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Skin Care for Seniors

As we age, one of the more obvious signs of advancing years is the effect it has on our largest organ, our skin. It tends to get thinner, paler, and looser, with the appearance of lines, wrinkles, spots and blemishes. Because our skin is one of the first lines of defence against the outside world, it is important to keep it as healthy as possible.

The exact effects of aging on skin and the extent to which they affect us depends of a number of factors. Some are beyond our control, such as genetics or gravity, some are difficult to avoid, like sun exposure, and some are entirely in our control, like smoking or diet.

Exposure to sunlight is the biggest contributor to the effects of aging on skin. While it may be too late to go back and correct a lifetime of poor practices with sun protection, it’s never too late to start, especially after aging makes the skin thinner. Cover up as much as possible when out of doors, even if it’s cloudy outside or not a hot day. Long sleeves will protect your arms, and a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses will protect your face, the back of your neck, and your eyes. When that’s not possible, a high SPF sunscreen, applied regularly every two hours, to all your exposed skin is your best bet.

Smoking is a bad habit that prematurely damages the skin, in addition to slew of other, well-researched, and more serious, health effects. Smokers tend to have more wrinkles and less skin elasticity compared to people of similar age with otherwise similar sun exposure and lifestyles. While it’s obviously much healthier to have never smoked, it’s always the right time to quit smoking, and on a long enough timeline, many of the negative health effects of smoking can lessen to levels similar or equal to that of a nonsmoker.

Dry skin is a common issue that affects seniors, usually in the form of rough, scaly feeling patches on elbows, knees, lower arms and lower legs. There are many causes, such as not drinking enough water, dry air, and the loss of sweat and oil glands due to age. To combat dry skin, there are several solutions. One is to apply lotions or ointments to any affected skin daily, until the condition of the skin improves. Unscented lotions meant for sensitive skin are good to use, as the lack of added fragrances or unnecessary compounds can keep from further irritating already compromised skin. Showering or bathing in too hot of water can also dry skin. Cool to warm water has less of a drying effect on skin, and switching to a milder or moisturizing soap can help. In the case of being in a dry climate, using a humidifier to add moisture to your room is a good idea. Changing your sheets, pillowcases, other bedding, and towels frequently is a good practice to get into. Clean sheets are healthy sheets, and we spend a third or more of our day in contact with our bedsheets.