What Does Inflammaging Mean For Your Skin?

Whether you like it or not, aging is a natural part of life — and the quickest way to tell how much and how fast we have aged is from our skin. Many people start seeing the first signs of aging around the age of 25, per Eucerin. Fine lines, wrinkles, pigmented spots, sagging skin, and decreased elasticity are typical signs of aging and tend to become more pronounced over time. However, it's one thing to age — it's another thing to have skin that looks aged.

The Mayo Clinic points out that factors — such as exposure to ultraviolet radiation, smoking, and repeated facial movements and expressions — can accelerate the normal aging process. This further breaks down the collagen and elastin fibers, making aging signs look apparent earlier than they should. Is wearing sunscreen, quitting smoking, and keeping a poker face all the time sufficient enough to delay the skin's aging process? In recent years, there's growing evidence that inflammaging can be another factor that speeds up aging. If you have been trying to slow down these signs on your face to no avail, this newly discovered cause of premature aging might help you adjust your skincare routine for better results. Here's what to know about inflammaging — a major driver of accelerated aging skin. 

How inflammaging affects your skin

Your immune response relies heavily on inflammation, which minimizes harm and helps your body recover. However, too much of it can go from helpful to harmful — and that's the case for inflammaging. A 2018 article published in Immunological Investigations points out that the word "inflammaging" was originally coined by Franceschi et al. in 2000. It represents the notion that aging is associated with protracted, low-grade inflammation. "Inflammaging is a term which combines the words inflammation and aging, and highlights the growing evidence that aging is linked with chronic inflammation," dermatologist Dr. Tess Mauricio tells Well+Good.

Such a chronic inflammatory response may intensify over time, disrupting the skin's immune system and leading to tissue damage. Excessive inflammation can cause a sustained attack on collagen and elastin, impairing the skin's barrier function and resulting in accelerated aging. In other words, the more inflammation there is in your body, the quicker signs of aging become visible on your face.

According to a 2018 study published in the journal Nature Reviews Cardiology, genetics, central obesity, alterations in microbiota compositions, cellular senescence, the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, oxidative stress caused by dysfunctional mitochondria, and long-term infections are some potential causes of inflammaging. Using harsh products that irritate the skin also contributes to chronic inflammation. Aside from affecting your skin, ongoing inflammation can cause fatigue, digestive problems, and sleeping disorders. With that in mind, is there anything we can do about inflammaging?

Physical activity helps combat inflammaging

As you age, your immune system experiences changes and struggles to balance the inflammatory response. Technically, inflammaging is sort of inevitable. While there are no hard and fast solutions to eluding or slowing down the process, there is growing evidence that there are things you can do to make it more bearable. For instance, being physically active can help you manage inflammaging. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, a group of participants aged 65 to 80 who exercised three times per week for 12 weeks exhibited lower levels of inflammation in their blood levels compared to those who didn't. A 2019 review published in the journal Aging and Disease also suggested that 10 to 12 weeks of moderate exercise may reduce inflammatory biomarkers.

Dietary changes can also bring down the level of inflammation in your body. According to Vital Plan, refined carbohydrates and sweetened foods and drinks can cause your insulin levels to spike, potentially leading to insulin resistance and inflammation. To cultivate healthier eating habits and slow down inflammaging, swap highly processed and sugary dishes for fiber-rich whole grains, veggies, and other plant-based dishes. If there's one diet that comes close to being anti-inflammatory, it's the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet, which has a high concentration of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources, has been shown to protect against diseases associated with inflammation, according to the Harvard Medical School.