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Inflammation and Ageing: The Real Impact of Stress

Featured in Beauty Biz Year 16, Issue 1.

Inflammageing began as a theory that linked inflammatory changes in the skin and body, to the causes of many age-associated diseases. This concept of inflammageing has evolved since its first introduction by visionary Prof. Franceschi 23 years ago, and is now understood to be a global reflection of the lifetime exposures, challenges and impacts to our immune (and other) system(s) from acute and chronic, unresolved stressors of all types.

Until recent decades the immune system was thought to be an independent regulatory system in the body - yet now it is known that our nervous system and our microbiomes co-regulate and co-evolve with our immune system.

It is vital to recognise as a practitioner that it is never just one system responding to a stressor, a challenge or threat, there are many facets and numerous cell types working in unison that either allow us to heal and thrive, or to stay dysregulated and stuck in survival (and inflammation) mode.

As I’m sure you have also experienced either personally or professionally, increased challenges come with increased changes in our entire mind/body system - and from skin to within, a pro-inflammatory state begins to wreak havoc. Ultimately, each person that you meet is experiencing some form of stress, either chronic or acute… right?

Modern life is a daily challenge, and we can easily be facing each day either a little (or extremely) overwhelmed and under-resourced physically, nutritionally, mentally, emotionally.

The Biological Breakdown

A myriad of clinical research and findings provide links between chronic stressors, sympathetic overdrive, inefficient and excessive inflammation, skin diseases and disorders, mood disorders, gut dysfunction and other diseases of all types. This is what we know as inflammageing.

Regardless if a stressor is caused by trauma/ injury (physical, mental or emotional), infection, non-communicable disease, autoimmune disorders, gut parasites, and so on, the typical physiological response is the inflammatory cascade, supported by sympathetic nervous system dominance: an increase in heart and breath rate, movement of blood supply to the peripheries and/or specific site of injury, an increase in white cells and phagocytic activity in affected tissues, followed by a down-regulation of these mechanisms, resulting in an impaired healing process.

When we consider our body’s innate adaptable protective mechanisms, where can this go so wrong? How can we help reduce pathological ageing burdened with ageing-related diseases, from skin to within?

To appreciate how to combat inflammageing whilst optimising the function of (and communication between) our different interdependent body systems, an understanding of how our nervous system is tuning in to both our internal and external environments for cues of either “safety” or “danger” is imperative, and we believe this is a huge missing piece for most therapists’ in our industry.

To understand an individual’s skin before we start asking for it to create changes and improve, we must consider what is implicating the skin, and most often that is so much more than just what it is coming into contact with from its external environment. Often, it is internally exacerbated by forms of stress and oxidative damage, which decreases the functionality of the immune system - which interestingly, the skin is a crucial part in the immune system.

Stress can be beneficial, but also incredibly harmful. Understanding what state your client may be in due to stresses from external (relationships, work) or internal (health, generics) allows you to gain an understanding of how much you can ask of the skin - and if it is capable of providing you with the results you are seeking.

We can achieve tremendous results with advanced machinery and ingredient technology, but the most basic forms of care can also incredibly benefit in aiding in cortisol reduction. Simple touch points like massage, pressure points, a safe environment can decrease cortisol levels and allow the body to become more in a state of receiving and less of defending.

How do we apply this to clinical treatments?

Most skin practitioners understand that inflicting controlled trauma and inflammation (via lasers, peels, IPL etc.), in the skin instigated a wound healing response, thereby activating the fibroblasts, which in turn stimulates collagen and elastin – which is very impressive. On the other hand, treatments performed on underprepared skin, undergo a longer inflammatory phase, which can be detrimental in the long run.

Moreover, clients who have an underlying autoimmune condition such as diabetes or inflammatory skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, already have inflammatory processes occurring, will further experience prolonged and unwanted inflammation post treatment. Which is why protecting the skin and health with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and safe implementation of aesthetic devices when appropriate, leading up to invasive treatments is vital for optimal long-term results.

Avoiding and protecting the skin from the elements in addition to feeding and putting back into the skin with a nutrient-dense skincare regime compromising of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients and peptides to repair the skin barrier, along with good nutrition, exercise, practicing mindfulness and breath work.

In clinic you can offer clients prep-treatments to help strengthen, nourish and boost the skin, so it is in optimal health, ready for other aesthetic treatments. Treatments that drive in vitamin and anti-oxidants such as manual massage, sonophoresis, galvanic or even better, infusing with micro-current.

Not only does micro-current increase product penetration, but it also increases circulation and lymph, increase natural production of collagen and elastin, increases protein synthesis, gluconeogenesis and membrane transport, increases mitochondria activity, ATP (adenosine tri phosphate). Microcurrent has been proven to significantly decrease redness, irritation, and more importantly inflammation.

633nm LED is another under-utilised or overlooked treatment for preparing the skin. The benefits include increasing cellular ATPleading up to invasive aesthetic treatments, and also post-treatment with the 830nm wavelength to reduce unwanted or prolonged inflammation.

Whilst inflammageing is a hybrid term, there is a plethora of research backing and validating this, which ultimately suggests we must understand it’s affects and how we can combat its detriments whilst still respecting the skins integrity.

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