Inflammation may be one of the most significant causes of ageing, and overall decline in skin health. And the worst part – you likely won’t notice that it is occurring. So what is inflammation, and what can we do to prevent it leading to premature signs of ageing?
When you think of inflammation, you likely picture redness, swelling, heat, even oozing – all of these are normal components of trauma, such as when you receive a cut or injury. During an injury, or even during infection or illness, inflammatory mediators are released at the site and/or throughout the body. These cells and hormones are released to trigger a number of processes that help the body heal. The inflammatory cascade is an essential part of physiological healing, however, is not meant to last for a long period of time. It is when inflammation lasts for too long that damage can occur.
During inflammation, free radicals are generated as a bi-product. These are harmful to various cells, lipids, proteins (including collagen), and DNA. We receive antioxidants from our diet which neutralise these free radicals. However, if too many free radicals are produced, we may not have adequate antioxidants to neutralise excess free radicals before the damage is done. This unbalanced state is referred to as oxidative stress, and is why antioxidants in our diet and our skincare are crucial in age prevention.
Our primary stress hormone, cortisol, is known to trigger a number of inflammatory mediators, stimulating and/or prolonging inflammation throughout the body (including the skin). As above, this results in free radicals which incur damage leading to premature ageing. This is why stress-reduction techniques and a holistic approach to skin is considered optimal.
Inflammation is shown to impair the function of our skin in many ways. Cellular turnover is impaired, and the once-tight junctions holding cells together become more permeable. This can lead to bacterial penetration (such as infection or breakouts) and sensitivity. Moisture is also lost, leading to further sensitisation, dryness and dehydration.
Many in-clinic skin treatments are designed to trigger a highly controlled inflammatory response, in order to reap the benefits of collagen stimulation and growth factors. These include peels, microneedling, and energy-based treatments like LED and laser. But again, this inflammation should occur over a short period, and specific ingredients are usually used in conjunction to bring down the level of inflammatory mediators. Often these include vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B5 (panthenol) vitamin E (tocopherol) zinc, botanical antioxidants, and plant-derived lipids among others.
It is extremely common to experience inflammation as a result of skin treatments, stress, hormonal fluctuations, and other lifestyle factors. Many suffer from pre-existing inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or rosacea from a young age. No matter the cause, ongoing inflammation can manifest on the skin in the form of barrier disruption, perioral dermatitis, and breakouts, or signs of ageing such as wrinkles, loss of volume, or poor texture and clarity. Addressing this through a combination of at-home skincare and in-clinic treatments designed to reduce inflammation can not only combat visible symptoms, but promote better skin health and improve longevity.