No matter how old you are, your skin is the most prominent feature of your outward appearance. Considered the largest organ in the human body, its biological functions include protecting your body from pathogens, regulating body temperature, producing vitamin D, and removing toxins through the production of sweat, among others.
For most people, as they enter their thirties and forties, the skin starts to show its age. That’s usually when small creases start to appear around the eyes and the corners of the mouth. As we get older, approaching our fifties, sixties, and seventies, the wrinkles increase and we start to develop age spots. And while it’s very difficult to change the appearance of your skin as you age, you can slow the progress with proper care.
While everyone ages differently, the characteristics of aging skin are likely to include dry skin that is thinner and starts to look like paper the older we get. You may notice that your blood vessels become more visible. Your skin may also become itchier and develop a blotchy appearance, as well as bruising more easily. Minor scratches and cuts may also take longer to heal.
The main reason your skin seems to dry out as you get older is that it’s producing less oil, along with a reduction in collagen and elastin. That also leads to a loosening and sagging of the skin, especially on the face and neck. You may also not be drinking enough fluids or spending too much time in the sun. Smoking also dries out the skin, so you can add that to the benefits of giving up tobacco.
Age also causes the skin to thin out, which means your risk for bruising, bleeding, and inflammation all go up. For women who are going through menopause, a decrease in estrogen levels may lead to dry skin and an uneven skin tone, as well as an increased risk for adult acne.
What you can do.
One of the main areas to focus on to improve your skin care as you age is how you shower or bathe. For example, replacing bar soap with a gentle, creamy cleanser or emollient that’s free of fragrances will help. Also, avoid using water that’s too hot because it strips your skin of its natural oils. When you dry off, pat the water gently from your skin, leaving a little moisture. Then use a fragrance-free moisturizer within a few minutes of toweling off and periodically throughout the day.
Other ways to protect your skin include:
- Use a soft washcloth on your skin, instead of a bath brush, buff puff or loofah sponge, which can irritate your skin.
- Use gloves when you’re gardening or doing housework to protect your skin from chemicals, scratches, bruises, and excessive sunlight.
- Avoid fragrances found in perfumes, colognes, and skin care products, which can irritate your skin.
- Keep inflammation to a minimum by not consuming large amounts of alcohol and caffeine.
As you probably know, the best way to protect your skin, regardless of age, is by limiting exposure to the sun. As we age, avoiding too much sun can help prevent new age spots and blotchy skin from developing and reduce problems with dry, thinning skin, as well as minimizing the risk of skin cancer.
The best way to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun is simply to stay out of it. And while that may not always be possible, when you do have to go outdoors, try to stay in the shade as much as possible. Additionally, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a rating of SPF 30 or higher. And make sure your body is covered with clothing as much as possible.
Finally, make sure you’re seeing a dermatologist on a regular basis. And don’t hesitate to call the dermatologist for an appointment if you have any concerns with moles, skin tags, or rashes. That way, any serious issues will be caught early and are more likely to respond to treatment.