Inflammaging Could Be Causing All Your Skin Woes—Here's What You Can Do About It
In the beauty world, products targeted towards inflammation and aging take up the vast majority of skincare shelves. But have you heard of inflammaging, the literal fusion of inflammation and aging, and a trending buzzword in the dermatology lexicon? If you're unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the chronic, low-grade inflammation that is associated with age-related changes in stem cells. It happens when your body faces low levels of inflammation every day—often from lifestyle factors such as environment, diet, UV exposure, and lack of sleep—which build up over time.
One Google search will also reveal a swarm of studies linking inflammaging to a number of age-related diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular changes, and cancer. The skin is particularly sensitive to inflammaging as it is exposed to stress from both outside and inside our bodies.
According to Sapna Palep, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, when pigment-forming cells are exposed to chronic oxidative stress, it leads to accelerated tissue damage. "This chronic inflammation weakens the skin structure, which ends up in the breakdown of elastin and collagen that impairs the barrier function of the skin." These signs can emerge as wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone and texture. What's most tricky about inflammaging is that once it's there, it's even harder to get rid of it, which makes preventative measures all the more important.
So what can you do to stave off inflammaging? According to Ben Van Handel, PhD, a stem cell biologist at the University of Southern California and co-founder of Heraux, "The sources of inflammaging are things we may already identify with steps we can take to improve our overall health. A balanced diet coupled with regular exercise can go a long way to supporting the optimal function of stem cells in the body, relieving stress on them. Consistent sleep patterns can also keep inflammaging in check."
Handel also stresses not skimping on sunscreen. Because UV exposure occurs constantly and drives consistent production of pro-inflammaging factors, wearing sunscreen can reduce the impact of UV light and slow down the process.
Skincare is getting smarter, too. The right ingredients can act as a guardian against stress molecules, shielding skin stem cells from their effects and interrupting the cycle of inflammaging. Antioxidants like Vitamins C and E are a great tool in fighting inflammaging as they help skin cells respond and adapt to inflammaging stimuli like sun exposure and pollution.
Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a holistic dermatologist in San Diego, Calif., says several studies have shown that incorporating CBD into your routine can also help with preventing inflammation. "When incorporating CBD into your skincare routine, it's important to choose a company that is leading the charge in manufacturing, transparency, and testing for their products," she says. "I recommend something like Medterra CBD + Manuka Cream ($35; medterracbd.com), which works as a great preventative product to avoid inflammaging."
According to Handel, "The scientific community has just discovered the underlying molecular causes of inflammaging; these are proteins that circulate in the body and interact with all of our stem cells, including in the skin. I suspect many more ingredients and products will come out in the next few years that target inflammaging, as this mechanism is now understood and foundational to skin aging."
Here are some of the best science-driven products on the market that can fight back against inflammaging on a topical level.
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