I have my fair share of skincare products, and like most beauty obsessives, I get haunted at night if I forget any part of my multi-step skincare routine. But nothing could prepare me for the last year and a half, during which I suffered from periodic breakouts and dry, rough patches. After months of product testing, I finally got healthy skin: my face was baby-soft and 98% clear, and I swapped all my products for products designed for sensitive skin. But despite all my efforts, there was still a part of my face that flared up from time to time. No matter how many anti-redness serums or calming sprays I applied, my T-zone always remained red.
Fed up with my incurable redness, I dug in and talked to cosmetic chemist and Acaderma founder Shuting Hu, PhD, who introduced me to the term ignition. You may have seen the word on TikTok, where it flooded the feeds with explanations and tips and tricks on how to prevent the skin condition. Indeed, I suffer from inflammaging, ie chronic redness, and it turns out that I am not alone. Although inflammaging is something that typically targets mature skin, I was surprised to learn how much simple things like my diet and lifestyle changes (thanks, COVID) can contribute to it. inflammation of my skin.
Dr. Hu and immunologist Ebru Karpuzoglu, PhD, explain everything you need to know about inflammation, including what causes it, how to fight it, and steps you can take to prevent it.
What is ignition?
“Inflammaging is known as chronic low-grade inflammation that is a crucial contributing factor to various age-related pathologies and natural processes in tissue and skin aging,” says Dr. Hu. In simpler terms, inflammaging is a term used to describe aging induced by chronic inflammation. “In the dermis, which is the thickest layer of our skin, inflammaging breaks down the architecture of the skin,” says Hu. “[It can] lead to the loss of collagen, hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans (anti-aging molecules) including chondroitin, which causes wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity.
Maybe you think it’s no big deal. Everyone’s skin ages over time, right? But this is where inflammaging is different. “Microchronic levels of inflammation (inflammaging) can damage skin cells and collagen and weaken the skin’s barrier functions, leading to a buildup of cells that are more senescent than normal,” says Dr. Karpuzoglu. “As the skin experiences more and more damage, the skin barriers and microbiome are weakened and our immune system has to work harder to defend the body and repair the skin barriers. This also means that we will have less protection against the inflammatory invaders like bacteria and viruses, as skin immunity is overwhelmed by this process.
In other words, your skin is stressed to the max and desperately needs attention. Similar to how a muscle would sore and bruise after an injury to alert you that something is wrong, inflammation is your skin (and its cells) saying, “Hey, there’s something wrong. don’t go here”.
How does inflammaging affect my skin?
Inflammaging inflicts damage on our skin at a fundamental level, which in turn leads to changes such as faster aging, wrinkles and a weak skin barrier. Although some skin changes are normal over time, such as collagen reduction, inflammation speeds up the process and makes it worse. For example, collagen reduction typically begins in your late 20s and steadily decreases by 1% to 2% per year thereafter. Inflammaging gets it started sooner and causes you to lose collagen at an accelerated rate.
What causes inflammation?
I was surprised to learn that I suffered from inflammation – I take good care of my skin, use a gentle cleanser every night, never go to bed with makeup on, and wear sunscreen every day . But when it comes to inflammaging, there are a plethora of factors that can cause it. Lifestyle and increased stress are two important factors that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.