“Help! My skin never used to look this way. It never used to be this dry and sensitive.” Sound familiar?

As a skin therapist and corneotherapy expert, there is never a shortage of clients in their mid-to-late 30s with complaints echoing this sentiment. My reply? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. 

It’s true that the skin barrier begins to decline and signs of aging become more visible as we grow older, but the origin of inflammation—and further, inflammaging—begins well before then. Let’s review the inflammation response, inflammaging, and how to prevent/remedy the damaging effects of it all.

What Is “Inflammaging”?

A meld of the words “inflammation” and “aging,” inflammaging is—put simply—the concept that inflammation leads to quick aging of the skin. A term first coined years ago by University of Bologna Professor Claudio Franceschi, PhD, inflammaging began as a theory that linked inflammatory changes in the skin to the causes of many age-associated diseases. 

We understand that some inflammation in the skin can be a pretty cool thing: it’s a natural defense mechanism that protects and heals! If something’s up at the outer layer of skin, it sends signals to the rest of your skin to cue its next move, most often inflammation. Usually, your skin uses it to repair itself (think: a pimple, swelling, sunburns) and everything goes back to normal. 

In fact, some anti-aging treatments incite the inflammatory response for a controlled repair process–sort of akin to controlled fire in forest management. Be cautious with these, though, as skin therapists should know how to turn off the flame quickly and accurately. Such is the case with lasers, peels, micro-needling, and retinoids. 

When that inflammation occurs on a loop, however, and if fires are never properly put out? That accelerates the aging process—and “inflammaging” walks in. It’s a complex network of molecular reactions that lead to cellular stress and oxidation. Keeping in mind that your skin is a large organ covering the entire body, the consequences of such inflammatory responses lingering and “seeping” into the circulatory system is something skin experts are starting to conclude. 

A recent study from the Elias lab, in fact, showed that inflammation in the skin does leak into your circulation. And these inflammatory molecules (“inflammasones”) have been linked by other researchers to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and osteoarthritis. Could these damaging molecules be coming from the skin? If so, treatments that reduce skin inflammation could be a key therapy for many disorders of the elderly.

Types of Aging, and How to Prevent Inflammation

The skin gets drier as we get older, a fact particularly true for women. However, we set the stage young in life with inappropriate skincare products and professional treatments that strip the barrier down. These non-therapeutic products provoke persistent dryness which triggers inflammation. 

Aged Skin Flow Chat Courtesy of M. Man, Peter E Elias

Certain lifestyle factors are a factor, too. In your youth, your skin can bounce back from such inflammation-happy days. Sunny beaches, too many cocktails, picking at the skin–you name it. Your skin repairs itself quickly and you may barely even notice a delay. And while as you get older, your skin still has the same repair process, chronic inflammation has impaired those cells and systems from an earlier age. 

To boot, if you have a preexisting condition such as diabetes or a skin condition like atopic dermatitis, there is always an inflammatory process going on. That’s why diabetics are more prone to age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. Any kind of inflammation is going to have consequences outside of the skin, big and small, as we see here, so protecting your skin and health with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is vital for overall health. 

Here’s what you want to do to keep inflammaging at bay: Avoid the sun/protect your skin in the sun, good nutrition (especially essential fatty acids which your skin loves) and exercise, rest and de-stress, and, of course, practice corneotherapy. With this new research and a growing understanding of skincare that mimics and repairs the skin barrier, we now have a novel strategy for preventing and treating age-related diseases. 


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If you have a spa or clinic in New York state and you’d like to add dermaviduals skin therapy to your offerings, give us a call at 1-888-753-2231 or send us an email!