As we age, our skin ages with us and with age comes change. We start to notice forehead creases, wrinkles and smile lines. Our eyes begin to exhibit crows feet and other changes including: age spots, sun damage, skin cancer and dryness can begin to develop.
Typically, as we get older, our skin loses fat, becomes thinner and no longer appears as smooth as it did in our youth. Bruises, bumps, cuts and scrapes can occur more easily and take longer to heal than before. Gravity begins to take it’s toll and the skin and body becomes saggy. Bones and veins can become more visible and many, begin to exhibit varicose veins. This is more common in elderly women and people suffering from obesity. Let’s explore some of these signs of aging and what you can do about them further below:
Dry, Itchy Skin
As we age our skin tends to become more dry and itchy. Skin that is dry can feel scaly, rough and uncomfortable. Dry skin typically presents itself on the lower legs, lower arms and elbows of older people.
The constant itch associated with dry skin can be dangerous if you scratch at it. Scratching that itch can lead to a breaking of the skin and make you more susceptible to infections caused by bacteria including Staphylococcus Aureus. This can be very serious and even fatal, more so among the elderly community.
There can be several reasons that a person may be suffering from dry skin. Some of these reasons and solutions are listed below:
- Drink Fluids: Not staying adequately hydrated. The 8X8 rule, is an easy way of remembering the recommended intake of 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water per day.
- Limit Your Time in the Sun: Excessive sun exposure can cause the skin to dry out. Always apply a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 before spending time in the sun. Peak hours of UV (ultraviolet) light causing damage are between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm standard time and 11:00 am and 4:00 pm daylight savings time. If possible avoid excessive time in the sun during these hours. Stay out of tanning beds.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking cigarettes is not only damaging to your heart and lungs but can cause the skin to become dry and show signs of aging more rapidly. Smoking should be avoided completely.
- Dry Air Exposure: Being in very dry air can cause the skin to dry. Invest in a humidifier and keep your thermostat at a comfortable temperature to avoid dry skin in dry air environments.
- Stress: Stress can lead to dry skin. Implement ways to deal with stress such as: Yoga, Pilates, meditation and deep breathing exercises. If you have a hobby or activity that you enjoy, engage in it to help keep stress levels low.
- Natural Losses: The loss of oil and sweat glands (a common side effect of aging), can also attribute to suffering from dry, itchy skin.
There are several other factors that can cause dry skin as we get older including: prescription medications, taking hot baths or showers, health issues including kidney disease and diabetes; as well as, excessive use of: fragrances, harsh soaps and antiperspirant or deodorant products.
Moisturizing with the proper product is the best defense you have to combat dry, itchy skin. Because your skin weakens with age, it is imperative that you moisturize with skin care products that focus on essential skin lipid replacement and skin barrier optimization (SBO). Apply a moisturizer at least twice a day.
Lotions, creams and ointments should not only provide relief from the dryness and itching symptoms but should help the skin to repair itself to prevent a worsening of symptoms, future irritation and infection. Ceramides make up about 20% of the skin’s barrier and are lost due to age, sun damage and environmental factors that are often out of our control. It is important to utilize a product that helps to replace those ceramides that are crucial for a healthy, skin barrier.
Fine Lines, Wrinkles & Creases
Unfortunately, there is no fountain of youth or miracle cream that will completely eliminate all unwanted signs of aging including: wrinkles, fine lines and creases; however, there are a few steps you can take to slow it down:
- Drink plenty of water. Hydrate your body to help give skin a more youthful appearance.
- Wash off your makeup before bed ladies! Use a mild, anti-aging formulated face wash to remove the days build up of dirt, debris and any cosmetics you have applied to your face throughout the day.
- Stay out of the sun. Avoid excessive exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays (UV light).
- Apply sunscreen. Utilize a broad spectrum, SPF 30 sunscreen and apply it prior to application of your makeup.
- Do not use tanning beds.
- Talk to your dermatologist to discover the right skin care regimen for you.
- Moisturize your skin with products that are hypoallergenic and contain the healing properties of ceramides.
- Avoid products that contain topically damaging ingredients including: oats, parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, pantothenic acid, gluten, sunflower and olive oils.
Bruises, Skin Tags & Age Spots
Bruising can be caused by a number of things including the obvious bump or fall; however, as we age you may also develop bruising with certain medications and illnesses including anemia. If you begin to experience frequent bruising and are unaware as to how you have obtained them, consult with your physician.
Excessive exposure accompanied with years of being in the sun can often times result in age spots (once referred to as liver spots). They are smooth, flat and brown in color and tend to be bigger than freckles or moles. Age spots are most commonly found on the face, arms, back, hands and feet.
While they may be less than aesthetically pleasing, there is no need for alarm if you begin to develop them, as they are completely harmless. If, however, you are bothered by them, consult with your dermatologist for removal options. Your best defense from acquiring more is to wear sunscreen daily.
Skin tags are also harmless. They present as small, raised, flesh-colored growths of skin on the skin’s surface. They are more commonly found on women; however, both men and women can develop skin tags. Typically, they can be found around or on the eyelids and neck. They may also be found on the folds of the body including: chest, arm pit and groin areas.
Another skin concern we develop with age is the risk we run in to developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is the number one form of cancer in the United States of America. Skin cancers can be linked to overexposure in UV lights, the use of tanning beds and sun lamps. In fact, the number one cause of skin cancer is: the sun!
While anyone can develop skin cancer, people who have fair skin and freckles or skin that freckles more easily, tend to be a higher risk. There are three different types of skin cancer. Two skin cancer types, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, grow considerably slow and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Typically, these cancers are found on the areas of the body that receive the most exposure to the sun including: the head, face, arms, hands and neck; however, it can affect any part of the body. The third skin cancer is known as melanoma. It is the most dangerous form and can spread to other organs and be fatal.
Skin cancer can usually be cured if it is found in it’s early stages and has not spread. It’s because of this that is particularly important that you check your skin once a month for anything abnormal and be aware of what signs you are looking for during your checkups. Skin cancer tends to be painless so it is unlikely that pain would be a tell of the cancer. Check for signs including: a new mole, a bleeding mole, an abnormal growth, a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, birthmarks and the moles you are aware of.
You’ll want to check for the ABCDEs of Skin Cancer:
A: Asymmetry or when one half of the mole or growth looks different than the other. If you were to a draw line through it, the sides would not match.
B: Borders that are uneven, notched, irregular or scalloped.
C: Color changes or multiple colors. Abnormal coloration including blue and red.
D: Diameter greater than the eraser on a pencil.
E: Evolving; meaning changes in size, growth, color, appearance and elevation. May be accompanied with new symptoms including: bleeding, crusting, oozing and itching.
The best ways to guard against skin cancer are to: limit your time in the sun, avoid peak hours, stay out of tanning beds, wear protective clothing and use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily.