Written by: Kristen McNary
Inflammation is something that we hear about often within the realm of skincare and health. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what inflammation truly means and the role that it plays in aging in order to know how to control it and reach your goals.
So what is inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which your body’s white blood cells are triggered to protect against the invasion of foreign aggressors, resulting in increased blood flow to the site of the invasion causing redness, warmth and sometimes swelling. This is triggered when an external aggressor, pathogen, or injury is perceived. For example; bacteria, viruses, irritants, or physical injuries. Your body sends white blood cells to the perceived threat to help protect against and repair damage. These cells help to fight infection by ingesting or neutralizing harmful materials and foreign invaders or by creating antibodies.
Inflammation Contributes to Premature Aging aka Inflammaging
Inflammaging refers to continuous, low-grade inflammation associated with aging.
This chronic inflammatory response compounds over time and gradually causes tissue damage. It leads to reduced performance of the skin’s cellular function, defense systems, breakdown of the structural proteins collagen and elastin, and an inability of the skin to retain water. When your body experiences inflammation, several biological processes related to skin aging are triggered all at once – including increased glycation and the activation of metalloproteinases (MMPs) enzymes which degrade your dermal proteins. This manifests as loss of volume and elasticity, wrinkles, and dull, dry skin.
Inflammaging is considered as one of the driving forces for many age-related diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and skin aging. There is mounting evidence that indicates aging is driven by the pro-inflammatory cytokines and substances produced by our body’s innate immune system.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
Short-term, acute inflammation is a first-line defense mechanism that acts against harmful agents, such as pathogens, toxins, or allergens. Under normal conditions, the tightly coordinated actions of defense components including immune cells, endogenous anti-inflammatory agents, and tissue remodeling processes enable the resolution of acute inflammation by facilitating the elimination of pathogens, infected cells, and repair to damaged tissues to restore body homeostasis. Once the threat is neutralized or the injury is healed, the inflammation goes down. This process is known as acute inflammation. For example; microneedling, chemical peels, laser, etc.
However, when this intricate acute inflammatory response fails to resolve and persists, more defense components are mobilized to create a long-term unresolved immune response known as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, which typically manifests itself in a low-grade manner for a prolonged period, involves macrophage- and lymphocyte-accumulated leukocytes, and various other cellular components. It is important to recognize that this chronic inflammation is causally associated with changes in the cellular redox state and cell death signaling pathways. Overtime, chronic inflammation can cause damage to our cells and should be remedied. For example; continued unprotected UV radiation exposure, excessive dryness, inflammatory dietary and lifestyle habits, etc.
What should you do about it?
You know what to do. Fill up those humidifiers, limit inflammatory foods, sugar, and alcohol, use your antioxidants, and reapply your moisturizer and spf as needed throughout the day to combat dryness – which also contributes to inflammation, aka inflammaging.
Remember, aging is a biological process that is either slowed or accelerated based off of daily lifestyle choices. I can show you how to minimize skin aging, but the future is up to you! Now go live your best anti-inflammatory life.
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