Developing visible signs of skin aging—like fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration—is an inevitable part of getting older. How quickly these attributes appear and set in varies from person to person. And while genetics certainly play a role, inflammation also impacts the way our skin ages.
Inflammation is our immune system's response to healing. When you injure a muscle, for instance, inflammation is responsible for swelling and bruises. When our skin is inflamed, we experience blotching, flaking, tightness, and itching—all things that can exacerbate signs of aging. Hence the resurgence of SkinTok’s latest buzzword: "inflammaging."
What is inflammaging?
“Inflammaging is a term which combines the words inflammation and aging, and highlights the growing evidence that aging is linked with chronic inflammation,” says board-certified dermatologist, Tess Mauricio, MD. The term "inflammaging" was first coined by Claudio Franceschi et al. in 2000, when their research found that “the aging process has a chronic progressive proinflammatory phenotype." Put simply, the more inflammation in your body, the quicker you'll see visible signs of aging.
This is where the importance of our skin's collagen and elastin comes in. Collagen is a vital protein that supports bone density and has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body. “Chronic and persistent inflammation can result in disruption of the skin’s immune system,” says Dr. Mauricio. “Inflammation results in skin aging by causing a breakdown of collagen and elastin and impairs the skin's barrier function. As the inflammation causes the skin’s defense mechanisms to break down, it accelerates the degradation of collagen and elastin, which leads to skin aging.”
How our skin-care routine impact inflammation
It's easy to assume that using resurfacing ingredients like retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) will give your skin an immediate, "youthful" glow, but that isn't always the case. If you suffer from chronic inflammation and aren’t treating that first, no amount of surface-level product is going to help. In fact, if you’re using ingredients that are too strong for your skin, it may just worsen the situation.
“When we use harsh products that constantly irritate the skin, we’re causing chronic inflammation and may even be contributing to inflammaging,” explains Dr, Mauricio.
If you're worried your current routine is contributing to inflammaging, Dr. Maurico says to look out for“redness, dryness, peeling, flaky skin, skin fragility, enlarged pores, dark circles, and an uneven skin tone.”
The good news is there are ways to reduce and combat the inflammation. “I recommend using skin-care products that calm inflammation, provide antioxidant benefits, reverse damage caused by inflammation, and work to repair the skin’s barrier function,” says Dr. Maricio. Additionally, she adds that maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet will help too.
Below, check out Dr. Mauricio's favorite skin-care products that can help turn back the clock on skin that's suffered from inflammaging.
This fast-absorbing, lightweight cream moisturizer uses antioxidant-rich Chaga mushroom and PhytoMimetic vitamin A to fight inflammation while smoothing the look of wrinkles and reducing discoloration, respectively. It also includes hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and shea butter to deeply hydrate and moisturize skin, strengthening barrier function.
Dr. Mauricio is a representative for AlumierMD, a medical-grade skin-care brand, and recommends this antioxidant serum from the line. It contains vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, in a separate cap that you mix with the serum. This ensures that you get a fresh, optimally-active batch every time you use it. Plus, it contains moisturizing vitamin E and a strengthening peptide to make sure the skin barrier is performing at its best.
This face oil is made with sunflower seed oil, an antioxidant-rich oil that will strengthen your skin. “It helps to promote ceramide production in your skin and improves your natural skin barrier to reduce water loss for better skin hydration and a healthy youthful glow,” Anne Beal, MD, PhD, medical researcher and founder of skin-care brand AbsoluteJoi, previously told Well+Good.
This gentle yet effective serum works to smooth skin texture while defending against inflammation. It includes encapsulated retinol, a non-irritating retinol that smooths fine lines and texture while restoring elasticity; lactic acid, a gentle AHA to smooth and brighten skin; and apple extract, which is rich in protective antioxidants.
This super-soothing serum is made with Houttuynia Cordata Extract, also referred to as Heartleaf, an ingredient with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties; along with eight types of hyaluronic acid to soothe, moisturize, and cool down the skin.
Made with eight powerful oils—pink lotus, peony, rose, cherry blossom, acerola cherry, camellia, Korean black raspberry, and pomegranate—this cream is rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants. It also includes peptides to help depuff and visibly firm the skin.
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