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Calm Red, Irritated Skin: Best Soothing Botanicals

January 22, 2020


Why does skin get red? Raw, chapped, red, irritated skin isn’t just unsightly, but it can also be sore, tight, and sting! Factor in the psychological impact of embarrassment, low self-confidence, and increased social anxiety that can come with unwanted redness and you have a situation that can make you want to hide your face from the world.

Why Does Skin Get Irritated or Red?

The reason your skin gets red is simple: your skin senses a threat and blood comes rushing in as an effort to stop any infection or allergen and encourage healing. A red face is often a sign that the skin’s protective barrier has been compromised, and inflammation can be accompanied by dry patches or bumps. Sometimes your skin will even get a little rashy - and even that is your skin’s way of trying to fight a perceived infection or irritant.


Red, irritated skin is a common occurrence for many people. The International Journal of Dermatology ran a phone survey and found that over 44% of respondents reported having sensitive skin. Skin sensitivity can be caused by food, chemicals, environmental stressors (like weather or pollution), acne, genetics, or immune diseases.

Acne / Bacteria

Another very common cause of redness is an infected pore or hair follicle. These can be cause by bacteria and clogged pores, stress, allergic reactions, ingrown hairs, and many other things. Soothing the redness while treating the infection can be key to reducing the appearance of a blemish during healing.


According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disease that begins under the skin and appears as red bumps on the face and body. Psoriasis itches, burns, and stings, and is sometimes associated with other diseases such as psoriatic arthritis.


Rosacea is a common, but poorly understood, skin ailment, says the National Institutes for Health (NIH). It often starts with the tendency to flush or frequently blush, and then eventually spreads to the chin and ears.


The American Academy of Dermatology describes eczema or atopic dermatitis as a dry, red, itchy rash. It’s fairly common and affects infants and young children, but it can occur in the adult years as well. In this condition, our protective skin barrier gets weak and lets moisture out and bacteria in.

Soothing Redness and Calming Inflammation

While you should contact a dermatologist to rule out any health issue, note that there are measures you can take both internally and externally to calm skin, like choosing products that favor natural botanicals over lab-created ingredients with names that you cannot pronounce. 


We get assaulted every day by pollutants, environmental stress, and chemicals that show up in our soaps, cosmetics, and household cleaners. We can absorb this stress simply by walking past a construction site, using a detergent, or even by using a heavily fragranced hair conditioner that can transfer to the face while we sleep or when we sweat.

We were all born with a protective skin barrier. Within that skin barrier we have immune cells that protect us from bacteria and harmful substances. The skin barrier holds water, but as we age, the barrier deteriorates, we lose moisture, and skin can become inflamed and flaky.

One of the best ways to nourish it is to hydrate skin to keep it moist. The best ingredients to calm redness are natural botanicals that include essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and superfoods. That same report, mentioned earlier in this article, from The International Journal of Dermatology cited dryness as one of the causes of skin sensitivity.

Don’t wait to age, however, to think about the skin barrier. Even infants have improved skin barrier protection when their skin is hydrated. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) conducted a survey of of infants being moisturized during routine baths and found that those who received moisturization had fewer incidents of diaper rash (dermatitis).


Other things you can do right now to protect the skin barrier and eliminate red, irritated skin:

  • Read ingredient lists! Calming, soothing, natural botanicals that hydrate are best. Avoid fragrances, parabens, sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate. Parabens can act like antibiotics and destroy the skin’s natural flora, while sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate are indeed harsh: they strip the skin barrier of all oil (including skin’s natural oil, sebum).
  • Avoid spicy food. Some foods increase blood flow in and around your face, as a result you may experience flushing and redness.
  • Embrace proper nutrition and take supplements if needed. Omega 3s are especially important to the skin, because they have anti-inflammatory qualities. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is woefully unbalanced, and that unbalance is said by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) to contribute to inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. You can help it along by consuming the omega 3s (usually as fish oil supplements) and nourishing your skin with high vitamin and mineral foods, such as leafy green vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, and flax seeds.
  • Avoid ultra-hot water or soaking in the shower or bath too long, because it can strip away the skin barrier and sebum. This is especially key in the season that you want to take a hot shower in the most: winter! But if you can adjust the temperature to warm instead of hot, your skin will thank you by not exhibiting as much dryness and irritation.


Nourish your skin, both inside and out, with essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are a vital ingredient in any moisturizer, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Ingredients that come from the garden seem to be packed with essential fatty acids (EFAs). Fatty acids form the outer membrane of cells. That is crucial to cell turnover and the fatty acids hold onto water and vital nutrients, while moving out the cell waste and fats.

There are two categories of EFAs: linoleic acid (also known as omega 6 fatty acids) and oleic acid (omega 3 fatty acids). Our bodies can’t produce them on their own, so we need to get them through diet, supplementation, and topical application. In skincare, these are found in natural oils and butters.

However, we can get other EFAs, such as omegas 7 and 9, through metabolism. They can also be included as ingredients in our skin care products. When the EFAs are in balance, we can experience optimal wellness, increased energy, and bright, clear, skin. Fatty acids hydrate, but they won’t clog pores or irritate the skin.


A natural ingredient, whether it’s a botanical herb, oil, or extract, will likely be more gentle and soothing than artificial chemicals and fragrances. Artificial fragrances are among the worst offenders for triggering redness. 

The best ingredients to calm red, irritated skin are these two versatile ingredients:

  • Chamomile. Many of us drink a cup of chamomile tea to calm down when we’re stressed (any emotional turmoil will reflect in the skin). This botanical also makes a great ingredient in skin care products, because it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It soothes the itchiness of eczema and can offer some pain relief for those suffering from psoriasis.
  • Rose. The rose is a symbol of love, so give some extra love to your skin! The essential oils and extracts underscore the power of this botanical beauty; rose ingredients are terrific for everything from acne-prone to dry and mature skin.

One of the most important things for our skin's health is to maintain balanced pH levels. When the skin is either too acidic or too alkaline, it can no longer fight and protect itself. Rose water gives skin a quick drink of water and the hydration keeps that pH balance.

  • Green tea. A botanical wonder from the green tea plant, green tea is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Goji Berry. The superstar of superfoods is an excellent immune booster, probably due to its high levels of vitamins C & E. Goji berries are also an antioxidant, so they can easily detoxify your skin and they also offer protection from the environmental stressors we face each day.
  • Comfrey. Considered to be an anti-aging superhero, comfrey is also the botanical hero of red, irritated skin. Comfrey is a botanical shrub found in parts of Europe and Asia, and contains both allantoin and rosmarinic. Rosmarinic is a natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory. Allantoin promotes new skin cells while calming and soothing irritated skin. Allantoin is also used to hydrate and soften skin.
  • Aloe vera. The aloe vera plant also contains allantoin, which is also known for calming irritated skin. A natural painkiller, aloe vera contains a high level of antioxidants that protect the skin from free radicals. This encourages the skin to repair itself by promoting collagen production and elasticity.
  • Squalane. Unlike squalene which has a greasy feel and can be used mostly by only the very driest and mature skin, squalane is a lighter, more absorbable, but very powerful, moisturizer. Squalane comes from botanical sources, making it good for all skin types, even acne-prone or oily skin. Squalane oil is colorless and odorless and sort of looks like a watery gel and not even oil. It’s antioxidant rich, but one of the greatest advantages is that it actually mimics our own skin’s sebum, giving it affinity with the skin.
  • Hyaluronic Acid. It’s not some harsh acid that dissolves skin cells but, rather, it’s one excellent humectant--and we know the importance of moisture in maintaining the skin’s protective barrier.
  • Skin probiotics. Skin has its own microbiome, a balance of both good and bad “bugs.” That balance is what protects the skin from bacteria and other harmful organisms. Probiotics have been said to show promise for skin's microbiome, which could be helpful with acne, rosacea, eczema, and of course, with anti-aging.
  • B vitamins. When applied topically, they will improve your skin’s texture and moisture retention. Vitamin B5, also called panthenol or pantothenic acid really comes to the rescue or red, irritated skin.
  • Niacinamide (or vitamin B3) is an anti-inflammatory, especially useful for people with acne or rosacea.
  • Natural butters. Shea, mango, cocoa, and mowrah, are ideal in body creams for dry, sensitive skin. If you haven’t heard of mowrah butter yet, it is a gentle, natural, pure substance. It’s also high in fatty acids including, linoleic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids.
  • Natural oils. Pistachio, macadamia, olive, lavender, and avocado oils, are great for sensitive skin. These botanical beauties are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.
  • Amino acids. They are a crucial part of creating collagen and the connective and structural proteins that keep skin strong. When you don’t have enough of them, your ability to repair will slow, your skin PH will be off-balance, your hydration will be diminished and your moisture barrier will become damaged.
  • Prickly pear seed oil. This oil from the seeds of the fruit of a cactus is anti-inflammatory with essential fatty acids and vitamin E that work together to repair, hydrate, and soothe skin.
  • Seaweed. Seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals which help heal acne, rosacea, and sensitive skin problems.
  • Jojoba oil. What makes this different from other plant oils? It produces glyceride oils, where the EFAs are connected to a glycerol molecule, so this makes it much more like our own skin sebum, as opposed to vegetable oils that actually contain glycerol as an added ingredient. Because of its strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, jojoba oil makes a great cleanser without stripping away sebum. Jojoba oil is especially effective for treating psoriasis, acne, and eczema.
  • Resurrection plant. This plant survives under the driest conditions, then “resurrects” itself with just one tiny drop of water! Imagine how it can hydrate dry, sore, flaky sensitive skin! It protects skin membranes and shields skin lipids from oxidation.
  • Cucumber fruit extract. Many are familiar with the botanical power of cucumber to de-puff the eye area, but you should know that cucumber is also packed with phytosterols and essential fatty acids that hydrate skin.


Botanical alchemy creates the best ingredients. These ingredients coming from Mother Nature are gentle, natural, pure, and further, they deliver their skin-calming benefits without harming your moisture barrier or disrupting your skin's sebum production.