Skin inflammation and ageing
Inflammation is a normal response to irritation or infection that helps to defend against microbes and is involved in damage repair. When the body can’t down regulate or there is a persistent stimulus this process it becomes chronic and can significantly accelerate skin ageing. Most skin conditions including rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and sensitive skin reactions involve inflammation, usually in response to some form of irritation, whether internal or external. Inflamed skin is characterised by redness, puffiness, blotchy patches, itchiness, welts, enlarged pores and will also cause skin dehydration. in the skin chronic inflammation doesn’t always show up so obviously and can just express as occasional reactivity, dehydration that can be improved with good quality skin care and premature ageing.
When skin inflammation occurs there is an increase in blood flow and local immune activation. This process increases the production of free radicals thereby reducing the skin’s antioxidant defences. Eventually it may result in damage of skin tissue, scarring and premature wrinkles. The stimulus for chronic inflammation might come from the a diet low in antioxidants or consuming foods that promote free radicals such as high GI foods and the wrong kinds of fats. Other factors that contribute to skin inflammation include smoking, chronic disease processes, excess sun exposure, a food allergy or intolerance or a lingering infection.
It is important to note that anything internal you do to reduce skin inflammation internally will also reduce inflammation in other body tissues. This is why a naturopath might treat Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriasis in similar ways as both are characterised by chronic inflammation regardless of the specific body tissue.
There are many ways to reduce skin inflammation, which include:
- Eating a diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidants will reduce the cellular free radical damage that occurs as a result of inflammation. Fortunately many foods that are rich in antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory activity. Some key examples include Green Tea, Turmeric and Ginger. Antioxidant rich foods include fresh fruit and vegetables rich in colour – think Rainbow coloured foods!
- Mange your weight. Weight gain around your stomach area and obesity are associated with inflammation.
- Reduce stress levels. Stress causes increased skin permeability leading to heightened skin sensitivity. It also leads to immune deregulation, which precipitates or aggravates chronic skin conditions.
- Eat plenty of good oils such as those from deep sea fish, Chia seeds and flax oil. Read more about this topic here.
Topically there are key ingredients that will have potent anti-inflammatory activity. These include:
- Green Tea – studies using green tea extract have shown that it works to minimise sun damage by reducing the production of free radicals and inflammation that result from exposure to UV rays.
- Chamomile – this herbal medicine has a high content of Azulene, the active organic compound in Chamomile which gives it its deep-blue colour. This compound has anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties.
- Vitamin C – is an antioxidant and so reduces free-radical production in the skin, provides photo-protection from ultraviolet A and B and also assists with the reduction of inflammation.
- Niacinamide (vitamin B3) – Niacinamide increases the concentration of NADPH, a molecule involved in cellular energy production, an effect that translates into increased synthesis of collagen and keratin and a reduction in inflammation.
Reducing the effects of inflammation to a minimum is an important factor when addressing skin ageing and virtually all skin concerns. Start with small changes, adding in anti-inflammatory foods and if necessary using key topicals to help reduce skin inflammation.