Aging. Try as we might, we can’t escape it. The transition can be graceful with crows feet and smile lines emerging after years of good times. But when those lines appear a few years (or decades) too early, the root cause may be something a little less joyous. It’s called inflammaging.
What is it?
In short, inflammaging is low level, chronic inflammation that affects your skin and overall health. This persistent inflammation works as a catalyst for cell aging in a process known as cellular senescence which can quickly make your skin look haggard and unhealthy. Like many other health issues, inflammaging may first appear as dull, dry, inflamed skin, but can eventually cause bigger problems like dementia, arthritis, and Type 2 diabetes.
How it happens
Although lifestyle, diet, and stress all contribute to your levels of inflammation, a large part of inflammaging is suspected to be genetic. Prolonged stress from a tough job, toxic relationship, or other, can wreak havoc on your hormones and spark this aging process..
Inflammaging + Hormones
With stress playing a major role in inflammaging, it’s important to keep your hormones balanced to keep this unwanted side effect of aging at bay. Here’s how hormones contribute:
Stress occurs in the body, stimulating the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis.
These hormone systems then over produce cortisol and decrease DHEA production (also known as the anti-aging hormone). Although more studies are needed, this is what is believed to contribute to inflammaging.
When DHEA levels are low, the immune system is unable to function properly preventing you from being at the top of your game and gradually wreaking havoc within.
Inflammaging + Skin
As we age, the function and appearance of our skin changes, with collagen and elastin breaking down, decreased elasticity, slower wound healing, and increased likelihood of skin infections. Inflammaging, along with extensive UV exposure, speeds up this process causing these unwanted skin symptoms in younger skin. With cortisol levels high and DHEA low, inflammaged skin is often more sensitive, red, breakout prone, dull, and lacks that plump, elastic appearance.
What to do about it
Keeping your cortisol and DHEA levels in balance is key to preventing and combating signs of inflammaging. Managing stress is the first (and hardest) step to reaching hormonal balance. Implementing a daily practice or changing a micro habit can make a huge difference. If you’ve taken the Skin + Health Test and your cortisol levels are high, swap your high intensity exercise for something more chill. Pilates, yoga, and long walks can be just as effective without spiking your cortisol levels and increasing inflammation. If you have lower DHEA levels, supplements can be a great way to boost your DHEA. (Just be sure to consult your doctor before starting.)
There’s a lot to look forward to as we age - more wisdom, more empowerment, senior discounts, and (hopefully) putting up with less bull****. But when your skin shows signs of aging prematurely, it may be a sign of something happening within. Checking your hormone levels and managing your stress is key to keeping inflammaging at bay and enjoying all the other fun parts of getting older.