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Inflammation - The Silent Culprit Behind Aging and Skin Diseases

Inflammation - The Silent Culprit Behind Aging and Skin Diseases

The Pervasive Impact of Inflammation on Skin Aging

In the quest to understand what really ages our skin, one factor emerges as a predominant force: inflammation. Often misconstrued as merely a response to infection or injury, inflammation is actually a complex biological process. It's the body’s natural defense mechanism, crucial for healing. But when this response becomes chronic, it can be destructive, especially to our skin.

What’s really aging skin? Is it possible there’s one root cause responsible behind skin aging, diseases and other challenges? Much of the available research says yes—pointing to inflammation as the common denominator.

Although inflammation is often thought of as an infection or wound, it’s actually the body’s response mechanism to those two factors, or it could mean there is a deeper systemic issue present. It’s the body’s natural response to trauma and, in fact, it is a very complex biological process.

Inflammation is a signal to the body to begin the healing process. Without it, wounds and infections would not heal. It’s an important and necessary part of skin rejuvenation, but in chronic situations, inflammation becomes destructive. As a skin care professional, it’s important you understand the difference between acute and chronic inflammation, and how it impacts the aging and rejuvenation process.

Types of inflammation

There are two classifi­cations of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute is the aforemen­tioned initial response by the body to initiate healing. Chronic is prolonged inflammation, which can often lead to a variety of diseases.

Acute inflammation generally lasts for up to several days and is essential to the healing process. This is simply the body’s way of sending internal support to the wound site by increasing the flow of plasma and leukocytes to eliminate pathogens. Swelling indicates the area is full of plasma and leukocytes, and pain draws awareness to the damage, prompting gentle care be taken. This is normal inflammation and is a good thing.

When inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and thus, the skin. Chronic inflammation is when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues.1 Prolonged inflammation has been linked as a major underlying factor in most of the challenges that plague the skin. In fact, according to an article published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, “chronic inflammation appears strongly linked to many preventable and treatable skin diseases and conditions, such as visible skin aging.”2

The correlation between chronic inflammation, and cutaneous and systemic diseases was suggested decades ago by scientists Albert Kligman, MD, and Robert Lavker, PhD, and has since been scientif­ically accepted.3 Aging, hyperpig­mentation, rosacea and eczema, to name a few, can also be traced to chronic inflammation. In the body, inflammation has been linked as the root cause of atherosc­lerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.4

Inflammation: the good and the bad

There are five principal signs of inflammation—pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function—all of which are essential to regenerating the skin. When the skin barrier is disrupted during the inflammation stage, platelets release pro-youth growth factors and other pro-inflammatory molecules to heal, rebuild and renew the area.

Certain esthetic treatments trigger this acute inflammatory response. For example, when performing a skin peel, the first sign of wounding is an inflammatory response. This controlled, short-term response initiates the rejuvenation process and can help restore skin to optimum health. It’s critical, however, to replenish the skin with skin-building antioxidants and growth factors.

Inflammation only becomes problematic when it is chronic. When it is a constant part of your physiology, serious issues may occur, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosc­lerosis, hypersen­sitivities, autoimmune disease and chronic acne.

There are a number of stimuli that induce inflammation including burns; overexposure to UV rays; stress; toxins, such as pollution and smoking; trauma; alcohol; immune reactions; and infection by pathogens and foreign bodies, such as dirt and debris. Inflammation caused by free radicals induces degradation of cells and reduction of collagen production. Throughout time, this inhibits the body’s ability to naturally repair itself, which, in turn, causes visual signs of aging. With the skin constantly being barraged by free radicals, it’s important to eliminate as many opportunities for exposure to these as possible. This includes limiting sun exposure, reducing stress, increasing sleep and not smoking.

Taming inflammation

With inflammation at the root of many of skin’s greatest challenges, it becomes necessary for skin care professionals to shift from just addressing the issue at hand and dive one level deeper in order to treat the inflammation or source of inflammation. This is where anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich ingredients become your greatest allies.

Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients should not only be a part of a healthy diet, but also a part of a healthy skin regimen.  Topicals known to inhibit inflammation, matrix metallop­roteinases (MMPs), reactive oxygen species (ROS) and glycation include the following.

Others include butcher’s broom, cinnamon, D-alpha tocopherol, green tea, L-glutathione (tripeptide), resveratrol andThermus thermophilus ferment extract. Because these support the reduction of free radicals and inflammation, they lend themselves to be an ally against glycation. Keep in mind this is a short list of ingredients and the products that contain them.

A healthful, low-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants will also support overall skin health. Advise clients to look for these antioxidants, both in food and skin care formulas.

Protection is key

Of course, one of the biggest contributors of inflammation and aging is the sun. Remind clients the best defense against aging is prevention, and to use an SPF 30 or higher containing natural sunscreens, such as zinc. Although not all causes of inflammation can be avoided, this is one stimulus that is absolutely avoidable and avoidance will protect the skin from irreversible damage and disease. Keep in mind that proper diagnosis is essential. If you are ever unsure of the cause of inflammation, refer clients to a medical professional.

 Understanding the Types of Inflammation

Inflammation is classified into two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a short-term response essential for healing wounds and infections. Chronic inflammation, however, is prolonged and can lead to various diseases. It's linked to visible skin aging and several preventable and treatable skin conditions​​.

The Good and Bad of Inflammation

While acute inflammation is beneficial for skin regeneration, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health issues like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis. It also contributes to skin conditions like hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and eczema​​.

The Role of Esthetic Treatments

Esthetic treatments, such as skin peels, trigger an acute inflammatory response, initiating the rejuvenation process. However, it’s crucial to replenish the skin with antioxidants and growth factors post-treatment to ensure healthy recovery.

Taming Inflammation for Healthier Skin

To manage inflammation effectively, skin care professionals must focus on treating the source of inflammation. This includes using anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich ingredients in skincare regimes and advising a low-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants.

The Power of Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Ingredients like Vitamin C, Green Tea, and D-alpha tocopherol play a vital role in reducing free radicals and inflammation, thus combating glycation and aging signs. Incorporating these into skincare routines and diets is essential for maintaining skin health.

Protection: The First Line of Defense

Sun exposure is a major contributor to inflammation and aging. Using SPF 30 or higher with natural sunscreens, like zinc, is crucial for protecting the skin from damage and disease.

The Broader Perspective on Inflammation and Diseases

The belief that chronic inflammation is a risk factor for various age-related diseases is gaining traction. Conditions like hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer have been linked to chronic inflammation. Skin issues such as eczema, acne breakouts, and dry skin are also often a manifestation of internal inflammation.

Conclusion: Addressing Inflammation Holistically

Understanding and managing inflammation is key to preventing skin aging and diseases. It requires a holistic approach, combining professional skincare treatments with a healthy lifestyle and diet. Always consult a medical professional for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Engage with the Readers: Your Thoughts and Experiences

Do you believe inflammation is a significant factor in skin aging and diseases? Share your thoughts and experiences with skin conditions linked to inflammation. Let's discuss how we can collectively combat this silent culprit behind many health challenges.

I am one of the people that believe that inflammation is behind lots of diseases.  Chronic inflammation is thought to be a risk factor for a broad range of age-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer. I know that many people with internal inflammation suffer from eczema, acne breakouts, and dry skin, among other issues.


  1. www. drweil. com/ drw/ u/QAA359518/ Influencing-Inflammation. html
  2. www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/ pubmed/ 18254816­?report= docsum
  3. RM Lavker and AM Kligman, Chronic helioder­matitis: a morphological evaluation of chronic actinic dermal damage with emphasis on the role of mast cells, J Invest Derm 90 325–330 (1988)
  4. online. wsj. com/ news/ articles/ SB100014­24052702303612804577531092453590070
  5. (All websites accessed Jan 28, 2014)Curated from Understanding Inflammation: The Root Cause of Skin Aging

Curated from Understanding Inflammation: The Root Cause of Skin Aging

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