Woman applying skin lotion on hand to reduce skin inflammation symptoms

How to reduce skin inflammation: treatment tips

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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If you’ve been dealing with red, irritated, or swollen skin, you may be suffering from skin inflammation. Whether acute or chronic, inflamed skin is regarded as an immune response, and successfully treating it typically involves eliminating irritants and/or taking topical or oral medications. [1]

Skin inflammation is a relatively common occurrence, and working with your healthcare provider can help you identify possible root causes. You can often alleviate the most disruptive skin inflammation symptoms with mindful lifestyle adjustments.

Here, we’ll discuss some common causes of itchy skin or irritated skin, how to reduce skin inflammation, and treatment options for helping you find relief and comfort. [1]

What causes skin inflammation?

Inflammation is a physical response triggered by the body’s immune system, and when it occurs in the skin, there can be many underlying causes.

A temporary or acute case of skin inflammation (e.g., contact dermatitis) may be caused by exposure to an irritant like poison ivy, chemicals in perfumes or detergents, or even an adverse reaction to certain metals in jewelry. In other cases, chronic skin inflammatory conditions (e.g., psoriasis) can run in families and may be related to a hypersensitive immune system. [2]

In cases of chronic inflammation, a good start is to know the severity of the inflammation. Want to know how to test for inflammation? Your doctor may order blood tests to track inflammatory markers and levels.

Other possible causes of skin inflammation include: [2]

  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Stress
  • Allergic reaction
  • Extreme temperatures (heat rash)
  • Reactions to medications
  • Photosensitivity

What does inflammation of the skin look like?

The most common type of symptom that presents with skin inflammation is a rash. [4]

While the type of rash that develops may vary widely in appearance and physical symptoms, some common signs to look for include: [4]

  • Itching, burning or stinging in the affected area
  • Skin redness or other color variation, depending on skin tone
  • Warm or hot to the touch at the site of the rash
  • Blisters, bumps, or pimples
  • Raw or cracked areas of skin that may bleed
  • Thickened skin in the area of the rash
  • Raised skin at the site of inflammation

How is skin inflammation diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may be able to make a diagnosis simply by examining the affected skin. They may also ask some other questions concerning: [5]

  • Allergies
  • Your individual medical history
  • Your family’s medical history
  • Your exposure to skin irritants
  • Any changes in your use of household products (e.g., new laundry detergents)

Once your healthcare provider has identified the substances that may be causing your skin inflammation, they may ask you to minimize your exposure to them.

If your skin doesn’t clear up with treatment or after eliminating suspected irritants, your healthcare provider may recommend a skin biopsy. In these cases, a sample of skin cells from the affected area will be removed from your skin and examined in a lab. [4]

When should you seek medical care?

Often, you can treat skin inflammation at home. However, if your symptoms persist, it’s important to visit your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. Some skin inflammation symptoms can be signs of a serious underlying infection or allergic reaction.

Seek medical care immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: [3]

  • Fever
  • A rash that covers all or most of your body
  • Rapid-onset irritation or a rash that spreads quickly
  • You have a rash with blisters, especially on the skin around your eyes, mouth, or genitals
  • You notice signs of infection, such as oozing, swelling, warmth, or red streaks coming from the rash
  • The rash is painful to touch

Can skin inflammation be cured?

Whether or not skin inflammation can be cured depends on the cause of the irritation. Skin inflammation from conditions like contact dermatitis may clear up a few weeks after the irritant has been identified and removed from your environment. [7]

Many other inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis can’t be cured and tend to flare up when exposed to triggers. The following factors may also aggravate the recurrence of skin inflammation: [4]

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Age
  • Exposure to allergens

How do you treat inflamed skin naturally?

To successfully treat inflamed skin, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider or a board-certified dermatologist and follow their recommended treatment protocol. However, some general rules of thumb can help relieve irritation and discomfort and prevent skin inflammation from occurring in the first place.

Here are a few recommendations for reducing skin inflammation naturally: [8]

  • Take shorter, cooler showers or baths – Bathing for too long is overly drying and can disrupt the moisture balance of the skin barrier. Bathing with water that is too hot can also remove too much skin oil and lead to dryness and cracking. Use lukewarm water, and don’t stay in the bath or shower for longer than 10 to 15 minutes. [4]
  • Use moisturizers – Keep your skin well moisturized to help restore the skin barrier and avoid dryness and cracking. Look for fragrance- and dye-free lotions that are formulated for sensitive skin.
  • Try oatmeal baths – Oatmeal has long been recommended for skin care for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [8] Look for a product made with colloidal oatmeal, which is finely ground and boiled oatmeal that’s been prepared for skincare use. Sprinkle the oats right into your bath water, or put them in a cut-off pantyhose leg tied at the top (this creates less mess). Limit soaking time to 15-20 minutes. [8]
  • Avoid harsh, drying soaps – Your dermatologist or healthcare provider will be able to recommend a gentle cleanser free of ingredients that can strip the skin barrier. Unscented, non-soap cleansers are typically the best types of skincare products for inflamed skin.
  • Dry off with a light touch – Don’t scrub your skin dry after bathing. Instead, pat yourself dry with a soft towel.
  • Avoid fragrances and dyes in your skincare products – Fragrances and dyes are frequently linked to chemical irritation of the skin, and aren’t necessary for your skincare routine.
  • Avoid stress — Stress is a common trigger for many inflammatory conditions. Where possible, minimize stressors and try simple strategies for relaxation that fit your lifestyle, such as meditation, walking, or breathing exercises.

How do I reduce inflammation in my face?

In most cases, the cause of facial skin inflammation will determine whether or not redness or irritation can be reduced.

Let’s take a look at three common inflammatory skin conditions that can affect the face: rosacea, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis.


Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause a flushed or red face. It may also present with acne-like bumps or thickening of the skin.

There are several subtypes of rosacea, so you’ll need to be diagnosed by a healthcare provider to get a treatment plan tailored to the symptoms you experience. [9] However, many people with rosacea may see a reduction in facial redness by adhering to the following guidelines: [10]

  • Don’t skip cleansing your face, but be gentle and avoid using soap
  • Cut out all astringents and toners
  • Never scrub your skin with washcloths, facial sponges, or exfoliators
  • Use sunscreen daily, even in winter
  • Use a fragrance-free moisturizer daily

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin disorder that is recognized by dry, itchy, scaly patches that appear suddenly. [11] While the exact cause is unknown, eczema tends to run in families and often occurs in individuals who also experience asthma and allergies. This may indicate an overactive immune system. [5]

Most people with eczema have had it since they were a child—it isn’t common for eczema to set in later in life. Fortunately, many treatment options for the disorder can help repair skin health, calm inflammation, and prevent infection.

People with eczema may also be able to find relief by avoiding: [5]

  • Extreme temperatures (either hot or cold)
  • Certain detergents
  • Overly drying soaps
  • Washing skin with hot water
  • Stress

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis often looks like reddish or yellowish, itchy, flaky skin in areas of the body with large numbers of oil glands (e.g., the face). [12]

Seborrheic dermatitis often begins in infancy, but it can also appear in adulthood. You may notice an itchy scalp with dandruff-like flakes or oily reddish bumps around the ears, eyebrows, nose, or chest. To treat it, your healthcare provider may recommend: [12]

  • Antifungal topical creams or shampoos
  • Anti-inflammatory creams, like hydrocortisone or calcineurin inhibitors
  • Prescription or over-the-counter dandruff shampoo

Medical treatments for skin inflammation

If your skin exhibits persistent signs of skin inflammation that don’t clear up after a few weeks, it’s important to see your healthcare provider or a board-certified dermatologist for treatment.

Some common medical treatments for skin inflammation include:

  • Antibiotics can help restore your skin to normal if your healthcare practitioner diagnoses you with a bacterial infection
  • Antiviral medications can help to quell skin inflammation caused by viral infections
  • Topical or oral antihistamines can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms like itching while your skin recovers
  • Corticosteroids or immunosuppressants may be used to mitigate more extreme cases of inflammation. These are usually prescribed as a topical steroid or immune-suppressing pill if your healthcare provider suspects an overactive immune response is causing your skin condition. [6]

Just as there are many possible causes of skin inflammation, there are also many opportunities for treatment. By consulting with your healthcare provider, paying attention to the signals your skin is sending you, and making moderate adjustments to your daily habits, you’ll be taking some necessary first steps towards restoring your skin’s well-being.

Take care of your skin health with Everlywell

Skin inflammation can be frustrating, but understanding its possible root causes can be a vital first step toward quelling irritation and building skin health with longevity.

Start testing your body’s overall inflammation level with an Everlywell at-home Vitamin D & Inflammation Test. By measuring your body’s vitamin D and hs-CRP levels, you’ll receive physicianreviewed, data-protected results to help you decide which lifestyle adjustments may help clear a pathway toward healthier skin.

To start getting to know your skin better, explore the full Everlywell at-home test kit range today.

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  1. What is an Inflammation. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. Rashes and Skin Inflammation. Johns Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. Rash 101 in Adults: When to Seek Medical Treatment. American Academy of Dermatology Association. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. Dermatitis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  5. Eczema. Johns Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  6. Overview of Hypersensitivity and Reactive Skin Disorders. Merck Manual. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  7. Contact Dermatitis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  8. Oatmeal in dermatology: A brief review. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  9. What is Rosacea? American Academy of Dermatology Association. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  10. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. American Academy of Dermatology Association. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  11. 10 Reasons Your Face Is Red. American Academy of Dermatology Association. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  12. Seborrheic Dermatitis. Merck Manual. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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