I admit it, I was party to my own inflammaging problem. I loved glycolic, the more the better. What I didn’t realize back in the day was that I was actually creating far more long-term damage to my skin. Yes, I was getting the instant fix, but I was also causing invisible, chronic inflammation and irritation on my skin. See what Constance Campion has to say. I slowly began to realize this phenomenon and started to change my habits and my products. On the surface, for a 45 year old, my skin is relatively ok. But under a Reveal Imager, or woods lamp, there is a completely different story to be told. No, not all my damage was due to using glycolic, but it was definitely due to chronic inflammation from prolonged sun exposure, sugar, poor eating habits, and yes, too many harsh ingredients on my skin.
We now know better. Thank goodness! Noureddine Mriouah, head scientist at CosMedix, wrote an article in January discussing this very topic. Below is an excerpt to read.
Admittedly, the article is very science-based, but it should be read regardless. For those of you that are therapists, read on as the information below will really help you choose the right treatments and products for your clients.
If you are a consumer, then definitely read on. The information is a goldmine in helping you wade through hype and make more informed decisions.
I N F L A M M A G I N G
by Noureddine Mriouah
All skin (and certainly weakened or aged skin) is subject to inflammation, even 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 a breakdown of the skin’s barrier function.
Inflammation is the body’s response to cellular aggression or injury. It represents a defence mechanism designed to heal cells from injury and protect the body from the consequences of that injury. Cell injury may occur due to trauma, genetic defects, physical and chemical aggressions, tissue death, foreign bodies, immune reactions and infections. Inflammation also facilitates early tissue healing and repair, allowing the body to restore normal form and function.
The healing of an injury is a complicated process. It starts as soon as the injury occurs and can take up to nine months or more to complete. There are three phases to the healing process: the inflammatory phase, the proliferation phase and the remodelling phase.
During the inflammatory phase, pro-inflammatory proteins enter damaged areas causing swelling as tissues push apart. Following this, white blood cells, including the macrophage, begin the proliferation stage by cleansing the wound and jump-starting the repair process. During this stage, the wound contracts, receiving the oxygen and nutrients vital for regeneration. Lastly, the remodelling stage is characterized by the production, organization and remodelling of collagen to strengthen the wound. However, even after the wound has healed, the resulting scar tissue is more vulnerable to injury and deformation than the original tissue. Science now shows that repeated injury leads to the chronic state of inflammation, or Inflammaging.
I N F L A M M A T I O N & S K I N A G E I N G
Today, the direct link between extrinsic skin ageing and inflammation is well established and documented. Elias and Feingold demonstrated the reciprocal effect of many chronic inflammatory diseases—such as psoriasis, atopic and seborrheic 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.
A N T I – I N F L A M M A T O R Y T R E A T M E N T
Inflammaging can be prevented, and even reversed, by using a wide spectrum of topical products formulated with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. In addition to inhibiting the key mediators of inflammation and ageing processes, these ingredients should help reinforce, protect and boost the Anti-Oxidant Response System.
Two different classes of anti-inflammatory agents seem to show 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 be used in skincare.
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. The second is the use of broad-spectrum UV protection.
As with any skin concern, Inflammaging can worsen with prolonged sun exposure. Combined with treatments that target the source of inflammation, proper UV defence and barrier support can help minimize the visible effects of Inflammaging.
A L T E R N A T I V E S T O C O M M O N I R R I T A N T S
Equally as important as using anti-inflammatory ingredients is avoiding aggressive ingredients that can further wound the skin and prolong the Inflammaging cycle.
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 Tartaric Acids), however, don’t tend to penetrate the dermis, making them far gentler on the skin and less likely to spark inflammation. It has also been found that using the chirally correct version of these acids can further help maintain the efficacy of the ingredients and 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.
T H E F U T U R E O F S K I N C A R E
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. If companies don’t keep up, their customers will look elsewhere.
I N T H E T R E A T M E N T R O O M
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 Natural Moisturizing Factor (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 below for a list of recommended ingredients.
Protect your results. Inflammaging can worsen with prolonged sun exposure, so be sure to end every treatment with sunscreen application of SPF 30 or higher.
A N T I – I N F L A M M A T O R Y I N G R E D I E N T S
Magnolia Bark Extract