How to Protect Your Skin as You Age
Danielle DeRosa is first and currently the only licensed medical aesthetician on staff at a Vermont hospital. In her role at the UVM Medical Center, she helps patients deal with skin changes due to aging and medical conditions and diseases, such as skin cancer. She shares her advice for protecting your skin as you age, particularly during the winter months.
As We Age, So Does Our Skin
Did you know that your skin changes every 7 years? As we age, our skin changes in a variety of ways. You may notice that skin appears rougher and duller, is less smooth, and uneven or mottled. As your skin loses softness and elasticity, creases and wrinkles may appear. The destruction of collagen and elastic leads to wrinkling, too.
How to mitigate the effects of aging? Here’s how:
#1: Wear sunscreen.
Sun protection is the key to anti-aging as it causes fine lines and wrinkles. Wearing sunscreen in winter is a must, especially in Vermont. Not only are you exposed to sunlight directly, you are exposed to it indirectly when it bounces off snow. There are a number of great moisturizers that include sunscreen.
We often think of our face first when applying sunscreen. Try this: Squeeze sunscreen out on the back of one hand. After you apply it to your face and neck, rub the backs of your hands together. Hand are often forgotten, yet they are one of the first body parts to show sun damage.
In addition to using sunscreen, try to cover up every day, avoid sun at peak hours of intensity (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and when possible cross to the shady side of the street (it can cut your UV exposure by 30 percent!).
#2: Exfoliate regularly.
As we age, our skin cell turnover slows down. The rate at which dead cells are sloughed off and replaced by new ones decreases. Exfoliation helps speed it back up. It also lessens fine lines and wrinkles, opens clogged pores, and helps with sun damage. Danielle recommends exfoliating two to three times per week. Use a product that is gentle on your skin.
One of the best ways to moisturize your skin is also one of the easiest: drinking water. Yet, up to two-thirds of older adults are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration results in parched skin. Skin already suffers from volume loss as we age, leading to fine lines and wrinkles — don’t help it along! Skin may also become more dry, flaky, or itchy. Moisture helps mitigate all of this. Get your daily fill to keep skin healthy.
If you have dry, itchy skin and moisturizing doesn’t improve it, consult your doctor. Itchiness can sometimes be associated with diabetes or kidney disease.
#4: Nourish your skin.
Your skin is your largest organ — so nourish it right.
Eat a diet rich in antioxidant-rich foods like brightly colored fruits and vegetables, healthy fats including salmon, nuts, and olive oil, and switch out your coffee for green tea, a great source of the antioxidants called catechins. Avoid white bread, pasta, rice, and sugar, food additives (like MSG), alcohol, and spicy or salty foods. These can make skin appear older, more ruddy, and increase puffiness and inflammation.
Watch your skin for bruises. The older you are, the more easily you bruise and the longer it may take to heal. Bruising can also be a sign of nutritional deficiencies and blood-clotting disorders. If you notice that you bruise easily and often or you can’t recall how you got a bruise, talk to your doctor.
#5: Humidify your home.
Avoid dehydration of another kind — at home. If you keep your home very warm in the winter, and at night, add moisture to the air with a humidifier or by placing bowls of water near heating sources.
#6: Develop a skin care routine.
Cleanse daily, exfoliate a few times weekly, moisturize twice daily (day and night). Simple as that.
#7: See a professional regularly.
Visit your doctor annually for a skin check. Be sure to track changes in your skin. Check moles, birthmarks, or other parts of your skin by following the ABCs:
- Asymmetry (one half of the growth looks different from the other half).
- Borders that are irregular.
- Color changes or more than one color.
- Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser.
- Evolving, meaning changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shade of color.
See your doctor right away if you notice any of these signs. Skin cancer is curable if detected early enough.