Inflammaging of our skin: what is it and how can we slow it down?

The term ‘inflammaging’ is widely recognised within the skincare industry. What it means is the acceleration of the natural ageing process by the effects of chronic inflammation. External factors and lifestyle choices are impacting our skin and how we age now, more than ever. This constant state of inflammation releases free radicals and oxidative stress throughout the skin exhausting its defence mechanisms. Some contributing factors are out of our hands such as living in highly polluted areas or stressful lifestyles, however, if we are more educated about the impact these factors have on our skin and the rate in which it ages our skin, then maybe we can take some mindful steps to prevent or reduce it. 

Factors that contribute to Inflammaging:

  • UV exposure
  • Poor diet
  • Gut Dysbiosis
  • Physical and Mental Stress
  • Medication therapies
  • Smoking
  • Pollution:

The Effects Free radicals have on the skin:

A free radical is an atom or molecule with unpaired electrons. The unpaired electrons cause radicals to be unstable and highly chemically reactive until neutralised. This chemical attack is known as ‘oxidative stress’. As a result of this oxidative stress the following cell systems are affected:

  • Vitamin C oxidation (the skin cannot produce collagen without the presence of vitamin c)
  • Inactive vitamin A receptors (vitamin A is crucial for normal cell health and division)
  • Increase in collagenase and elastase enzymes of MMP family (these enzymes go along gobbling up our collagen)
  • Loss of structural integrity/density of collagen fibrils will also reduce wound healing.
  • Glycation from collagen and elastin linking.
  • Pretty much everything you don’t want to be happening within your skin. 

Our Biological Clock is ticking.

In human cells there are 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each one contains two ends with a portion of non-functional DNA called telomere. Whenever a cell divides, it loses part of the telomere, which means that the length of telomere shortens each time the cell divides. When there are no telomeres left, P53 gene is activated which blocks the cell-division cycle leading to apoptosis and senescence.

Oxidative stress also causes shortening of telomeres. This supports the theory that shortening of telomeres may be the cellular mechanism of the biological clock, which marks the rate of genetically controlled ageing. Telomerase is an enzyme that repairs damaged telomeres, and has been referred to as the secret to cell immortality. Telomerase can rest telomeres back to their youthful lengths.

So what can we do?

Well, Vitamin A builds up telomerase in normal cells and reduces its activity in cancerous cells. So we can supplement Vitamin A internally and use Vitamin A topically in the form of retinoids. More to come in my next article about retinoids.

Protecting telomeres with antioxidants also helps skin cells remain active for longer. Antioxidants by supplement, diet and topically all work to neutralise the free radicals.

Reduce foods that are inflammatory such as processed meats, fried foods, refined carbs and fizzy drinks and swap for anti inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, nuts and leafy greens.

Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants you can apply topically to the skin and also boosts collagen production within the skin. Vitamin C serums come with all different strengths and formulations and it’s a case of finding one that works for you. More to come on Vitamin C in future articles.


Looking at all the contributing elements of oxidative stress just supports my love for Heliocare SPF range, because not only do they have full coverage of UV protection but they also have the unique Fernblock technology protecting the cells DNA and antioxidants to neutralise free radicals all within one product. (Annabel has been using these products for nearly one year and loves them.)

Unbalanced gut flora is largely related to most inflammatory skin conditions that I see, not to mention the effect that many medications have on our gut. The gut is the second brain and is responsible for 70% of our immune system so when it is out of balance it really shows in all of our bodies systems including the skin. I recommend everyone takes a good quality probiotic daily to support the gut. My recommendation is Skin Youth Biome by Advanced Nutrition Programme because of its 4 specific strains of bacteria that have been researched and linked to the skin. It also contains vitamin c as an added antioxidant and collagen booster.

Take time for yourself, enjoy a long warm bath and some herbal tea. Be mindful of the surrounding factors that are speeding up the rate in which your skin is ageing. Remember that healthy skin is beautiful skin.

If you want to discuss this topic for more advice or any other skincare issues with Jade Shelden, Medical Facialist at Norfolk Skin Atelier Email: Tel: 07947103355 She would be happy to chat to you.

For more ‘skincare for 50 plus women’ articles by Jade Shelden, click HERE