How inflammation from the outside affects beauty
Pair inflammation on the inside with assaults from the outside and you've got yourself a skin-aging double whammy.
Several types of inflammatory reactions can be lumped together under the term "dermatitis." Irritant dermatitis is—as you would suspect—the result of putting something irritating on the skin. “You can get it by overusing abrasive products like alcohol-based hand sanitizers or a topical cream like Retin A,” explains Joel Cohen, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of Colorado. “The skin gets damaged and that sends a signal to the body to release inflammatory cells to the area.”
Contact dermatitis is a localized reaction of the skin to an allergen—such as poison ivy, fragrances or preservatives (in laundry detergents or skincare products) or nickel metal. “The allergen activates the immune system which then produces antibodies toward the allergen,” says Bank. “That in turn directs the body to release histamines that cause an inflammatory reaction such as a rash, red bumps, blisters or hives.”
And then there’s atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. Eczema flares up as scaly patches that could look like a rash or chronic dry skin. This condition is genetic, so some people are naturally predisposed to it, but flare-ups can be triggered by allergies, cold, dry air, emotional stress and exposure to chemicals from soaps or detergents.
But one of the most damaging external causes of skin inflammation is the sun. Ultra-violet rays generate molecules called free radicals, and once they are released in the skin, they cause inflammation. “Sunburn itself is an inflammatory reaction to the damage done to the skin by UV rays,” says Cohen.
Whether it’s short-term issues (like hives, a rash or sunburn) or the cumulative effect of chronic assaults, inflammation does take a toll on the skin. “The skin’s barrier function weakens which leads to more trans-epidermal water loss,” explains Bank. “That leaves skin drier and more prone to sensitivity.” So even if you don’t normally have sensitive skin, you could suddenly find yourself getting irritated more easily—even by the same products you have used before without any problems.
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