Skin

How to Age Proof Yours

Aging causes many changes in a persons skin, ranging from wrinkles and sags to increased risk of developing non-cancerous or cancerous growths and lesions.

When your body runs low on vitamins, it sacrifices this organ, to support other organs and tissues.

Environmental factors (e.g., sun exposure), genetic makeup and poor nutrition are among the agents that cause changes as a person ages.

Another great reason to pair your busy life with natures super foods that are nutritious and easy to consume, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Throughout a person’s lifetime, their body's largest organ is constantly changing.

As people age, this outer covering begins to lose underlying fat (subcutaneous tissue) and the top two layers (dermis and epidermis) become thinner.

Fine wrinkles increasingly appear, and our body's largest organ dries out and begins to lose elasticity.

The epideral tissue often appears thinner, paler and more translucent over time.

Laugh lines may appear around the mouth, and crow’s feet may appear around the eyes.

As gravity takes its toll, the eyelids begin to fall, jowls form and ears grow longer.

This epideral covering dries out and begins to lose elasticity.

Areas that are exposed to sun may develop brown patches known as age spots.

In addition, the aging process makes people more susceptible to benign growths that appear as small, smooth, cherry-red bumps.

It's impossible to prevent all of the changes that occur to the body's covering as a person ages.

However, older individuals can take steps to slow the pace of these changes, or to treat symptoms that result from these changes.

These steps include minimizing sun exposure, using moisturizers and emollients, maintaining a healthy diet and taking advantage of medications and procedures that make this organ appear younger.

Aging

Aging has many effects on a person’s exterior covering, from wrinkles and sags to increased risk of certain conditions.

As people age, this outer layer begins to change due to environmental factors, genetic makeup, nutrition and other factors.

Covering the entire outside of the body and consisting of three layers: the epidermis (composed of cells, pigment and protein), the dermis (composed of blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and oil glands) and the subcutaneous tissue (composed of sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels and fat).

Each layer also contains connective tissue, natural collagen fibers for support and elastin fibers to provide flexibility.

You probably didn't know that hair and nails are actually modified versions of our skin.

Hair maintains warmth in the body by preserving heat.

Hair located around the eyes and in the nose and ears protects these areas from small particles such as dust.

It also cushions the body against injury.

Nails sprout from deep folds in the fingers and toes.

They provide protection and support for the sensitive fingertips and toes.

Our epideral covering serves many roles.

It protects us from the environment, helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and provides receptors that help the body feel sensations such as pain, vibration and pressure.

It grows faster than any other organ in the body, and people continuously renew this external covering throughout their lifetime.

From the moment we're born, our epidermal covering begins a process of constant change or flux.

We know baby’s are soft and smooth.

A baby's outer layering also has a thicker layer of fat, yet a thinner layer of keratin, which is a protein that is the chief component of hair and nails.

As we enter our young adult years, our external covering becomes stronger and suppler.

As people age, many changes come into affect.

The outer layers (dermis and epidermis) begin to thin and the number of cells containing pigment (melanocytes) begins to decrease, even as the remaining melanocytes increase in size.

Your connective tissue begins to change, reducing the strength and elasticity (elastosis) and causing it to take on a leathery look and feel.

This, our largest of organs, starts to dry out and begins to lose underlying fat (except in the abdomen and thighs, of course), and fine wrinkles increasingly appear.

Causes of aging-related changes

Sun exposure (photodamage) is the chief source of aging-related epidermal damage, including blotchy pigmentation, wrinkling and scaling.

The more you're exposed to the sun without protection, the greater the likelihood of developing external signs of aging.

A person’s skin type plays a significant role in how damage manifests.

For example, people with blue eyes are much more likely to show aging epidermal changes than those with darker eyes and complexion.

In addition, your epidermis becomes even more vulnerable to sun damage as it ages and the number of cells containing pigment (melanocytes) begins to decrease.

Because older people have a reduced inflammatory response, they're less likely to develop sunburn than younger people.

However, this lack of sunburn masks the fact that older people with fewer melanocytes are actually more likely to suffer significant ultraviolet radiation damage than younger people.

Long-term exposure to the sun has been linked to many age related changes, including loss of elasticity (elastosis), growths (keratoacanthomas), thinning, pigment changes (such as age spots), actinic keratosis (precancerous changes) and other skin-cancers.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors may develop solar elastosis due to sun exposure, which causes the leathery appearance to become even more pronounced.

Other environmental factors that may contribute to this damage include climate, exposure to chemicals and allergies.

Genetics also play a role in the development of aging-related skin changes.

A person's tendency to develop wrinkles, for instance may be inherited from their parents.

Additional aging-related changes that impact the appearance of this organ include:

Weakening of blood vessels in the middle layer (dermis).

As these vessels become more fragile, bruising, bleeding under the skin (purpura) and cherry angiomas (small red spots) may occur.

Thinning of the subcutaneous fat layer.

This particular layer provides insulation and padding and absorbs some medications.

As the subcutaneous layer thins, a person becomes more susceptible to exterior injury and medications may work differently in the person’s system.

The subcutaneous fat layer also helps the body to maintain proper body temperature.

The thinning of this layer leaves the body with less natural insulation, increasing the risk of hypothermia during exposure to cold.

Decreased sweat glands.

Both the sweat glands and blood vessels in the varying layers begin to decrease.

This makes it more difficult for patients to keep cool, putting them at increased risk for overheating or suffering heat stroke.

Drying out.

This condition – known as xerosis – occurs in a majority of older people and may result in itchiness (pruritus) and a roughness to the texture.

And it's particularly likely during the winter months.

The exact cause of this drying out is unknown, although a reduction of oil production from the sebaceous glands may be at least partially responsible.

Women produce less oil after menopause, which causes dryness and itchiness.

Men experience a lesser decrease, usually after age 80.

As people age, they also become more vulnerable to diseases and disorders that may cause exterior conditions.

Diseases that can impact your outer covering include diabetes, liver disease, heart disease and arteriosclerosis (a blood vessel disease).

Shingles (a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox) is also more common and painful in people older than 50, although it can occur in people of any age.

Other factors that may have impact include stress, medication reactions, obesity and lack of adequate nutrition.

Symptoms of aging-related changes.

As your outer covering begins to slowly deteriorate during the aging process, a number of symptoms may appear.

The skin often appears thinner, paler and more translucent.

People may look increasingly gaunt, with hollowed cheeks and eye sockets.

Sleep lines, you know, those temporary marks on the face that appear after sleeping on a pillow all night, may become etched into the face and take longer to fade.

Also, it's more vulnerable to injury as the subcutaneous fat layer breaks down and a person’s sense of touch becomes reduced (due to a decrease in the number of nerve endings in the layers).

Simple rubbing or pulling of the skin can result in tearing and blood vessels are more easily broken, especially around your eyes.

Even minor injuries can result in bruises, flat collections of blood (purpuras) or raised collections of blood (hematomas).

Such injuries most frequently appear on the outside of the forearms.

Not only is aging skin more susceptible to injury, but it also heals more slowly.

The slow healing process may result in ulcers or infections.

Generally, these disorders are more common in older folks.

Aging also increases the presence of spider veins, blood vessels located just beneath the surface that grow larger and appear red or blue when they weaken and become clogged.

They most often appear in “sunburst” patterns on the face and legs, but can affect other areas of the body.

Finally, aging impacts other areas such as hair and nails.

Hair begins to go gray as hair follicles produce less of the pigment (melanin) that gives hair its color.

This occurs first on the scalp and then on other areas of the body.

Nails may grow slower and become dull, brittle, yellowed and opaque.

Toenails may become hard and thick over time.

Prevention of age-related skin changes.

It's impossible to prevent all of the changes that occur as we age.

However, older people can take steps to slow the pace of these changes, or to treat symptoms that result from these changes.

Tips include:

Avoid or at least minimize sun exposure.

Sun damage (photodamage) is the leading cause of wear and tear ranging from wrinkles to skin-cancer.

For this reason, people should always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher when outdoors, even during the winter.

Protective clothing, such as wide brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants can also help protect the body from the harmful effects of the sun.

If possible, avoid exposure to the sun during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Avoiding sun exposure is especially important for those living in warmer climates, with every four degrees of closeness to the equator, the incidence of skin-cancer doubles.

Whoa!

Use moisturizers and emollients.

Simple, inexpensive versions of these products can be effective in restoring moisture.

Moisturizers that contain lactic acid, urea or retinol may be more effective in relieving the severe dryness associated with aging.

These products are intended to alleviate the actual cause of dryness rather than to just treat the symptoms.

Maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.

Poor nutrition increases the risk of rashes, lesions and other changes.

Dehydration increases the risk of injury to tissues.

Talk with a physician about additional medications or treatments.

The effects of exterior damage can often be treated, slowed or prevented through the use of certain medications (such as tretinoin or alpha hydroxy acids) or procedures (such as cryotherapy, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, Botox, facial skin rejuvenation, soft tissue augmentation, laser resurfacing and blepharoplasty).

Annual examination.

A thorough examination of your skin by a physician every year will help to monitor it's condition and any changes that occur.

Individuals should also perform self-examinations and consult a dermatologist when any unusual changes are found.

This may include new markings (e.g., blemishes, colorations, bumps, moles) or changes in existing markings (e.g., size, texture, color, shape).

Lesions that bleed or do not heal are also cause for concern.

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