Have you heard of the term “inflammaging?”
It’s a new buzzword in the beauty industry and refers to chronic, low-grade inflammation that is associated with age-related changes in the body’s tissues—including the skin.
Though inflammaging affects the entire body, we wanted to explain in particular how it affects the skin, and what you can do to stop it from making you look old before your time.
What is Inflammaging?
Over the past several years, scientists have discovered that inflammation—a function of the immune system—may be at least partially to blame for diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
Normal and healthy inflammation takes place when you cut or injure yourself. The body’s immune cells go to work eradicating germs and promoting healing. You notice swelling and redness around the wound, but eventually, these disappear and the wound heals.
That’s the result of your immune system’s efforts.
But sometimes, the immune system can hurt us instead of helping us, and this is the case when chronic (long-term) inflammation takes place. This sort of inflammation occurs inside the body initially in response to an infection or injury, but instead of fixing the problem and then relaxing, the immune system continues to stay active, resulting in a constant inflammatory state.
Doctors can detect this underlying inflammation by doing a blood test and looking for cytokines, which are immune-related molecules in the blood. The more cytokines, the more inflammation is present.
Persistent inflammation is not only a factor in disease but has also been determined to be a factor in aging, too. It seems to speed up the aging process, increasing mortality and harming health in general.
How Does Inflammaging Affect the Skin?
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System recently published a fascinating study on inflammaging and the skin.
Scientists have been looking into what causes internal inflammation in the first place. Why does the immune system malfunction in this way? They thought the process originated in the immune system itself, or perhaps in the liver, but a group of dermatologists at USCF had a different theory.
They believed that this sort of inflammation had to come from an organ big enough that even a minor increase in inflammation could affect the whole body. As you know, the skin is the body’s largest organ, so the dermatologists decided to study it.
As we age, we are more likely to suffer from dry skin, itchiness, and flaky skin, all of which are signs of inflammation in the skin. Around age 50, we often experience changes to the skin’s pH balance, reductions in hydration, and increased permeability in the outer barrier, which allows bacteria and potential pathogens in.
These changes naturally cause the skin’s immune system to swing into action. After all, its job is to eradicate pathogens like viruses and bacteria, and when the skin’s barrier weakens, the immune system has to work harder to keep these pathogens out.
This is how the immune system always works. If you get dry skin, it gets busy fixing it. The difference is that when we get older, the process takes longer, and the repair doesn’t work as well, so the immune system continues to stay on high alert, which means more inflammation.
Previous research has linked skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis (both connected to the immune system) to an increased risk of heart disease, showing that immune reactions on the skin can affect the rest of the body as cytokines move from the skin to the bloodstream.
The scientists tested their theory by attempting to reverse age-related skin damage using an over-the-counter skin cream formulated with three types of lipids (fats): cholesterol, free fatty acids, and ceramides.
Results showed that after a month of daily application, blood levels of cytokines were reduced in all participants! Using the cream helped bring cytokine levels down to near the same levels as those in people in their 30s, suggesting that rejuvenating the skin may help reverse inflammation, making not only the skin look and feel better, but the rest of the body too.
If you’d like to find these ingredients in your skin care, look no further than CV Skinlabs. We have them all!
- Lipids: found in ingredients like shea butter, squalane (from olive oil), and other oils like jojoba, macadamiea seed, and sunflower
- Cholesterol: found in ingredients like lanolin
- Free fatty acids: found in ingredients like castor oil
- Ceramides: these are waxy, lipid molecules produced naturally in the skin, and also created in the laboratory from synthetic or plant-based sources
Who Knew What Taking Good Care of the Skin Could Do?
The scientists need to do more tests to see if the results hold up, but what this study shows us is that taking good care of the skin and keeping it as healthy as possible is not just about appearance–it’s about our overall health.
Looks like we can reduce aging inside and out by adopting a healthy, nourishing skincare routine.
Of course, we’ve been saying that all along.
Do you find that good skincare helps you feel better overall?
University of California, San Francisco. (2019, March 14). Skin repair eliminates ‘inflamm-aging’ linked to chronic disease. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-03-skin-inflamm-aging-linked-chronic-disease.html