By Carla Oates
The festive season is undoubtedly full of fun and frivolity—but it can also wreak havoc on our skin—and accelerate what’s known as ‘inflammaging’.
While the physiological processes that contribute to inflammaging can be complex, in essence, the concept relates to the kind of underlying, chronic or low-grade inflammation that accelerates the rate at which our cells age. And the effects can be far-reaching—contributing not only to age-related diseases, but premature skin ageing, too. Think collagen degradation, fine lines and wrinkles, dry, dehydrated or lacklustre skin as well as lifeless hair and brittle nails.
As you can imagine, the usual culprits are also often to blame here; excess sun exposure or pollution, too much sugar or processed food and alcohol. While during the rest of the year I do my best to limit these triggers, over the holidays it’s near impossible—not to mention no fun!—not to partake in the joys of the season. So, instead of going cold turkey and trying to avoid all the festivities, this is how I help protect my skin, gut and overall wellbeing from inflammaging…
Make Time for Mindfulness
It’s no surprise that the silly season can be somewhat chaotic and unfortunately, mindfulness practices tend to fall by the wayside. As a whole, this year has also presented us with many more challenges than we could have ever anticipated, so as we head into the holiday season, it’s safe to say that stress levels are running high. However, to slow the process of inflammaging and enjoy a glowing complexion throughout the festive period, it’s important to consider how stress can impact our skin, as well as our overall health and wellbeing. The gut-brain connection shows us that chronic stress can have a negative impact on our microbiome, affecting microbial diversity and contributing to inflammation. Stress also redirects blood away from our digestive tract, meaning that digestion can be compromised. So aside from prioritising sleep—which is my number one wellness tip—I make the effort to make space for mindfulness practices. Whether that’s a long walk along Bondi Beach taking in the ocean air, or spending an hour in my kitchen preparing nourishing meals as a form of moving meditation, for glowing skin and a happy belly, it’s essential to make space for practices that keep stress at bay.
Consider Gut Health First
There’s no question that our skin health can be a direct reflection of our gut health—and as we age, it becomes increasingly important to nurture our bellies as the diversity of our microbiome naturally declines. This means that we become less equipped to fight off pathogens or produce the anti-inflammatory compounds (known as short-chain fatty acids) needed to combat inflammaging and keep our gut robust. While during the festive season a little indulgence is a given, the best way to bolster our bellies is by ensuring we remain balanced when it comes to what we put on our plates. To put this into action, I up my intake of anti-inflammatory leafy greens while also including plenty of fibre and fermented foods in my diet. Trust me, a little sauerkraut makes a delicious accompaniment to Christmas ham! As explored in The Beauty Chef Gut Guide, fermented foods not only stimulate the immune system and combat inflammation, they also help to break down food molecules for improved digestion. And improved digestion means a more glowing complexion, too, as vital nutrients become more easily assimilated by the body.
Target Specific Skin Concerns
Just as our skin’s needs evolve from season to season, during times of excess or stress—both of which can occur during the festive period—we also need to consider how best to nourish our complexions. For me, I often notice that when I’m indulging in foods that I wouldn’t normally eat regularly, as well as enjoying more time in the harsh Australian summer sun, my skin can feel flat, dull and damaged. Enter: inflammaging. To combat these effects, I revisit my inner beauty routine and consider how best to feed my skin from within. During the warmer months, this often means combining my daily beauty essential, GLOW, with COLLAGEN Inner Beauty Boost. This powerful duo not only nurtures my gut health, but helps to plump my skin from within. Rich in bio-fermented wholefoods, vitamin C and zinc, these products work synergistically to help combat the effects of free radical damage and support collagen synthesis so you can achieve a glowing, radiant complexion.
Image: Anne Peeters for Lee Mathews