Leading cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Jason Emer has earned international acclaim for his anti-aging treatments, and his expert opinion is highly sought-after in the news and media. Recently, AEDIT asked Dr. Emer to share some thoughts about “inflammaging,” a term that’s gaining traction in the aesthetics community. Here’s what you need to know about how inflammation relates to the physical aging process and what you can do to prevent inflammaging.
What Is Inflammaging?
A blend of “inflammation” and “aging,” inflammaging refers to the effects of inflammation on how the body ages. Inflammaging relates to how likely we are to develop internal illness/disease, as well as how slowly or quickly we show signs of aging on the outside—in particular, the appearance of the skin.
Inflammaging and the Immune System
You can’t have a conversation about inflammaging without understanding how it relates to the immune system and the role of the skin as part of the immune system. We all know that the function of the immune system is to detect threats to the body’s health and initiate a protective response.
Inflammaging occurs as a result of an overtaxed immune system that cannot keep up with the number of threats it faces. As a result, we become more vulnerable to free radical damage, we have less energy, and we are more likely to become ill. We are also more likely to see visible signs of aging on our skin.
The skin is a vital part of the immune system. This outermost line of defense, the skin barrier, prevents harmful agents from infiltrating our bodies and damaging our internal systems. However, when the immune system is overwhelmed, the energy normally allotted to power the skin’s natural restorative processes must be redirected. The skin then weakens, loses its luster, and becomes less effective at preventing contaminants from entering the body.
Causes of Inflammation
Inflammation in the body is unavoidable, and most of us live with chronic inflammation that affects us in ways we may not even realize. Inflammation can be caused by:
- Environmental pollutants
- Poor diet choices
- UV damage
How Does Inflammaging Affect the Skin?
Inflammation disrupts the optimal functioning of many types of cells and processes involved with maintaining a healthy epidermis and effective skin barrier. The results manifest internally and externally.
Internally, chronic inflammation negatively affects the skin in terms of:
- Cell renewal – The body’s ability to generate new skin cells becomes compromised.
- Collagen and elastin – Collagen and elastin are both vital components of youthful, healthy skin that suffer damage as a result of inflammation.
- Hyaluronic acid levels – Hyaluronic acid (HA) helps us maintain hydrated, youthful skin. Inflammation causes HA levels to fall, which leads to chronically dehydrated skin.
- Immune response – As the skin incurs more and more damage, we have less protection against inflammation-causing invaders like bacteria and viruses. When the skin barrier is weakened, our immune system must compensate by working harder to defend the body as well as repair the skin barrier.
As a result of what is taking place in the deeper layers of the skin, inflammation and the resulting inflammaging can cause visible effects on the surface of the skin, including:
- Age spots
- Sagging skin
- Volume loss
- Enlarged pores
- Increased or worsened outbreaks of acne and other skin conditions
- Thin skin
- Dilated blood vessels
- Dark under-eye circles and/or hollows
- Dry skin
What You Can Do to Slow and Prevent Inflammaging
While we may not have much control over environmental conditions that contribute to inflammation, there are still a number of steps we can take to slow the aging process. Be warned: there’s no quick fix and no time off if you want to keep inflammaging at bay.
Instead, prepare to permanently adjust your lifestyle to support healing and health on the inside and out. The good news is that diligently adopting these habits can also help alleviate inflammation-induced fatigue, joint pain, and digestive issues.
- Avoid inflammation-causing foods – The human body was not designed to eat highly processed, sugary foods. When we do, the body has to work quite hard to protect itself from toxicity, which means that energy must be diverted from other systems in the body, and the immune system has to work overtime.
- Don’t slack on sleep – The body’s ability to mitigate inflammation decreases when we don’t get adequate sleep.
- Stress less –Stress causes high levels of cortisol in the body, which interferes with the immune system’s ability to manage inflammation. In today’s uncertain times, many people are experiencing constant stress. This translates to chronic inflammation. Not only does stress exacerbate inflammation in general, high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are associated with worsened rosacea, acne, and eczema. Explore relaxation methods and calming therapies till you are the master of your stress response.
- Don’t skimp on skincare – A range of anti-inflammaging skincare products are available to support the skin’s immunity and decrease inflammation. Dr. Emer helps his patients prevent signs of inflammaging and promote youthful skin with patient-tailored skincare regimens.
- Sunscreen for everyone – Protecting your skin from UV radiation is essential for combating inflammaging. Dr. Emer recommends using Fusion Shield SPF 30 from his proprietary Emerage Skin skincare line to prevent sun damage and support skin repair with marine extracts and vitamin C.
How Controlled Inflammation Can Repair Inflammaging Damage
While long-term, chronic inflammation has damaging effects, skin rejuvenation experts like Dr. Emer can use a range of techniques that induce short-term inflammation to repair the skin. Laser skin treatments and microneedling cause minor skin damage in order to trigger a localized healing response and increased collagen production. Dr. Emer compares this type of inflammation exposure for improved skin to the way that muscles must be “damaged” through exercise to grow stronger.
Key Inflammaging Takeways
To recap and send you on your way with the most important and actionable points about inflammaging:
- In the aesthetics community, inflammaging refers to the connection between inflammation and how the body ages.
- Chronic, long-term inflammation negatively impacts our health on many levels. At the outermost level, inflammaging wreaks havoc on our skin.
- Signs of inflammation-related aging include wrinkles, pigmentation, loose skin, thin skin, redness, dark circles under the eyes, dry skin, and worsening outbreaks with existing skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis.
- You are not powerless against inflammaging. Eating a healthy diet of fresh, natural foods, getting adequate sleep, reducing stress, and using targeted skincare products and sunscreen can give you the upper hand in the daily fight for your optimal health and most youthful appearance.
Learn How You Can Defend Your Health and Your Skin Against Inflammaging
To find out your treatment options for combating inflammaging, contact the office of Dr. Jason Emer in West Hollywood to schedule a consultation. In your consultation, Dr. Emer can evaluate your skin and determine the best treatment approach for restoring your most youthful, healthy skin.
View the full AEDIT article here.