As you age, you may notice your skin becoming thinner and less smooth. Your veins and bones are more visible, and scratches or cuts take longer to heal. If you’ve spent years tanning or spending time in the sun, your skin is probably wrinkled or you have age spots. Here are some solutions to protect your skin and help you look and feel better.
Do you suffer from dry areas on your lower legs, lower arms, or elbows? These patches can feel rough or scaly, and can be very itchy. There are many factors that can cause extremely dry skin. Some causes are being out in the sun too long, living in a dry environment, or smoking. Dry skin is also a side effect of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Some medicines can also cause itchiness.
Using too much soap, perfume, or antiperspirant can make your dry skin worse. Taking frequent hot baths or showers can also exacerbate dry skin. A problem unique to seniors is that older people have thinner skin, and are more likely to bleed from scratching. This puts seniors at higher risk for infections. If you find your skin is extremely dry and itchy, your doctor may be able to prescribe an effective relief.
Here’s how you can help your dry, itchy skin at home:
- Use a moisturizer every day. You don’t need to spring for the pricey ones that make fantastical claims. Almost any decent lotion, cream, or ointment will do the job.
- Take fewer baths or showers, and use mild soap. If you tend to take very hot showers, lower the temperature a bit.
- Try using a humidifier in your room. Make sure to keep it clean; dirty humidifiers can breed mold or bacteria.
Older people tend to bruise easier than when they were younger. Bruises also take longer to heal as you age. Some medications common among seniors, such as blood thinners, can cause you to bruise more easily and more intensely. Over-the-counter pain relievers—ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.—can also cause more frequent bruising. If you notice bruises, especially on parts of your body usually covered by clothing, and don’t know how you got them, show them to your doctor for evaluation.
Our skin wrinkles with age, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it completely. Years of just living take their toll on the skin. Ultraviolet rays from the sun, bad habits such as smoking, and even gravity can cause wrinkled and sagging skin. Many people choose to wear their wrinkles with pride; it’s a testament to their wisdom and life experience. For those who want smoother skin, there are options, such as Botox, that can help. There are a lot of claims about self-treatments that banish wrinkles, but many of them are painful, dangerous, and just plain ineffective. See your primary doctor or a dermatologist to discuss which options are best for you.
Flat, brown spots, called age spots, show up on the face, hands, arms, back, and feet. These spots are usually caused by years of sun exposure. Even if you already have age spots, start wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen today to prevent more spots. Age spots are not dangerous, but if they bother you, your dermatologist can remove them. Make sure to see your doctor if a spot is raised or looks unusual in any way.
Usually caused by sun exposure, skin cancer becomes very common as you age. Fair-skinned people who freckle easily are at highest risk, but anyone of any skin color can get skin cancer. There are three types of skin cancer. Two types—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma—grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. They’re usually found on the head, face, neck, and arms. Often just surgically removing the growth is enough to eliminate the cancer. The third type of skin cancer is also the most dangerous. It’s called melanoma, and it can spread quickly to other organs.
You should get checked annually by a dermatologist for any suspicious growths. In addition, check your skin monthly for anything that may be a sign of cancer. This includes new growths, changes to existing birthmarks or moles, bleeding moles, and sores that don’t heal.
To keep your skin healthy, limit your time outside when the sun is strongest. This is usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., even on cloudy days. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 15 SPF. If you’re outside more than two hours, reapply the sunscreen. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun, and long sleeves and pants. Drink a lot to improve your skin’s flexibility, and moisturize daily. Your skin is your largest organ, so take care of it to keep it functioning at its optimal level.