The aging process can be a hard pill to swallow as you look in the mirror, but take a step back and recognize the marvel of your body—even as it changes! Did you know, for instance, that your skin is the largest organ of your body (covering an average area of 20 square feet)? It turns out that outer package of yours amounts to a significant portion of your body, so caring for it properly can pay off.
Though you may feel like a bucket of bones, it’s really your skin (wrinkles and all) that is keeping you all together. And caring for it can make a huge difference in how you feel. Your skin protects you from microbes and the elements, helps regulate your body temperature, and alerts you via the sensation of touch to pull back from the hot handle of the pot or wrap warmly when you head outdoors on a cold day.
In this post, we’ll list the best ways you can keep your skin in top-notch health as you age.
You started to see the differences in your skin with age as it lost elasticity and became thinner. Your veins might have begun to appear more visible, and those wounds you once bounced back from now take longer to heal.
Often, the first response is to address the appearance of aging with the usual anti-aging serums and creams. It’s debatable if you can really “reverse” aging, but maybe you can camouflage it a bit. More importantly, if you want to keep your skin healthy (thereby giving it the best chance it has at aging more slowly), it’s essential to keep your body and skin hydrated. Here’s how:
- Drink water
- Avoid the sun
- Use sun blocks with moisturizing creams
- Stop smoking
- Run a humidifier during dry months.
- Take fewer baths and use fewer soaps
Given that your skin encloses the rest of your bones, muscles and organs, it makes sense that it can foretell other issues going on within. Changes you see that are skin-deep merit closer attention. It’s not uncommon to experience more bruising with age, for example, which can be a side-effect of medications or other medical concerns. If you see bruises more frequently in places you can’t easily explain, be sure to mention them to your doctor.
The most common skin changes that come on with age are benign, such as age spots (flat, brown colorations that come with years in the sun), and skin tags (flesh-colored growths of skin that spout up from the skin’s surface like a tiny tongue, often on your neck).
Skin cancer is the primary reason to routinely investigate your skin, as it’s the most common type of cancer in the United States. Primary causes of skin cancer include exposure to the sun along with sunlamps and tanning beds, all of which deliver those ultra-violate rays most harmful to the skin. The importance of early detection for skin cancer is imperative.
The principle types of skin cancer include basal and squamous cell carcinoma, both of which which grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. The third skin cancer melanoma is the most dangerous because it can spread to other organs, though it is rarer than the others.
A monthly review of your skin is a time to spot new growths, such as a sore that does not heal, or bleeding moles. Check birthmarks and other parts of the skin for the “ABCDEs of skin changes.” This anacronym helps you track as you inspect. If you see any of these changes, see your doctor.
A = Asymmetry (one half of the growth looks different from the other half)
B = Borders that are irregular
C = Color changes or more than one color
D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
E = Evolving: this means the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of colorIf you work with a home healthcare provider such as those at Home Health Companions, he or she can help you track skin changes and keep a regular record. And if you’ve had any issues with skin growths that were pre-cancerous or any cancer of any kind, then yearly or bi-annual checkups with a dermatologist could be recommended (and should be added to your health resume).
You can’t undo the years of damage to your skin from sun exposure and aging, but you can protect your skin going forward. Be sure to work in the following practices to reduce further harm and enjoy your older skin!
- Limit your time in the sun. You can be outside, but now is the season of life to bask under umbrellas and in the shade of trees rather than in direct sunlight.
- Wear clothing that covers your skin; and if it is hot, keep the items loose. Long sleeves, slacks and hats are key. Make sure the hat covers both the back of your neck and shades your face well.
- Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and select sunscreens that list “broad spectrum” on the label.
- No more sunbathing which includes tanning beds.
You might not be able to alter the years that show on your skin, but you can insure it goes the distance with you and keeps you intact. Remember to treat your skin like the wonder of your anatomy it is with attention to hydrate, investigate, and mitigate it as you move on in health.