Taking care of your skin undoubtedly has its cosmetic benefits, but more significantly, it also plays a large role in overall health — particularly for seniors. When there is dry skin, discoloration, wounds, rashes, bruises or other injuries, people are immediately aware something is wrong on the outside and maybe even on the inside. Keeping aging skin healthy allows it to offer protection from environmental harms and infections as well as produce important vitamins.
“Age brings a number of changes that can compromise the skin’s ability to protect us,” says Cynthia Fleck, a registered nurse.
These changes stem from the inability to retain water, sun damage, smoking, reduced collagen, some medicines and illnesses. Any or all of these factors can lead to skin deterioration.
“When skin ages, it becomes thinner and less resilient,” Fleck said. “The layers of skin can easily separate, tearing the paper-like upper-most area called the epidermis. The skin cells do not ‘turn over,’ or replenish themselves as quickly as when we are young. Therefore, the old skin cells become clumped and do not function as efficiently as young, healthy skin cells do.”
In addition, as age increases, people are more prone to dry and/or itchy skin, bruises in odd places, wrinkles, age spots, skin tags and abnormal moles. While aging cannot be reversed, maintaining proper care equals healthy skin and more importantly, healthy people.
Fleck offers the following advice on how to care for aging skin:
• Avoid a daily shower or bath, which can contribute to dry skin. Instead, opt for gentle cleansing with moisturizing soap and detergent-free cleansers that do not need to be rinsed. These cleansers do the job of removing dirt and natural oils, but do not impact the natural acid balance of mature skin.
• Moisturizing on a daily basis is essential, especially since older skin fails to retain moisture as well as younger skin. Look for advanced skin care products that actually nourish the skin from the outside in, delivering amino acids (proteins), vitamins, antioxidants and ingredients that are gentle and soothing, making the skin more resilient and strengthening it.
• Take care to avoid injuries that can tear the skin or caustic substances that can disrupt the skin’s ability to protect. If the skin is broken, small wounds can be covered with Band-Aids designed to be gentle to skin. Immobile seniors who must use adult diapers should have special care taken to keep them clean and free of irritants. Barrier products that contain protectants like dimethicone and other silicones, as well as zinc oxide, can help protect the skin from these issues.
• Protect your skin from the sun. Since melanocytes, the skin cells that protect us from the sun, do not work as well when we age, older skin burns easily.
• Be aware of special skin care needs that often accompany some common diseases, such as diabetes. For example, diabetics are more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections and itchy skin.
• Avoid strong antibacterial soaps that may have high pH level, which can dry aging skin. Astringents and products that contain alcohol can also be too harsh and damaging for older skin.
To learn more about skin care products, visit www.medline.com/woundcare. For specific advice on how to care for your skin, contact your health care professional.