Alexandra Engler

mbg Beauty Director

By Alexandra Engler

mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she’s held beauty roles at Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and

Image by ohlamour studio / Stocksy

February 7, 2023

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may

earn a small commission.

Chronic and heightened inflammation in the skin is the root cause of many of the complexion concerns folks experience. “Regarding the skin, all kinds of things we don’t like from eczema, rosacea, breakouts, aging, to even pigmentation issues are caused by chronic inflammation,” says aesthetic physician Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder of her namesake line. In this episode of Clean Beauty School, Sturm discusses all things inflammation.

And managing inflammation in the skin is tricky—largely due to the fact that it’s a nuanced and multifaceted function of the body. “Inflammation is actually needed because it’s an immune response—the ability to have inflammation is important,” she says, noting that the problem arises when “our inflammation levels become too high on a prolonged basis. That’s when it starts damaging the tissue.” 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

For more information about how inflammation affects the skin—and how to better manage it through both skin care and lifestyle choices—tune into the episode. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite tips. 

Listen to your body.

The first step to managing inflammation is understanding where it’s coming from and how much it’s disrupting your body. “So where does inflammation come from? It can come from our diet, external stresses like pollution and sun, stress, lack of sleep, and it can even come from skin care products actually,” she says, noting that your body will start to give you signals it’s stressed such as lower energy levels, digestion issues (like bloat), and skin concerns (like sensitivities). “These are signs it’d be good to check your inflammation levels.” 

Stop treating skin aggressively. 

Inflammation can come from multiple sources—skin care routines being a very common one. As we discuss in the episode, current skin care routines tend to be very aggressive: People are using multiple, very potent actives without guidance from a skin care professional.

One of the most common Sturm sees? Retinol overuse. “People with cystic acne, yes there’s an indication to use retinol there,” noting that it’s a powerful tool when used correctly and with professional instructions. But that’s now how the ingredient is being treated today: Folks are encouraged to use potent formulas without proper education. “For a lot of people, it makes your skin barrier super vulnerable to stressors, such as UV light and pollution.” 

And it’s not just retinol or acids—even ingredients like vitamin C can cause barrier disruption when not used appropriately. “Vitamin C is a great ingredient—but if you use a high dosage topically, it will destroy the barrier. It’s much more beneficial to use a moderate dosage in a gentle formula,” she says. “Then it can do all these beautiful things, like build new collagen, catch free radicals, and brighten your skin.”  


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Keep skin hydrated.

One of the simplest and most important things you can do for skin longevity is to keep your skin barrier moisturizer. “Dry or dehydrated skin is never an option. You need to have hydrated skin,” she says. “Non-hydrated skin ages fast. If you keep the skin moisturized, you will prolong the health of the skin.” This goes for both internally and externally—for both face and full body.

Want more anti-inflammatory tips? Check out the ep here. 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.