While inflammaging (inflammation + aging) may sound like a made-up creation of pop culture, scientists have been studying and writing about its effects for decades. This evidence-based phenomenon describes a gradual and natural increase in the body's inflammatory response thanks to a low-grade increase in immune system activity.
And though you typically can't see it, it can be serious. Inflammaging is thought to play a role in some of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in old age, from dementia and arthritis to Type 2 diabetes. But even if you don't experience one of these more serious medical problems as you age, you will likely still experience some effects.
Effects on Your Skin
As with the body, inflammaging of the skin is the result of an ongoing immune response that may be so gradual you don't even notice it. It's associated with age-related changes like wrinkles and sagging skin, including those seen around the eyes and mouth. These problems stem from the sensitivity and loss of elasticity that can be common with skin inflammation.
Importantly, the causes of inflammaging in the skin resemble the causes of it elsewhere in the body. Scientists are learning more about the role of the gut microbiome in combatting it, with recent studies suggesting that simple changes in food and diet stand to help better regulate immune activities in the elderly.
Additionally, skin-specific factors can exacerbate the effects of inflammation on the skin, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from direct sunlight or tanning beds, smoking, and pollution.
Slowing and Treating
While no quick fix exists for this condition, experts suggest that a combination of factors may help.
Diet and exercise top the list. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, including fruits, leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish, is generally a good idea. In the same vein, you should avoid inflammatory agitators, like processed foods, red meat, and soda. Staying physically active has also been found to slow its effects.
For many reasons, you should aim to prevent external damage like UV rays and smoke toxins that can make skin age faster. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher—for instance, EltaMD's UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40—and apply it every day.
Seeing as this skin concern can coincide with sky dryness, especially as you age, restorative treatment may also include a good moisturizer. Look for replenishing products with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, like EltaMD's Barrier Renewal Complex.
Consult the Professionals
Still, self-care isn't always the best treatment for skin inflammation, especially for inflammation that lasts. Some cases of chronic inflammation that may seem similar to inflammaging could actually be due to larger underlying problems, like celiac disease or lupus. If you have concerns about persistent inflammation in your skin, consult with a board-certified Dermatologist. They can help you identify the cause and develop a treatment plan so that no skin problem keeps you from putting your best face forward.