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Inflammaging: Changing the Face of Skin Care

By: Noureddine Mriouah
Posted: January 2, 2013, from the January 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Acute inflammation. It all starts with acute inflammation, which is characterized by rapid onset and short duration. Generally associated with redness, swelling, pain, warmth and loss of function, acute inflammation manifests with the oozing of fluid and plasma proteins, and the emigration of white blood cells, or leukocytes. Of the five types of leukocytes that the body produces, it is primarily the neutrophils that make an appearance during acute inflammation, producing the whitish-yellow pus characteristic in wounds.

Chronic inflammation. In contrast, chronic inflammation is of prolonged duration and manifests microscopically by the presence of two different categories of white blood cells, known as lymphocytes and macrophages. Lymphocytes function as “killer” cells, disabling and destroying infected tissue, such as tumors or infected cells, while macrophages literally consume cellular debris and pathogens. Together, these aggressive forms of white blood cells can result in the scarring of connective tissue and tissue death.

The inflammatory cascade

The healing of an injury is a complicated process. It starts as soon as the injury occurs and can take nine months or more to complete. There are three phases to the healing process: the inflammatory phase, the proliferation phase and the remodeling phase.

During the inflammatory phase, pro-inflammatory proteins enter damaged areas, causing swelling as tissues push apart. Following this, white blood cells, including macrophages, begin the proliferation stage by cleansing the wound and jump-starting the repair process. During this stage, the wound contracts and receives the oxygen and nutrients vital for regeneration. Lastly, the remodeling stage is characterized by the production, organization and remodeling of collagen to strengthen the wound.

However, even after the wound has healed, the resulting scar tissue is more vulnerable to injury and deformation than the original tissue. Science now shows that repeated injury leads to the chronic state of inflammation known as inflammaging.4

Inflammation and skin aging

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