Inflammation is shaping up to be that friend no one ever has anything good to say about: It tests your patience by playing a role in cardiovascular disease, cancer, GI conditions, and even autoimmune disorders. But right when you’re finally ready to boot it out of your life for good, it comes through for you.
In quite possibly the only positive inflammation-related news ever, researchers discovered it can actually help out your skin. Here’s how: When you have a dermis-related injury—say, a bad cut or a sunburn—before long, your skin becomes inflamed and goes into repair-mode. It’s now believed that the inflammation teaches stem cells in the skin how to respond faster for subsequent injuries.
“By enhancing responsiveness to inflammation, these memories help the skin maintain its integrity, a feature that is beneficial in healing wounds after an injury.” —Elaine Fuchs
“By enhancing responsiveness to inflammation, these memories help the skin maintain its integrity, a feature that is beneficial in healing wounds after an injury,” said cell biologist Elaine Fuchs, PhD, in a press release.
In the study on mice, researchers found wounds healed twice as fast on skin that had experienced inflammation in the past compared to skin that had never been damaged. And, not just if the injury was recent: The skin remembered, even if the wound occurred up to 15 years before.
Unfortunately, the whole memory thing isn’t always good, though. With psoriasis, for instance, that can mean the same scaly, red patch flares up over and over again in the same exact spot. And not because of common triggers like stress or infection—rather, simply because of the skin itself, the release reported.
So inflammation might be the ultimate frenemy: Try as you may to keep it at arm’s length most of the time, it’ll invariably surprise you by doing something nice. When that happens, just don’t be shocked when that kind gesture comes back to bite you in the end.