Scientists know more now than ever about the damaging effect of chronic inflammation on the health of our skin and our body. For our skin, this can mean loss of collagen and increased fine lines and wrinkles.
Ageing is a gift, but we want to look and feel as healthy as we can for as long as possible; to enjoy time with our families, follow our dreams, help others and feel confident in ourselves.
Fortunately there are things we can start doing today to help prevent skin 'Inflammageing' so we can enjoy the confidence of beautiful, healthy skin.
What is Inflammageing and how does it affect my skin?
The term ‘Inflammageing’ literally combines the words inflammation and ageing.
Inflammageing occurs when the body is exposed to chronic low grade inflammation, which accelerates the skin and the body’s ageing process (1). It can cause your skin to age by reducing collagen, elastin & hyaluronic acid, accelerating cell damage and impairing the skin barrier. This can result in increased wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sagging and loss of firmness, ‘age spots’, uneven skin tone and texture, irritation and acne. (2)
How is Inflammageing different to ‘good’ inflammation?
What we might call ‘good’ or acute inflammation is the normal defence mechanism when your body is injured, for example you cut yourself. Your immune system releases white blood cells to help protect the injured area and fight infection. This is a good reaction because the inflammation is helping to protect the body, and generally only lasts a few days. (3)
Chronic low grade inflammation occurs when the skin and body is under constant attack from consistent harmful influences that build up over time, for example sun over-exposure (2), pollution (20), harsh skincare products or lack of sleep. When you are exposed to these damaging factors on a daily basis, your skin doesn’t have the opportunity to fully heal itself, which leads to it being in a constant state of mild inflammation that damages the cells of the body. (1)
Symptoms of Inflammageing include:
- Wrinkles and fine lines (2)
- Skin sagging
- Loss of firmness
- Loss of elasticity
- Uneven skin tone and texture
- Age spots (2)
- Dullness and roughness
- Acne (6) (18) (23) (24)
- Rosacea, psoriasis, rashes, irritation and eczema.
Alarmingly, your skin could be suffering from Inflammageing even before these symptoms appear. For example in your teens or early 20s, you might not notice the damage straight away as your skin appears to ‘bounce back’ after spending the day in the sun, drinking too much alcohol, over-exfoliating, etc. However the damage could still be occurring and can show up on your skin in your 30s or 40s.
That’s why everyone can benefit from adopting an anti-Inflammageing or anti-inflammatory lifestyle and skincare routine at any age.
What causes Inflammageing?
- Sun and UV damage (5) (20)
- Pollution, especially if you live in a city.
- Harsh environments eg icy wind, lack of humidity. (22)
- Harsh ingredients or poor quality skincare formulations eg overusing harsh chemical exfoliants or over-drying cleansers.
- Harsh chemicals from household products.
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive alcohol consumption
How can I prevent Inflammageing?
Minimise sun and UV exposure:
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to UV exposure, and reapply it at least every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating. For example, Ultraviolette or Naked Sundays.
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially when the UV index is high. Apps like SunSmart in Australia and UVNZ in NZ can advise up-to-the-minute UV indexes.
- Cover up when in the sun and wear UPF50+ shirts, jackets and hats where possible for the ultimate protection. For example, Solbari.
The Importance of Skincare:
- Use expertly formulated high quality skincare products that repair and maintain the skin barrier. Look for Antioxidants including Vitamin C and Vitamin E which help prevent and repair skin cell damage. (4)
- Look for skin compatible formulations, not just products with the highest percentage of an active ingredient.
- Avoid skincare products with harsh sulphates, artificial fragrance or drying alcohols.
- Be aware of complicated routines- exposing your skin to so many different products and ingredients can increase the likelihood of Inflammageing.
- Prioritise sleep - Loss of sleep, even for one night, can increase inflammation in the body. (25) For your best complexion, aim for 7-8 hours each night.
- Daily movement - Aerobics exercise has been proven to help decrease and prevent inflammation. (21) Exercise can also help increase blood flow and oxygen to our skin cells for a more radiant complexion.
- Destress (19) - Try self care or relaxation that doesn’t include TV or your phone. Go for a walk outside in the fresh air, catch up with friends for lunch, read a book, or even just stop and take 10 deep breaths. Check out the Wimhof Method for breathing techniques.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods such as wild caught salmon, sardines, avocado, blueberries (13) (7), spirulina (8), olive oil, green tea (16) , walnuts (10), tomatoes, vegetables (11) such as mushrooms, and especially cruciferous vegetables (15) such as broccoli (14), spinach and kale.
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as high glycemic refined sugar and grains, dairy for some people especially those with acne (18) and processed vegetable oils found in fried food.
- Consider supplements such as fish oil, probiotics and adaptogens (17).
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please speak with your health professional before starting any new diet or supplements.