Inflammaging = Inflammation + Aging

Spring may be just around the corner, but after months of forced-air heating and biting winter winds, many adults may be noticing their skin is dry, irritated and inflamed.  Older skin can be more prone to the effects of chronic inflammation in the body leading to wrinkles, dehydrated, red or irritated skin and a loss of firmness.  There’s even a term for these symptoms – inflammaging (inflammation plus aging) and improving skin’s appearance and health begins with lifestyle habits that help to tamp down internal chronic inflammation. 

According to a recent InStyle article, a healthy immune system is essential to maintain the skin’s microbiome and barrier function.  In the short term, inflammation is a healthy response to a bacteria, injury or a foreign substance invading the skin.  But with chronic inflammation, the immune system doesn’t shut off its attack and may continue to affect healthy areas of the skin leading to visible signs of aging. 

Ongoing stress and exposure to pollution can contribute to chronic inflammation, and researchers have linked high-sugar diets and a lack of regular sleep with a heightened stress response in the body.  People with fair skin may also be more susceptible to the effects of UV radiation that lead to inflammaging, and age spots, rosacea, eczema or psoriasis.  Chronic inflammation may also contribute to the development of skin cancer through the presence of free radicals that can lead to DNA damage in cells. 

In addition to using gentle cleansers that help to strengthen the skin barrier, wearing UV sunscreen daily can help reduce inflammation and premature aging.  Antioxidants can help to calm redness and heal and protect the skin from oxidative stress.  Eating a diet that avoids added sugars, processed foods, and simple carbohydrates can also help to reduce internal inflammation.  A diet that focuses on fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant-rich foods can promote healthier skin.  Limiting alcohol, exercising regularly and managing stress can also help reduce inflammaging. 

Learn more about skin aging and inflammation by following this link to the National Library of Medicine’s Center for Biotechnology Information.