Inflammation is often associated with infections and wounds, and while this association does have some validity, it is important to remember inflammation is not a synonym for either of those. Rather it is the response caused by infection or a wound. Inflammation is the body's response to trauma, and in fact, it is a very complex biological process. It indicates to the body to begin the healing process. Without inflammation wounds and infections would not heal; in this regards it becomes an important and necessary part of skin rejuvenation. When inflammation becomes dangerous is in chronic situations. As skin care professionals, it is important to understand the differences between acute and chronic inflammation and how it impacts the aging and rejuvenation process.
- Inflammation is the body's way of responding to trauma and harmful stimuli such as pathogens and other irritants. It is a form of protection, aiding the body in removing the injury or irritant and stimulating the healing process.
- There are two classifications of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute is the aforementioned initial response by the body to initiate healing. Chronic is prolonged inflammation, which can often lead to a variety of diseases.
- Acute inflammation generally lasts for several days and is essential to the healing process. This is simply the body's way of sending internal support to the wound site by increasing the flow of plasma and leukocytes to eliminate pathogens. Swelling indicates the area is full of plasma and leukocytes, and pain draws awareness to the damage, in essence acting as caution tape to be gentle around the injured area. This is normal inflammation and a good thing.
- There are five principal signs of inflammation including pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. While these signs sound like undesired outcomes, they are essential to regenerating the skin. During the inflammation stage, platelets release pro-youth growth factors to heal, rebuild and renew the area.
- Inflammation has a number of stimuli including burns (this includes overexposure to the sun), stress, toxins, trauma, alcohol, immune reactions and infection by pathogens and foreign bodies such as dirt and debris.
- Certain aesthetic treatments trigger this acute inflammatory response. For example when performing a skin peel, the first sign of wounding is an inflammatory response, indicated by the previously mentioned signs. This action also kick-starts the rejuvenation process.
- To support the skin in its healing process when inflammation occurs, skin care ingredients such as arnica, omega 6 essential fatty acids (linoleic and oleic acid), algae extract, epidermal growth factors, bisabolol, and antioxidants are just a few that may be used to help ease pain, redness and swelling, as well as stimulate cell regeneration.
- Inflammation only becomes problematic when it is chronic. When it is a constant part of your physiology, serious issues may occur such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, hypersensitivities, autoimmune disease, chronic acne, et cetera.
- In regard to skin, inflammation is also a major contributor to aging. This may be brought on by many factors, however free radicals (which cause inflammation) are primary culprits. Inflammation caused by free radicals induces degradation of cells and reduction of collagen production. Overtime this inhibits the body's ability to naturally repair the area, which in turn causes visual signs of aging.
- A big offender of constant inflammation and aging is the sun. Continually educate clients about the need for a good SPF 30 or higher. While not all causes of inflammation can be avoided, this one stimulus that is absolutely avoidable and will protect the skin from irreversible damage and disease.
Rhonda Allison, a pioneer in the skin care industry, is the founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals and RAW Skin Care for Men. She is also an author and internationally known speaker with more than 30 years' aesthetic experience. www.rhondaallison.com and www.rawmethod.com