Interested In Anti Aging Skincare -Better Get Familiar With Inflammaging

It is clear that the simple fact of growing older -chronological aging- is relentless and unstoppable. But experts studying the science of aging say it is time for a fresh look at the biological process –this fresh perspective recognizes “Aging” as a condition that can be manipulated, treated and delayed –just like any other disease condition. If aging is seen as a disease, it changes how we respond to it -Exciting stuff right!!! - currently scientists worldwide are busy finding ways to slow aging down and/or cure it completely.

One day soon we will be looking at the prescription of “Eternal Youth” but, before the dream of getting a youth-prescription at our local doctor’s office can come true, we need to understand the aging as disease more closely. Today our exciting antiaging topic-of-the-hour is: “Inflammaging”!
(Sounds almost alien & quiet a mouthful -I agree! Pay close attention and you’d find out it’s a smart combo of two words: inflammation and aging.)

Studies have shown that as we age, our immune system becomes less effective and its capacity to manage the inflammatory activity is reduced.  This can lead to chronic unchecked inflammation characterized by a slow but continuous production of free radicals and Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMP) that break down collagen and elastin fibers – in simple words -causing wrinkles and skin sagging. The term “inflammaging” simply describes the aging phenomenon induced by chronic (persistent) inflammation.

Acute VS. Chronic Inflammation:
Most people are familiar with the visible inflammation that can be seen on the surface of the skin, with redness representing a sign of infection, irritation or discomfort. However, inflammation can also be invisible. We live in a polluted world where all skin (and certainly weakened or aged skin) is subject to inflammation, at low intensities. It is this underlying inflammation that ultimately exhausts the body’s defense system, dismantling key youth-sustaining skin structures and resulting in collagen and elastin degradation and breakdown of the skin’s barrier function –ultimately manifesting in the form of deep wrinkles, hyper-pigmentation, flaccid, and inelastic tissue. 

What causes the cascade of inflammatory responses that lead to chronic inflammation?
The level of chronic inflammation increases with:
·      Aging
·      Unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise)
·      Environmental factors or stressors including smoke, pollution, and UV radiation.

Inflammation and Skin Aging

Today, the direct link between extrinsic skin aging and inflammation is well established and documented. Studies have demonstrated the reciprocal effect of many chronic inflammatory diseases–such as psoriasis, atopic and Seborrhic dermatitis–on the stratum corneum barrier, which maintains healthy hydration levels in the skin.

The integrity of this barrier is maintained by metabolic balance (i.e. synthesis of collagen fibers, replacement of old and worn out fibers) by enzymes called MMPs (Matrix Metalloproteinases) and is regulated by TIMPs (Tissue Inhibitors of Matrix Proteinases).

Inflammaging destroys this balance, decreasing cellular metabolic activity and collagen renewal. Externally, the skin loses its suppleness and elasticity and becomes flaccid. It is also known that inflammaging generates Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), causing age-accelerating oxidative damage, which further perpetuates a chronic, pro-inflammatory state.

Prevention & Treatment Plan Against Inflammaging

Anti-Inflammatory Treatments
Inflammaging can be prevented, and even reversed, by using a wide spectrum of topical products formulated with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. Treatment would be more comprehensive if in addition to inhibiting the key mediators of inflammation and aging processes, these ingredients can also help reinforce, protect and boost the Anti-Oxidant Response System.

Two different classes of anti-inflammatory agents have shown promising results: COX inhibitors and 5-LOX inhibitors. Boswellic acid (found in the Boswellia serrata tree), resveratol (found in grapes) and tamanu oil (found in Tamanu tree nuts), are just some of the natural inhibitors that can help slow down the inflammaging.

Reinforcing & Protecting The Integrity Of The Barrier Function:
While anti-inflammatory ingredients are essential in the fight against inflammaging, successful treatment must also address two major skin issues. The first is reinforcing and protecting the integrity of the barrier function, which can be achieved through targeted topical care.

Sun Protection:
The use of broad-spectrum UV protection is an integral part of prevention program against inflammaging. As with any skin concern, inflammaging can worsen with prolonged sun exposure. Combined with treatments that target the source of inflammation, proper UV defense and barrier support can help minimize the visible effects of inflammaging.

Avoiding Common Skin Irritants & Using Alternatives
It is equally important to avoid aggressive ingredients that can further wound the skin and prolong the inflammaging cycle combined with using anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Acids–particularly those of smaller molecular size, like Glycolic Acid–are a major source of irritation in many cosmetic products. Because of their size, they have been shown to reach the dermis where inflammation takes place. Molecularly larger acids (like Lactic, Malic, Pyruvic and Tartatric Acids), however, don’t tend to penetrate the dermis, making them far gentler on the skin and less likely to spark inflammation. Using charily correct acids for your skin needs can further minimize the risk of adverse side effects, including irritation.

Another common irritant to avoid is Benzoyl Peroxide. A mainstay of professional and everyday acne treatments, Benzoyl Peroxide can contribute to irritating oxidative damage. However, gentler alternatives exist in the form of Salicylic Acid and Sulfur, which have been shown to be just as effective.

Of course, no discussion of inflammaging would be complete without addressing skincare’s anti-aging hero: Retinol. The gold standard in renewal, Retinol achieves its goal often at the cost of irritating the skin. While retinoids themselves aren’t likely to change, science has found new ways to deliver these key ingredients through encapsulated systems that bypass their inflammatory side effects.

Inflammaging And The Future Of Skincare 
As science continues to explore the dynamics of inflammaging, new products and treatments will emerge to address this nascent concern. In an industry that moves at breakneck speed, the advent of inflammaging serves as both a wakeup call and an ultimatum to product developers and cosmetic companies alike. The skincare game is changing.

Summarized Combat Plan Against Inflammaging:

  • Choose your acids wisely: Avoid acids of small molecular size, like Glycolic Acid, that can penetrate the dermis. Instead, choose acids of larger molecular size that work in the epidermal layer, like Lactic, Malic, Pyruvic and Tartaric Acids.
  • Support the skin’s barrier function: After the exfoliation, reinforce the barrier function by protecting the NMF to guard against trans epidermal water loss (TEWL). This can be achieved with ingredients including ceramides, squalane, fatty acids, phospholipids, amino acids, lactates and PCA.
  • Don’t forget your anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients: Soothe and replenish the skin with ingredients that counteract irritation and inflammation. And, since oxidation is an age-accelerating side effect of inflammaging, make sure you pack the skin with protective antioxidants. See sidebar for a list of recommended ingredients.
  • Protect your results: Inflammaging can worsen with prolonger sun exposure, so be sure to end every treatment with sunscreen application of SPF 30 or higher.

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