How your skin changes as you age, and what to do about it

From age spots to wrinkles, skincare is about more than just vanity

Skin is your body’s largest organ, so it’s important to properly care for it as you age. Most people want to look their best, but skincare is about more than just vanity.

Skin “becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did,” the National Institute on Aging states on its website. “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 may lead to wrinkles, dryness, age spots, and even cancer. But, there are things you can do to protect your skin and to make it feel and look better.”

Dry and itchy skin

As we age, NIA says, our skin becomes drier, especially on the lower arms and legs and on our elbows. There are many reasons for dry skin, including not drinking enough water, losing sweat and oil glands and even taking certain medications. Dry or itchy skin can also be caused by health problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Because you skin thins as you age, scratching can cause sores that might get infected. NIA recommends talking to your doctor if the problem persists.

Singapore dermatologist Dr. Liew Hui Min recommends rethinking your routine, starting with using a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin of too much moisture.

“Other facial products, for example retinoid or AHA/BHA or vitamin C or salicylic acid, that one used to use in the past may or may not be suitable once they get into menopause state,” Liew cautioned. “If these products caused irritation, speak to your dermatologist, as other common skin diseases like eczema or rosacea may arise around this time.”

NIA recommends using moisturizers every day, and Liew says to be sure they include hyaluronic acid, ceramide, glycerin or dimethicone to help “top up” any lost moisture.

Wrinkles

“Frown lines,” “knowledge lines,” “crows’ feet,” “laugh lines.”

No matter what you call them, wrinkles are inevitable for most people. Ultraviolet light makes the skin less elastic, and gravity causes it to sag and wrinkle.

“A lot of claims are made about how to make wrinkles go away. Most of them don’t work,” according to NIA. “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 and skin tags

Age spots, once called “liver spots,” are flat, brown spots bigger than freckles that often are caused by years in the sun. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that helps protect against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays may prevent more age spots. It’s important, however, that you don’t completely avoid sunshine. It’s a natural source of vitamin D, which is important for bone health.

Skin tags, those irritating, usually flesh-colored skin growths, are more common as we age, especially for women. They are most often found on the eyelids, neck, and body folds such as the armpit, chest and groin, according to NIA.

Although both are usually harmless, talk to your doctor about removal if they bother you.

Tips to keep your skin looking and feeling its best

Although change is inevitable as we age, there are steps you can take to slow the process and keep your skin as healthy as possible.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association and NIA, you should:

Wear sunscreen every day: For the best protection, apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. AADA recommends an SPF of 30 or higher, but NIA suggests SPF 15 or higher. Apply it to all skin not covered by clothing, and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. To save time in your skin care routine, you can consider using a moisturizer that also contains sunscreen.

Don’t forget your lips, AADA writes. Apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher before going outdoors. If your lips feel chapped or dry, apply petroleum jelly for added moisture.

Limit time in the sun: Go outside and get your vitamin D the natural way, but both organizations recommend avoiding peak sun times in summer, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Don’t be fooled by clouds; if it’s not dark outside, then the sun’s rays are coming through.

Simplify your skin care routine: Less is more when it comes to skin care, AADA states. Using too many products, especially multiple anti-aging ones, can irritate your skin. Instead, focus on the basics, such as a gentle cleanser, sunscreen and moisturizer.

Check your skin regularly: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day. However, when detected early, skin cancer, including melanoma, is treatable.

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