By Carol Ann Bustin, Senior Helpers of Hattiesburg
As we age, our skin tends to become thinner, duller, and less even. With time, skin loses fat and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did. We develop fine lines, deep wrinkles, age spots, and dryness. Veins and bones can be seen more easily. Scratches and cuts take longer to heal. Senior skin sweats less and heals more slowly.
Mature skin has unique needs. There are steps you can take to make your skin, or the skin of your senior loved one, feel and look better.
Many seniors suffer from dry spots. Dry spots often appear on the lower legs, elbows, and lower arms. Dry patches feel rough. These dry areas can be caused by not drinking enough liquid, too much sun, dry air, smoking, stress, and losing sweat and oil glands with age. Diabetes or kidney stones can also lead to dry skin. Using too much soap, antiperspirant, perfume, or taking hot baths can make dry skin worse.
And some medications can make skin itchy. Because senior adults have thinner skin, scratching can cause bleeding and even infection. If you or your senior are experiencing dry, itchy skin, these steps may help:
- Stop using bar soap. Replace it with a gentle, creamy, fragrance-free cleanser or emollient.
- Use warm—not hot—water. Hot water strips skin of natural oils.
- Use a soft cloth to wash. A buff puff or bath brush can irritate skin.
- Keep the bath or shower short.
- Pat—don’t rub—water gently from skin after a bath, but leave a bit of water on the skin.
- Apply a creamy, fragrance-free moisturizer for dry skin within three minutes of bathing. This helps ease dryness and restores skin’s protective barrier. Avoid bath oil—this may increase the risk of slips and falls.
- Use a humidifier. Keep indoor humidity between 45 percent and 60 percent to reduce itchy skin. You can measure humidity with a hydrometer from the hardware store.
- Wear gloves while doing housework or gardening. Exposure to harsh chemicals and sunlight can irritate and dry senior skin. Also, gloves reduce the risk of injury to senior skin.
Seniors bruise more easily and heal slowly. Some medications or illnesses cause bruising. Talk to your doctor if you or your senior see bruises and don’t know how they were incurred. A doctor may be able to adjust medication or determine if an undiagnosed illness is to blame.
Skin wrinkles with time. Things in the environment can make the skin less elastic. Gravity causes the skin to sag and wrinkle. A lot of claims are made about how to make wrinkles go away. Most don’t work. If you or your senior are worried about wrinkles, talk to a specially-trained doctor.
Age Spots and Skin Tags
Age spots were once called “liver spots.” They are flat, brown spots caused by the sun. They are bigger than freckles. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that helps protect against both UVA and UVB sun rays may prevent more age spots.
Skin tags are small, usually flesh-colored growths of skin that have a raised surface. They are common as people age, especially for women. They are most often found on the eyelids, neck, and body folds.
Age spots and skin tags are harmless. If they bother you or your senior, talk to a dermatologist about having them removed.
Skin cancer is common in the United States. The main culprit is the sun. Anyone of any color can get skin cancer, but fair-skinned people are at the greatest risk. Skin cancer is curable if found before it spreads to other parts of the body.
Around 50 years of age, a person’s risk of developing skin cancer and pre-cancerous growths increases. As the years pass, this risk rises. Seniors should see a dermatologist on a regular basis.
Because skin cancer can develop quickly, seniors should examine their own skin for signs of skin cancer once a month. Look for changes such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a bleeding or irregular-shaped mole. If you see any of the signs, see a dermatologist immediately.
Keeping Skin Healthy
If you’re seeing wrinkles, age spots, and blotches, you may wonder if you still need to protect your skin from the sun. You do! Sun protection still offers many benefits to seniors. It helps to prevent new age spots. It can reduce dry, thinning skin. It also reduces the risk of developing skin cancer.
In summary, to keep senior skin healthy:
- Limit time in the sun.
- Use sunscreen. Look for sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Use sunscreen with “broad spectrum” on the label. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside and re-apply every 2 hours. Apply more often if you are swimming, sweating, or rubbing your skin with a towel.
- Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim can 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
- Seek shade. Sunscreen cannot block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful rays.
- See a dermatologist for regular exams or upon signs of skin cancer.
Senior Helpers stands ready to serve your family's needs with personalized, in-home care and expertly-trained, professional caregivers. Let us ease your mind with a complimentary in-home care assessment.
Call Senior Helpers today to schedule a complimentary in-home care assessment at 601-909-0409 or visit seniorhelpers.com.
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