Skin changes are the most visible signs of aging. Fine lines grow into wrinkles, elasticity decreases and freckles grow into age spots. Seniors also notice their skin growing more dry and itchy. This is due to decreased oil production.
Most of these changes are related to sun exposure, so protecting your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays is important throughout your life. But Susan Gaylor, master aesthetician with Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery, suggests that seniors who bronzed and burned in their younger days shouldn’t feel discouraged.
“It’s never too late to take good care of your skin,” she said.
Susan offers the following tips for seniors who are noticing changes to their skin:
Turn down the temperature. Take baths and showers in tepid water rather than hot water and avoid saunas and other hot, dry environments. Seniors perspire less than they did when they were younger, so unless you are working in the garden, you may be able to bathe less often.
Turn up the hydration. Dehydration can make fragile older skin crack and bleed. This is not only uncomfortable, but breaks in the skin can introduce infections. Make water your drink of choice to hydrate internally and use a room humidifier if the air in your home is dry.
Use a light touch. Use mild cleansers made from natural ingredients and apply moisturizers after bathing. Consider seeing a professional aesthetician for occasional exfoliating. They are able to customize facial treatments and other procedures to meet each client’s specific needs.
Remember the SPF. Protection from the sun’s rays is important even later in life. Thinner, more fragile older skin is more susceptible to burning, and both chronic conditions and the medications that relieve their symptoms can make skin even more sensitive. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen and light, loose-fitting clothing for extra protection.
Consult a professional. Aging is a natural part of life and the visible signs of aging are a result of living. If you don’t embrace them, however, a variety of cosmetic procedures are available to you that can slow or even reverse them. Susan recommends that seniors who are interested in aesthetic procedures consult with professional, credentialed providers who they trust.
Sometimes the results of sun damage are not just superficial. Seniors also may notice new, unfamiliar growths on their skin, such as keratoses and skin tags. Changes can also be a sign of something more serious.
Be sure to point out any skin irregularities to your primary care provider so she can refer you to a dermatologist. The board-certified specialists in Carilion Clinic’s Dermatology and Mohs Surgery Department refer to the American Academy of Dermatology’s “ABCDEs of melanoma” to assess moles and growths for signs of cancer.
As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit CarilionClinic.org/safe to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus.