Inflammaging: How Stress Impacts Wellness and Beauty

The eyes may be the window to your soul, but it’s your skin that is the historian of your health and wellbeing.

CONTRIBUTOR: LORI BUSH

If the last few years have taught us anything about beauty, it’s this:  if you’re not holistically managing both emotional and physical stress, all the cosmeceuticals in the world won’t make up for the dulling, aging impact of inflammation on your skin and overall wellbeing. Here's some food for thought about resilience to the visible manifestations of accelerated inflammaging.

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF STRESS 

Through the years, I’ve written and spoken about the impact of stress on skin. But I thought I was one of those lucky creatures who could thrive on stress, juggling career and family and operating on an average of 4 hours of sleep a night for weeks on end.

Then came the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer and the requirement to immediately discontinue the bio-identical hormones that were helping me to keep my skin and hair looking years younger than my chronological age. The icing on the cake was the prescription of endocrine therapy that would flatline my estrogen levels and accelerate the aging of my skin.

Was stress the cause of my breast cancer? There’s no way to know for sure. But what we do know is that unmitigated stress triggers inflammatory processes throughout the body which, in turn, can wreak havoc on every organ and promote accelerated aging of the largest organ, our skin.

My new normal in beauty is all about managing the impact of stress on my skin and the benefits are much more than skin deep.

WHAT IS INFLAMMAGING?

Inflammaging is the aging process associated with inflammation. When it comes to skin, stress from both internal and environmental sources is a major contributor to accelerated inflammaging. 

However, what’s proving to be more important than the nearly impossible strategy of avoiding the daily stressors in life is knowing how to effectively handle them.

STRESSED ABOUT STRESS? 

Here are some lifestyle practices that can help keep your skin, and in many cases your whole body, more resilient to the inflammaging effects of stress.

PRACTICE INTEGRATIVE BEAUTY

Modern innovations in skincare have taken us from hope in a jar to real benefits inspired by pharmaceutical discovery. However, in beauty, we also have access to a portfolio of 2000 years of new ideas, many of which derive from eastern cultures. Plant-based Ayurvedic ingredients that are rich in adaptogens can now be purified and concentrated as both cosmeceutical and nutraceutical ingredients to add benefits to any beauty or wellness regimen. Click here to learn more.

BREATHE MINDFULLY

In stressful situations many of us, especially women, tend to shorten or hold our breath. No surprise, this impacts oxygen availability to our organs and is stressful to the body. Along with the physiological benefits of breathing properly, focusing on your breathing patterns is an anchoring component of mindfulness.

And in case you think, as I used to, that meditation is for people who have nothing better to do with their time, think again. In their best-selling book, The Telomere Effect, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel share extensive scientific evidence of the profound physiological benefits of meditation and other lifestyle practices to manage the impact of stress at the cellular level.

EAT ANTI-STRESS FOODS 

Food may be our best anti-stress medicine. However, aspects of what is deemed healthy in terms of food and diet still remain controversial and the information seems to change constantly. Don’t let that stress you out; there are things we know (almost) for certain.

With the industrialization of foods, our organs, including our brains and our skin, are confused. If you’re a junk food junkie, much of the food you consume is hyper-processed, meaning it is more manufactured than it is cooked or prepared. In other words, you’re introducing substances into your body that it doesn’t even recognize as food and that can have an adverse impact on your metabolic health.  On the other hand, whole natural foods, including healthy fats best sourced from plants or fish, can have anti-inflammatory benefits that protect your health and beauty. We now appreciate the profound role of fiber derived from consuming a wide variety of plants and spices is what supports both our skin and gut microbiome, the invisible ecosystem of microorganisms that live symbiotically with our bodies and protect us from the effects of harmful bacteria and support our overall wellbeing and longevity. The healthier your relationship with food, the greater your resilience to the aging impacts of inflammatory stress. 

EXERCISE

Along with the obvious benefits of endorphin release by the brain, exercise supports circulation thereby bringing nutrients to the skin. For the best integrative beauty benefits of exercise, choose low impact options. High impact exercises such as jogging are believed to potentially loosen the microscopic attachments that bind skin to muscle which, in turn, can lead to increased sagging.

BE PROACTIVE AND LEARN YOUR BODY 

A top strategy for longevity and wellbeing is to stay proactively involved in your wellness. Today, AI allows us to tap a vast knowledge base and curate bespoke answers to our individual needs.  We now have access to an increasing menu of diagnostic testing and wearable monitoring devices to give us insight for more control over our future health and wellbeing.

Like integrative medicine, integrative beauty is about creating a plan filled with healthy habits and a few simple bio-hacks, drawing from the best of different disciplines and resources. Our opportunities to tune in to better connect with our bodies and to monitor progress towards resilience to the impacts of inflammaging is expanding almost daily. Simple daily practices can make a big difference in helping to prevent accelerated inflammaging.  Keep your radar up to keep your stress down.  It’s never too early or too late to get started and to let your skin be your biological advertisement of radiant wellbeing.