Getting older means dealing with skin care conditions that might not have affected you or your loved one at a younger age. Skin changes with age. It becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did. Your veins and bones can be seen more easily. Scratches, cuts, or bumps can take longer to heal. Years of sun tanning or being out in the sunlight for a long time can lead to wrinkles, dryness, age spots, and even cancer. But, there are things you can do to protect your skin, and make it feel and look better.
The following are some senior skin care conditions:
Dry skin and itching
Many older people suffer from dry skin, often on their lower legs, elbows, and lower arms. Dry skin patches can feel rough and scaly. There are many possible reasons for dry skin, such as:
- Not drinking enough liquids
- Spending too much time in the sun or sun tanning
- Being in very dry air
- Feeling stressed
- Losing sweat and oil glands, which is common with age
Dry skin also can be caused by health problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Using too much soap, antiperspirant, or perfume and taking hot baths can make dry skin worse.
Some medicines can make skin itchy. Because older people have thinner skin, scratching can cause bleeding that may lead to infection. Talk to your doctor if your skin is very dry and itchy.
Here are some ways to ease dry, itchy skin:
- Use moisturizers, like lotions, creams, or ointments, every day.
- Take fewer baths and use milder soap. Warm water is less drying than hot water. Don’t add bath oil to your water. It can make the tub too slippery.
- Try using a humidifier, an appliance that adds moisture to a room.
Older people can bruise more easily than younger people. It can take longer for these bruises to heal. Some medicines or illnesses can also cause bruising. Talk to your doctor if you see bruises and don’t know how you got them.
Over time, skin begins to wrinkle. Things in the environment, like ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, can make the skin less elastic. Gravity can cause skin to sag and wrinkle. Certain habits, like smoking, also can wrinkle the skin.
A lot of claims are made about how to make wrinkles go away. Many of them don’t work. Some methods can be painful or even dangerous, and many must be done by a doctor. Talk with a doctor specially trained in skin problems, called a dermatologist, or your regular doctor if you are worried about wrinkles.
Age spots, once called “liver spots,” are flat, brown spots often caused by years in the sun. They are bigger than freckles and commonly show up on areas like the face, hands, arms, back, and feet. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that helps protect against two types of the sun’s rays may prevent more age spots. Age spots are harmless. However, they can be viewed by some as being unattractive and undesirable. Talk to your doctor about ways you might be able to lessen their appearance and prevent them.
Skin tags and warts
Skin tags are small, usually flesh-colored growths of skin that have a raised surface. They become common as people age, especially for women. They are most often found on the eyelids, neck, and body folds such as the armpit, chest, and groin.
Like age spots, skin tags are harmless, but they can sometimes become irritated. If your age spots or skin tags bother you, you can talk to your doctor about having them removed.
Warts, sometimes referred to as “common warts,” often appear on the fingers. They are benign growths typically caused by an infection with humanpapilloma virus (HPV). Warts can appear at any age, and in adults, they tend to stay. If they hurt or bother you, or if they multiply, you can remove them. Medical chemical skin treatments usually work. If not, various freezing, surgical and laser treatments can remove warts.
There are also some natural remedies you can try that might help with the removal of skin tags and warts. Click HERE to go to the Health Ambition website and learn more about these natural techniques.
There are three types of skin cancers. Two types, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. These types of cancer are found mostly on parts of the skin exposed to the sun, like the head, face, neck, hands, and arms. But they can happen anywhere on your body. The third and most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. It is rarer than the other types, but it can spread to other organs and be deadly.
Stay out of the sun to keep skin healthy
Some sun can be good for you, but to keep your skin healthy, be careful to do the following:
- Limit time in the sun. It’s OK to go out during the day, but try to avoid being in sun during peak times when the sun’s rays are strongest. For example, during the summer try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Don’t be fooled by cloudy skies. The sun’s rays can go through clouds. You can also get sunburned while in water, so be careful when swimming.
- Use sunscreen. Look for sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) number of 30 or higher. It’s best to choose sunscreens with “broad spectrum” on the label. Put the sunscreen on 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours. Sunscreen needs to be applied more often if you are swimming, sweating, or wiping your skin with a towel.
- Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim can help shade your neck, ears, eyes, and head. Look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays. If you have to be in the sun, wear loose, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants or long skirts.
- Avoid tanning. Don’t use sunlamps or tanning beds. Tanning pills are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and might not be safe.
Skin can change with age. But remember, there are things that can be done to help deal with the changes. If any changes in particular cause concern, see a doctor.
Some information courtesy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Medline Plus.