Why moisturizing your skin could help prevent chronic disease

If you want to slow the signs of aging, you probably slather on moisturizer daily to keep your skin looking soft, supple and young.

But what if the benefits of moisturizer went more than skin deep?

What if moisturizer could fight body-wide inflammation and disease?

That sounds outlandish at first, but think about this…

Imbalances inside your body, often show up on your skin too. Like when you eat too much sugar, you get pimples. Or when you catch a virus, you get a rash. But when your internal health is in perfect order, you often have clear, glowing skin.

So, why can’t the reverse be true? Why can’t taking care of your skin (your body’s largest organ) influence your internal health?

A new study shows it probably can. In fact, the simple act of moisturizing your skin could lower inflammation and prevent age-related diseases.

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Fight inflamm-aging through your skin

Have you ever heard of inflamm-aging? It’s a term used to describe the low-level, widespread inflammation that most of us experience as we get older. This inflammation is linked to major diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

For a long time, scientists weren’t sure where this inflammation started. They thought it might be rooted in the immune system or liver. Now, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco believe that they’ve figured it out… it starts with the skin…

“The inflammation must come from an organ big enough that very minor inflammation can affect the whole body. Skin is a good candidate for this because of its size,” said Mao-Qiang Man, MD, a research scientist in the UCSF Department of Dermatology and senior author of a recent study.

Man’s small study included 33 adults between 58 and 95 years old. They all applied cream to their skin twice per day for 30 days. At the end of the study, researchers checked levels of three cytokines in their blood: interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha. Cytokines are inflammatory molecules in the blood that increase with age and are linked to disease.

The results were amazing…

After using the cream for a month, study participants’ cytokine levels looked like that of someone in their 30s. In other words, they were much lower! They were lower than when the study started and lower than adults of the same age who didn’t use the cream.

Why was the cream so effective at lowering disease-causing inflammation?

Well, researchers believe it’s because the cream helped repair the skin permeability barrier, which weakens with age. It also improved hydration and pH. All these factors make it harder for bacteria and other pathogens to infiltrate the skin. They also prevent the body from releasing inflammatory cytokines, which are released to repair skin damage. Problem is, your skin experiences so much deterioration with age that your body releases too many cytokines, which ends up causing inflammation and disease instead.

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Finding a cream that curbs inflamm-aging

You probably have one question on your mind… what kind of cream were they using in the study? Was it a miracle cream? Or something you can pick up at any old drugstore?

Luckily, it’s the latter. While they didn’t mention a brand name, they did say it was an over-the-counter emollient cream. Emollients are rich, no-frills creams that provide serious hydration to your skin. Some brands you may be familiar with (or may even already have!) include:

  • Eucerin Daily Replenishing Moisturizing Lotion
  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment
  • Cetaphil Daily Advance Lotion
  • Nivea Original Moisture Daily Lotion
  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

These creams are the first line of defense for people with eczema and other chronic skin conditions. And it seems they could be the first line of defense for inflammation and age-related diseases too!

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  1. Skin repair eliminates ‘inflamm-aging’ linked to chronic disease — MedicalXpress
  2. Topical Applications of an Emollient Reduce Circulating Pro‐Inflammatory Cytokine Levels in Chronically Aged Humans: A Pilot Clinical StudyJournal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.