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Identifying Inflammation

By: Annet King
Posted: March 30, 2010, from the April 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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One crucial key to addressing all of these concerns is supporting and maintaining healthy lipid barrier function. A defect in the skin’s protective outer layer, known as the lipid barrier layer, may allow irritants, such as microbes and allergens, to penetrate the skin, causing a domino effect of adverse reactions and symptoms. With this in mind, a threefold strategy makes sense for combating inflammation.

  1. Containment and the reduction of current symptoms
  2. Avoidance of known triggers
  3. Enhancement of skin’s natural lipid barrier

The skin’s barrier function is mainly attributed to the lipid components of its outermost layer, the stratum corneum, which effectively protects the body from drying out and prevents foreign substances from penetrating the skin. By maintaining the barrier lipid layer at its peak performance level, the damaging effects of environment and lifestyle on the skin can be controlled.

Easing up on exfoliation

The first—and possibly most urgent—step in helping clients recover from inflammation and to prevent future inflammation is to assess their exfoliation habits. Sensitization can occur as the result of aggressive procedures and products that are often used in reckless combination by clients without the supervision of a skin therapist.

When working with those who are suffering from inflammation, begin by taking a full history of their exfoliation practices. If the words “glycolic acid” and “do-it-yourself home microdermabrasion kit” pop up, the answer is clear. In any case, discuss all exfoliants used by the client at home and spa procedures they have experienced, as well as any other intrusive practices that may affect the lipid barrier. Then, depending upon the client’s skin condition, begin to build a program of restorative and protective treatments, and home-care products. See Ideal Anti-inflammatory Ingredients for components to consider when constructing this type of program.

Striking a healthy balance

As always, when developing an at-home program for clients, be sure to include comprehensive sun protection. Sensitized skin—especially that which has been abraded—will be highly reactive to ultraviolet (UV) exposure. The combination of inflammation and solar exposure greatly increases the likelihood of long-lasting hyperpigmentation, so be sure that clients are well-protected from additional photosensitivity.