The Root of All Skin Aging

aging-skinLoss of skin tone and elasticity, abnormal pigmentation, and excessive redness are all signs of aging of the skin.  Dermatological researchers all point to one common denominator: inflammation.

Like a lot of things in the human body, there is a good and bad inflammation.  The goal of skin care is to limit the bad and damaging inflammation while allowing the body to use good inflammation to heal and repair.

Inflammation is, in one way, good for your body.  It is your body’s natural response to trauma, and is a necessary signal to your immune system to fight off infection and repair acute insults to the skin such as cuts or punctures.

Acute inflammation can last from several days to several weeks and is essential to healing.  The presence of inflammation signals the body to send increased circulation, tissue fluid and white blood cells to the affected area.

When the skin barrier is broken and/or infected by bacteria, the inflammatory response helps to fight the infection early on and stimulate skin cells to repair and rebuild the area injured.  This is a vital short-term response to injury whose goal is to restore the skin to its previous barrier status.

inflamed-skinInflammation becomes problematic, however, when it becomes chronic.  Prolonged inflammation is destructive and damaging to the normal skin and body.

When the skin in particular is chronically inflammed or irritated, your immune system is constantly stimulated and mistakenly begins attacking normal skin and underlying tissues.  Photoaging, abnormal pigmentation, acne, rosacea and eczema can all be traced to various types of chronic skin inflamation.

There are numerous common stimuli of skin inflammation, including:

  • sun exposure
  • environmental toxin exposure including pollution and smoking
  • stress of all types
  • persistent trauma to skin (picking, rubbing, pimple popping)
  • local infections (bacterial, fungal)
  • foreign bodies.

All of these factors induces persistent release of free radicals which causes skin cell damage, reduction of collagen production, and abnormal healing.  This results in abnormal scar formation, pigment deposits and circulation into affected skin.

healthy_foodsNow that we understand that chronic inflammation is bad, how do we control it?  Because free radicals and oxidative damage are a significant component of this process, antioxidant-rich foods should be an essential part of every diet.

In short, the more fruits and veggies and the less processed food, the better for your health, your body and your skin.  Specifically, foods rich in vitamin A, C and E, bioflavinoids and polyphenols are best.  The good foods include carrots, kale, spinach, broccoli, citrus, tomatoes, nuts, berries and dark chocolate.

Topical antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are also important to neutralize some of the effects of free radicals on and just below the skin surface.  Vitamin C is probably the best topical preparation out there on the market.  Peptides also help with the penetration of these products into the skin.

Finally, protecting the skin is the key to stopping chronic inflammation before it begins.  Since one of the major causes of skin inflammation is sun exposure, the best defense is sunscreen.  While Maine Laser Skin Care can help repair damage when it occurs,  ounces of prevention in the form of sunscreen can be better than the pounds or dollars or time spent on cure.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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