Inflammaging, (inflammation + aging), is the latest clinical term you need to know. The term was first coined in 2000 by researcher Claudio Franceschi to describe low-grade, chronic inflammation in the body that ultimately leads to disease.1 It's recently started to catch on as an aging term in the esthetic community, partly due to an increase in stress affecting our global society.
Inflammaging Symptoms & Causes
Since inflammaging refers to the lasting effects of chronic inflammation over time, understanding and recognizing how inflammation affects the skin is critical. These effects can include a disrupted skin barrier, damaged cells, loss of collagen and elastin, loss of facial fat, and depletion of hyaluronic acid.2 Although everyone exhibits signs of inflammation differently, it can often present in the form of erythema, dryness, sensitivity, and irritation. With continued exposure or stress, the skin may develop chronic conditions like rosacea, eczema, acne, or allergies.
According to research from Rockefeller University, the skin has memory and recalls inflammation. Tests with mice showed that wounds closed twice as fast on skin that had been damaged before, even if the original inflammation was as far back as six months (roughly equivalent to around 15 years for a human).3 The skin learned from past occurrences of inflammation and launched a quick response against new assailants while repairing damaged tissues.
Of course, not all inflammation is bad—it is the basis behind many esthetic procedures like chemical peels and microneedling, as acute inflammation leads to the remodeling of collagen and elastin fibers and the formation of new skin cells. This concept is often described as “break it down to build it up,” and is compared to lifting weights at a gym; microtears in the muscle lead to muscle growth.
So how do you know if your client is experiencing inflammaging?
- Skin burns quickly
- Skin takes a long time to heal from a minor injury
- Skin shows signs of inflammation
- Loss of volume and other aging issues like wrinkles and pigmentation seem to start suddenly
- Skin’s barrier has been compromised, leading to dryness and infection
The key to controlling inflammaging and restoring balance in the skin is to control or reduce stress levels, load up on antioxidants (both internally and topically), protect the skin from environmental hazards like the sun, pollution, caffeine, and alcohol, maintain a healthy diet, and get plenty of sleep.
ASCP's Esty Talk episode 195,Inflammaging, discusses inflammation—both acute and chronic—and how to spot the signs of inflammaging in your clients..
Elise Minton Tabin, Aedit, “Why ‘Inflammaging’ Is The Aging Term You Need To Know About,” July 14, 2021, aedit.com/aedition/guide-to-inflammaging.
David Niel, ScienceAlert, “Our Skin Can 'Remember' Inflammation, And It Could Help Us Understand Psoriasis,” October 19, 2017. sciencealert.com/our-skin-can-remember-wounds-and-heal-them-up-faster-in-future.