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The Gentle Art of Skin Care for the Aging

  When you were young, do you remember looking at the skin of aging or elderly individuals?  Sometimes the quantity of wrinkles was astonishing!  Sometimes brown aging spots showed up on otherwise smooth skin and it made me wonder what caused them.  The thing that befuddled me the most, as a youngster, was just how thin and fragile skin becomes as people age.  It made me nervous and encouraged me to be a little gentler with grandparents. Even now as I watch nursing care procedures, I hold my breath and intervene if there’s even a hint of a chance that something will be too rough on the skin of those whose skin is thinning.

  As we age, both the dermis (the layer under the skin) and the epidermis (the top layer of skin) thin dramatically.   This, along with the loss of elastin in the skin contributes to how loose our skin suddenly becomes.  It begins to slacken a bit.  It doesn’t “bounce back” like it used to.  It also has a number of new dark spots that appear in various places, especially if we’ve spent a good deal of time in the sun.  Wrinkles appear.  Some who have never had problems with dry skin suddenly need to use lotion.  Bruising is more common-place and the bruises do not heal as quickly.  This is caused by the thinning of the blood vessel walls, but even if you know this it can be disconcerting to see this change in your own body. Other people may not notice the small changes that occur over time, but when we evaluate ourselves, we know what is happening, we are aging!

  While various skin care products will try to convince us that we can turn back the hands of time and see a reversal in how age is taking its toll, we know that no cream can erase years from our face!  In fact, many skin care products contain things that will harm skin, especially fragile, aging skin.

  Our goal, then, should not be to erase the signs of aging.  We’ve lived, and that is something to be proud of, after all!  Our goal should be to have the healthiest skin that we can have.   So here are a few suggestions for keeping your skin as healthy as possible so that it reflects the health that the rest of your body enjoys.

  1. Be sure to stay hydrated.  It is common for elderly individuals to reduce their intake of water because it becomes inconvenient to use the bathroom so often.  It is one of the worst things that you can do for your skin and for your overall health!  Your skin needs to be hydrated.  Your digestive system also needs that hydration in order to move food and toxins through your system.  If those things start backing up in your system, you’ll notice problems with your organs, but your skin will also be a huge indicator that there are problems.
  2. Enjoy healthy amounts of sunlight.  Your body needs Vitamin D.  The sun is a great source of that.  If you’re not spending any time in the sun, you may want to increase your exposure to it. Likewise, if you spend loads of time in the sun, you may want to decrease your exposure.  Moderation is the word of the decade & with good reason.  You do not want to burn, but you also ought not to be afraid of any sun exposure (unless you’re on medications which mandate that you must stay out of the sun). If you’re afraid of skin cancer, cover up with cotton shirts that have long sleeves.  Fresh air and morning sunshine are good for everyone!
  3. Practice natural movements.  High intensity workouts are not advisable to elderly patients, but even natural movements can be a great aid in taking care of skin.  Encourage chair exercise or any other moderate activities to help maintain current abilities, but simply encourage it more often so you’ll benefit with healthier skin.
  4. Eat right!  Include a wide variety of vegetables and fruits throughout the day.  These can help fight inflammation in your body & keep your skin looking great!  Try to stay away from sugar since it compromises the elasticity of your skin. Eat good fats.  Don’t smoke.
  5. Sleep tight!  The ritual of sleeping is very important for your body and for your skin.  During this time your body rests itself & repairs tissues, especially skin.  Do not feel bad for getting adequate sleep.     Enjoy it and embrace the good skin that goes with it!

  Our skin can be an indicator of our overall health.  Pay attention to what it is telling you.  Be gentle with it. You may need to moisturize with a gentle, chemical-free lotion if your skin is too dry, but try to refrain from this until you try out the tips above first.  See if you can tell a difference when you begin drinking more water, then see what happens when you add good fats to your diet.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results that come from listening to what your body needs!

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