Your skin is the largest organ in your body, but also the most vulnerable. It makes up 15% of your body weight and it defends you from a lot of environmental elements. However, as you age, the skin changes in structure and physiology. Some of these changes impact your interpersonal interactions, health and overall body image.
When you understand the incremental changes happening to your skin as you age, you’ll be in a much better position take care of yourself and minimize or stop any destructive process. The best place to begin this discourse is to look at the structure of the skin.
The Anatomy of the Skin
With a total area of about 20 square feet, the skin comprises three distinct layers:
- The epidermis- This is the waterproof barrier that forms the outermost layer of the skin. It is also responsible for setting the skin tone. The special cells that create skin colour are known as melanocytes. They produce melanin, the skin pigment.
- The dermis- This layer is sandwiched between the epidermis and the subcutaneous layer. It plays host to all the connective tissue, sweat glands and hair follicles. The dermis ensures blood is well circulated and nutrients are delivered to the epidermis.
- The hypodermis-This layer is also known as the subcutaneous tissue. It mainly consists of fat and some connective tissues. It is the deepest layer of the skin.
The Changes Brought About By Aging
Environmental factors, nutrition choices, genetic makeup and a host of other factors are responsible for the changes that occur to the skin with age. The first victim of ageing is the epidermis. It thins out, pales, and the number of melanocytes decreases. Areas of the skin exposed to the sun may develop liver spots, age spots, lentigos, and other large pigmented spots.
The dermis is invaded next and its connective tissues attacked. This makes the skin lose its elasticity and strength, a condition known as elastosis. If you’ve been keen enough, you may have noticed that sailors, farmers and other people spending a lot of time outdoors have a leathery, weather-beaten appearance. This is caused by the ageing dermis.
The blood vessels in the dermis become fragile and are easily bruised. Conditions such as cherry angiomas and senile purpura are as a result of bleeding vessels under the skin.
The oil-producing sebaceous glands gradually become weakened and produce less oil. Men experience these deficiencies starting from around age 80 while in women, the changes in the sebaceous glands begin from menopause.
Lastly, the subcutaneous fat layer also thins out and loses its padding and insulation. When this happens, your skin becomes susceptible to injury and struggles to maintain your body temperature. In cold weather, you may develop hypothermia.
Here is the big one; some medicines such as morphine, goserelin, insulin and diacetylmorphine are normally absorbed by the fat layer. Therefore, if you lose this layer, some of these medicines may not work as expected or may change how they work.
Treatment Options to Consider
Over 90% of old people develop some skin conditions of one sort or the other that need clinical attention. The conditions may not necessarily be treated with a one-off therapy but as the treatment progresses, the skin may improve in structure and function. The following are some of the possible preventive and active treatment options:
Cleansing- This is the use of soaps and skin cleansers to clean and repair broken areas of the skin. To minimize skin disruptions, use liquid and foam soaps that deposit lipids, oils and humectants.
Moisturizing – Moisturizers provide a physical barrier that prevents skin water loss and keeps it hydrated. Also, other products may introduce ingredients into the skin structure that activate the natural moisturizing factors in the skin.
Supplements – Some active skin therapies are designed to use oral vitamins, fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, alpha-hydroxy acids peptides and hormones. These can be topically absorbed and help to repair the skin from the outside toward the inside. Fatty-acids, phospholipids and cholesterol sphingolipids can help develop the skin barrier.
When it comes to caring for the skin, the earlier you begin the better. Don’t let your body take in abuse for long, rather be proactive and take daily measures such as cleansing and moisturizing to prevent problems in future. Check out the skin care experts at rocky mountain dermatology.