Skin care rules that apply when we’re young — such as avoiding smoking, and using sunscreen and moisturizers — still hold true as we get older. However, senior skin requires special care and attention because of the way our skin changes as it ages.
Over the years, our skin becomes thinner, more fragile, and the protective layer of fat that lies just below it begins to disappear, causing our skin to bruise and tear more easily. In addition, medications commonly used by older people, such as aspirin; topical and oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone; and anticoagulants (commonly known as blood thinners), such as Coumadin, Plavix, and Eliquis, contribute to thinning skin. Chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and circulation problems, also result in fragile skin.
For seniors, weakened skin leads to a greater likelihood of skin tears; without proper care, these tears can lead to complications such as infection.
The following senior skin care tips can help prevent thinning skin, a normal aspect of aging, from becoming a problem.
Create a Safe Environment
- Make sure there is adequate lighting in all areas.
- Cushion sharp corners and edges.
- Ensure walkways are wide and uncluttered.
- Remove tripping hazards, such as throw rugs.
Protect the Most Vulnerable Areas of the Body
- Most bruises and tears occur on the arms and lower legs, so it is good practice to wear long sleeves and either long pants or knee-high socks.
- Those especially prone to bruises and skin tears should wear shin guards and padded arm guards.
Treat Senior Skin with Extra Care
- Take showers rather than baths, since baths are dehydrating.
- When showering, use warm water rather than hot water.
- Use unscented, pH balanced soaps to minimize irritation.
- Pat, rather than wipe, skin dry after bathing.
- After bathing, while skin is still moist, apply a thick moisturizing cream. The Mayo Clinic recommends Vanicream, CeraVe and Cetaphil.
- When bandaging wounds, use paper tape bandages. These are often marked “for sensitive skin.”
With proper care, senior skin can still be healthy skin!