What is Inflammaging? The Impact of Stress on Beauty and Wellbeing.

Inflammaging Impacts Skin


For years, the beauty and dermatology communities promoted the idea that 80% of sun damage occurs by age 18. Fortunately, this forewarning for children or fatalistic statistic for adults has been reduced to urban myth.  Often used in the marketing of sunscreens, the little disinformation factoid was likely a misinterpretation of a statement that went viral long before social media was even a thing. However, sun damage is a bona fide cause of accelerated aging and demographic studies have estimated that, on average, about 23% of total lifetime sun exposure is experienced by 18 years of age.   Sun damage starts at an early age

The reason sun accelerates the appearance of aging, along with doing some other potentially really bad stuff to skin, is that it causes inflammation.  Inflammation related to sun damage leads to an outcome we call photoaging.  But there are other, less severe sources of inflammation that may not have as immediate an impact as sun damage, but over time can make biological age appear older than chronological age.

Since the early 1970s, researchers reported on the impact of inflammatory stress on health, but that was mostly linked to heart disease and cancer.  In the past couple of decades, the number of studies that address the impact of stress has grown at an accelerated rate and such studies have led to a broader understanding of how seemingly minor chronic stress and low-grade inflammation can impact cellular health and accelerate the aging process.  In 2000, the Italian immunologist, Claudio Franceschi, coined the term “inflammaging” to describe the chronic, low-grade inflammation that occurs during aging and contributes to age-related deterioration of health and wellness.


Stress accelerates aging

Through the years, I’ve written and spoken about the impact of stress on skin and promoted the importance of managing stress for overall wellbeing.  But truth be told, I only thought of stress as significant emotional challenges; the kind that are easily identifiable and managed through therapy and medications.  However, in the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a progressive and somewhat controversial dermatologist who promoted the idea that chronic, low-grade inflammatory stress from topical “anti-aging” products could actually accelerate the signs of aging over time.  And today we’re seeing evidence that he was right.

We’ve also gained insight from the work of Nobel laureate, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who studied the impact of common sources of extended stress, such as caring for a chronically ill family member, on cellular health and longevity.  Her book, the Telomere Effect, provides scientifically validated connection between resilience to inflammatory stress and health span.

Inflammaging can affect every organ in the body, but skin is especially vulnerable.  Early signs of inflammaging on skin include dullness, uneven skin tone, enlarged pores.  As cellular function and collagen production are impaired, skin loses elasticity and begins to sag or hollow, lines, wrinkles and age spots of various nature appear.

Signs of skin aging


If you’re stressed about stress, it’s time to consider a more holistic approach to your skincare and self-care routines.  Start by following the 21/90 approach to developing the integrative beauty habits that respect the skin – body – mind connection. 

Importantly, set the bar low enough that you’re set up for success.  By setting small, achievable goals that easily fit into your daily routine, you will experience a sense of control that in and of itself supports resilience. Choose just one or two changes to your daily routine and be consistent for 21 days to establish a habit.  Then keep going for 90 days to see ongoing and meaningful benefits.  Here are some integrative beauty practices to support your anti-inflammatory lifestyle and help support positive aging.

At-home facial massage

Try at-home facial massage

Beverly Hills surgeon, along with a team of beauty industry veterans, developed a self-care treatment called Crystal Lymphatic Massage. It combines the benefits of gua sha stone and vibrational therapy with a serum featuring an Ayurvedic blend of adaptogens and peptides.  These work together to combat stress-induced dullness and provide a brightening lift to skin and outlook with every treatment.

Adopt a mindful cleansing ritual 

The simple act of washing your face can be one of the most beneficial or, conversely, most skin-stressing components of your self-care routine.  Stressless cleansing starts with choosing a cleanser that will not disrupt skin’s delicate moisture barrier.  This means avoiding harsh surfactants and aggressive exfoliators such as scrubbing grains or strong hydroxy acids.  Instead, look for nurturing cleansers based on natural kaolin clay with prebiotics or postbiotic lysates to support the skin’s protective microbiome. Or try a solidified oil-based cleansing butter for removing makeup and impurities without over-stripping skin lipids.

Take your turmeric with a dose of ashwagandha and gratitude

If stress is exacerbated by loss of sleep, a daily dose of turmeric, ashwagandha and intentional gratitude can be an effective recipe for radiance from the inside out.  A ten-minute afternoon time out with a turmeric tea as an alternative to a coffee break can support resilience to the chronic, low-grade stress associated with multi-tasking. Avoidance of caffeine after noon will support healthier sleep patterns as well.

Healthy Food Choices

Feed your health, not your stress

Mindful eating is not a diet; it’s about breaking the cycle of stress eating and experiencing food for both physical and emotional wellbeing. Instead of scarfing down your food while on the go or looking at a screen, take a little time each day to quiet your mind and be present with your food, experiencing the visual and textural characteristics.  Importantly, incorporate foods that have anti-inflammatory benefits, avoiding simple carbohydrates, processed meats and artificial fillers. 

Practice Digital Intermittent Fasting and Journaling

The rise of mobile devices and home computers has put the world at our fingertips and increased our social and emotional reliance on technology.  But non-stop engagement with computers or tablet screens will take its toll on the health of our brains, affecting our sleep patterns.  Digital intermittent fasting involves dividing your day into 3 parts:  one part when you will use digital devices, one part when you will power down, and one part for sleep.  Use some of your digital power-down time to log your progress and record other aspects of your day into a journal.  Solvasa’s 21 / 90 Day Journal is designed to help you track the benefits of making small, mindful changes in your daily routine.

Author Lori Bush Journaling


It’s time to banish the term “anti-aging” from the conversation.  We should all embrace the beauty that cumulates with each and every trip around the sun.  But that doesn’t mean that we stop caring about looking and feeling our very best throughout the journey.

Our minds and bodies are miraculous, but the wear and tear of stress will rob us of beauty as the years pass if we’re not intentional about taking control today.  Make a commitment to discover and explore simple self-care practices that support resilience to inflammatory stress.  A few minutes a day can unlock benefits that support radiant wellbeing for years to come. 

Lori Bush is a wellness and beauty industry innovator and thought leader.  She has authored a number of papers dealing with health, beauty and business leadership and is a co-author of a best-selling beauty and wellness book.

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