A key factor in accelerating ageing is long term inflammation and it can be damaging both to our bodies and in particular to our skin. Inflammation is a complex defence mechanism in which white blood cells move from from the circulation into damaged tissues to destroy the agents that potentially may cause tissue injury. Acute inflammation is a helpful response, particularly during an infection, whereas chronic inflammation is persistent and can lead to tissue damage.
What are the usual indicators of chronic inflammation? Markers such as C Reactive Protein or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (EDR) are often used as indicators and will commonly be checked on blood tests. CRP is often raised in the acute stages of inflammation and may continue to be elevated in the chronic stages as well. It is often used to monitor how people respond to a particular treatment.
Common sources of inflammation include the following;
- Chronic infections
- Lack of exercise
- Isolation and chronic stress
- Disturbed sleep
- Environmental exposures and toxins
The body reacts to these triggers by increasing the flow of nutrients to the area to enable it to resolve however in some cases the trigger persists and you develop chronic inflammation. In the skin the chronic inflammation results in a layer of the skin thickening and may cause the lymphatic vessels in the area to increase in size and number.
Skin inflammation longer term can also result in senescent cells. Senescent skin cells, which accumulate over time, play a crucial role in the response to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation arises when the immune system responds to persistent or recurring stimuli, such as infections, environmental factors, or cellular damage. In the case of skin, chronic inflammation can also be triggered by factors like UV radiation, pollution, or even chronic skin conditions. When the skin is subjected to such insults, it activates an immune response that recruits immune cells, including macrophages and T cells, to the affected area.
The Effects of Chronic Inflammation on Aging Skin:
- Inflammatory Molecules: Aging skin cells, known as senescent cells, release various substances like pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and enzymes that break down the skin’s structure. These molecules attract immune cells and contribute to more inflammation in the affected area. This ongoing inflammatory environment can worsen skin damage and disrupt the natural healing processes.
- Impaired Function: Senescent skin cells have reduced functionality and struggle to perform essential tasks like wound healing and tissue regeneration. This impairment occurs due to changes in the way genes are activated and signaling pathways operate. Consequently, the skin’s ability to repair itself becomes compromised, leading to slower healing and an increased risk of chronic wounds.
- DNA Damage: Chronic inflammation generates oxidative stress, which can cause DNA damage in aging skin cells. This damage can result in genetic mutations that further contribute to the cells’ dysfunctional behavior. Over time, the accumulation of these genetic abnormalities can potentially raise the risk of skin diseases, including cancer.
Chronic inflammation poses a significant challenge to the health and appearance of aging skin. The release of inflammatory molecules by senescent cells, their impaired functionality, and the accumulation of DNA damage can lead to a decline in skin health and an increased risk of skin diseases. Understanding the impact of chronic inflammation on aging skin cells is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate its harmful effects and promote healthier skin aging. By adopting lifestyle practices that reduce inflammation, such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise and managing stress levels you can assist in maintaining healthier skin.
For more assistance in managing lifestyle factors and making the changes that will support healthier skin (and a healthier you) have a look at my resources including my free webinar 6 Tips for Ageing Outrageously .