Inflammaging- How Inflammation leads to Skin aging
Dr. Niveditha Navin
In the beauty world, products targeted towards inflammaging take up the vast majority of skincare real estate, but what is it? Inflammaging is the fusion of inflammation and aging, and minimising it is a key focus, as it leads to premature skin aging. Inflammation is a natural reaction mounted by your body, in response to infections or potentially harmful agents, and subsides when the threat is eliminated. Inflammation over a long period of time, or chronic inflammation, eg. inflammaging, causes significant damage to the cells and your skin doesn’t have the time or energy to repair and give you a youthful glow.
What causes skin inflammaging?
Modern living means we are inundated by internal and external stressors such as cellular senescence, oxidative stress, chemicals, pollutants that activate an enzyme called COX-2. You can think of this enzyme as an alarm system that identifies a threat, and immediately initiates the inflammatory process. Usually this threat subsides however, owing to constant stressors it remains persistent leaving the body and skin in a constant state of low-grade inflammation.
Inflammaging occurs when your skin’s ability to buffer inflammation is exceeded by the stressors present. Here are a few culprits that contribute to inflammaging
- Poor diet choices
- High levels of free radicals
- Aging cells and reduction of cellular energy
- UV damage
- Inefficient clearance of dead cells/cell debris
- Chemical irritants such as detergents, shower gels, abrasive soaps
Effects of Skin Inflammaging
- Wrinkles- prolonged inflammation increases enzymes that damage skin’s cells responsible for producing collagen and elastin resulting in loss of skin firmness and elasticity.
- Dehydrated skin- hyaluronic acid is the one that captures and retains water in tissues to keep your skin hydrated and supple. Aging and exposure to environmental stressors causes depletion of hyaluronic acid resulting in dull, uneven skin tone and emergence of fine lines.
- Age spots- age spots are hyper-pigmented lesions caused due to chronic low-grade oxidative stress and excessive exposure to UV rays.
- Sugar sag- glycation caused by excess glucose levels can contribute to loss of skin firmness, loss of skin elasticity leading to sagging of skin and deep wrinkles.
- Red Dry itchy skin- Various chemical irritants, smoke, tobacco can contribute to red dry itchy skin leading to a number of skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
How to calm inflammaging?
What’s most concerning about inflammaging is the difficulty in diagnosis of this issue at its early stages. So all the more reason why an ounce of prevention can help us go a long way in protecting our skin as well as our body. Here are a few precautions one can take to keep inflammaging at bay.
- Balanced diet, high in anti-inflammatory foods- what you eat affects your inflammatory response. Your food choices impact insulin levels, hormonal balance and gut health, all of which can lead to increase or decrease inflammation. Essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids), turmeric, baicalin, quercetin can help to reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair.
- Regular exercise supporting the optimal function of stem cells in the body
- Consistent sleep patterns promotes healing process and relieves stress
- Wearing a good sunscreen helps reduce the impact of UV radiation on skin and helps prevent pigmentation
- Load up on antioxidant skincare such as Vitamins C and E, resveratrol are a great tool in fighting inflammaging as they help protect skin cells like sun exposure and pollution.
- Use of products that promote collagen production like retinoids and bakuchiol.
- Tempering emotional stress and anxiety as worry and stress can manifest as skin concerns such as acne and eczema so meditate, sleep well and connect with friends.
- Investing in a LED light mask- Red, blue light masks are said to stimulate our fibroblast cells and help rejuvenate skin and promote skin healing.
- Drink plenty of water- hydration helps flush out toxins from your body and keeps your skin hydrated.
About Dr. Niveditha Navin
Dr. Navin is a clinical research specialist, who holds a degree in dentistry. After completing her postgraduate diploma in clinical research, she has experience working as a clinical affairs specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She is passionate about medicine and wishes to carve a distinct niche in the field of research.
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- Nguyen HP, Katta R. Sugar Sag: Glycation and the Role of Diet in Aging Skin. Skin Therapy Lett. 2015 Nov;20(6):1-5. PMID: 27224842.
- Zhuang, Y., & Lyga, J. (2014). Inflammaging in Skin and Other Tissues – The Roles of Complement System and Macrophage. Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, 13(3), 153–161.