek to manage symptoms rather than holistically treat the initial reason for infection. As a brief overview, these methods include ultraviolet light therapy and intramuscular injections of cortisone to inflamed areas, all of which should be covered by OHIP. Dermatologists also prescribe topicals like anti-inflammatory agents and moisturizers to lock in moisture and improve the skin’s natural barrier function. Although prescriptions may be covered, over-the-counter moisturizers range from $20 to $100 per bottle.

Holistic Treatment Options for Your Skin

For holistic treatments, recent research by the L’Oréal research team and La Roche-Posay on the ability to manipulate the skin’s natural microbiome proves promising. According to Dr. Sophie Siete, PhD, international scientific director for La Roche-Posay, staphylococcus, the most common bacteria strains associated with infection, has a higher presence in the microbiomes of individuals with inflammatory skin diseases. Although this finding isn’t new, the work they are doing with microbiolgists on a probiotic strategy is: They’ve found that by providing the skin with good bacteria, such as the mineral composition La Roche-Posay Lipikar products, which are rich in selenium—a cofactor of enzymatic activity—the immune system becomes stimulated and can reduce flareups. Even a genetic predisposition can be overturned if the microbiome is manipulated from a young age.

Scalp Sensitivity

Those of us with sensitive skin also have a sensitive scalp, and using hair care products with tons of fragrances and preservatives, combined with other stressors, such as environmental pollution, can cause irritation. Many hair care brands now address hair care issues with the health of the scalp in mind. Here are our favourites:

1) Cliniderm Soothing Scalp Shampoo ($20, major drugstores): The only shampoo that has earned the Seal of Acceptance from the Eczema Society of Canada helps to soothe a dry and itchy scalp just after three minutes of application. The neutral pH lessens irritation and protects the scalp from environmental stressors.

cliniderm shampoo

2) Cliniderm Gentle Conditioner ($20, major drugstores): This improved formula with provitamin B5 has a creamier texture to nourish the hair after shampooing while preventing breakage.

cliniderm conditioner

3) StriVectin HAIR Ultimate Restore Deep Repair Mask ($39, drugstores and department stores): This mask reinforces hair follicles and cuticles to increase the strength of poorly damaged hair while nourishing the scalp for healthy hair growth. Massage the mask into your scalp first, then work the treatment into your hair. Let it sit three to five minutes before rinsing. Use this mask one or twice a week instead of regular conditioner.

strivectin hair mask

Skin Sensitivity

To maintain hydration and manage symtpoms without irritating the skin use gentle and simple formulas. Here are our top four picks for skin TLC.

From left to right: Bioderma Atoderm PP Balm ($30, drugstores); La Roche-Posay Lipikar Lipid-Replenishing Balm ($16, drugstores); La Roche-Posay Lipikar Cleansing Body Cream-Gel Anti-Irritation ($16, drugstores); Dermylex XP-828L Supplements ($60, nisim.ca)

sensitive skin products