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Inflammation and Aging

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: March 7, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Inflammation, a reaction designed to fight natural aggressions, itself causes tissue damage and, ultimately, signs of aging.
  • Inflamm-aging is a self-worsening phenomenon.
  • In order to fight inflamm-aging, both internal and external aspects of the phenomenon must be addressed.

Inflammation is a non-specific response of the skin to potential threats to its integrity. Because it is not specific, inflammation is not the perfect response. It is a little blind and can get excessive. It can be destructive to some extent, but it is fast and efficient.

Typical triggers of inflammation include, but are not limited to:

  • Pollutants, irritants, smoke—cytotoxic substances (those that have a toxic effect on cells), which trigger the production of free radicals;
  • UV light—which generates free radicals.

Inflammation, in short, is a reaction designed to fight natural aggressions, such as bacterial infections, but is also set in motion by the above-mentioned signals. The skin will fight these signals as if they were an infection, but cannot succeed because they aren’t.

And when the inflammatory process is launched, it does not stop. It is a cascade of events that leads, in fact, to the elimination of some of the threats but also causes tissue damage and, ultimately, signs of aging.